Hello friends. It's Man Love Monday and for once in a long time I have more than just a Captain Jack video to share with you. (although goddamit, that Cap'n Jack is so good with the manlove). Anyways, our topic today is an m/m anthology of three short stories called Arresting Developments. In each story at least one of the heros is involved in law enforcement. I'm going to review them in order of best, pretty good, and nope that didn't work for me. Let's start with the best, shall we?
In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon
Thanks to my blogging buddy, lisabea, I had already been exposed to Josh Lanyon's witty persona via livejournal and blog comments. I knew the guy had a way with words, but dayum! What I didn't know was that he had such a knack for drawing realistic characters and sucking you into a narrative within one page flat! This is a taut little gem of a story. It has a creepy mystery angle mixed in with an emotional journey of self-discovery and a tender budding relationship. Travel writer and columnist Tim is set up by a friend with detective Luke. The two of them embark on a weekend camping trip to explore a spooky house in the woods where Tim had a traumatic childhood memory. Along the way, they learn more about each other and Tim faces some realities about himself that he's been avoiding. The story is told in first-person from Tim's point of view, but rather than being limiting, this device adds to the layers of how we access both characters.
I mentioned that there's a mystery, and I'm not kidding. It got truly SCARY for a few minutes there, and I was turning the pages quickly and hoping that everything would turn out ok in the end (it does). *whew* You may be saying, fine fine, that's all well and good but what about the sex? Here's the thing, I found the lovemaking between our two heros to be really organic and romantic. It's not as HAWT as you might be expecting, but I loved it. Again, Lanyon has this way with his words. It felt earthy and natural, and not just tossed in to spice things up. The sex isn't there just for sex's sake. It serves the story and expands our awareness of the characters' emotional development.
"I need so much. There's such a big gaping emptiness in me. I need him to fill it with heat and hungry demands; I want his need to overwhelm my own."
le sigh. In my inexpert opinion, this is a character study drawn in confident strokes. The guys jump off the page, and you get a sense for what makes them tick but without long passages of boring or obvious exposition. Lanyon's writing makes it look easy. Give the man an A and for goodness sake, give me more of his books.
Coyote Crossing by James Buchanan.
Now on to my second favorite story in the anthology. This one is about a border patrol officer in the Southwest. One night while stopping a group of illegal immigrants, he finds the leader of the group is none other than a childhood friend. Actually, it's the little brother of his best friend from high school but lil' brother is all grown up now. Augustin, or Augi, has fallen in with the wrong crowd since Rick knew him as a teenager. Now he's mixed up with trafficking people across the border and possibly with drugs as well. Rick is allowed to vouch for Augi so that he won't have to get tossed in jail immediately and takes him back to his apartment. (This whole bit I wasn't real sure of...is that legal? ethical? I dunno...just roll with it, it's fiction). There's some nice angst between these two guys. Rick can't believe that he's attracted to his best friend's kid brother. Back when they were in high school, Augi used to shadow him and look up to him. It's pretty obvious to the reader that Augi had a crush on Rick back in those days, but apparently this never occured to Rick. They spend some quality time together talking about family and the past. Rick gets the chance to rescue Augi from some nasty drug dealers (awww) and then Augi comes out of the closet to Rick. hooray! (oh come on, we knew it all along didn't we?) Imagine making it with that guy you always dreamed about as a teenager but who never even knew you existed as a potential romantic partner. I think anyone can relate to this, and I know that I found the consumation of Rick and Augi's attraction to be rather sweet and emotionally satisfying. We're left with a definite HFN which is fine and dandy with me for such a quick story.
Gamble Everything by L. Picaro
I didn't really want to review this one. Not because I am squeamish about bad reviews. But frankly, this story bored me. I'll do my best to be quick, honest, and fair.
Adam is a police officer who comes to the aid of a man who just ran off the road because someone shot at him. This man, Marc, looks vaguely familiar to Adam, but he can't place him. Marc says that he's pretty sure he was shot at because he's gay, and that he'd just received threats while leaving a local bar. Adam thinks this is a bit odd because he's also openly gay and has lived in this town for years without any issues. After taking Marc to the police station to fill out some forms, Adam drives him home. The attraction between them is immediate and intense. Then Adam realizes why he recognizes Marc. He's a famous porn star who disappeared from the industry some time ago. Porn star? alrighty then. And it goes from there. Bow-chicka-bow.
I dunno, maybe I'm being too critical. Or maybe this just wasn't the right anthology for this story after the previous two entries. But in any event, I did not connect emotionally with either Marc or Adam. It all felt just a little too, dare I say it...porny. Oh well.
Two out of three ain't bad.
You can find Arresting Developments at Aspen Mountain Press.
And for more ManLove Monday fun, please surf over to lisabea's to catch her awesome interview with author Samantha Kane!!! And also, don't miss azteclady's review of JL Langley's The Broken H over at Karen's blog. Happy MLM!