Title: Running up that Hill
Author: Barry Brennessel
Length: 13,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Recent Historical, Coming of Age, Kate Bush, Closeted, NYC, Fear, Best Friends, Technology, 1980s, 80s Music, AIDS, HFN
Rating: LOVED it!
Reviewed by Sadonna
For Jeremy Saura, a song by Kate Bush holds all the answers. Pushes him onward. Sends him running up that road. Up that hill. Up that building.
Jeremy gets chills as he listens to the lyrics. The song, a beautiful powerhouse of determination over despair, only gains in impact as he replays it. Seven times.
”I adore you Kate Bush,” he whispers to her photograph. For Jeremy, “Running Up That Hill” gives him the momentum he needs to navigate the trials and tribulations of a new job, a complex friendship, and a budding workplace romance.
I’ve been waiting for this story to come out with the summer Mix Tapes series from MLR. When I first read Tinseltown, I knew this was a writer to watch and I’ve never been disappointed.
It’s 1986 and Jeremy is a young man just starting out in NYC with his first real job after college. He works at a law book publishing company. They are just adopting Wang word processors and his coworkers are freaking out about the change. Jeremy is thankful to have the job, especially after he meets Adam, the editor on the project he’s working on J Adam is very cute and as Jeremy leaves his office after their first meeting, he catches Adam watching him.
Jeremy’s best friend Scott is his confidant and Jeremy tells him all about meeting Adam. While they have a lot in common, their taste in men is quite different. Jeremy also has a passion for music. He buys 45s at the Vinyl Attic, the local record store and in fact the store owner has nicknamed him Mr. 45. I loved the description of the store, the owner and the transition of the media of music. Jeremy’s conversation with Scott after his record purchases is like a comfortable walk down memory lane with references to the only 80s nighttime soap I ever watched and even a mention of my favorite grocery store chain – even though I didn’t know about it until 1999 – and I like Jeremy’s record choices.
Friday night comes and even though Scott is still a bit banged up from a fall while jogging, he and Jeremy decide to go out to the Liberty – a local gay bar. As he’s getting ready, he listens to Kate Bush’s single Running up that Hill. He loves the song and plays it again – 6 more times. Amazingly, Jeremy runs into Adam at Liberty. Their night continues after the club however 😉
Monday at work they see each other again when Jeremy completes his project, but things get weird when a female coworker interrupts their conversation and Adam clams up. t lunch with Scott, Jeremy tell him about his time with Jeremy. Things get back on track and Jeremy decides to celebrate by getting more new music. He is now obsessing on Kate Bush.
Things seems to be going well with work and with Adam, but then a scare with Scott and a nasty prank and the damn Wang word processors all try to get in the way of Jeremy’s happiness. But our Jeremy, inspired by the words and music of the lovely Kate Bush perseveres.
Where do I start about all the things I loved about this story? A little context – 1986 was without a doubt one of the worst years of my life. I was Jeremy’s age in 1986. My dad died in 1986 a couple weeks after his 46th birthday after a long illness. I had to have my mother committed in 1986. I was putting myself through college working as a secretary commuting 120 miles round trip every day, going to school at night and on Saturdays. I got hired for my job because I had worked with one of the other big word processing systems just coming on in the mid-80s, the late lamented NBI, and I was really good at it. I spent long hours on the train listening to my Walkman and in the car listening to my cassettes. Music has always been a big part of my life and I think particularly at that shit storm stage of my life it was a huge comfort to me. I heard Kate Bush for the first time in 1979 when I was an exchange student in Europe. I thought she was amazing – particularly Wuthering Heights (for you Anglophiles, search YouTube for Kate Bush and Noel Fielding – Wuthering Heights – it’s amazing).
For me, reading this story was like punch in the gut, followed by a comforting hug. Barry so eloquently captured the rhythms of the mid-80s – the big changes that were beginning in the role of technology and media in our lives in new ways, the tentative steps being taken by many towards living an authentic life and the horror and fear surrounding the AIDS epidemic. Listening to Jeremy’s inner dialogue and slightly sarcastic nature literally felt like I was stepping back in time. I loved his voice in this story. Once again, I am in awe of Barry’s talent in bringing to life characters in what I can only describe as movie-like story. Read this story. You won’t be disappointed.
Posted by Sadonna in 6 LOVE IT!, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 1980s, 80s music, Barry Brennessel, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Fear, HFN, HIV, Kate Bush, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, NYC, Short Story, Technology
Author: Sabrina Luna
Length: 9k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Flashback/Memories, 1980s, Music, Established Relationships, First Times, High School, College, Friends
Rating: So So
Dan Rockwell finds a mix tape in an old trunk which brings back memories of a special night in 1984.
When Dan Rockwell discovers a mix tape in an old trunk in his parents’ attic, it brings back fond memories. Coaxed by his partner, Dan recalls Russ Hill, the guy who gave him the mix tape, and their very sexy Spring night together back in 1984.
Dan is with his partner of ten years, Ian, cleaning out his mother’s attic space when they come across an old trunk that very obviously according to it’s decoration, once belonged to a young Dan. At Ian’s urging, Dan opens the trunk to find memories from his teenaged years — including one mixtape — the memory of which obviously seems to mean a lot to Dan. Ian wants to hear the story of where it came from and why it means so much to Dan. He’s somewhat reluctant to tell Ian, not because they don’t tell each other everything about their past lovers anyway, but because it’s a special memory to him.
On their drive home, Dan starts the story and we flash back to 1984, the year of Dan’s senior year of high school where he’s invited to a house party of a friend now in college and learns that another roommate there is Russ, his friend from high school that he lost touch with when he went away to college. Dan always had feelings for Russ, feelings that he had a hard time exploring. Russ was all around perfect — really cute, brave enough to come out, very smart and an incredibly talented artist – where Dan feels he’s none of those things. In fact, he’s still in the closet and totally scared of anyone finding out about him.
The story continues when Russ and Dan start talking at the party, and when one thing leads to another and the rest of the guys decide to move the party elsewhere, the guys are left alone in an empty house. Dan is suddenly faced with the assurance that for the first time something is going to happen and totally excited that of all guys, that something is going to happen with Russ Hill. Then he puts in the mixtape…
In some ways I can see where this might be a disappointing story for some. There’s really no romance and not much plot here. The story is basically Dan recounting a night in his past for his partner, but we don’t learn a lot about that partner. In fact, we learn a whole lot more about Russ than we do about Ian. I found that to be a little sad, not only because it would help the story so much to have an understanding of the present day and Dan’s relationship with his partner, but also because I have a feeling that while Dan may have fond memories of his first time that Russ probably wasn’t as interesting as Ian. Maybe I feel that way because I wanted to know Ian better, but I also wanted to know the man that Dan has spent 10 years with rather than the boy that he spent a night with.
I labelled this as Contemporary Erotic Romance, but I didn’t feel that it was in particular a “romance” nor that it was “erotica”. We don’t get a romance because the man that Dan is with isn’t really known to us, and his relationship with Russ isn’t really enough to constitute even a failed romance, and his first sexual encounter isn’t really even particularly that erotic, just some playing that, for sure is a big deal for a first time, but otherwise not as much.
At the same time, I have to give this story props because even with all of those things I’ve written I still really enjoyed this story and I didn’t feel that in any particular area it really failed in a big way (except with present day Ian, which I talked about). This story read for me as more of a short gay fiction story, whether the author intended that or not. There’s a happy ending, but it’s not part of the story we really read about, it’s because we know that today as the story ends Dan is in a happy place. In 1984, his one night with Russ Hill is overall a bit disappointing. Still, I found the emotions that Dan has about that time in his life to be appropriately subtle in many ways across the board — fondness, sadness, memory of his excitement and his overall disappointment. Even more than that, I gave this story a whole extra point (star…what have you) simply because that whole encounter between Russ and Dan was so real. You can feel Dan’s nervousness and his excitement and the feeling that something out of control is happening to him but which he’d never ever say no to! And at the same time, you can at once see the dichotomy between them and their experience. Dan is fresh and overwhelmed and Russ is experienced and nonchalant and at the same time just a little bit jaded. He’s obviously glad he got Dan into his bed, but I (as the reader) got the feeling that to Russ that’s all that really mattered. Dan, as this is something he looked forward to and wanted for so long automatically has deeper meaning for him. That is something that he doesn’t figure out until later.
Honestly, I didn’t expect a whole lot from this story because I don’t know this author. I assumed that this was a new author, thought she apparently isn’t and I just wasn’t familiar with her before. In the end, this is a mixed bag for me. Some of the writing was really excellent, but some of the story crafting was disappointing. So So
Oh, before I go! Has anyone else been listening to the song when it pops up in the story? I put it up on iTunes whenever I read one of these stories and when they put the mixtape in and started…. well, you know, and “ah, ah, ah, hah ah… I know this much is truuuuee” I started CRACKING UP LAUGHING 😉 I was born in 1984 so this song, instead, just made me think of “The Wedding Singer” with Adam Sandler instead!
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Erotica, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 1980s, Childhood Friends, College, Existing Relationship, First Times, Flashbacks, High School, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, Music, Sabrina Luna, Short Story
Title: Say Everything
Author: Gina A Rogers
Length: 16,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: MLR Mixtapes, Short Story, Livin’ in the 80s, Guilt, Moving On, Great Moms, HEA, Birthday Parties
Rating: Really Liked It!
Reviewed by Sadonna
Gregory has no problem talking Atari, muscle cars or just plain dirty, but will he be able to open up his heart to Chad and just say everything?
Gregory put his past up for sale on Craigslist. He never expected Chad, a gorgeous black-haired devil, to waltz in and take it all. He doesn’t leave him empty-handed though, giving him friendship and new memories to fill the space. Torn between his past and the chance at a real future, Gregory has to decide if he can let down his defenses and open himself up to the chance of getting hurt again. But Chad isn’t going to wait forever and Gregory only has one chance to convince him to stay, but he’ll have to say everything.
Full disclosure – Say Anything is a favorite movie of mine. I’m a John Cusack fan in general, but I really loved his vulnerability in this movie made in his early 20s. And the Peter Gabriel song? One of the most played in my iTunes library.
As our story opens, Gregory is finally ready to move on with his life – he thinks. He’s been seeing a therapist and although he isn’t exactly happy about it, she has convinced him that he needs to make some changes and a step in that process is parting with some of his belongings from the past. He’s been stuck in a rut for 20 years and he refused to let it go on.
Enter Chad – a bubbly, very attractive party planner. He’s getting ready for a big 80’s themed birthday party for the friend of a friend and he’s hit the mother lode with Gregory’s Craigslist stash. He’s overjoyed at the stuff he finds at Gregory’s and he’s pretty happy with Greg too. Even though Greg is a bit nervous about opening up the past, Chad is such a happy presence, he doesn’t find it nearly as painful as he had worried it would be. In fact, Chad really makes it worth his while 😉 After some intense “negotiations” he even lets Chad borrow his Atari with the promise that it’ll be returned in perfect condition. This works for Greg because he’s guaranteed to see Chad again.
A couple of weeks later Greg has to attend his sister-in-law’s birthday party. He is not looking forward to it. We begin to get more of a sense of how he’s isolated himself and avoided his past because of his friend Darren. He’s anxious even being back in the neighborhood where he grew up, but he can’t miss a family party without a really good excuse. When he gets there and it’s an 80s theme party, he’s not exactly thrilled about it – especially when he recognizes his childhood sheets as a tablecloth. When Chad appears, it’s all he can do not to bolt. His mother is right there to make the awkward introduction – which is of course unnecessary, but neither clues her in that they’ve met before. As the party goes on Greg drinks more than he should and ends up getting Chad to drive him home – where he promptly passes out.
Chad needs to return the Atari and Greg needs to get his car, so it works out that they see each other the next day. Things so really well and they have a great time together. Chad loves Greg’s car and they make a bet on Pac-Man. If Chad beats Greg, he gets to drive the car. He doesn’t win, but they have a great time anyway – until Greg mentions Darren. Chad asks about him because apparently Greg’s mom mentioned him at the party as well. After a bit, Greg confesses that Darren was his best friend and that he died. Chad comforts him and Greg realizes that this thing with Chad is totally different for him than it’s been with anyone else.
Chad and Greg continue to see each other and things are really good – at least Greg thinks they are. I won’t spoil the story, but when push comes to shove, Greg still is holding back the dark secret that he’s been holding onto for 20 years. It’s the secret that that had him stuck in the past until Chad came along. But he has to get past it if he’s going to make a go of it with Chad.
I really liked both MCs in this story. I loved Greg’s defense mechanism of trivia. I am a lover of trivia as well 😀 I also was completely charmed by Chad. He’s sweet but not a pushover. He’s not willing to settle and he makes Greg a better man. And of course those lyrics – Peter Gabriel is a genius and In Your Eyes is one of the most beautiful songs every recorded in my opinion. This is only the second story I’ve read by this author and I’ve really liked both of them. She writes realistically about flawed and bruised men who are able to move on with the love and support of a good man. Great job Gina!
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Say Everything. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Friday, June 21. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.
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Posted by Sadonna in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: 1980s, Awesome Moms!, Birthday Parties, Gina A Rogers, Guilt, HEA, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, Short Story