Collected Novellas Volume 2

JL_collected_novellas_2Title: Collected Novellas Volume 2
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Collection
Length: 404 pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

Dark Horse was Josh Lanyon’s first foray into writing for the m/m romance market. It also turned out to be one of his readers’ favorite tales. In a Dark Wood and Ghost of a Chance explore the terrors of houses haunted by something far worse than ghosts: the toxic product of guilt and shattered memory. British agent Mark Hardwicke is on the run from a mission gone horribly wrong, looking for shelter and care. But, in I Spy Something Bloody the only man who can offer that shelter and care is also the only man that Mark seems determined to push from his life. This collection includes the bonus short story A Limited Engagement, written for a collection whose sales support funding for marriage equality in the United States.

THE REVIEW

So…..Collected Novellas 2. These stories are generally slightly different than what Josh generally pens, mostly in the fact that they’re not outright murder mysteries, though all are suspenseful and have an element of romance. Two are scary (I would place In a Dark Wood in the horror genre, and Ghost of a Chance is haunted-house-ish), I Spy Something Bloody is a spy thriller of sorts, and Dark Horse is a psychological drama. Three are excellent, and one, though not terrible by any means — can the man pen a bad book? — I had some issues with. In saying that, all of the stories in this collection are, as usual, brilliantly written and plotted with fabulous characters and great dialog.

As I mentioned in Volume 1, Wave and I have already reviewed four of the nine books in the two volumes of collected novellas, so I will be linking to those reviews where applicable. Also, the majority of the stories were bundles in other works, such as the Partners in Crime series, and I have noted those.

In a Dark Wood: 5 stars

This was originally included in the anthology Arresting Developments.

Writer Tim meets cop Luke at a dinner party given by a mutual friend. At the encouragement of the host and the rest of the guests, Tim relates a story of how, when he was much younger, he and a friend happened upon a creepy old house with bones — and possibly a human skull — littering the yard. Taking an unusual interest in the tale, Luke convinces Tim join him on a weekend camping trip to the spot to try and find the house again. But finding that house again means Tim facing a traumatic experience in his past, one that he would rather forget and one that shadows his present.

Fairly short at 38 pages, IADW is told first-person POV by Tim, our wonderfully-penned flawed and fragile hero. This is really Tim’s journey, a story of facing your past and of self-discovery and -realization that will affect the future. Tim is a mid-twenties travel writer and columnist…and alcoholic. How much of that illness is caused by the traumatic experience and the associated guilt he is now re-facing is something he’ll need to explore in recovery, but chances are it is major. No wonder he drinks.  I found Tim to very sympathetic and I have hope for his future at the end of the story.

I found Luke to be a wonderful sensitive alpha. I loved how he was with Tim, how he “gets” Tim even knowing him as little as he does, how he pushes Tim at all the right times without asking for more than he thinks Tim can do.

The writing is solid with smart humor and edge-of-your-seat suspense. It’s Creepy with a capital C, and a bit melodramatic and angsty as Tim faces his past and present, but it all works well together. The single smexxin scene was hawt in an uninhibited kind of way. Regardless of how Tim acts out with Luke in this story, they have a good rapport and I think will be good together when Tim gets well.

I admit to wanting this story to have been just a little longer so I could have gotten to know Luke a bit more, and to find out what Tim is like sober, but with a thankfully realistic ending who knows if this is the last we’ll see if our heroes…

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I Spy Something Bloody: 5 stars

Mark Hardwicke is AWOL, running from his own Agency as well as the enemy. He is badly injured and in desperate need of a safe place to recuperate for a little while and he knows that there is only one person he can trust, one person he wants above all others — Dr. Stephen Thorpe. But he has been away from him for two years and Stephen hasn’t forgiven him for leaving. Will he help him in his time of dire need now that his cover is blown, and he is “stranded here at the ends of the Earth where bleak sky fused into wind-scoured wilderness” or will he reject him? There is only one way to find out. He picks up the phone and when Stephen answers he says “Stephen, I’m in trouble.” Surprisingly he is given permission to fly to Stephen’s home in Virginia which is an ideal location to lick his wounds but the welcome mat is definitely not out.

Continue reading Wave’s Review >>

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A Limited Engagement: 4 stars

A Limited Engagement, a story of desperation and forgiveness, was originally released by Torquere Books as one of their Wedding Sips, the proceeds of which were (are) donated to gay and lesbian legal defense funds supporting the rights of gay marriage.

Successful playwright Ross and not-so-successful actor Adam have been having a thing for a while now, though Ross is closeted. When Ross looks to make some changes in his life, Adam takes matters in his own hands in attempt to stop Ross from making what Adam feels is a huge mistake. In the aftermath, is there any way for these two to work it out and have love conquer all?

This is the first story of Josh’s that I had mixed feeling about. While there were aspects of this 18 page story that I liked, there were others that I didn’t.

What worked for me: the writing, which was typically tight and damn near perfect. The level of emotional intensity in the short piece, including Adam’s obvious desperation. The passionate encounter they have. How the weather outside echoes the drama inside.

What didn’t: the protags. I didn’t like either of them in the short space we spent with them. Adam’s actions, though clearly out of desperation, were in my opinion reprehensible. I don’t care how much he loved Ross, or how much he thought what Ross was going to do was wrong, what he did was so much worse. Actually both things he did were so much worse. And Ross, I just don’t believe that his acceptance of Adam’s actions/betrayal makes for the basis of a good relationship. It’s as if he rewarded Adam for his bad behavior. What’s to stop Adam when he wants something else Ross isn’t willing to give?

It’s quite possible that Fanyons and other readers will not have the issues I did with this.

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Dark Horse: 5 stars

Hollywood actor Sean Fairchild experiences something every celebrity fears — he was stalked. Now that stalker is supposedly dead, but if that’s true, why is he getting threatening postcards from the man? And seeing him places? Bodyguard-turned-lover LAPD Detective Daniel Moran isn’t sure what is going on, but he tells Sean that he will look into it. Sean’s history of psychological problems, however, is casting some doubt on everyone’s part that Sean is seeing what he is seeing. It couldn’t come at a worse time, either; Sean is up for a highly-coveted dream role and doesn’t need these worries. Plus, Sean’s manager, Steve, has concerns about Dan, and is starting to weave uncertainty into Sean’s mind about the motives of his new boyfriend.

Continue reading my Review >>

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Ghost of a Chance: 5 stars

Professor, parapsychologist and ghost hunter Rhys Davies is invited to stay at the sea-side home of a friend, Oliver, to explore the haunted Berkeley House next door. When he arrives, he surprises — and is surprised by — Oliver’s cop nephew, Sam Devlin, who is also staying while Oliver is away. These two clash in several ways, but there is also an unexpected attraction between them. Can Rhys solve the mystery of Berkeley House without ruining his tentative whatever-he-has with Sam?

Continue reading my Review >>

OVERALL

Again, this second collection of stories not to be missed. Lovers of romance, mystery, suspense, gay fiction all have something to look forward to here from this incredibly talented author.

11 comments

  • Thanks for stopping by Josh. Yeah, I don’t understand why anyone would rate the collections less than a top rating if all of the stories inside got top ratings. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    I’ve said before that you’re a master of writing the flawed hero (or anti-hero, as the case may be), and see where you were trying to go with ALE, but, yes, it didn’t work for me here so much. C’est la vie, no? BUT, overall, I did like the story for the reasons I said.

    Reply
  • You did WHAT???

    Heh.

    Thanks for the review! The only trouble I’ve had with reviews on this collection are the sites where the individual novels all got 5 stars but the collection gets 4 or 4.5. ??? That’s just…huh? We won’t name names, though.

    Re Limited Engagement. I was trying to balance out all the sappy wedding sips everyone was writing. *Perhaps* I took it a little far, but I really do enjoy writing characters who just…make mistakes. Do wrong. Are not nice people. But, yes, I can see exactly why you weren’t won over by it. AND I CAN LIVE WITH THAT. *g*

    Reply
  • Wave, I did it. I held my breath as I clicked that “publish” button, but apparently the earth doesn’t stop just by giving Josh less than a fiver. 😉

    Reply
  • Jen:

    Is the world about to end? Heh, heh.

    I did “duck, cover, hold” there for a few minutes while I waited for the Big One to come (living on the Hayward Fault, it’s a real possibility!).
     
    I didn’t review I Spy myself because Wave did such a great job on hers, but I completely agree with you. It’s one of my favorites, and I love Mark. I love him because he’s such an anti-hero.

    Reply
  • Eve, yeah, I knew I’d get some flack from the other Fanyons out there the minute I gave a review less than 5 stars. 🙂 Believe me, I gave MYSELF flack over it! I really liked the emotion brought forth and the desperation on both parts was evident. I just was blinded, I think, by Adam’s actions, but I can see your point about them being sadly romantic, in a way.

    Reply
  • Jen
    When Lynn was reviewing these two Collected Novellas I asked her whether she was ever going to give Josh anything less than 5 stars (I’m just as guilty) and she did admit that there might be one story which she wouldn’t rate that highly.:)

     
    As you know I love anti heroes and Mark really pulled at my heart strings. I’m looking forward to his return. I haven’t read all the stories but I will soon.

    Reply
  • Great review, Lynn – and good grief you’ve given a Josh Lanyon story less than 5 stars! Is the world about to end? Heh, heh. Good for you missus. I liked the story but also had issues with the ‘outing’ part. Then again, without it there would not have been a story, so I put that part aside and focused on the emotional intensity of the piece.

    My favourite out of these novellas is ‘I Spy Something Bloody’. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read that novella – another one packed with heartbreaking emotion. I’m a big fan of Mark, but I know many readers found him to be too cold and too much the anti-hero.

    Reply
  • ha! You know if you give a Lanyon story less than 5-star, fanyons are going to… er… make a case! *g*

    just kidding. I see your point about “A Limited Engagement”. I don’t condone either “bearding” or “outing”, so both Ross and Adam are doing something, erm, wrong. But when I see it as a pure love story, I simply see them as both desperate beings, who don’t much like what they are doing, but feel that they have no other choice (of course, outsiders wouldn’t agree with that). In that case, I find both of them… rather romantic, even though in a sad way.

    I do think Josh made it clear to readers that Ross is afraid of loving someone as young as Adam (and being loved by someone so young), I suspect this fear is almost as big as his fear of being outed or ridiculed. And that made him very human and perhaps why I like him.

    Reply
  • liade, you’re right. I guess I was so caught up with Adam and his actions that I didn’t focus on Ross’s bad behavior, which, as you said, is hypocritical. I was thinking that Ross’ decisions were his to make (and live with) and it wasn’t up to Adam to change that course, but as you said, he wanted both worlds. Not good. Thanks for bringing that up. And yes, in the end, both were the victim and bad guy…

    Reply
  • About “A Limited Engagement”: of course Adam’s actions were reprehensible, but actually I didn’t much like Ross’s original behaviour, either; the blatant hypocrisy, the have-his-cake-and-eat-it mentality.

    In fact one aspect of this story I particularly liked was the way the victim role kept changing throughout the story.

    Reply

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