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

Tag Archives: Halloween

Title: With a Touch
Author: Sasha L Miller
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 16k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Halloween Rentboys, Halloween, Rent Boys, Magic, Alternative World
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

In his search for the missing candidate who can stop the unceasing rains plaguing the country, Eneko is led to a cluster of rentboys desperately trying to make money despite the foul weather. When the candidate once more runs away, Eneko is left relying on the remaining rentboys, including the handsome, self-contained, and highly distracting Lain.

REVIEW

Part of the beauty of this story, for me, was that the blurb reveals very little about the world. In keeping with that, I’ll forgo a summary here as well. The world is truly what made this story special. Though definitely a romance, and quite sweet as well, the world is what captured my interest and which allows the romance to develop. When we start the story, all we know is that there is a mysterious “candidate” that Eneko is looking for, and that his success in eluding capture is what is causing the terrible drenching rains that has made their city ground to a halt. Rain plays a major role here, thought the control of the elements is seen as a magic above any other, and the reason finding the candidate is so important.

The rather atmospheric setting immediately sets the mood during the early part of the story. What I found intriguing, though, was that it also sets a mysterious tone. Their city is literally falling apart at the seams, because of so much rain, something usually seen as a symbolic renewal, but which in this story shows a pervasive sadness over the city. That juxtaposition is carried forward in the story as we meet the characters and learn a bit more about the world. I always felt just a little off balance and didn’t really know where the story was going. That’s why I loved not having much information about the world before starting the story. Without knowing that, we don’t really know what is going on, what a “candidate” is and why it is important. This is also shown in the rent boys, as we get to know them. They know more than anyone that you have to be careful who you can trust, and it led me to wonder what type of government or hierarchical system the city had and whether it could be trusted. I appreciated that we’re pulled into the story that way not only through the rent boys’ distrust of Eneko and who he represents, but that the world around them literally reflects that.

Of course, the focus of the story was separated from the romance in some respects, because the romance develops bit by bit between the rest of the story. That meant that we ended the story with a little less romance than I had hoped for. It really depends on what you like to get out of a romance short story whether this will satisfy you or not (in the romance department, anyway). The world and story itself was pretty well done and definitely satisfying for me. Also, I don’t have a problem with characters taking it slow and ending the story with only a promise of more, without the romance quite yet off the ground. So, while I would have liked to see more between Eneko and Lain, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story. It ended up being one of my favorite of the Halloween Rentboy stories from Less Than Three Press. Of course, I’ve long been a fan of this author and will continue to be. In many ways, this story is right up her alley and something that fans of the author and her past work (especially other shorts) will like. Recommended!


Title: Price of Passion
Author: Cassandra Pierce
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 5,300 words
Genre: m/m, Historical, Paranormal
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Halloween Rentboys, Halloween, Rent Boys, Vampires
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

In Victorian Oxford, Professor Algernon Price strikes a scandalous bargain with a young man who offers companionship in exchange for meals and a place to stay. He soon discovers, however, that his guest prefers meals consisting of human blood and a room that blocks all traces of sunlight. But even that is not as shocking as the emotions that arise between them, or the hope that his strange guest might be the one to alleviate his loneliness.

REVIEW

This was an interesting story. It’s very short and, in some ways, the blurb tells more than the actual story does.

Professor Algernon is translating a very difficult text when he gets word from his friend to meet. When they do, his friend tells him he has a way to alleviate Algernon’s loneliness and shows Algernon Jules, who’s a down on his luck young man. Feeling immediately protective of Jules, Algernon takes him home planning to feed him, give him warm clothes and a place to stay. Jules has his own agenda and starts to seduce Algernon in order to take his own kind of meal. The next morning, Algernon is disoriented by the night before, thinking it was a dream but goes about his day in a fog until he arrives home and night falls. Jules shows up out of nowhere explaining everything to Algernon about his need for blood and allergy to sunlight. He asks Algernon to be his companion, to teach him things and will do the same for Algernon.

This was a rather short story, too short maybe. I felt like it was slow in the beginning then went by too fast in the end. I don’t really know Algernon aside from him being recluse, a teacher and translating texts. He seemed shy and uncomfortable in his own skin and around other people. Jules seemed to know exactly who and what Algernon was looking for, though.

It’s an intriguing little story especially since Jules comes in and takes what he wants then asks Algernon to accept him and what he has to offer. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of depth to it and I think that hinders the story a lot. When Jules offers to become Algernon’s companion, he also offers the possibility of immortality so it’s implied that there will be a future between the two but it was very hard for me to see the connection or even attraction between them.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad story. There’s a lot of potential to it but it doesn’t actually fulfill that potential. A nice, quick read for those who are looking for something fast with no sex but with possibilities of more.


Title: Changeling Moon
Author: E.E. Ottoman
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 9,800 words
Genre: m/m, Alternate World, Historical, Paranormal, Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Halloween Rentboys, Halloween, Fae, HEA, Existing Relationship, Magic, Rent Boys, Unrequited Love
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Dyer has a secret, and the only one who can help him keep it, and thereby help keep him alive, is the beautiful changeling whore that Dyer visits whenever he’s in town—the changeling that Dyer wishes could be so much more than a man with whom he has struck a bargain.

REVIEW

Dyer is just back from a job when he goes to meet Bran, the rent boy he visits to help with keeping control of this power he has. Bran himself is a shifter, a fae, and understands, but also needs, Dyer’s release of power. It’s been six months since they’ve seen each other but for the past two years Dyer has been paying Bran to take his excess magic. During that time, both men have been developing feelings for each other. When Dyer sees Bran this time, Dyer ends up passing out and when he awakens, Bran changes their whole relationship by asking him to tea. Unfortunately, their tea date doesn’t amount to anything because Bran becomes slightly sick himself. However, he’s asked Dyer to the opera and Dyer agrees. When the opera approaches, the two are slightly awkward together because Dyer saw Bran while he was propositioning a client. When things get sorted out, Dyer admits his feelings for Bran and vice versa. Their attraction is intense and their unrequited feelings finally have an outlet where they can both be themselves. Unfortunately, they aren’t even together a full day before Dyer has to leave town again but asks Bran to come with him and start a new life with Dyer.

I really liked this story. It’s cute and sweet but also hot. Dyer is a bit of an enigma, though. Even with the story, I was confused on what type of ability or magic he has. He’s adamant he’s not an alchemist but all you really know is that he has some strong, intense power running through his blood that makes his skin crawl when he accumulates too much of it but it didn’t seem as if he actually performs magic. Instead, he gives that power to Bran and Bran sucks it into himself, which feeds his need for magic

I really liked these two. There isn’t a lot of depth to them but they are appealing and likeable characters. They have their own personalities, which I find is sometimes hard for an author to capture when writing such a short story. With that said, the world isn’t explained at all. While in a historical setting, people didn’t seem to mind two men walking down the street with their arms entwined and their base for education being alchemy. It was puzzling at first but after a while, I focused on the characters instead of the world.

In the end, this was a very enjoyable story. I adored the characters and their feelings for each other. It actually felt like Bran was courting Dyer, which I found sweet and amusing. The story is definitely short but was satisfying to me. I do wish it was much longer or hopefully there will be a sequel because I’d love to see these two in action and working the mysterious jobs Dyer leaves town for. Definitely recommended.


Title: Devil’s Night
Editors: SL Armstrong & Kristen Pavka
Authors: SL Armstrong, K Piet, Alina Ray, Azalea Moone & Tali Spencer
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 42,500 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Keywords/Tags: Anthology, Short Stories, Demons
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

The infernal host is on the prowl. They want your soul, and they’re not afraid to bargain for it. They’ll promise you everything you could ever desire, but the price tag may be steeper than you can handle. Whether tempting and seducing mortals, defiling angels, or reveling among themselves, the fiendish creatures in these four haunting tales know that while good is okay, evil is just more fun.



Thaddeus sold his soul to save his family long ago, but the deal he struck with the demon Belial has him spending eternity managing Le Carnaval du Diable, filled to the brim with other’s damned into servitude. Belial wants more than Thaddeus’ soul, though, and his constant advances only add to Thaddeus’ stress as he faces a threat to The Devil’s Midway.



Craig Peters finds himself Hell Bound and destined for an eternity of torture at the hands of the demon Karawan, despite having no memory of the sin that condemned him to this existence. Over time, though, those memories return, along with an unnatural attraction to Karawan, which leads them both down a path neither of them could have possibly imagined.



When the Hounds Come Out to Play, Ryu and Keir are released from their chains to hunt the wayward damned and drag them down to Hell. A breath of freedom is an opportunity for fun, however, and Ryu isn’t about to waste it, even if it means getting caught in a case of mistaken identity with a handsome stranger.



Finally, Beltran is a man of heritage and honor, and when his cousin is brutalized, he has few qualms about consulting a local Inca shaman on her behalf. Little does he know the price of the charm he seeks will make him The Seventh Sacrifice in the amir demon Kitara’s ancient quest for revenge.

REVIEW

I’ve gotten a bit behind on my reviews lately (partly due to GRL) and several of the ones that have backed up have been anthologies. I have to tell you that reviewing an anthology, for me, is quite daunting. I just can’t seem to do a review without reviewing each story — even if I don’t set out to. But the great thing is that the anthologies released by Storm Moon Press recently seem tailor-made for me. And when you add in one of my favorite sub-genres of paranormal, demons (and sundry), I knew that I had to accept this one for review no matter how far behind I was. Surprise, surprise — I pulled it out first, completely neglecting the others.

I want to apologize to all those authors because I just couldn’t resist. And while none of these stories were my favorites (none were my least favorites either) I’ve found in SMP’s past anthologies, the diversity between them was really wonderful. These four stories work really well together simply because they’re all incredibly original in different ways. Don’t expect your typical demon/angel trope here. They do however take the atmosphere of this time of the year into the tone of each story without it becoming … Halloween-y.

They each have something to praise about them, so in the end my review format for anthologies works for this one.

Read on!


The Devil’s Midway by SL Armstrong & K Piet (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Historical Paranormal
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Demons, Carnival, Battle of Wills, HFN

Though he should be an old man by now, Thaddeus finds himself managing the traveling Le Carnaval du Diable, the demon Belial’s pet project. But, though he generally can keep the carnival and all it’s traveling act and crew under wraps, he’s frustrated that the badass demon still has his sights set on him. Owing to the catalyst that brought him to sell his soul to the Devil and how that intersects with his faith, Thaddeus has always remained autonomous. Though the big man below owns his soul and therefore his long, unending future, he doesn’t own his mind or actions, which makes him the only one who can deny Belial. But the chase seems to turn the demon on and he uses every advantage he has to break Thaddeus down and get him into his bed, some of which are devious enough to be worthy of the demon he is.

The place this story succeeds the most is in the sexual tension created between Thaddeus and Belial. They’re both incredibly stubborn, and Belial has enough arrogance for both of them, that their sexual come and go turn into a game of wills. Thaddeus is afraid that if he did give into his carnal desires and sleep with the demon he would lose his independent thought he cherishes. It is all he has left that hasn’t been laid claim to and he doesn’t want to chance it. Belial, though, is very difficult to say no to, especially as he continues to find ways to try to torment Thaddeus into submission. While there were some other small bits of plot that help to expand the world, this is the essence of the story.

The problem then for me, was that I didn’t really understand the ending. I have no doubt with these two authors that the choices they made were deliberate, but they either didn’t work for me or I didn’t understand the story as I thought while I was reading. It was certainly enjoyable, and I really liked the world (I’d love to see more!), but the ending didn’t seem to add anything in particular to the story other than follow through on what is probably Thaddeus’ true characterization. So, I ended up feeling like this story wasn’t much more than a snippet of a larger world. No real romance, per se — or at least the story didn’t progress enough for me to consider it a romance. And, like I said, that’s probably what the authors were going for, but this time it didn’t work as well for me.

All of what I expect from these authors is in this story, the quality of writing is undiminished. I simply had a bit of a snag with the direction of the end of the story and my hope that there would have been more before it ended. A good, strong start to the anthology!


Hell Bound by Alina Ray (So So)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Demons, Hell, a bit of BDSM, Kink, Amnesia, Insta-Love (or, too quick for me), HEA

Craig wakes to find himself in darkness — a shifting void that slowly reveals a dreamland resembling Hell. He learns quickly, though, that he is indeed dead and has traveled to the underworld for punishment and redemption for his actions in life. Too bad Craig can’t remember anything about his life except random details like pop trivia. He’s ushered through punishments and recollections by the demon Karawan, a sexy young red-skinned hunk that gives Craig “Ideas”, even during his rather harsh punishments that are intended to cause pain. A human who derives pleasure from pain is something that Karawan has never heard of before, but something that he admits intrigues him, along with the human himself. When Craig starts to regain his memories, they’re both in a for a surprise. Is Craig in the right place? or, did he do something terrible in life that he hasn’t remembered yet? Either way, they both find themselves finding pleasure in a place where happiness is supposed to be impossible to feel…

I am of two minds about this story. I originally gave this story a Not Feelin’ It rating simply because it ended on a low note for me, after starting quite strong. But after a little reflection, there is actually a smart and original hook to this story. The first half of the story, where Craig arrives in Hell and Karawan introduces him to the various tortures meant as punishment, is quite strong. There’s an atmospheric quality to the writing that portrays Hell as a void which is incredibly eerie. The addition of Craig’s amnesia means that his point of view is rather distorted. Karawan is shown to have a more trustworthy point of view, and interestingly enough, a rather naive and sheltered one. I could never quite tell if it is his lack of experience, his own personal quality, or a representation of the whole race of demons, but Karawan isn’t the cruel master one expects by allowing us to see his reasoning behind torturing humans.

The problem I had was the very quick transition from “getting to know each other” to the ending and a quick change in tone (from suspenseful and mysterious to almost sappy). There is a very quick series of events that revs up the pace and it really didn’t work for me. It left me feeling like the two wouldn’t have as strong of feelings as they did at the end because we don’t get to see the point where they actually get to know one another, just hear about a bit of it. It goes hand in hand with the ending, and I could see that the author had an endgame in plan from the very beginning. I had actually wondered if that was the way the author was going to go right at the beginning, and for the most part I was right. It’s an interesting little trick of reasoning which made the story stand out a bit more for me, hence the raised rating. Unfortunately, the execution left some things to be desired and because of that, this was probably my least favorite story of the anthology.


When the Hounds Come Out to Play by Azalea Moone (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Paranormal
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Hell Hounds, Hell, First Times, Shifters, Halloween

I also had a difficult time with this story, but only for a bit. The beginning is almost funny, and certainly cute as we’re introduced to the Hounds of Hell, dog shifters coming to the surface for Halloween night to reclaim lost souls. I liked Ryu immediately, who is like a fish out of water but attracted to the sunlight that burns him. He reminded me a bit about Ariel, from The Little Mermaid, who is obsessed with humanity but gets burned by them in her naivete. The story later got difficult for me and left me with a bit of an uneasy feeling. Trying to understand and feel empathy for Grant is a tall order, and I had to reconcile my own feelings with Ryu’s, all while watching him become a little bit more jaded as the story progressed. I think, though, that this story might have left the most impression on me, even though it wasn’t my “favorite”.

I was initially a bit confused about the direction the story took, when we learn who Grant and Jalen really are, and upset that the story wasn’t a romance, but it made sense after a while. Ultimately, I’m glad that the story didn’t turn romantic, because that would have confused me even more. Of course, part of my uneasiness also comes from knowing so little about Ryu, but then I think that was deliberate. And it makes sense why the author would choose to keep so much detail from the reader, unless she wanted to sacrifice the mood of the story, which is built on the suspense and threat of danger from several different directions. This story had the most Halloween atmosphere for me, and that’s not because the holiday makes an appearance in this story but because to Ryu, who doesn’t really understand humanity before his night away from the graveyard, Halloween only makes everything more confusing, and therefore it is disorienting to him and the reader.

I definitely liked this story and I loved that it was something different. I’d love to hear what other readers think about this one!


The Seventh Sacrifice by Tali Spencer (Really Like It)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: South America, Bolivia, Gods, Dub Con, Snakes, Magic/Sorcery, Revenge, HEA

Finally, I think this story was my favorite of the anthology. I was waiting for that sizzling chemistry and for a story to take it a little further than some of the previous ones in the anthology. Beltrane, a Spanish descendant of conquistadores, is visiting his cousin in Bolivia, a female TV journalist who was recently horribly abused by her boyfriend. Beltrane follows his friend’s directions to visit a sorcerer in the ancient city to buy a charm or talisman to get revenge on the man who betrayed his cousin, the woman who is like a sister to him. Only, the sorcerer isn’t what Beltrane expected at all. Not only is he surprised that some of this seems to be real, but the man himself intrigues him — not to mention Kitara is one of the most beautiful men he’s ever seen.

Kitara is much more than a sorcerer. Descended from the ancients and shackled to the area around the church for centuries only makes the past betrayal and anger at what the Conquistadores did to the Incan culture. It turns out that he needs Beltane as much as the man needs him, or even more. Strangely enough, the man who he was immediately attracted to when he walked in his store is Spanish, and could be the key to unlocking the imprisonment placed on his people all those years ago. Only, he’ll have to sacrifice him first!

I really liked the dark edge to this story. I think, in the end, I consider this a romance. I’m glad that Kitara doesn’t act human. If he did, this would easily be a romance, but I’d rather him be as he is in this story — larger than life, still retaining his god-like abilities and way of thinking. In many ways, Beltrane is a pawn to Kitara, but by the end of the story I wasn’t so sure of that, even though it seems that way, outwardly. But the dark edge to their relationship and sex in the form of betrayal and sacrifice and slavery.

If I had to choose one story from this anthology to expand into something larger, or a sequel, it would be this story. Not only did I like it enough to want to read more, but there’s the growth of the relationship between Beltrane and Kitara, as well as the plethora of detail and possibility about the world.

Recommended 🙂


Title: Trick of Dreams
Author: K-Lee Klein
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 16k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Halloween Rentboys, Halloween, Magic, Royalty, Alternate Worlds, Rent Boys
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

BLURB

Misha hates Halloween. Nothing good has ever come of it, even though it was the day he was born. He spends his days at a thankless job and fills his nights turning tricks. His only reprieves from the misery are his best friend and the alluring dreams that come to him night after night.

On his first Halloween as a free man, a string of strange occurrences only firm up his position on Halloween. But the kindness of a stranger and a gift from his best friend send Misha’s mind reeling with flashes of his dreams and what was once unrecognizable suddenly becomes a little more familiar.

REVIEW

Misha has had a tough life. Sold by his family in Russia as a “bride” to an American man who then used him and pass him around to his friends, Misha was thrown to the streets when he wore out his welcome. He’s now a hustler, very accustomed to working the streets and the seedier part of the sex industry. His one good thing is his friend Peter, another hustler, and the man he comes home to at night to share his day on a dirty bare mattress, squatting in a hollowed out building along with the bears who live below and frequently make them pay “toll” for things such as a shower or the bathroom.

It is his birthday, Halloween, and his work at the diner is backbreaking. No one really does anything around the place but him, and he’s run off his feet by the customers and the freaks dressed up for the holiday that like to “handle the goods” and harass him as he tries to do his job. Things start to look up, however, when a handsome and polite man whose face is roughly scarred stays at the diner to help him with his work bussing tables. But, Misha can’t find anything about the man who shows up again to help the next day, other than a few random strangers (who are dressed very strangely), stopping him in the street to tell him that the man will be bad for him and to avoid him. Life continues as normal until Peter starts acting strangely and Misha starts getting ready to meet the trick that Peter set up for him, only to find strange gifts awaiting him at home which make no sense at all. Could some weird kind of role-play fantasy be required for this evening? Or is something even stranger going on?

I had some difficulty with this story and I never really felt like I got into it. The way the story is told is by Misha’s point of view, and since he knows nothing about what is really happening, we don’t either. Of course, some things are obvious, like the paranormal aspect of the story, but the how and why isn’t revealed until the very end of the story. In that case, it was hard for me to see this as a romance, especially since we don’t get to know the scarred man very well. Secondly, much of my confusion lasted after I had finished the story. I didn’t really understand the paranormal world that they inhabited. Parallel worlds? I’m still not sure. And even at the end, I still wasn’t sure what had happened that precipitated the story and set it in motion, as well as who some of the charters were. For me to believe in the HEA, I felt like I needed to understand those things.

So, unfortunately, I couldn’t really get behind this story. While I liked the idea, I felt like a lot of time was devoted to showing Misha in his life before the fated events occur, leaving me a little confused and wishing things were explained a little better, or at least organized differently. Of course, that’s my opinion and others might feel differently. For the most part, I really like this author’s work, so I’ll continue to keep reading what she writes 🙂


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

This year’s celebration is going to be hampered for millions of Americans and I can’t believe some of the things I’m seeing on my TV. So I hope that all of you who are impacted in some way by Hurricane Sandy and the monster disruption and destruction it has caused are safe and happy. Stockpile some of your own candy and have a party yourself!

Now, what about all of you and your Halloween plans? Passing out candy to the kiddies in the neighborhood? Or are you getting dressed up and going to a party? I’ll probably stick around and hand out candy, I love doing that. But I’d love to hear your plans! And if any of you are brave enough, send me your pics of you all dressed up and I’ll post them! If not, comment and let us know what you’re dressing up as 🙂

Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!