on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

Tag Archives: Bittersweet

ContactSportLGTitle: Contact Sport
Author: Anna Butler
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 6,761 words, 30 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Daily Dose – Make a Play, Bisexual, Bittersweet, Jocks/Nerds, Light & Sweet, Sports, Short Story
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Jamie Connor is a charming and sexy star college hockey player. He’s not the sort of man to be dazzled by someone who speaks in long mathematical formulas and worries about strategic thinking. At least, he wasn’t that sort of man until the college dean agrees to a scrimmage match with the nerds of the Blaine Strategic Institute, and Matt Blaine, son of the founder, captains the other side. In a sport where full body checks are a legitimate play, Jamie’s taken by surprise at just how much the King of Cool wants the King of Geeks.

REVIEW

This was an adorable, slightly funny story about Jamie, a star college hockey player, who has to play against a bunch of nerds at the request of the college Dean. Ranting about the ridiculousness of the situation, Jamie expects to wipe the floor with the geeks and be done with it. What he doesn’t expect is to meet the prettiest man he’s ever seen, the captain of the geeks team, Matt. It’s love at first sight for Jamie but not only is Matt gorgeous but he’s also a very talented hockey player, who shatters all Jamie’s stereotypical assumptions.

I had a lot of fun with this short story. When you meet Jamie, he’s very arrogant and confident and speaks in a very stereotypical way. However, it isn’t long before all those stereotypes get thrown out the window. In fact, I’d say this whole story revolves around destroying the stereotypes surrounding jocks and geeks because not only is Matt, the ‘geek’, he’s gorgeous too but Jamie, the ‘jock’, is extremely smart and Mathematically focused. I found the Math talk so amusing, I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle during Jamie’s running dialogues! I loved that Jamie was so focused on being able to kill Matt’s team in the rink and then realized Matt’s team had a lot of skill. I loved that there was an immediate connection between Jamie and Matt. They’re very cute and hot together!

This one had a lot of potential, though. I was really enjoying it and the way that Jamie was affected by Matt. However, while I really liked the story, I felt like it was incomplete. The pacing and the actions of both Jamie and Matt were entertaining and fun but then the story just ends with Matt walking away leaving it very open. Not really a promise of tomorrow, no definite plans to meet up again, just a hopeful, maybe see you in the Library. I felt like it was at odds with the rest of the short story and the way that Jamie was acting towards Matt and his almost obsessive attention. Although we don’t get to know much of Matt as a character, it was clear that Matt was obviously affected by Jamie, too, which made the ending baffling for me. In general, this story could have been much longer, more fleshed out but even just a little bit more to the ending would have made this an HFN instead of the bittersweet ending it feels like.

Overall, I really liked the story and if this had been much longer, I’d have loved it. The abrupt, almost bittersweet ending dimmed my enjoyment, though. There are so many layers to Matt and Jamie we didn’t get to see (especially the part where they start a relationship) that this story could have been much longer and ultimately better. I really hope there’s a sequel to come because I’d love to see more of Matt and Jamie and get a proper ending to their journey.


JM_Last_Stop_USATitle: Last Stop USA
Author: Johnny Miles
Publisher: MLR
Length: 6,000 words
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Interracial, WWII, 1940s, Racism, Sailors, Musicians, Bittersweet
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

It’s a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and there’s more than fear in the air. An uncertainty about the future lingers. Still, life must go on and so does the music. Kevin Hardy plays his first gig at a USO dance where he meets white, redheaded sailor Peyton Fitzgerald. The black saxophonist takes an instant liking to him but does the seaman feel the same? Once Peyton admits it’s his last night in the U.S., Kevin dares to dream, takes a gamble, and invites Peyton over for a few hours of passion before shipping off to Europe.

REVIEW

This very short vignette takes place on a night one week after Pearl Harbor and is told in alternating first person. We are introduced to our fist main character, Kevin Hardy, who is a young African-American saxophone player in a USO show. Kevin has been turned down for the armed forces on account of his race. He is in New York, but he still finds the same barriers – Whites Only signs and the difficulties of the realities of racism. While there is bitterness, he is also happy to be playing music and being paid to do so.

Our second character, Peyton Fitzgerald, is a white navy recruit who will be shipping out the next morning. He sees Kevin in the Men’s room and he decides to wait for him outside the hall after the dance. Through Peyton’s eyes we see the fear that goes with leaving the known life and heading off to the unknown. Peyton’s family is unhappy that he is going to war. They even threaten to stop him by whatever means necessary. Peyton wants some companionship before he heads off to war.

Peyton approaches Kevin in the alley behind the hall and Kevin is afraid Peyton is up to no good. Peyton realizes that Kevin is afraid and sets him at ease asking him for coffee. Kevin understands the underlying context and invites Peyton to his apartment so that they can be alone.

I wanted to like this story, but I felt like it was so short and touched on so many important topics that none of them had any depth.


ExileLGTitle: Exile
Author: Lola Lebellier
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 59, 216 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Keywords/Tags: Bittersweet, Magic, Angst, Secrets & Lies, Teacher/Student
Rating: So So

BLURB

Once, in the land of Nier, five elemental spirits terrorized the land. To contain them, five humans sacrificed themselves, losing their bodies and minds. It wasn’t until decades later, when a set of restraints was formed, that the vessels could live normal lives and take their rightful places as leaders of their clans.

Now Aless of Serac, Guardian of Water, has returned from exile, a punishment for embarking on a killing frenzy when his restraints broke. He soon discovers all the restraints are breaking, and if he cannot find a solution, chaos will follow. But Aless can’t solve this problem on his own.

Though Corin of Zephyr has large reserves of mana, the trait that signifies proficiency with natural magic, he shows little aptitude for casting spells or using his power. But that doesn’t bother him as much as the threat from the breaking restraints. Together, he and Aless might find a solution—but as the restraints begin to crumble, it becomes clear that their situation is more dangerous than anyone could have foreseen: Aless, Corin, and the other guardians will face abuse, attack, and even death in their quest to save their world.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

REVIEW

This is a somewhat difficult review for me to write, mostly because this was a difficult book for me to read. It made me a little irritable, honestly, while I was reading and I found myself taking my frustrations out in my real life, which is never good! Nothing bad, I assure you, but it made me a bit short with people. That shows just how good this author is. I promise you, I wasn’t upset because of bad writing — no, I was pretty blown away by the talent from this author I’d never heard of nor read before. My problem was with the angst.

Most of you know I have a problem with angst. And this is mostly why. I’m not sure if it’s just me, or if the same thing happens to you guys when you read a heavy book, or a book with lots of angst, but it ends up bleeding into my life and I tend to get a little depressed. I usually don’t read Bittersweet books for this reason, though I’ve been known to from time to time. Bittersweet doesn’t necessarily equate to angst, and vice versa. I didn’t actually realize this was a Bittersweet book when I picked it up, but I learned it was after I was already committed to a review, so I figured I’d give it a try anyway. And, the blurb is definitely appealing. As a fantasy fan, I was intrigued right away. And I was pretty happy with the fantasy elements as well.

My unhappiness as a reader simply hinged on on element, which was how unfairly one of the characters seemed to be treated. I assure you, part of me keeps telling myself this is ridiculous, but I can’t help it. I hate feeling slighted on a character’s behalf, and sometimes I just can’t let it go, no matter how much I try. This is a purely character driven novel. The characters actions all make sense, total sense. But because I felt like some of the angst was needless, it made me feel a bit as if the plot and some of the past history of the characters was situationally developed to create more angst. And you know, that’s good — some people love that — it’s just really not for me. So, for me, what was bittersweet about this novel wasn’t the ending, but some of the choices the author made.

Now that my very subjective part of the review is done with, I really want to give you a taste of what this book is like and about, because if this author writes another novel that isn’t Bittersweet, I’ll be first in line to read it. Many, many years ago, the world was ruled and almost destroyed by the elements — Fire, Air, Water, Earth, and Chaos. To save Nier, five humans scarified themselves, took the elements into their bodies and bound them there. But the process of having the elements inside them drove them crazy and the elements could still wreak havoc through their bodies. So these people were placed under the wells of five temples, one for each element, until some time later a woman who had fallen in love with one of the humans who held an element created a set of restraints. These metal devices were worn by the human and allowed them to function once again as part of society. A monastery was created where humans with a large amount of mana, or magical ability, could go and learn from these humans, called Masters, and over time as the humans that house the elements died, the most talented students would take over their job and house the element.

Ten years before the start of Exile Aless, who houses the water elemental Serac, lost control, broke his restraints and set off a massacre, killing other Masters and students alike. For his loss of control, he was sent into exile for ten years. Now, as he re-enters the monastery he finds things very different. Old friends are now masters, and even worse, some of the new masters are not friendly to him. Something is going on which none of the other masters will share with him. And there’s a star pupil at the school, who funnily enough seems to have no talent whatsoever. Corin can’t seem to cast a single spell but he gets special treatment anyway, and it isn’t until the old water Master returns and he becomes smitten that he finally starts to unravel all the secrets being kept, and finds out that the reason he’s being treated so special is because of the sheer volume of raw mana he possesses.

I think what bothered me most is that I didn’t really like most of the characters. A lot of my dissatisfaction reading the story was made up for from the really good writing and the great fantasy world, but in the end, I couldn’t give this higher than a So So. The problem with the characters, for me, is that no matter how much trauma they’d suffered, how difficult some of their childhoods were, they just seemed really immature to me. And I was just a little baffled that of the most powerful and important people in… the whole world basically, these were the people entrusted to the safety of every one in Neir? It didn’t make much sense to me.

If you’ve made it this far into the review, I urge you to read carefully, because I really don’t want some of what I said earlier to sway readers in any particular direction. Know if what I said would bother you personally, because in many ways I think this novel is really successful, and even more successful as a debut novel. I can’t wait to see what this author will come up with next, and I hope she continues to write fantasy. I’ll be there to try again, and hopefully have a more pleasant experience reading that one 🙂


Hello again everyone! First of all, sorry I missed a day (due to lack of sleep). I hope you all had a Happy Halloween and furthermore, that those of you in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are safe tonight. This is the last GRL related post. If you missed any of the recaps earlier this week, here they are: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

This post is completely dedicated to the books I listened to on the way home and the books I read immediately after I got home from Albuquerque. Why, you ask? Well, even though I have gotten way behind on my review schedule due to the preparations before the trip and the trip itself, I really needed some downtime once I got home. I was sick, extremely tired, and you know that I love reviewing new releases. I mean, I wouldn’t do so many of them if I didn’t. But the one thing that I love about GRL is how it infuses me with excitement about our genre again. And talking to authors and being reminded of some of their books you missed and had always meant to read… well that is some of the best reading. I can’t tell you how many gems I still haven’t read and I know they’re there. I have a list of about 150 really popular books that I still haven’t read and I’m lucky if I usually get through 10 of them a year.

So I returned home excited to read a whole plethora of past books that I still hadn’t gotten around to reading and I decided to just take the rest of that week to regroup and read purely for fun. So this is some of what I read last week before I started getting back to the review books. As it stands, two of them were the audio books that were available to take home from GRL, one was one of those books I’d always intended to read, and the last was a purely random self-published book that came to my attention from the author over Twitter. I liked them all, but can you guess which one ends up being the one that blew me away?

Probably, it’s not that difficult!

Now, on to my Mini Reviews of these four books!


Title: Grand Jete (Audiobook)
Author: Diana Copland
Audiobook: read by Jim Bowie, Produced by Audiominx Audiobooks
Publisher: Silver (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 34,751 words, 3:38:41 time
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Christmas, Ballet, Dancers, Nurses
Rating: So So

This was the first time that I’d ever listened to an audiobook. So, I don’t have any comparison, but I had been worried initially about a few things. First, the narrators’s voice; and second, my ability to pay attention, especially while driving. On the second count, I have a history of zoning out while people are talking. I’m a visual person, and ask any lecture professor I had about me and they’d confirm this while gnashing their teeth. I shouldn’t have been worried, though. If you’ve never heard Jim Bowie speak, the man has a very high, cultured voice with a subtle British lilt that is very smooth. At first, it was a little jarring, but most of that was my getting used to listening to the words in the first place when my own in-my-head narration sound so different. Later, I realized that his accent and particular diction is quite suited to some stories, but maybe not others (more on that in the next review). It worked for me in this story, though some of the voices he did were a little strange, particularly for the women and children.

The story is set just before Christmas in a small Midwestern town, where the narrator Jordan who is an ER nurse, has been dragged to see The Nutcracker, where his little niece is playing a mouse. He’s enthralled by a gorgeous man who dances beautifully, even though he knows nothing about ballet. When he sees him later in the ER and the man doesn’t have anyone to take care of him, his nurturing nature (as well as his sexual one) comes out to make sure the man has the care he needs.

I’m not new to Diana Copland’s writing, but I might have enjoyed this a little more if I had read this before her most recent book, A Reason to Believe, which was better all around. Still, this was the perfect kind of book to listen to on a long drive — it is sweet with no angst and the Christmas setting and the ballet interest were refreshing and light. The book does have a bit of a middle complex, where the beginning skips to the end and unfortunately that made the romance take a giant leap of faith. I wouldn’t call it insta-love, but it’s also a matter of opinion. The plot doesn’t allow for there to be an ending without read, serious and lasting feelings, so the lack of a middle where those things grow bothered me quite a bit.


Title: One More Soldier (Audiobook)
Author: Marie Sexton
Audiobook: read by Jim Bowie, Produced by Audiominx Audiobooks
Publisher: Silver (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 14,320 words, 1:27:40 time
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Recent Historical, 1960s, 1970s, Coming Out, Vietnam War, May/December, Bittersweet
Rating: Really Like It

This is a story that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now. It might be one of the first m/m romances to end unhappily, before the whole Bittersweet subgenre came into the community. But for all that the ending is glaringly at me, so obviously, from the moment the story started didn’t mean that I enjoyed it any less. In fact, the lessening of some of the surprise worked to show that the story still had impact but without unduly caused angst.

Told from Will’s point of view, the 28 year old mechanic in a small town in Texas, the short story spans almost a decade while Will watches Bran, the new kid in their apartment complex who just won’t leave him alone, grow up before his eyes. Bran is everything that Will wasn’t at his age, smart with opportunities. When Bran leaves to work the Texas ranches out of town, he changes. The man that returns is completely new and totally enthralling to Will, who has kept his day to day life completely separate from his gay lifestyle. Their relationship has to change with the feelings between them and there might not be much time for that to happen.

The beauty of this story is that it shows, without pomp and grandiose romance, how loving and being loved in return can change another person. The line, “one more soldier” refers to the street soldiers fighting at home in the US for gay equality, mirrored by the very real battles across the world that have lost the respect of the masses propagating the changing cultural climate. I was most impressed by the small details that snuck into the story that evoked the time period so well.

I had a difficult time driving while listening to this one — I should have known! I knew it would be sad, and in a way listening to it helped me instead of reading it. It’s like, I’m so used to avoiding angst or unhappiness in my romances now that to listen to it made it easier to deal with. Plus, it was only really one part of the story. Here is where I did have some problems with Jim Bowie’s voice. Where it worked well with the past book, not so much here. The voice of Will as he recounts this story seemed so different from Jim’s voice that it clashed for me. While I think he does a pretty good job on his own, and his voice is certainly dreamy, sometimes that isn’t what I have in mind for the character, you know? So I wish there were more diversity in readers, but then I’m sure it could have been a lot worse too! I’ll try not to be too picky.**

The time period, the length of the story, and the fact that it is told in past tense, lend the story to a certain recollection type narrative, heavy on style and voice that immediate sets the mood for melodrama. And I mean that in the best sense of that word.

**My Thoughts on Audiobooks: I’m intrigued by them now, and I liked my experience listening to these two. I’m considering getting a couple other books (that I’ve already read) to keep and read when I want to knit or just relax and spend a slow….. time getting through a book. I’m thinking of getting ZAM’s book Notturno in audiobook because I know Jim also read for that one and I think his voice might go well with vampire stories 🙂


Title: Tinseltown
Author: Barry Brennessel
Publisher: MLR (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 70k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance, Gay Fiction
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: College, Film, Coming of Age
Rating: LOVED it!

I have meant to read this story since its release in the summer of 2011. In fact, I had told Barry in New Orleans that I’d read it and review it for it and I just never got around to it. Well, it must have been the universe telling me to get on with it, because I won the book in paperback along with some other books and prizes at the Comedy Hour event at GRL. And I knew that now that I had it in paperback, I really wanted to read it as soon as possible. So as I went through my massive bag of paperbacks I brought home, I picked it out first and started to read it. I was enthralled, immediately, into the story and voice of Micah, who things just never seem to go right for.

This is a difficult story to summarize. At it’s heart, it is the story of Micah Malone — in many ways typical gay young man, but also with a (somewhat/at times) atypical storyline. Micah tends to be quite melodramatic and campy, but that’s what you gotta love about him. He has a very original voice and his film and TV obsession is shown through obscure references throughout the story. The book is very voice and narrative focused, which in Micah’s life is all screenplay based, so we’re first introduced to him and his circle of friends with a Dramatis Personae. The story follows Micah has he trudges through life at a young age — college, friendships, sex and relationships. The focus isn’t romance, though some does come into the story in the last half, but instead Micah himself, that that is what made the novel so successful for me. Not only does the format of the writing echo his personality so perfectly (untraditional, and often like a screenplay), but it isn’t tied to the typical romance “rules”. It threw me a curveball or two, and I loved that.

This book made me a fan of Barry Brennessel for life, even though I’ve read a few of this other things. No matter if the next three things I read of his I don’t like, I’ll always take a chance and read something he’s written, because he proved to me with Tinseltown that he is a phenomenal author. Also, quite a funny one. This book had me doubled over laughing. I’d recommend this to anyone, as long as you know not to expect romance right away.


Title: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart
Author: JC Lillis
Publisher: Self Published (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 255 pages, approx. 72k words
Genre: m/m Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – Sweet/None (Fade to Black)
Keywords/Tags: All Time Favorites!, Nerds/Geeks, Closeted/Coming Out, Fandom (Shipping, Cons), Friends to Lovers, Road Trip
Rating: LOVED it!

From all that I can find, JC Lillis is a brand new author, and if this book is any idea of the quality of work that she’ll produce in the future, I’m a fan for life. Rarely have I ever picked up a book I knew nothing about and loved it quite so much, even waiting almost two whole weeks to write a review of it. I first heard about this book when I saw it on JC Lillis’ twitter page and enjoyed the artwork on the cover — that’s what drew me in. The blurb only made me more intrigued.

And you should be — this young adult novel follows Brandon (along with his friends Abel and Bec during the whole summer after high school) across the US as they visit the series of five Castie-Cons for their favorite show, Starship Planet. Bran and Abel are super-fans (like SUPER.FANS) who first met online and bonded over their obsession, and later became co-vloggers, devoted to the show. Abel loves Captain Cadmus and Bran loves Sim, something which they argue about endlessly! But the one thing they can agree on is their mutual hatred of the “Cadsim” shippers and their rival blog that is devoted to the fanfiction written about the relationship between the show’s two stars, Cadmus and Sim. Why, WHY? does everyone assume that they’re secretly gay and together — Bran and Abel are convinced that some people just can’t accept that not everyone is really gay and they’re fed up with the shippers who think they are.

So, as their road trip summer approaches, they make a bet. At each con they’ll ask the question: Do you think Cadmus and Sim are secretly getting it on? to each visiting star of the cast during Q&A, and if any of them answer in the affirmative, Bran and Abel will act out one of their fanfic scenes and post it online. If they’re right, and the cast obviously thinks nothing happens between the characters, then the creators of the rival blog will have to sign a document bowing to the awesomeness of Bran and Abel and admit that the two characters would never work together. It’s a fool’s bet, or so they think. But surprises on the road change the game for both of them.

Okay, so, that sounds super awesome, right? First of all, they’re total geeks, which I love. Also, the blurb is written so well and it is so witty, that I was hoping it would bode well for the novel itself. And I honestly had no complains — none — about the story at all. In fact, I’m making myself wait a whole month before reading it again. The beauty of the story is the relationship between Bran and Able. Able is the gregarious and sometimes flamboyant of the pair, with lots of sexual misadventures and a style all his own (I loved seeing what he wore from each truck stop they made!). Bran is different, in many ways because of the internet (I’m getting there…). Raised in a devout family, Bran’s recent years have been difficult in a family built on secrets and repression. His family loves him, but they also believe he’s made a bad choice, not by coming out, but by being gay in the first place. He’s continually harassed by their pastor, who always seems to want to have a chat with him. The internet and his heavy presence there, is like a shining beacon for him to represent the best of himself. And.. you can see where this is going… that is how lies are started. At the start of this trip, Bran has found himself in a place where everyone who knows him (save Bec, who he knows from childhood) thinks he’s someone completely different than he really is. And of all these people, the ones he’s afraid of finding out the truth the most is Abel. Keeping the secrets and using convenient lies like a horrible ex to say why he isn’t dating, are easy online and seeing Abel once or twice a month, but together 24/7? It’s going to be hard.

Add in a new, ultra-secret group intent on exposing their lives online makes Bran even more paranoid as they stop in each city, putting Bran and Abel at odds and their friendship is put to a severe test when almost nothing turns out to be what they expected.

That might be the LONGEST summary I’ve ever written! But, there’s just so much about this book, and so many different threads weaved throughout. It is really masterfully written with a real flare for voice and style and a huge dose of vulnerability and appropriate teenaged angst. There’s nothing I hate more than a whiny teenager, and I was so happy that this author didn’t fall into that trap. Bran’s issues are extremely real and sometimes quite heavy. The writing is so centered in who he is that it’s like a part of him with no separation, like his real feelings come across without filter. So, it affected me, quite a lot. He’s really pretty messed up, and in an identifiable way to most people who will probably read this.

Another thing that made this novel a pure pleasure to read was the humor. It is so freaking hilarious that I almost couldn’t take it at times. I had so many different quotes and notes on this book in my Kindle, probably more than any book previously, because some of the lines are so funny that I couldn’t bear not to mark them and then chat with my reading buddies (Laura and Tina, also in love with this book!). I wish I could share some of them, but I lost them all with my brand new Kindle a few days ago. Anyway, I’ll just have to read this again and make another post with quotes or something, because the amount of one-liners you could take from this book astounds me 🙂

I left this book till last in my reviews because it is the best. And that is saying a lot up against a book like Tinseltown. But, even though I loved both and they both were similar in some ways, like the TV trivia-spouting characters and the unique voice and style, for me this book won out simply because it was such a pure pleasure to read. At times it was emotionally wrenching, something I have a particularly hard time reading if I’m expecting it, but I’ve still thought about this book at least once a day even so long after finishing it.

And it is only $2.99. Seriously! I kid you not. It’s a steal — and I would have paid three times the price for it and still felt it was worth every penny. I have a feeling that this will be my #1 most pimped out book this year, something I might have been comfortable with if I had read it in March instead of October. So please, do yourself a favor and go buy it. Then, spend this weekend getting to know the two cutest, funniest, and most lovable geeks in print. You’ll be happy you did — I promise!


Title: Down Memory Lane
Author: Heidi Champa
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 5K words
Genre: MM Contemporary
Heat: 3 – Mild and Sexy
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Exhibitionism, Public Places, Cheating, Bittersweet
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

Kyle knows he shouldn’t, but once again he finds himself waiting for Quinn, the sexy man who drove out of his life years ago, but keeps turning up when Kyle least expects it. Every time Quinn’s car would come rumbling down his street and stop before his house, Kyle would eagerly jump inside the passenger seat and go anywhere Quinn wanted to go.

Yet this time, Quinn is back for good. Or so he says. Will this be the start of something special for Kyle and Quinn, or just one more passionate drive down memory lane?

REVIEW

I have had a very hard time reviewing and rating this story. This is only the second story by this author that I’ve read and I really like the writing. I’m not sure how I feel about the definitely bittersweet content.

This story is told from the Kyle’s point of view and as such, we really see his side of this unconventional relationship. Essentially this story revolves around the occasional visits of Quinn who sweeps into town and whisks Kyle away in his classic restored car to visit the park they frequented as kids and now periodically as adults.

As the story opens Kyle is waiting for Quinn to arrive while his boyfriend has gone out with friends. This time, Quinn has told Kyle that he is going to stay. When Quinn finally arrives, he and Kyle kiss and Kyle gets in the car for their sojourn to the park. It’s like Kyle has no control when it comes to Quinn and he will do whatever Quinn wants.

As they talk and make love at the park, it is evident that Kyle is in love with Quinn and wants a permanent relationship. Where I had some difficulty with the story is the discussion about Kyle’s boyfriend and the status of that relationship. While we never see this boyfriend, he does text Kyle to say that he’ll be home soon which cuts short Kyle and Quinn’s tryst in the park.

In the end, I’m torn about this story. I really liked the writing a lot – very moving. I definitely felt the pain of Kyle in this “limbo” with Quinn. I would really like to read more about these two someday. If you don’t mind a bittersweet ending, this is a well-written short story that you might want to spend some time with.


 Title: Top Mark
Author: Graeme Aitken
Publisher: Self-Published
Length: 7,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary, Gay Fiction
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Angst, Bittersweet, Open Relationship, Cheating, Existing Relationship, Cliffhanger
Rating: Pretty Good


Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Meet ‘the Marks’.

It was strange at first for Mark, dating a guy with the same first name as him. But ‘the Marks’ developed nicknames for each other. Mark became ‘Top Mark’, a sly nod to his role in the bedroom.

But after seven years together, Mark hasn’t had much opportunity to be on top lately. There have been a lot of conversations avoided, unexplained absences, and some very unsettling phone calls.

REVIEW

This was an intriguing short story. It contains all those elements that I refuse to read. Open relationship, cheating, bittersweet ending? Check, check, check! Honestly, I was shocked I liked this one and in a way, I still don’t, but I think that’s just my natural rejection of those plot elements. I can’t deny, however, that once I started I had to figure out how it all happened.

This book holds a lot of punch for a short story. It starts off by introducing the couple, Mark and Mark. They differentiate the guys by giving nicknames. Marx, is the younger, initially less experienced Mark. While Top Mark is the older, experienced Mark. Over time, Marx gets frustrated with his lack of experience and explores on his own at the blessing of Top Mark. The story, however, is told from Top Mark’s (just Mark for this review) POV. It tells of his reaction to the way their seven year relationship has progressed and ultimately declined. It tells of his realization that something isn’t right, how he figures out some startling revelations of Marx and finally gets to the point where Mark has irreparably damaged the relationship to the point of no return.

This isn’t a hearts and roses type of story. It’s raw and powerful and captivating in a way that you’re hoping it gets better but also dreading the moment you realize it won’t. In a way, you sympathize with Mark because the man gets dumped by a cowardly douche bag. But then while you’re reading, you realize that while Marx grew distant, it’s very likely he did so because he didn’t want a relationship with himself. That’s exactly what happened, in my opinion. Marx changed in attitude and appearance and as he changed, Mark changed to match except Mark was no longer the sexy confident man. He became a domesticated, almost needy man. So, while I felt bad for Mark and hated Marx, I slightly understood why Marx wanted to leave. But I still hated Marx. No one deserves to get strung along and then dumped with not even a ‘See ya later’.

Either way, this story was amazing in the self-reflection it told about. Mark had his life changed and now he’s back to ground zero after giving his heart to a man that he thought would be his forever. It’s real and raw and touching. It’s something I don’t read often but I’m glad I picked this up because it shows that things aren’t always perfect and that sometimes you do have to start from scratch after getting all your preconceptions about a content life shattered into pieces.

My only reservation about the story was the ending. While I can handle the bittersweet ending because of its realism, it just ended. The last scene, after Mark figures out Marx has taken all his things, someone is banging on the door. But who you ask? I don’t know because it ends right before he opens the door. Can I get a nooooooooooooooooooo here?! I was devastated to say the least.

I would desperately love a sequel. Knowing who’s on the other side of the door would be lovely but also Mark getting a little bit of happiness would be even better. Maybe a little cheering up from his best friend, Sydney, is in order here. 😉

Definitely recommended to those brave enough to read!