Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Buy Link: Summer Lovin’,
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A clever collection of short stories sure to put a smile on your face and highly entertaining for any preferred taste.
Blurb: Summer is here, and the loving is easy!
Slake your thirst for romance with Summer Lovin’—an anthology for lazy days and summer sunshine.
Go skinny-dipping in a disused quarry. Hang out with the boys in the band. Meet a bad boy made good, and one with a shy smile that hides a dark secret. Or maybe get your heart pillaged by a Viking re-enactor.
With gentle humour, hot sauce and a hefty scoop of romance, enjoy a quintet of sultry stories of men loving men from Clare London, Chrissy Munder, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper.
The mercury’s not the only thing that’s rising!
Review: The anthology Summer Lovin offers a variety of short stories from some of today’s most popular M/M authors. From the hint of ancient tmes to the contemporary, this novel has something for most every taste. However, lest you think it is all light reading, there is a particularly dark offering amidst the lighter reads in this novel. All the stories come with happy ever afters and each gives us their unique spin on falling in love during the hot summer months.
First up is Chrissy Munder’s Summer Hire. A light and flirtatious read about Aaron, a bad boy turned good, who now owns his own boat rental and repair shop. Taking on two summer hires, one being the sister, Crissy, of his only permanent employee, Stan, and the other being her best friend, Jim. When he’s designing web sites behind his computer, Jim is sure footed and savvy, but give him a sales counter job at a busy summer rental store and he is all over the place. As their friends repeatedly throw these two men at one another, both are determined to keep their distance for very different reasons. But in the end, it only takes one moonlit night on the beach for the sparks to ignite.
This was perhaps the cutest of all the offerings, witty and fresh feeling with the two characters were head over heels and the last to admit it to each other. The side characters were just hilarious and the snarky repartee between Aaron and Stan kept this short moving along with real moments of hilarity. I particularly enjoyed watching these two men dance around each other, both holding out for various reasons and yet both really lusting for each other. Summer Hire was a cute summer romance that morphed nicely into a believable happy ever after. (4 stars)
The next offering is by J.L. Merrow and is entitled, Lost and Found on Lindisfarne. This short was almost mythical in its appeal. A single dad, Chris, who had fathered a child, Kelis, while still questioning his sexuality takes a holiday with her to Holy Island in Northumberland. While there, they take in a day of fun at a reenactment of folks dressed as Vikings. Chris meets Ian, one of the encamped actors and spends the day with him. Ian is immediately taken with both Chris and his daughter Kelis. In a startling moment of raw truth, Chris shares with Ian his past and that of poor Kelis who’d grown up in the care of her drug addicted mother. Sharing both his regret at agreeing to give full custody of Kelis to his one time fling, Chris is still a bit haunted by the guilt his past actions carried. What starts off as a quick, less than one day, end of summer fling turns into something more when Chris and Kelis are trapped on the island due to the rising tide making the road off the island inaccessible. But Ian has already admitted that he is a bit of a happy wanderer and Chris cannot afford to follow as he must give Kelis all the stability she needs in order to continue to heal.
This story was just too short! I love this author and this little gem was so sweet but there was just not enough story there to make the ending believable for me. Too swift an ending and too little time spent showing this relationship develop meant that there was simply not enough story to sink my teeth into in the end. Such a shame,for author J.L. Merrow writes such an interesting character in Chris and the pain and longing he feels is almost palpable when he meets Ian and begins to share his story. I just needed to see a bit more of their journey before I was offered the neat little tied up resolution to the short story. (3 stars)
Salt ‘n Vinegar by Clare London was perhaps the darkest tale in the entire anthology in terms of theme. However, the author kept this story as light as possible for as long as she could before allowing the hard truth to surface and the revelation of the painful ripple effect it had on both the main characters.
Joe is working at a quirky fish and chips shop in Brighton and heading back to university in the fall for his masters. Every week, a young man comes to the shop and orders the same thing–chips for one, extra salt. He is shy and seems to often have a far away look about him. Joe, who is an admitted “player” begins to wonder what it is about this young man that makes him want something different for the first time ever–something more than a hurried one night stand. As the two begin to see one another, it does not take Joe long to fall heavily for Steven, to open up his heart for this shy and enigmatic man. Then, suddenly Steven changes overnight, his clothing, his hair and now there is a haunted and hunted look in his dark eyes. As if a light is turned off, Steven disappears into the night leaving Joe hurt and angry. After a short absence, Steven is back. But now their times together are furtive, limited and there is a mysterious man in Steven’s life who seems to have rigid control over everything Steven does. As time moves one, Joe accidentally discovers that Steven is hiding more than his past, and the bruises on Steven’s body have a story to tell that may rip these two men apart for good.
This was a very well done piece of work by Clare London. The careful way in which she tells the story of domestic abuse and how one man must make his own way out of that darkness was really staggering. Deftly handled, compassionately written, I was so glad the author did not create a false illusion that all would be well at the end. Instead she allowed for the fact that there would be much needed help and counseling for Steven but gave hope that he could rise above the torment his life had become. She carefully allows for Joe’s character to morph from a playboy of sorts to a caring and mutually needy partner to Steven–both men clinging to the other, daring to love when it is so dangerous for both their hearts to do so. (5 stars)
Author Lou Harper teases us with the idea of a possible paranormal romance in her offering, Werewolves of Venice Beach. Bryan, a zealous and dedicated engineering student is house sitting on Venice Beach when he spies a naked man walking through his yard one morning. After an interesting discussion with the strange yet endearing next door neighbor, Lucrezia, Bryan is introduced to Slade, the naked interloper. It seems Slade has a penchant for nude swimming. Dark, tattooed and sexy, Slade is also a bit of a mystery, one of two guitar players and the lead vocalist for the band, Werewolves of Venice Beach. As Bryan and Lucrezia fall into the habit of walking their dogs, Bryan begins to notice that Slade is often absent and that one of the dogs, Sparky is similar in appearance to a young wolf. Could it be that SParky is actually Slade? As weeks pass, Bryan and Slade admit their attraction for one another, but while Slade is an ardent and tender lover at night, by morning he is always gone and rarely has time for Bryan during the weekday. Finally confronting Slade, after seeing him making out with another man, Bryan is shocked to find that he is not the only one who feels he is way out of his league when it comes to choice of boyfriends and now he must figure out a way to convince Slade he is worth the risk.
I love Lou Harper’s sense of humor and comic pacing! Her stories have a spark to them that keep me turning the page, laughing and just delighting in her winsome characters. Bryan and Slade are no exceptions. Their lustful dance around one another gives way to one humorous scene after another interspersed with some very real worries over whether or not these two will ever realize how smitten they are with one another. I enjoyed the very quirky and slightly insane Lucrezia as well along with the pot-enhance cake-making Jeff, another neighbor. They were just a pair of free spirits who definitely walked to the beat of their own drum. This was a light and fun read and one that I wish had been longer, just so I could enjoy more of the fast paced story and witty dialogue! (5 stars)
Finally By Quarry Lake written by Josephine Myles rounds out the anthology. This was in many ways a coming of age story, a first love that was both tender and sweet. A perilous first kiss leaves Rob certain he must remain deep in the closet and Tommy running far from home in search of his sexuality three years prior. Now home, Tommy is determined to see Rob and set the record straight. No longer questioning, rather firmly certain he is gay, Tommy has come to apologize to Rob and hopes that Rob will not only forgive him but that maybe its not too late to try that kiss all over again.
Author Josephine Myles’ story, while being the simplest in plot and details was also the richest in in terms of sweet moments of second chances. Her characters are both searching in many ways to find again the best friend they had lost and nothing was more important to either boy than that. Surprised that there was such heat that rose between them, yet careful to tread carefully so as not to scare the other away, the two young men reveal their mutual need for each other and hope that all can be right again. This was a lovely way to end what was a very well written collection of stories by some very talented authors. (5 stars)
Summer Lovin is a wonderful group of short stories that will entertain you in any season!