Title: Make A Play 2013 Daily Dose (Part 1)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press June 2013
The Plan: We have the challenge and joy to review the Daily Dose 2013 Anthology. Due to the size we will be reviewing a group at a time over the next few weeks. Also for added fun, we will be doing joint reviews for each novella. We hope you enjoy, and have as much fun reading them as we did writing them!
Note: Most of these titles share the same cover so we placed that one at the top. For those books that have a different cover we include it with the review.
Title: Diving In
Author: Bru Baker
Length: 51 pages
Rating: B List: Cher
Blurb: Being the pool boy makes it easy for Max Jansen to ogle his long-time crush, water polo player Everett Caldwell. Never mind the fact that Max owns the company and is overqualified for the task of monitoring chlorine and cleaning skimmers. He’s just happy to watch his unattainable dream play—until one day Everett invites him over and suddenly Max is his platonic plus-one for everything from movie nights to racy industry parties. Then Max learns the one-time Olympian isn’t as straight as everyone assumes, and he isn’t sure how long he can hold out before his crush grows much deeper.
Beans: I adored this story. I loved the pool boy persona Max maintained to catch a glimpse of his crush, Everett. But what drew me in was Everetts pursuit of Max. At first as friends, and then later as lovers. Max was caught off guard by Everett’s sincerity and friendship and I enjoyed the interplay between these two men. A good read.
Nina: I liked this one. Fun, cute premise, a bit of a lead in so it didn’t feel like a hook up, but like these two have a chance. These guys are adorable together first as friends and then as lovers. I enjoyed what their friendship with Nikki added to the dynamic, she cracked me up every time she showed up.
Title: Darian’s Angel
Author: Sabine Cross
Length: 31 pages
Rating: C List: Liza
Blurb: Darian Levesque is finally ready to move on after heartbreak when he reluctantly attends an equestrian event and glimpses an angel on horseback. Believing the striking young man has a girlfriend and is beyond his reach, Darian leaves without a word. Three months later, Darian sees his angel again, this time at the hospital, where Liam Grayson is recovering from a tragic riding accident… only to walk away from his attraction to Liam once more. It’s frustrating enough to make Liam’s sister, Paulette, confront Darian and lead him through the obstacles, but will he make the final jump and make Liam his?
Beans: This novella moves very fast. One moment you are in a horse jumping event, the next you are on patrol in Vancouver, the next you are watching these men get down and dirty. Fast. There was lust at first sight, and the potential of more on these pages. I did pull an eyebrow during one of the scenes that seemed a bit skeezy though. Other than that an overall good read.
Nina: A fast, cute and dirty read. The age difference between the men doesn’t seem to matter or keep them from steaming up the pages. While their story moves at a rapid rate they both seem to see more in each other than a few minutes of passion. Their awkward beginning endeared them to me.
Title: Ice Heart
Author: Kay Ellis
Length: 40 pages
Rating: C List: Liza
Blurb: Jack Holloway loves two things: Aaron Stone and hockey. Unfortunately, he refuses to acknowledge the first and lets his temper rule the second. He’s turned his life into a list of “can’ts.” He can’t talk with his parents, can’t hold down a job, can’t stay out of trouble, and can’t let go of his reputation as a tough guy on the ice—even if it might cost him his career. Most of all, he can’t admit he has fallen in love with another man. If Jack doesn’t knock that chip off his shoulder, he’s going to lose it all. If he can accept himself and Aaron and stop hiding, he might be able to finally win something bigger than a timeout in the penalty box.
Beans: I love any book with hockey as part of the plot. Men on skates, fights on the ice, the intensity of the game. It all works for me. But this story missed that joy of the hockey trope and went for the asshat-to-lover bit. As I read, this was my thought. “If my sons ever act like Jack I will hang them by their ears until they listen to sense.” I liked Aaron despite his bad taste in men. But I couldn’t get past Jack. He is a hard man to like, nonetheless love. I struggled with this story.
Nina: This was in many ways a sad story. I felt bad for both of these guys. The out jock who falls in love with his womanizing best friend. I’m not sure what Aaron saw in Jack, honestly, and it was a little unhealthy. I know that this is a hockey story, but I have some issues with dating a guy who punches you in the face. It sets a very bad precedent. It is on my list of never seeing me again in public, at less than 200 yards, due to a restraining order, much less seeing me naked. That being said, this is a hot little turning the “straight” boy gay fantasy. I liked the supporting characters. I liked the hard-won growth that we finally begin to see the seeds of in Jack.
Title: Late-Inning Home Run
Author: Stella K. Jefferson
Length: 29 pages
Rating: A List: Marilyn
Blurb: Widower Jay Parker hasn’t seen his high school boyfriend, Craig Myers, in thirty-five years—not that they ever used the word “boyfriend.” When Craig turns up at a baseball game where Jay’s seventeen-year-old son is playing, Jay discovers the old attraction is still alive. It feels natural to invite Craig home to catch up, but reigniting their flame isn’t easy for anyone involved.
Beans: I smiled every moment of this story. I loved seeing these older men come back after a lifetime apart. I loved the confidence of men assured of themselves. Men who know love and aren’t afraid of trying again. It was beautifully written, sweet, and completely charming. Everything about this novella was superb.
Nina: Loved this story. I need there to be more. This was a beautiful little story and it isn’t done being told. The flashbacks were excellently done. I loved the sense of hope for a future together, even through the misty eyes of loss over their spouses. I loved that Jay was so healthy and comfortable in his own skin. I loved that neither of them lamented the years apart but were grateful for this second chance. I loved Jay’s wisdom as a father and the good relationship he had with his son. Just an excellent short story.
Title: Out of Left Field
Author: Raine Norman
Length: 38 pages
Rating: B List: Cher
Blurb: Concierge Jake Wentworth rues the day he got involved with Mikey, his coworker and cheating ex-lover. Already in a foul mood, a rude guest further puts him off his game. Jake realizes there is more to Billy Smith than his first impression when they accidentally meet while jogging the next morning. When they hit it off over coffee and sightseeing, Jake worries his battered heart will be in for more pain, but Billy is determined to make something more of their relationship.
Beans: This was one of those stories that make you wish the author decided to make it into a full length book. There was a lot of meat to chew on and love in this story. Terrific characters you wanted to get to know more. Jake is cute and I wanted more. Then Billy and his mystery has you intrigued. The two of them together are fun and full of life. When it ended, and cute ending, I was drooling for more.
Nina: I liked this story a lot. It was an idealized version of how the world will be, we are slowly getting to the place where your career won’t be threatened by being true to yourself and refusing to hide who you love as long as you do your job well. I enjoyed watching these two men come together and find happiness. The cute Brit and sexy southerner, just yum. A whole lot of fun, sexy and adorable found in a sweet novella.
Title: Pouring a Brick
Author: Tray Ellis
Length: 43 pages
Rating: B+ Cher
Blurb: High-energy Spence joins a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school looking for adventure. Will is already a calm, advanced practitioner of the gentle art when they meet, and he takes the new student under his wing. After training for a tournament, Spence realizes that relaxing into the flow works great for channeling his energy at competitions and for life in general, but when it comes to taking a chance on Will, pushing the boundaries may be the only way to take their friendship to the next level.
Beans: This novella sat us down in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school and let us watch two men become beautiful friends and then lovers. Both Spence and Will are fantastic men. You fall in love with these kind, focused, intense people, who are looking for fun and a friend in life. Neither one is on the hunt for a happy ever after, they just want a friend to push and challenge them. And they get that. A good friend. But sometimes you have the opportunity for more. And the beauty of this story is the beginning of more for these men.
Nina: These guys are so cute. Very much a case of opposites who find they have much in common, most especially the attraction between them. I enjoyed both of them so much. Will was very internalized, calm, peaceful and satisfied within himself. While very friendly and helpful he shunned the spotlight. Spence is very driven, ambitious, competitive and he literally shook with focus and energy when he started learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Both men brought out the best in each other. Will took chances if it meant he got Spence, who under Will’s influence began to relax and learn how to roll.
Title: Hard D
Author: Elinor Gray
Length: 30 pages
Rating: B+ Cher
Blurb: Ben Meyers has played Ultimate Frisbee since his first week at college, and at every tournament he comes face to face with Darius O’Neill, his favorite rival. This time, though, their good-natured competition goes off the field to the after-party and beyond, when three years of tension finally breaks open on the sheets of Darius’s dorm-issue twin bed.
Beans: This was a great novella! l loved the action of the game in the beginning and the fun college life antics throughout. These young men were funny and vibrant from the first words off the page. I wanted to play with them and laugh with them. Then Ben and Darius set the sheets on fire. A great story, super characters, and fantastic fun novella
Nina: What a fun, sexy read. The scenes of competition are intense and sexy. Their sheer enjoyment of the sport is contagious, this story had me wanting to dig out the frisbee and hit the park. Especially if there was any chance I could see guys like this playing. I was rooting for them to finally get together and I’m really hoping they can make it. They were so into each other it was amazing they took so long to figure it out.
Title: Heart of the Race
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 91 pages
Rating: A List: Marilyn
Blurb: Varro Dacien spends his life riding toward the next adventure. Brian Christie, his best friend and touchstone, the one person who’s always truly seen him, plays sidekick on these madcap adventures and subsequent trips to the hospital until he can’t take it anymore. While Brian can see Varro, Varro has never caught on that he’s breaking his best friend’s heart.
Without Varro, Brian builds himself a life that’s all about just getting by, doing his best to ignore the hole in his heart and his life. Without Brian to balance him, Varro pushes harder and takes more risks to reach that ultimate high. His job racing high-octane bikes on suicide-level courses makes it easy to get that rush… until it’s no longer enough and Varro realizes it’s not the race, but who’s waiting at the finish line that truly matters. Now he just has to convince Brian to be there.
Beans: A little truth in advertising. I’m a big Mary Calmes fan. I adore her writing, and have a very large folder on my kindle called “Mary the amazing writer of loveliness.” So when my arm is twisted to read and review one of her books I have to keep in mind that to write a good review, I must take each story on its own merit. I must put aside all fan girlness and be fair to you, reader.
That said. I really enjoyed this story. My favorite part was the story of how Varro and Brian meet. I understood those two, from the very beginning. I railed against Varro to be more understanding of Brian. And I shouted at Brian and begged him to show Varro his feelings. I grieved for these men, who were lost without each other. I did get lost in the motorcycle details once and zoned out until I was past that scene. But other than that. It was a great story. I enjoyed the men, the love story, the HEA, and most of all…as silly as it sounds, the kissing. There is this one kissing scene…I read it three times. There is nothing more sexy than a beautiful kiss.
Nina: I loved this story. It grabbed me from the beginning and wouldn’t let go. The writing in this was exquisite, true Mary Calmes bliss. I ached for these men and the pain that comes from their denial. The connection that existed between them, that was forged from their very first adventure together as boys, was beautiful and unbreakable. There wasn’t one false note in this story. I found I even enjoyed the pain, as it was the bittersweet kind where you know that in the end they have to end up together, there is no other possibility. Their love took my breath away.
There were moments where I felt like my heart would break for Brian, sweet little lost boy, he saved them all even as they saved him. That was a theme that ran throughout the book, the sense that we all save each other, that there are bonds that run so deep nothing can sever them. Even when you think that you’ve cut the ties, something calls you back and you find that they’re there, stronger than ever, with you all along.
I alternated between wanting to smack Varro for being so blind and for hurting Brian while at the same time wanting to give him a big hug and explain why his heart hurt so much when Brian wasn’t there. In a weird way it was a forest for the trees situation, Brian was always all that Varro could see and so he missed the most basic reason of why he felt that way.
The supporting characters are essential in this story. The dynamics of the relationships that these guys grew up in steered their course for most of their lives. This was another area where you see that thread of love and connection.