Hero in Me by JB McDonald
This cute short story plays around with the m/m convention of the alpha male who rescues and then takes care of the beta male, to great amusing effect. Zach is an ex-cop who is minding his own business whilst checking out a hot bloke in a gay bar. When the hot bloke gets into trouble Zach rescues him and takes him back to his apartment. When Will wakes up on a strange man's sofa the next day he can't remember how he got there but he isn't too put out and is rather pleased to discover that Zach is hot. Zach is more concerned about Will's welfare and resists Will's charms. Will, however, is determined that 'playing the hero' is not going to stand in the way of what he wants - that being Zach in bed. Zach was what you would expect from this type of story. He wanted to protect Will and refused to 'take advantage of him' as he saw it. Will was a delight. He refuses to be the damsel in distress and overturns all the usual ideas of the helpless beta male by riding roughshod over Zach's protestations. A clever funny story that gets a grade of 'Excellent'.
Blank Canvases by Winnie Jerome
Kurt is an middle aged artist whose muse has deserted him and so he works in a book store to make ends meet. A young man, Garrett, comes into the store and makes a play for Kurt which sparks the beginning of a relationship between the two men. Garrett is the spoiled son of a rich businessman who is wasting his life and talents working for his father. Kurt knows that he is just an amusement to Garrett but can't help developing some feelings for him. However, their opposite views on life form a wedge between the two men. I liked Kurt in this story. He has no delusions when it comes to the relationship he forms with Garrett and I was pleased that he stood up for what was right, even if it did jeopardise that relationship. Garrett was a little more difficult to like as he has all the hallmarks of a selfish, spoiled rich kid. The ending (which I won't give away) was highly satisfying and left me with a smile on my face. A great story from an author who is new to me which gains a grade of 'Very Good'.
Maritime Men by Janey Chapel
I loved Janey's story in the Reflections of Love anthology and so was eager to read this story when I saw it at DSP. The story is told from the viewpoint of Cooper who is training to be a navy SEAL. He's a rough talking, tough military man who loves women and his best friend, fellow trainee Eli. One night Cooper returns from a night out to discover that Eli can't sleep and 'helps him out' by way of jerking him off. This then leads to the men forming a relationship of mostly getting each other off when the opportunity arises. In some ways this story is more about friendship, especially that strong, fierce bond often associated with men who live and work in adverse conditions. While the sex scenes are hot, they are also imbued with a sense of fun and camaraderie which I found really appealing especially as both men see sex as an extension of their friendship. The other part which I felt worked well was the way that Cooper and Eli looked after each other and helped each other through the difficult times, all of which was done without sentiment or the need to express emotions in words. The story ends with lots of questions about the future for these men which in some sense is realistic - after all they may be posted away from one another - but left me wishing to know more about them and whether they manage to keep their relationship going. This was an engaging, affecting story which I can't recommend highly enough, so unsurprisingly gains a grade of 'Excellent'.