A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.