Title: What There Is
Author: Kate McMurray
Length: 15,318 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Sports, Athletes, Baseball, Brooklyn, NYC, Roommates, Jock/Nerd, Food, Coach, Past Injury
Rating: Pretty Good
Former professional baseball player Justin Piersol needs a new life after a career-ending injury, and his job as a high school baseball coach isn’t exactly fulfilling. Still, things are looking up: he finds the perfect room in an apartment in Brooklyn with Mark, who writes a popular column on sports statistics.
Mark is nerdy and socially awkward and intensely shy, and he immediately develops a terrible crush on Justin, who barely seems to notice him. As they get to know each other, Justin admits he misses playing baseball, that coaching doesn’t scratch the itch. Mark confesses he thought he’d be married by now, that he wants a serious relationship. So they make a pact: Justin will help Mark find a man, and Mark will help Justin find something he loves more than baseball.
They put their plan into action… and then life gets complicated. Mark meets a nice guy named Dave, and Justin is suddenly crazy with jealousy. Justin realizes he wants to let go of the past and focus on the present, but as Mark and Dave become an item, Justin fears he’s too late.
I’ve been excited about this new story from Kate McMurray ever since she visited the blog in June for Kate McMurray Week. It’s another baseball story and though I first thought that it might be a spinoff/sequel, or in some way related to Out in the Field because the main character Mark works at Sports Net, it seems to have no connection.
The premise is a roommates-to-lovers story, when Justin visits Mark about a listing looking for a roommate to share his Brooklyn apartment. They find that though they’re different in a lot of ways — Mark is painfully shy in front of an outgoing and hunky Justin — they also have some things in common. Justin was once a baseball player, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Cyclones, before an injury forced him off of the field and into a coaching job. Mark works for Sports Net, writing about baseball statistics, but he’s never been an athlete himself no matter how much he enjoys the game. But most of all, Mark is just glad that a normal and sane person came in reply to his listing and actually wants to rent the room, no matter the fact that Justin is so hot it might be impossible for Mark to actually have a conversation with him.
After a little while, when the awkwardness of sharing a home with a stranger starts to abate and the two start to get to know one another, they both start to see that they’re unhappy in their lives. Justin is having a hard time coaching those who he knows will go on to have the career that he always wanted and coaching isn’t giving him the same thrill that playing did. Mark really wants to have a relationship and he confesses to Justin that he doesn’t know if he could ever meet someone because he’s so shy. So, the two decide to help the other out — Justin tells Mark that he’ll help him find a guy and Mark tells Justin that he’ll help him find something he’s passionate about, just as he was playing baseball.
Even though this had less baseball in it than I expected, I really quite enjoyed this story. It probably isn’t going to get rave reviews because it’s a short story and I have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to want more from this couple and feel like this story is too short. I don’t really think that’s true. We aren’t presented with a couple here that has issues they have to work through, together and individually, that will take them a long time to process in order to get their HEA. They’re more of a simple couple that takes a small amount of time and a little nudge to see that they could be good together. And that was fine with me, I finished the story enjoying it for what it was and feeling satisfied.
Fans of Kate McMurray will definitely want to read this story. All of the things that I like about her writing were presented here, like her love of Brooklyn and baseball, and I really liked how the food and cooking classes brought them together (food can definitely do that!). It was a nice story, sweet and light, and enough to tide me over for more of her work to come.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: Athletes, Baseball, Brooklyn, Coach, Dreamspinner Press, Food, Jocks/Nerds, Kate McMurray, NYC, Past Injury, Roommates, Short Story, Sports
Title: Bay Leaves and Bachelors
Author: Ari MacKay
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far bBetween
Keywords/Tags: Restaurateur, Chef, Food, Historian, Fortune Teller, Family, HEA
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Sadonna
When a carnival fortuneteller gives him a bag of bay leaves to sleep on, telling him it will make him dream of his perfect man, lonely historian Clay Turner is skeptical, to say the least. Since he has nothing to lose, Clay tries it, and that night, he dreams of a handsome, dark-haired man. But even that doesn’t prepare him for the next day, when he literally runs into the man from his dream on the street!
Rhys Montgomery is a rich, successful restaurateur, and he seems smitten with Clay, who is dazed by the attention. Rhys claims that he wants a slow, romantic courtship, but Rhys’ continuous refusal to take their relationship to the next level plays on Clay’s insecurities.
Is Rhys really interested in a happily ever after with Clay, or does his interest mask a far more calculating motive?
Oh this started off with such promise! Then it fell into somewhat of a disappointment. I kept hoping that maybe there would be some paranormal or fateful meeting or that something would happen that would sweep me into the story. But alas, it didn’t.
Clay Turner is out on his thirtieth birthday with his sister and her husband and children at a fair. He and his sister go to see the fortune teller and she gives Clay a bag of herbs and tells them to put them under his pillow so he’ll dream of the man who will be his true love. He thinks it’s silly but he is rather lonely so he does it anyway. He does dream about a gorgeous man. The next day on his morning jog, he literally runs into the car of said man from his dreams. And lo and behold, the guy, Rhys Montgomery, asks him out. He starts seeing the man and finds out he is from an extremely old and successful family and he owns some restaurants. They bond over historic preservation and Rhys seems to really like Clay, but he wants to take things slowly. This pace feeds into Clay’s lingering insecurities that Rhys isn’t really interested in him for the long run. Then the comments of a few other people further fuel this seething inferiority complex that Clay has going on. A compromising scene between Rhys and another man then seems to be the final nail in the coffin and Clay walks out. Then comes the big (well in this case not that big) reconciliation.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this story. I didn’t dislike either main character but I didn’t really like them either. They didn’t engender any feelings at all and that was the problem. I found myself predicting exactly everything that happened in this story and that’s not really a good thing. There just wasn’t enough about the characters or the plot to draw me into the story and in the end I just didn’t really care about what happened to them.
Posted by Sadonna in 16-40k, 3 So So, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Ari McKay, Chefs, Family, Food, HEA, Historians, Recipe for Romance, Restauranteur, Series, Torquere
Title: The Secret to a Perfect Latke
Author: Foxglove Lee
Length: 5,300 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Young Adult
Heat: 1 –Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1- None
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Jewish, Hanukkah, Food, Family, Coming Out
Rating: Really Like It!
Reviewed by Sadonna
Noah has never been on TV before, but he dreams of having his own cooking show one day. When he’s asked to help a gourmet chef prepare latkes for a Hanukkah segment on the Sunny and The Bear show, his family is proud but suspicious. Sunny and The Bear is a “lifestyle” show that’s popular among straight women, but it’s hosted by gay men. What’s more, the guests on this show have an uncanny tendency to come out of the closet live on national television…
This is a new author to me and when I saw the title and blurb, I really wanted to read this little gem. It’s definitely a short story, but the characters are well drawn in the short number of pages. This is a new author for me, but I look forward to reading more from him or her.
Noah is a young man who is a senior in high school and can’t wait to get out into the world. It’s Hanukkah and his family is gathered for their traditional celebration. Noah has lost his father when he was young and has been raised by his mother Judith. His cousin and the rest of his family are having the usual boisterous time at the holiday celebration. Also in attendance is Noah’s girlfriend, Megan. Judith is so excited that Noah has been chosen to be on the Sunny and The Bear show for a segment on holiday cooking for Hanukkah. Both Noah’s girlfriend and his cousin Sam want to know how in the world he was selected. Judith also wants him to take her family recipes. Noah feels like the proverbial bug in a trap.
When he gets to the show, with his mother and Megan in tow, he meets the producer and he begins to get very nervous. He meets the Chef Troyand feels a bit more at ease, but he is still nervous because of the reputation of the show. Many many people have come out on this show and Noah just doesn’t want to do something foolish. He asks if he will get to meet Sunny and The Bear before they go on the air and gets a pretty non-committal response. As Chef Troy and Noah are getting ready, Judith butts in with the story of Hanukkah. Noah is getting more and more nervous.
He finally meets Sunny and the Bear right before air time and he feels a bit more at ease, but when the show starts and the cameras go on, he drops his recipe cards and freezes like a dear in the headlights. He retrieves his cards and reads a beautiful note from his grandmother on the Latke recipe and then things go off topic!
This is such a cute story! I loved Noah’s voice – he is the proper blend of snark and insecurity. I found him to be a believable character – just a young guy trying to figure out his place in the world as he is growing up. His family is wonderfully drawn in a loving way. His girlfriend is also the perfect girl for him. Perhaps some will find the ending a bit unrealistic, but I found it to be perfectly plausible. If you’re looking for a funny sweet short read this holiday season, I highly recommend this one.
Posted by Sadonna in 5 Really Like It, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Sex Freq 1 - None, up to 15k, YA Tags: Coming Out, Family, Food, Foxglove Lee, Hanukkah, Jewish, Prizm, Short Story
Title: Southern Fried Christmas
Author: Poppy Dennison
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 7k words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Christmas, Vampires, Unusual Creatures, Chefs, Food, Southern Men
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
When vampire William’s minions kidnap his cooking show host crush Ricky Joe, will it be the season for love, or a recipe for disaster?
Master Vampire William loathes the holidays. He spends the season pining for the one man he can never have–television chef Ricky Joe Dash. William’s minions are tired of his foul mood and concoct a scheme to turn William’s frown upside-down: they kidnap Ricky Joe and deliver him to William for Christmas. Ricky Joe enjoys his cooking show Simply Southern, but works too much to truly enjoy the rest of life. When he’s kidnapped and left in a room with a vampire, will it be the season for holiday bliss–or a recipe for disaster?
William is a master vampire, surrounded by his minions that he created. They constantly frustrate him and never give him peace, especially during the one night a week when the love of his life is on television — Ricky Joe Dash, a southern chef. Ricky Joe doesn’t know he’s the love of William’s life, he’s just trying to make his local show the best it can be, while trying to sidestep the innumerable advances of his boss. When William’s minions get the idea that Ricky Joe would make the perfect Christmas present to cheer up their Sire, they’ll go to any lengths — including kidnapping — to present William with their gift.
This story gave me a bit of whiplash and may be my most severe change in how I felt about a story in a while. It was a bit disappointing for me because I truly love Poppy Dennison and I look forward to everything she writes and releases. This won’t change that, but I felt very different about this story than her others. Actually, I loved the story right to the very end (which is where the whiplash comes in). The tone of the story is great, it’s so light and funny. The vampires are the least scary paranormal predators I’ve ever seen, in a completely tongue-in-cheek way. They’re so over the top, I really took to it. It’s a story to have fun with and not take seriously. Despite the lack of sex, i really felt a connection between Ricky Joe and William.
The problem came for me at the climax. It starts with the beginning of the story as the pace is set. It moves at a moderately fast clip because this is a rather short story, but there is somewhat of a buildup to the climax as William and his minions make plans. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but I found the reveal to be a bit lackluster, and then a bomb was dropped that I wasn’t expecting. And not only that, but it was a little confusing for me — then, the story ended. I know that the very long list of information MLR includes at the back of every story didn’t help, because I thought the story was far from over at that point (that has happened to me a lot actually, with MLR and Samhain), but it just exacerbated the problem in my opinion. And, I felt like it really could have been fixed in just a couple paragraphs, or at least a tiny epilogue or something. But, it just felt like the ending fell of a cliff somewhere and went completely missing. I even went back and read it several times to make sure I didn’t miss something, but, I never really understood it or what the point was.
Sadly, the fact that I really enjoyed the first half of the story got lost in the ending as well, or I would have rated this much higher. Still, it won’t stop me from being a big fan of Poppy’s writing and I eagerly look forward to everything she writes. But, this one didn’t work for me and I can’t recommend it.
Posted by Cole in 2 Not Feelin' It, Authors D-F, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, up to 15k Tags: 2012 MLR Holiday Stories, Chefs, Christmas, Food, MLR Press, Poppy Dennison, Short Story, Southern Men, Unusual Creatures, Vampire
Chris linked to an interesting post in this week’s Linkity. It was to a group of pictures of fictional meals, and it made me think about memorable food from books I love. A few years ago, when I was going through what I like to call My Proust Period, I could not stop baking madeleines (here’s a good recipe). I love the things — light with a hint of brown butter and lemon and perfect with a cup of tea and a good book. Of course, it was also a way of connecting me with the story, because even after the famous madeleine scene in Swann’s Way, which is only about a 1/5 of the way into the book (which itself is the first of many), I had something tangible to connect to, a kind of shared experience between me and the books. It’s also a sensory connection. That and well, I love to bake and I love to eat even more.
What are some memorable foods or meals from books that you know? Have you ever cooked something you’ve read about in a book? Is there a meal that you’d love to try?
Last year, I read the book Man, Oh Man! Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks & Cash written by Josh Lanyon. One of the things I vividly remember about it was a passage by Sarah Black, where she talked about how she often cooks while writing. It helps her get into the characters, especially if a character is eating something — she makes it. So what about you authors out there — have you ever considered the importance of food in your books? Food and Sex in m/m romance is one thing, but what about food in general? Is it important to you?
I love reading books about chefs for this same reason, perhaps because I can connect with a character who treats food as art. Scarlet Blackwell’s Table for Two series is a great example, as well as Jessica Freely’s Dharma Cafe, which treats food like alchemy. But if I had to choose a character that could cook anything and I’d eat it, I think it would be Cole from Strawberries for Dessert — that man can cook! Plus, he’d be a great dinner companion 😉
Let me know what you think!
Title: A Wish Too Far (Lars & Rael #3)
Author: JL Merrow
Length: 20,500 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Romance to Sex Ratio
Keywords/Tags: Series, Short Story, HEA, Demons, Witches, Magic, Feminine MC, Diverse, Sexy Tails!, Cops, Food, Awesome Female Characters, X-Dressing
Rating: Me Like
Male succubus Rael and his lawman lover Lars from A Blast from the Past are back!
There’s a new drug on the streets called Wishes, little pink pills that bring you your heart’s desire – but in a way that’ll rival your worst nightmares. Lars Thornsson and Chelle Rochelle of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency aren’t pleased to be ordered to work on the case with two of their most hated colleagues.
Arriving home one night to find Rael’s been summoning another demon, a jealous Lars is even less happy. But Rael thinks he knows who’s supplying the drugs, and he’s determined to get to his old friend Shax before the law can.
I have had so much fun reviewing the first two stories of this series. I reviewed them at BER and was a bit sad when this was over the word limit there. So, I waited until I had a blog of my own to review it and I almost didn’t want to read it because I love these guys so much — they’re SO much fun — and I didn’t want to read the last story in their adventures.
Lars Thornsson, a half-valkyrie detective with the Paranormal Enforcement Agency first met Rael, a very rare and unique male succubus in A Calling for Pleasure. Lars and his partner in the agency, the irascible Chelle Rochelle, were looking for a nasty succubus that sucked the life out of a man and ran across Rael when his charm, sex appeal and hilarious fem personality made Lars fall for him. They came back in their second adventure, A Blast from the Past, both now trying to make a home together while Rael gets used to living topside and dealing with some very hot situations and a reemerging ex lover. Now, in this third and final story, Lars and Rochelle are dealing with a very nasty drug on the streets called Wishes, that grants the users wishes in ways they absolutely don’t benefit, already leaving one man dead. When it looks like Rael may know who is cooking up the drug and it is an old friend, his loyalties are split between his lover and not wanting his old friend Shaz to get into trouble — which of course, is how Rael gets in trouble himself.
I love these shorts by Merrow. Rael is such a breath of fresh air. He’s so open and honest and genuine but with so much charm. Still, he’s a bit devilish, which goes perfectly with Lars, who is sweet and seemingly optimistic and gentle. Rochelle is back again, being funnier than ever. I swear she’s my favorite character of all, and even if I might not read it if she got a story all her own, she certainly deserves one! Rochelle makes me laugh so much throughout these stories, here’ a bit from this one (she’s got a bit of ability herself):
“Uh, C?” Lars frowned. “You wouldn’t have any, uh, personal experience of handing out that kind of vengeance, would you?”
Rochelle flashed him her most insincere smile. “Who, me? You wouldn’t catch me, say, telling a cheatin’ boyfriend I’d hit him with an impotence curse that’d kick in any time he tried sticking his dick where it didn’t belong, then watching him torture himself with good old-fashioned performance anxiety…” She coughed.
I really can’t recommend these stories enough. There’s not much to dissect and talk about, they really are just pure candy to me, the good kind. There is fluff, but then there are stories that go down like sweet mint ice water on a hot day. They don’t need critique, you just want to keep them around to enjoy them when you need them. These stories are like that for me. They take the same amount of wit and intelligence that JL Merrow writes in her longer novels but are written purely for fun and laughs. It really is a shame there aren’t more of them. But I’m sure I’ll read these again anyhow!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors M-O, Comedy/Comedians, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Awesome Female Characters, Cops/Crime, Demons, Diverse Pairing, Feminine MC, Food, HEA, JL Merrow, Lars & Rael / Damned If You Do, Magic, Series, Sexy Tails!, Short Story, Torquere, Witches, X-Dress