A guest review by Jenre
A great set of short stories with some linked themes and imagery.
An erotic romance with a dash of ice cold water, a cricket, a pebble, the scent of blood oranges and the color red. With stories from some of the genre’s luminaries as well as some newer names, this collection is sure to make you see RED.
SENSE AND SENSUALITY by JP Bowie ~ Alan Robinson has been left a fortune, but what he really wants is someone to love him. When he meets writer Jim Thornton it seems as if his life will now be complete – but can they survive the dysfunctional family that surrounds them?
SCARLET LOVER by P.A. Brown ~ After a rocky start, Jason and Spider have become a couple. Will a visit from Jason’s sister help bind the couple or disrupt the still fragile bond between them?
LUDUS SCAENICUS MORTIS RUBRAE by William Maltese ~ Edgar Allen Poe made the party famous; William Maltese provides yet another perspective of the deadly goings-on through the eyes of two lovers.
THE FINAL CURTAIN by Victor J. Banis ~ Be careful what you wish for. Nick wanted the ephemeral young man in the worst way…
BLUSH by Kimberly Gardner ~ Once Vinn might have believed that vampires were nothing but legend and myth. But when his life is threatened by a legend, it takes a myth to save him.
I often find that the anthologies at MLRP are good value in terms of the quality of the writing and the range of ideas in the stories, even within the constraints of the anthology theme. This offering where the stories are linked by the colour red and three other items didn’t disappoint.
The first story in the anthology is Blush by Kimberly Gardiner, which tells the story of College student Vinn and his vampire boyfriend, Julien. The story itself was perhaps my favourite out of the anthology with its themes of loyalty and betrayal. Vinn was a sympathetic character, but also very much a young man with the high passion and naivety which comes from being young and I felt that he contrasted nicely with the older, more experienced vampire. There were a couple of odd scenes towards the end of the story, one involving Vinn’s college tutor and a subsequent scene in a cafeteria with Vinn’s friend that didn’t seem to have any bearing on the rest of the story, so that puzzled me rather, and I did wonder whether they were a set up for another story. Apart from that slight niggle this was a well written story with a good blend of romance and sex, with a touch of suspense too.
The second story, A Scarlet Lover, by PA Brown is the shortest story in the anthology and really one for the fans of A Geography of Murder, as it is basically an extended sex scene between the heroes from that book – possibly to satisfy those who may have been slightly disgruntled that much of the sex in that book happens behind closed doors. I’ve not read A Geography of Murder but that didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate this story for what it was: A blistering hot BDSM sex scene, sensually described with a genuine tenderness between the heroes.
The Final Curtain by Victor J Banis had rather a sombre tone to it and told of a writer whose gaze is drawn to a scruffy man in a bar of beautiful young men. He approaches the man, interested in hearing his story. What follows is a sort of cautionary tale on the perils of deprived lust, and the consequences of an arrogant personality and a selfish act. The story was imbued with sensual imagery as we follow frivolous Nick in his pursuit of a fragile young man. There’s a black humour about the writing, especially in the descriptions of life as an touring actor, as well as a bitterness in the narrative. One note of caution, those readers who insist on a happy ending will perhaps need to give this story a miss. For myself, I finished the story saddened but also aware that I had read something well written and moving.
The longest story in the anthology is Sense and Sensuality by J.P. Bowie. It tells of Alan, who after the death of his grandfather is left a substantial inheritance. Alan returns to the family pile to console with his grandmother, much to the delight of his mother who uses the opportunity to rub Alan’s good fortune in the faces of her brother and sister-in-law. Whilst there Alan meets Jim, a writer who has been employed by Alan’s grandmother to write her memoirs and it isn’t long before the initial attraction between them blossoms into more. Fans of J.P. Bowie’s books are not going to be disappointed with this story as it contains many of the themes that I’ve read in other of his stories: The rich and privileged; a super sweet romance; and heroes that fall very quickly in love with each other. For me, the greatest enjoyment was not in the rather bland Alan, but in the characters of Alan’s mother, the delightfully catty Margaret, and Alan’s grandma, Elizabeth, a rum old lady with a salty tongue who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. They turned what could have been a bit of a dull insta-love story into something that bit more special.
The final story in the anthology, Ludus Scaenicus Mortis Rubrae by William Maltese, is “a clever homage to Edgar Allen Poe’s infamous The Masque of the Red Death”, which basically means that the author has taken the original idea of the Red Death plague and rewritten it from the point of view of two of the Lords shut up in the Abbey. The lords are lovers and perfectly reflect the decadence of Prince Prospero’s court in their insatiable sexual appetite and, in the case of one of the lords, a risqué costume for the ball. Like many of Maltese’s stories, the writing is a mix of beautiful eloquence and base sexual vocabulary which occasionally sat uneasily next to each other. I enjoyed this story with its lush description, vivid colour and appropriate uneasy tone as the clock ticks its ominous way to midnight.
Overall, those of you who are looking for an anthology with a range of different styles of writing, different themes and different types of character, but whose stories are still consistently evocative in their descriptions and their quality can’t go wrong with this anthology.