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

Tag Archives: MLR Mixtapes

Brennessel_Running_Up_That_HillTitle: Running up that Hill
Author: Barry Brennessel
Publisher: MLR
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

BLURB

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.

REVIEW

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.


SL_MT_TrueTitle: True
Author: Sabrina Luna
Publisher: MLR
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

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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.

REVIEW

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!


KC_When_I_See_You_SmileTitle: When I See You Smile
Author: Karenna Colcroft
Publisher: MLR
Length: 16k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Rockers/Musicians, Music, Famous, a bit of BDSM, Coming Out, Light & Sweet
Rating: Pretty Good

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Rocker Kieran West is ready to go public about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea.

Although rocker Kieran West is openly gay, only a handful of people know about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea. Although he knows the BDSM part of their relationship must remain a secret, Kieran wants the world to know that he and Deke are in love, and he wants to make Deke a permanent part of his life.

REVIEW

It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft’s short stories — that last one being Chance Met, which I gave a So So rating — but I was excited to read this one because of the rocker theme. And I’m glad that I did, because this story did what a short romance does well. It doesn’t try to pack a whole romance into a short format but it gives us a glimpse into the life of the characters and their romance.

Kieran is a forceful presence, a musical star combining country and rock with a solid fan base, and publicly gay after coming out over a year before this story starts. But he also has a secret life that he’s held in check, mostly at the urging of his manager and boyfriend, who just wants to support his career and not jeopardize it. Kieran is a forceful presence, yes. He knows what he wants and he takes it, which makes him successful. But he also likes to carry that power into the bedroom, and he has a permanent partner there who likes to submit to him. Secretly, Kieran has been dating the man who works at his right hand, doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for his music and on his tours. Deacon is known to most as his best friend, but they’ve been lovers in a part-time BDSM relationship for a year now.

But Kieran is tired of hiding. He finally made the leap and convinced his management and studio that he should come out. But so far they’ve convinced him not to admit to his relationship with Deke, hoping to continue to play on Kieran’s heartthrob status and unsure if the same people who supported him coming out as gay would feel similarly about him as a gay man in a relationship. For Kieran, however, it is past time. When a man from the studio tells him to record a cover on his next album of the song “When I See You Smile” from the 80s, it serves as a catalyst for Kieran to stick it to the man. Kieran West doesn’t do covers, and he sure as hell isn’t going to keep Deke a secret any longer. But will Deke agree?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this story works as a glimpse into the lives of our characters at an important moment in their relationship, without using conflict to drive the plot. Of course, there is a little bit of conflict. The people around Kieran are pretty adamantly against his decision to go public about Deke, but there’s no real conflict because Kieran has already made up his mind, and like I said, he’s a strong personality. His resolve only serves to make us closer to him because we always respect people/characters who are steadfast and self-aware, especially in defense of their partner. And Kiernan’s decision to go public is really about honoring Deke, who deserves to stand up as his boyfriend as much as Kiernan wants to stand by his side. The BDSM flows outwardly from that, in the sense that it’s an extension of their personalities, but also that their sexual lives take a backseat to their romantic lives and their public lives. There is a touch of BDSM in the story, but it isn’t the focus.

The removal of real conflict works here if you’re looking for a light and sweet story, and it isn’t really needed to push the plot forward at 16k words. The story is short enough to keep a steady pace just from getting to know Kiernan and Deke, and the little bit of conflict that propels the story in the beginning as we start to see the dynamic in their relationship and how it changes when they move out of bed and return as equal partners. Deke remained a bit of a mystery for me, and to rate this story higher I would have liked to get to know more about him. The story reads well as it stands, however, and is definitely good for you if you’re in the mood for something sweet and heartwarming. And of course, rocker characters always draw attention and Kiernan does well playing the bad boy with a heart of gold.


DR_Its_Raining_MenTitle: It’s Raining Men
Author: Diana DeRicci
Publisher: MLR
Length: 32,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: MLR Mix Tapes, X-Dress, Personal Trainer, Drag Queen, Good Friends, HEA, Insta-Love
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Sadonna

**Review contains some spoilers**

BLURB

Dallas, along with a few friends, is attending a singing contest to cheer on a friend who is a drag performer. Except he falls in utter lust with the hostess of the club, Peter, AKA Pepper Prince. Finagling a date, they spend hours talking into the night and Dallas gets a second date. Even though they’re hitting it off, Peter is skeptical of Dallas’ honesty and acceptance of Pepper’s inclusion in his private and professional life. Can romance win the heart of a man who’s been hurt in the past for simply being the person he is? History says no, but Dallas isn’t like anyone Peter knows, and is determined to prove it.

REVIEW

This story in the Mix Tape series begins with a competition in a drag club. A bunch of guys are out for an evening of fun at Paper Dolls to support the boyfriend of one of their group. Chance, aka Chantilly is one of the drag show contestants vying for the crown and a trip to Las Vegas for a big national competition. There are 5 of them in the group – a couple, Javy and Carson, two single guys, Dallas, a personal trainer, and Brady, a cop, and Liam, Chance’s boyfriend. As the competition opens, we are introduced to Pepper Prince, the MC of the club and Dallas is mesmerized. He hopes that Pepper really is a man, but he’s not sure because he appears as a beautiful woman. We also meet Miguel, their very cute waiter that seems to draw Brady’s attention.

At the end of the competition, Dallas and Liam go backstage to get Chance and of course Dallas wants to meet Pepper. The other contestants tell him that it’s a lost cause – he’ll never get Pepper to go out with him. But Dallas keeps trying. There is a twist with Miguel and Brady back in the front of the club that ends with Pepper (who by now we know is Peter) giving them all a ride since he’s the only one sober enough to drive. Brady is very protective of Miguel and Dallas welcomes the chance to get to talk to Peter. He amazingly convinces Peter to give him a chance for one more date.

We get a little bit of background on Peter and why he’s not interesting in dating but Dallas is persistent and they have a really good time together. Just as Peter and Dallas are growing closer though, a job offer comes along that takes Peter away to what could be his dream job. Dallas cares too much about Peter’s happiness to be selfish and tells Peter he needs to see where this takes him. Of course he’s miserable and it takes one of his training clients to get him to see what he really needs to do about this situation.

I wanted to like this story so much more. The premise was really great and I liked Dallas and Peter. But things started to go a little wrong for me in the story after their first real date and it got a little insta-lovey. My main issues with the story had to do with Peter seeming to rush into a relationship with Dallas after we see him saying no to getting involved with someone he’s met at the club and hear from others as well that Peter doesn’t date. I would really have liked to see more interaction between Dallas and Peter before they seemed to be so attached. There were also a couple of continuity problems that threw me off a little.

I think that this story would have benefitted from having another 30,000 words so that the relationship could have developed a bit more naturally. There were so many secondary characters that I really would have liked to know more about as well. This would really be a good starting point for a series about some of these characters and maybe that’s what Diana will do. I’d love to see what happens between Miguel and Brady and I also liked Dallas’s client Mikala.


LZ_Wouldnt_It_Be_GoodTitle: Wouldn’t It Be Good
Author: Logan Zachary
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 6,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: MLR Mixtapes, Short Story, Bullies, Closeted, College, Coming Out (ish), Emotionally Damaged, HEA, Jocks/Nerds, Physical Injury/Trauma, Sports, Yearning
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Nikyta

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Wouldn’t it be good to have music bridge the gap between two men?

Jason is the football god on campus, and Jeff is not. After an incident in gym class, Jeff leaves school embarrassed and bruised. Jason tries to help, but all he can do is leave a tape of mixed songs for Jeff hoping to help him feel better. Music can calm the savage beast, but can it bridge the gap between Mr. Perfect and Mr. Wrong? One song speaks volumes to Jeff, and his defenses begin to crumble as the men become closer and closer. Wouldn’t it be good to have a friend?

REVIEW

The first thing I need to say is that the blurb needs major editing. For those reading this book, please be aware that the main character’s name is Scott and not Jeff. In fact, Jeff is the bully who causes the ‘incident’ while Scott leaves school embarrassed and bruised. Between the time of writing this review and now, MLR has since updated their site to include the correct main character, Scott, in the blurb.

With that said, I don’t think I need to reiterate the blurb because it does a good enough job of describing the story. It’s a cute, easy read that goes by far too quickly. Scott is just about done with being bullied. He’s had a rough life and things are just getting worse for him. He’s a loner, though, and doesn’t fit in with others. Jason is the complete opposite: popular, well liked and good at sports. Jason’s sweet and charming and concerned about Scott when he gets hurt by Jeff. I felt really bad for Scott and I just wanted to give him a hug. I loved that these two connected over a mixed tape that Jason leaves for Scott. These two were adorable and I loved that Jason was so nice while Scott was so charmed by him.

This story started off really good. I was enjoying it and really liking the direction it was going in because it was heartbreaking but sweet. Unfortunately, pretty soon it started to focus on the purely physical part of their relationship and my enjoyment dimmed. I just couldn’t connect with them from there because I didn’t feel like they knew each other at all, even with going to the same school together for years. Then there’s the conflict, which felt incomplete and very rushed. It had me questioning why someone like Jeff would just walk away from tormenting Scott just because Jason claimed him as his boyfriend when Jeff never backed off from Jason’s protests in the past. It felt inconsistent with the rest of the story. More than that, their dialogue felt stunted and awkward.

Overall, it’s not a bad story. It could have been fleshed out further, characters could have been better developed and the conflict could have been tied up better but I still enjoyed the story. I would have liked to see Jason and Scott get to know each other deeper but as it is, this was a cute, quick story with a lot of potential.


GR_Say_Everything

Congrats to

arella3173

for winning the copy of the Say Everything by Gina A Rogers. I’ve already emailed arella, so she should already have received my email, but if not, please email me at armchairreader[dot]coleriann[at]gmail[dot]com so you can get your story. Thanks for playing everyone and thank you all for stopping by and commenting on Sadonna’s review!.

Buy Link: http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=GRSAYEVR