I've read quite a number of Addison Albright shorts and when I saw this self-published anthology, I thought I'd give it a go. The book is made up of two novellas and a short story and all the stories are linked through the characters, although quite distinct and separate too. Because of this, I shall take each story in turn.
A Dream Come True
This novella tells of Wes who is looking for a new place to live. He's always been out and proud but when he's been fobbed off several times by potential room mates who discover he's gay, he decides to keep the next viewing a little more low key. It turns out that he didn't need to bother when the guy, Mike, recognises Wes from University. Mike was deep in the closet at the time and admired Wes for being so upfront about his sexuality. Mike is out now, but still hasn't told his parents. He and Wes hit it off straightaway and begin what seems to be a 'room mates with benefits' relationship. It isn't long though before both men are surprised at how well they gel and start wanting more, but Mike still needs to come out to his parents, and both are wary of things going too fast for them.
This was one of those stories which tells of two really great guys feeling their way into a new relationship. There's a little bit of stress and lots of sweet loving moments which prove just how right they are for each other. The themes of the story were handled well with Mike's worries about coming out to his family being realistic, as was the way that men were unsure how to handle what were fast growing feelings for each other. It fitted with their characters that both of them held off saying anything for a while, and even tiptoed around their realtionship a little. For example neither of them know how quite to introduce the other person when 'room mate' doesn't really seem appropriate. The plot is very gentle, even a little slow at times, but that fit in with their developing feelings. I liked both men and was interested enough to want to know how the story would work out for them. I wasn't disappointed as the end left me with a smile on my face.
This story follows Mike's uncle, Marty, who left home at 18 after a confrontation with his parents when he came out to them. It's 20 years on and he's now a successful joiner/carpenter. Marty's been lusting after his shy neighbour Larry ever since he moved in a few weeks ago, and finally gets the opportunity to ask Larry out. Larry can't believe his luck when his hot neighbour asks him out but his introvert nature and low self esteem makes it difficult to understand what Marty sees in him.
This was another slow burner of a story with a plotting style similar to the first. Here we see the men meet, go on a date, have sex and then gradually come together into a relationship. This was my favourite out of the anthology, mainly because I'm a bit of a sucker for a guy with low self esteem. I liked that Larry wasn't conventionally handsome, and more than that, that he didn't undergo a 'transformation' to suddenly become hot property. Instead he remains the same guy throughout, with the only changes being that Marty does wonders for his self image, showing him the desirable man inside. Larry is good for Marty too by convincing him to get in touch with his estranged family. I also really liked the way that the pair played on the fetish that Larry has for Marty's toolbelt! Like the previous book, the pair fit well as a couple and the fun of the story was seeing them slowly come to the realisation that what they have is special. Overall, it was a nicely written, very romantic with a touch of hot in the sex scenes. Great stuff.
Dreaming of You
This was the shortest of the three stories at only 30 or so pages. It follows Trevor, who is a former lover of Marty's. He's got to the stage in life where he's fed up of playing the scene and just wants to settle down. He thought that Marty might be the person for him, not realising that Marty only ever saw him as a good occasional lay. After Marty and Larry get together, Trevor is feeling even worse. He's approached at a club by Quinn (who also featured in the previous story), and although Trevor treats Quinn with disdain, Trevor finds himself drawn to him and the odd sense of security he sees in Quinn.
For me this was the weakest of the stories, mainly because I didn't get enough about either character to make me connect well with them. The story is focused mostly in and around the time in the club, with a short scene at Trevor's house. As such we learn next to nothing about the lives of the two main characters. When placed next to the first two novellas, which were filled with great, well rounded characterisation, these guys come across as a little flat and one dimensional. That isn't to say that this story is a total write off because it isn't. The story is taken from Trevor's point of view, and it was nice to see him change from the sarcastic bitchy character we see in the previous story, to one who lowers his defenses and allows Quinn to see inside to the real man. I particularly liked that Quinn sees Trevor when not looking his best and still thinks he's attractive. The final chapter of the story is entitled Closure and a Fresh Start and this was very appropriate given how the story ends. It was nice to see Trevor blossoming under the influence of good friends, but I really wish I'd had more from both him and Quinn to have been entirely happy with the story.
Overall this anthology was one of those nice, easy reads with great characters and a romantic storyline. It would be perfect for a lazy afternoon in front of the fire and I would recommend it with a grade of 'Very Good'.
Buy this book HERE.