All Romance Ebooks, Kari Gregg, M.J. O'Shea, Piper Vaughn, Small Gems

Small Gems – Three Free Shorts From Kari Gregg, M.J. O’Shea, and Piper Vaughn

It’s no big secret that I love short stories. What can I say? I’m an instant gratification girl. I have an immense amount of respect for the art of storytelling, but that awe and respect escalates just a tad for the short medium. Why? If I had to point to one thing in particular, I’d have to say it’s because it seems to me–someone who has a difficult time rubbing two thoughts together, let alone putting those thoughts into words–that an author who can create a world and characters with whom I can become fully engaged; characters with whom I can fall in love; want to spend more time with; want to know better but feel grateful to have known at all even for a short time is faced with a pretty daunting task, attempting to do that in anything less than hundreds of thousands of words.

The following three stories were offered as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance group’s Hot Summer Days (2011) Anthology. Of the ten stories I’ve downloaded so far from the various authors who have offered their shorts as standalone reads on All Romance Ebooks, these three are the ones that made me sit up and take notice.

The Importance of Being Denny by Kari Gregg is the story of stepbrothers Denny and Matt and the series of life altering events that led to Denny fleeing his home, penniless and orphaned, after his father’s death.

Borrowing the idea from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Matt led a double life for years, assuming Denny’s identity when it suited him to hide behind that mask. Matt’s facade is his heterosexuality and being Denny allowed him his hook ups with other guys while still remaining hidden deeply in the closet. Selfish, self-serving, cowardly? All of the above. But self-preservation was Matt’s priority, and it all came crashing down horribly when Anna, Matt’s mother and Denny’s stepmother, discovered the truth and more–discovered that Matt and Denny had engaged in a sexual encounter–then Anna drives Denny away. Denny’s identity is literally stripped away as he changes his name in an effort to outrun Anna’s relentless pursuit to make his life hell.

This is a story of second chances, a story of redemption and attempting to make restitution for a past betrayal in the only way Matt knows how, by giving Denny back what is rightfully his, and proving that the feelings and desires the two men share have not faded away.

I was immediately drawn into this story, transfixed from start to finish by Denny’s pain and Matt’s overwhelming need to prove himself worthy of Denny’s forgiveness. Kari Gregg succeeded in relating the physical need Denny and Matt have for each other and I couldn’t help but be caught up in it. Beyond the sexual tension, though, lies an honest emotional connection that never diminished in spite of their circumstances, and that’s what drew me in.

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Wanting by Piper Vaughn is the coming-of-age story of Jonah, and the events that occurred during the summer between high school graduation and his freshman year of college. Jonah has, for years, had a crush on his older brother’s best friend Laurie, but has been left frustrated time and again by the fact that Laurie has always seen Jonah as nothing more than Marcus’s little brother. In a last desperate bid to gain Laurie’s attention before school begins in the fall, to prove to Laurie that Jonah’s not the kid he believes Laurie sees him as, Jonah makes an unexpected request of Laurie that leaves the older boy speechless, but becomes the catalyst for a sweet and poignant summer love story full of promise and happily-ever-afters.

Secrets and communication breakdowns provide for some roadblocks on the way to happiness for Jonah and Laurie, and Marcus wins the award for most outstanding brother and best friend ever. I loved the characters and couldn’t help but cheer them on through all their ups and downs. This story left me with a big smile on my face.

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The best friends to lovers theme has been done so frequently and often quite well in the M/M Romance genre, but in Bridges by M.J. O’Shea, the author takes a turn at the bitter enemies turned lovers theme, and does so with winning characters whom the Fates seem destined to bring together at every opportunity in spite of their less than promising beginning.

This is a story that follows Dallas, a New Jersey transplant to a small Texas town, and Brooklyn, the boy who takes an instant disliking to Dallas, from the third grade until the day Brooklyn discovers that Dallas is the boy he loves.

Being gay in a backwater town, coping with the breakdown of family, and attempting to decipher their attraction to each other after years of animosity provide the foundation for this sweet coming-of-age story of two boys who come to discover love hidden among the turmoil of growing up and gaining their independence.

M.J. O’Shea made me love these boys, plain and simple, start to finish, even when the only emotion they could muster for each other was loathing. It made their loving all the more satisfying in the end.

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