Curious Anthology

Title: Curious Anthology
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: 300 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

A guest review by Kassa


THE BLURB:

Aren’t you just a little curious? What is it about gay male romance that turns female readers on? The truth is that women love romance and sexy men. When it’s a story about two men falling in love, there’s twice the attraction. We’ve chosen stories that run the gamut of M/M romantic fiction: from initial curiosity to the first blush of love, from awkward first times to finding fulfillment, and from heart-warming forever devotion to hot and sweaty sex. Think of it as a romance buffet: take a little bit, try a little dab, and find the flavor of M/M romance that satisfies you

THE REVIEW:

As with any anthology, the stories offered are going to be a mixed bag. None will appeal to all and favorites vary widely from reader to reader. This particular offering has a lot of high quality authors and thus the stories are mostly well crafted and interesting. There are the usual less engaging stories or those that just didn’t appeal to me personally but none are a failure. There are 14 stories included and over half I’d give at least 4 stars and many I’d give even higher so the final collection is delightful, romantic, and often whimsical in the best way. This is worth getting and finding your favorites in the group.

The collection starts off with a chapter from Amy Lane’s absolutely delightful and steamy poker story, Gambling Men. This first chapter is short, hot, and to the point. It absolutely does the job to make you curious for more and the remaining chapters end up spaced out in the anthology between other stories. An interesting move and one I didn’t mind once I caught on but it may not appeal to all readers. It also means you need to read the anthology in order from the beginning to end and I didn’t find the pacing and progression the best aspect of the collection. After this quick bite, which I had no way of knowing there’d be more to it, the next few stories are immediately longer and more involved.

Sean Kennedy’s Bad News Brett is a very cute, sports related story with some steamy men and good premise. Due to the very short first story, I actually kept expecting Kennedy’s story to end quickly so I was thrown off when I realized it was much longer. I think if you understand going in that most stories are all typically longer and Amy Lane’s is spread out chapter by chapter, then the uneven pace and progression won’t bother you as much. Especially since after Kennedy’s delicious story is an even longer story by S. Blaise about two high school friends that reconnect later. I didn’t care for this story and found my attention wandering and lost pretty quickly. The concept is good and the characters offer something different and unique but once the story continued out of high school I just lost interest sadly. The pace felt rambling without a strong focus for me, but reader preference always varies.

From there highlights continue with the 60’s inspired We Are Stardust by M. Jules Aedin which offers a fun look at two young men heading to Woodstock. The feel, touch, and taste of that time come through really well with all the hope and whimsy of the concert and era. Followed by Chrissy Munder’s Spontaneous showing the great benefit in mixing up your schedule and going for something unusual. Both of these stories are fun and enjoyable but Ashlyn Kane’s The Meaning of Significant Digits really heats up the pages and offers a flirty, fun, and thoroughly engaging story about two friends finally getting together.

After that is the completely wonderful and touching story, Catt Ford’s Road to Nowhere. This story looking back at two unlikely couples is heart warming, lovely, and invokes a totally different feel and romance. The Montana beauty is shown in the small details and slower pace of life and one of the most romantic stories of the collection. Yet not outdone are also Isabella Rowan’s Snowman about moving on from grief and finding a focus in life and GS Wiley’s food inspired delight Weak in the Knees about two friends who get together after wrong starts, missteps, confusion, and some really wonderful food descriptions. The incredible writing of these three stories and the two offerings by Amy Lane made the collection for me but many of the other offerings are fun, entertaining, and incredibly sexy to read.

One of the downsides to this collection is that stories with similar themes or details stand out much more when put together in the same space. Because of this the fact that there are multiple stories with the same names stands out pretty vividly. Here there are two stories with a main character named Ryan, while there are also two stories with characters named Quinten. Well one is named Quentin (called Quen and involved with Jace) and one is named Quinten (called Quin and involved with Jai). So the similarities are much more noticeable when paired in an anthology than on their own. It’s not detrimental to reading but sometimes jerks me out of the story due to the repetitious names.

If I didn’t mention a story specifically then it didn’t appeal to me for whatever reason. Some of these felt laborious and tired as they struggle to create just enough tension and resolution in a short story but these also felt very much reader preference. None of these are inherently flawed or bad stories but just didn’t interest me much. As reader preference changes so much I’d still recommend reading the entire anthology and deciding for yourself. I’d be shocked if there aren’t several you fall in love with and find favorites of your own. On the whole, Curious is a successful anthology and one of the better ones from the publisher.

22 comments

  • Kassa
    I’m getting set for Sunday reading with this one.

    Thanks for a terrific review especially now that you said which ones you enjoyed. 🙂

  • I love anthologies; they’re a good way to discover new writers. This one sounds intriguing. Great review!

  • *g* You know, I hadn’t actually thought about re-reading the story… but the fact that you want to makes me seven kinds of happy:-)

  • LOL! Yeah– I noticed that there were two Quentins and two Ryans:-) Scotty and Ryan will be back in ‘Phonebook’ on June 2nd, and Quentin and Jace will be back in ‘Raising the Stakes’ later in the month.

    The first two Gambling Men segments were written as ‘quickies’– the first one was written as a dare on Twitter to write to a vodka commercial, and it was offered as one of the free stories on the DSP newsletter. The second one was much the same, but Lynn and Elizabeth liked it so much that they asked if I could finish the arc in three other shorts, so they could use those to ‘anchor’ the rest of the stories in the anthology. The idea is, each little segment is a different relationship stage–and so is each section of the book. (Which made me glad to see Shirt at the end– I’m glad Ryan and Scotty got to be poster boys for happy endings–they’re really adorable:-)

    • Oh I agree with the idea. I really liked the spaced out idea (once I caught on, which you know was obvious then). I liked seeing the two get together as the anthology progressed, so did they. It’s really clever and neat.

      I actually loved the first quicky by itself and thought “I’m definitely curious!” So I like the progression. I just thought re-reading wise could be difficult.

  • Wow– I’m really glad you liked the anthology– I was so very honored to be included with such talented authors!

    (I’m also glad you liked my stories–I sort of have sequels to both the Curious stories coming out this summer… it’s good to hear that the originals struck a chord as well:-)

    • Oh fun. I hope that Gambling Men is eventually offered together as it’d be a difficult story to re-read having to page through the anthology to find the various chapters (especially with no index).

      But I’d LOVE to read a sequel to Shirt. Those two were close to my top couple of the group. Despite the fact that it’s the second Ryan.

  • I wasn’t sure about this one before but if most stories are 4 or more I think I’ll be getting it soon. Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Kassa. Really interesting review – what you say about Amy’s story intrigues me greatly. I’ve gone off anthologies lately, but I think I’ll try to win this one too. Thanks.

    • I didn’t want to get into each story specifically but there are several that I’d give even 4.5 or higher. Amy Lane’s, Ashlyn Kane’s, GS Wiley’s, Chrissy Munder’s, Catt Ford’s. All of these are stories I’d read again and really enjoyed.

      I know anthologies are tough bets but this one has some great authors and that’s why I chose it. Happily it lived up to expectations.

  • Great review, Kassa.

    I have this anthology on my TBR pile but I keep putting it off simply because I’m not supposed to be the intended audience. Isn’t the idea supposed to be that this anthology is for those women who haven’t tried m/m before and this is a sort of introduction to it?

    Anyway, there are many of my favourite DSP authors who have contributed to it, plus this review makes it sound worth reading, so I shall have to dig it out and have a read.

    • I think that is the intended audience. However I didn’t really find the stories any different than what we read every day. Some are fade to black, some are full on sexing, all are pretty standard fare for m/m romance junkies.

      I can get behind the concept but I don’t think it’s any different than picking up a book from any of the authors included and going for it. Just shorter.

  • Hmmm. I may have to check this out but perhaps do it like I’ve been doing for the Brush of Wings anthology. I read 3 stories a week and then post about them. Otherwise I find the similarity in themes burns me out and by the end I just want to finish which is totally unfair to those authors because it’s not a reflection of their work by my weariness. The idea of Amy’s chapters interspersed intrigues me. I’ll have to throw my name in the hat for this one this week and if Randy doesn’t smile down upon me will splurge and purchase it.

    • Well the nice thing about this is the majority of stories aren’t that similar (just some details). They’re all contemporary romance with one exception. I think just the same names used over made me blink because you immediately think of the first story with those names. But that depends on how much names matter to you as a reader.

      I haven’t had a lot of luck with the DSP anthologies, a few stories I love, most I think are ok at best so this is a nice treat in that most are really good.

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