Burn the Brightest by Emily Moreton (F/F): I really liked this story that is probably the first lesbian romance I have ever read. It’s about a woman who doesn’t want to fall in love, Edith, and the other woman, Jo, who will, with patience and constancy, make her change idea. It was really nice to read how Jo was not only able to courtship Edith in a way that didn’t have her running away in the opposite direction, but she was also humble enough, or maybe in love enough, to bear Edith’s bad attitude, that sometime was bordering rudeness. It’s clear that Edith is scared, scared of love and of loving a soldier, and she will have to face her worst nightmare. I’m not sure this is an happily ever after story, since, even if the fate will be merciful with them, probably Edith will not be able to overcome her fear; but if both events will happen, then this is probably one wonderful romance Edith and Jo will live together.
The Direction of Greatest Courage by Erik Moore (M/M/F): this story took me by surprise, since I didn’t know what to expect; at the beginning of it, Jason is telling, or better explaining to the reader, that he is bisexual, and how this is causing him trouble in love, since women are not comfortable with him loving also men, and men think he is in denial when he wants to go out with a woman. But then Jason starts a nice, and almost ordinary relationship with Beth, that is true, is straightforward and outspoken, but all in all their courtship is quite common. Then it comes out that Beth is in a polyamouros relationship, married with a bisexual man and bisexual herself; and as it comes out, Beth’s husband, Geoff, is a very sexy man, that tingles Jason’s interest as much as Beth did. At this point my understanding of the story was good, and it led towards what I was expecting. Nice ménages a trois with the added bonus of an insight in a somehow “ostracized” type of relationship, the polyamorous marriage (that, according to the author, and his characters, is completely different from cheating, since both side involved are willing and aware).
The Grief of the Bond-Maid by Janine Ashbless (M/F/M): this is probably the most “ordinary” story in the bunch and that is saying much if you consider this is a full fantasy tale with wizards, demons and witches. Sjofn is the apprentice of a wizard, Vegtamr, and after he hanged himself, Sjofn has to find two men willing to take care of the body of the wizard to avoid further damage. The two chosen heroes are Thorkell and Bjarni, two adventurous type who doesn’t mind the company of a woman sometime, even if that woman is a witch. The part of the story concerning the quest is much like one of those videogame with different level to reach; the remaining part is what made me classify this story as “ordinary”, since it’s about the sexual relationship between Thorkell and Bjarni from one side and Sjofn on the other side, and trust me, nothing strange here if not three people having good sex.
Surrender by K. Piet (M/M): the first of the full gay story is also a classical BDSM setting; Aaron is some sort of white collar with a stressful job and he sees the BDSM session as a stress-relief activity. I don’t think Aaron has really understood the meaning of the pain/pleasure games he is doing, and by the way, he claims he is a Dom and that he has never bottomed, and he is not interested. But in all the other similar stories I have read it happens exactly the opposite: men with very stressful jobs want to let it go and find that “space” where they can really rest and relax (at least on a mind level). So when Aaron enters a new club and meets Travis, he is also on for a surprise: Travis, with a joyful predisposition, and a skilled hand, will teach Aaron that sometime there is more satisfaction in surrendering than dominating.
Blazing Star by Marie Carlson (F/F): another lesbian romance, this time in a paranormal contest, even if the paranormal side is not so pushed to overwhelm the romance one. On the contrary of the other story, here one of the two women involved is a nurturing type, the last of a family of demon hunters who has decided she doesn’t want to kill but to save. She has an house that is a sanctuary to other hunters, and while she is probably welcoming any gender, it’s clear that when the one knocking at her door is biker-bad girl Hope, she is more than glad to not only open her house but also a her heart. The problem is that she is a full-package, home, heart and all, and if you want to love her, you have also to love her mission of providing a safe shelter to wandering souls.
Oneiros by S.L. Armstrong (M/M): I think this story was a metaphor; Caleb has just discovered he is HIV positive and he thinks his life is finished. He is no more interested in his job or going out, he is barely interested in taking care of his cat, the only living creature he has contacts with. Then one night he starts dreaming of a perfect lover, Morpheus, the god of dreams, but also of sleep, and so little by little Caled loses contact with real world. And it’s exactly the wrong moment to do so since he has met Scott, another HIV positive patient who is not only willing to help Caleb through the initial nightmare of having to live with the virus, he would be also glad to find in Caleb a partner for life. I like how the author dealt the delicate issues of living with HIV, and I think that her metaphor was that, even with HIV you can have a real life, love and friendship, always better than banishing everything, and everyone.
Amazon: Cast the Cards
Amazon Kindle: Cast the Cards
Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: Storm Moon Press LLC (October 31, 2010)
Cover Art by Nathie