Friday, July 11, 2014

NOT QUITE SHAKESPEARE a Dreamspinner Anthology

Edited by Anne Regan & Sue Brown

Publisher:         Dreamspinner Press      
Published:        June 2, 2014
ISBN:            978 1 63216 020 1
Genre:        Contemporary Romance, M/m
Book Format:    E-book
Obtained via:    Publisher
Reviewed by:    Helena Stone,

Rating:         4   


This review is going to look a little bit different from my usual ones. Other reviews feature a summary of the story first, followed by my thoughts on the book. Since this is an anthology I’ve decided that this time I’ll give short descriptions of each individual story with an individual rating, followed by a ‘verdict’ on the anthology as a whole.

Ninety-nine problems by Becky Black (4.5):
Ice cream and two young men, Rob and Chex, newly in charge of their rival family businesses, one of them firmly closeted and also not entirely up to the role that’s been thrust upon him. Told with a sweetness that resembles the ice cream it features this was a delicious delight.

Bread and Butter Pudding by Jules Jones (3.5):
Two men, homemade bread and a sensual massage make for a sexy, funny and rather sweet story.

Chanctonbury Ring by Sarah Madison(4):
Denny, an author of M/M romances is back in England for the first time in over a decade. When he reunites with his the man who was his lover during his visit it is a dream come true except that Tarquin is keeping his distance. A wonderful second chance at first love story.

Wrong Number by Megan Reddaway (4):
Maybe the story idea isn’t the most original; a guy accidentally calling his boss instead of his friend and saying mildly obscene things before realising his mistake, and maybe what happens next isn’t a huge surprise either but the story was easy to read, sexy and at times funny.

“(...)unfortunately you can’t just grab the cutest-looking stray man from the nearest gay bar, take him home, feed him twice a day, and expect him to love you for it.”

In the DogHouse by Chris Quinton(4+):
Another second chance at first love story but completely different from the previous one. This one includes a greyhound, a few gangsters and quite a few funny moments.

The Benefits of Hindsight(4):
Two racing drivers in love, one needing to be open about it the other too firmly closeted to even consider it. A bad accident and a strange experience lead to new perspective.

Misadventures of Mislaid Men by Penny Hudson (4):
A funny story. But what I liked best was the fact that it was completely open-ended.

Best Vacation Ever by Rob Rosen (3.5):
A nice quickie, both in length and content, and set in Northern Ireland not too far away from the place I call home.

Rough Tackle by Annabelle Jacobs (3.5):
Sweet story involving a rather drunken birthday celebration, a football match, a twisted ankle and two cute young men.

Illumination by Sam Evans (3.5):
One angry man thinks he’s about to lose the theatre that’s the passion of his life but finds not only doesn’t he lose anything, he gains quite a bit too.

The Jacobite by Bette Brown (4.5):
An Aussie expat in Scotland meets a man from Cornwall on a steam train. Easy companionship soon turns into something more.

Wag, Not a Dog by Theo Fenraven (5-):
Written by the only author in this anthology I’ve actually read and enjoyed before this mark may partially be the result of familiarity. On the other hand it may be caused by the fact that this is a sweet, original, fully formed and well written story.

Tops Down, Bottoms Up by Jay Northcote (4):
Morris dancing might not be the first thing to spring to mind when it comes to romance but boy did it work.

First Contact by Rhidian Brenig Jones (3):
Set in Wales an American traveller meets a sulking Welsh man and helps him out of his dark mood. I liked the characters but the story felt a bit jumpy and unresolved.

Apollo, Heathcliff and Hercules by S.A. Garcia(4.5):
In which an established couple goes on rents a holiday cottage on the Moors, much to the regret of one of them. What could have turned into a weeklong disaster takes a turn for the better when they meet the owner and the opportunities he offers. Funny and at times very imaginative, this was a wonderful story to finish this anthology with.

“I suffered a heated, fast fantasy of being a sheep submitting to his special herding skills.”

This is a wonderful and varied collection of stories. We have reunions, encounters that may or may not be one night stands, established relationships, unexplained phenomena, angst and lightness. I don’t think there are many regions in the United Kingdom not featured in this anthology, making this book as varied when it comes to setting as it does in every other aspect.

Not every story will give you a happy ever after, in fact a lot of them leave it up to the reader to imagine what might happen next, and since I like nothing better than fantasising on after a story finishes that worked wonderfully well for me.

This is great book if you like to occasionally dip into a well written but quick romantic M/M story. Every single one of these stories would make for a perfect lunch hour or bedtime read. ‘Not Quite Shakespeare’ works even better if you have been thinking of dipping a toe into this genre but didn’t know where to begin or are just looking for new authors to explore.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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