Title: Curious Anthology
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: 300 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5
A guest review by Kassa
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
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.