Cardeno C., Dreamspinner Press

A Shot at Forgiveness Hits Nothing But Net

Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure. – Jane Austen

A Shot at Forgiveness is part of DSP’s Daily Dose Anthology for June. It is a well-written, sweet short story that leaves you satisfied but still wanting more.

Rafi Steiner and Isaac Jones grew up together. As far back as Rafi can remember Isaac was the ringleader of his own personal torture cabal. Led by Isaac, their fellow students made fun of Rafi’s walk, his appearance, his hair, his freckles and most often, his sexuality. Rafi is gay and everyone knew it.

Rafi left home after graduation and never looked back. He is a successful lawyer and now lives over 2,000 miles from that hometown he hated so much.

Isaac has also made quite a success of himself. He is a professional basketball player and has been named NBA MVP. He is also straight. But maybe not so much.

While in a diner near home, Rafi hears a sexy man’s voice over his shoulder. He turns to see his worst night mare. Isaac Jones, in the flesh. He is rude to Isaac. Tries to get rid of him, but Isaac is insistent that they get together and informs Rafi he will pick him up for dinner the next night. Rafi’s friends are dumbfounded that he knows Isaac Jones and never mentioned it.

Isaac shows up the next night and when Rafi rebuffs him, he returns with dinner in hand. All of Rafi’s favorite foods. Kind of stalkerish, but sweet, too. When Rafi wants to know why he is doing this, Isaac’s answer is so perfect that I have to quote Cardeno C. “We’re having dinner together because I have never once, since the day you walked into Mrs. Kon’s kindergarten class, stopped thinking about you. You are the one person in the world I’ve never been able to resist, and I no longer have any interest in trying.”

Isaac bullied Rafi because he hated himself for liking Rafi, not because he hated Rafi for being gay. Next comes Isaac’s full-court press to convince Rafi he is sincere. It works, Rafi forgives Isaac quickly (maybe a little too quickly). Isaac signs with the NBA team in Rafi’s city and comes out. He is the first NBA player to do so.

A Shot at Forgiveness is a great little story. It could easily have been turned into a novel if muse had dictated it. It is also good enough to stand among the other shorts in DSP’s Daily Dose. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy A Shot at Forgiveness here:

Anna Butler, Dreamspinner Press

And Now, A Daily Dose Of Contact Sport by Anna Butler

Let’s make like a hockey player and get the puck out of here.” ― Alexander Gordon Smith, “Solitary”

Contact Sport is part of the Dreamspinner Press Daily Dose Collection for June. It is a very short story. Jamie Connor is a star ice hockey player at his college. He is handsome, talented and charming. He has been able to cruise through many a troublesome situation on those attributes alone. He is unashamedly bi-sexual. The only person who has ever said no to sex with him is his best friend and fellow hockey great, Noah.

In order to foster relations between the college and the nearby BWI, a mathematics college, the Dean makes the hockey team play a game against the BWI team. Jamie puts the odds of their winning against the nerds at fifteen to one. He and Noah expect a bunch of skinny acne prone nerds.

Before the game, the dean, the head of BWI and Alex Blaine meet with Jamie and Noah. Alex Blaine is the owner of a local very successful business, Blaine Enterprises. Many students, including Jamie, apply for coveted jobs within his organization. He is also the largest contributor to the college, enabling them to have state-of-the-art hockey training facilities.

While Jamie’s team is able to win the game, it does not go as expected. For one thing, Jamie is lined up across from “The Pretty One” to whom he feels an immediate and strong attraction. The only things Jamie knows about him is that he is beautiful, a much better hockey player than most of the others on his team and that he was talking to Mr. Blaine before the game.

After the win, Jamie hopes to meet up with “The Pretty One” for some personal fun. Mr. Blaine, however is rushing the young man out of the locker rooms. The Pretty One begs Blaine for just five minutes. He enters the locker room where Jamie is waiting and the two exchange quick hand jobs. Then The Pretty One introduces himself as Matt Blaine, Alex’s son.

When Matt’s father finds them, they have put themselves back together. While leaving with his father, Matt calls to Jamie that he’ll be in touch about a practice session. That is where the story ends.

I always try hard to find something to like in every story I read, and while I can’t say I hated this one, I can’t say I liked it either. The characters felt flat to me, the plot too thin, and though the author’s writing style is good, in my humble opinion, it could have been put to better use in a storyline and with characters that were fleshed-out a bit more.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Contact Sport here:

Dreamspinner Press, Susan Laine

And Now, A Little Sage Advice From Susan Laine

Best friends are always best lovers. – Arushi Tanwar

Sage Advice is a short story that is included in Dreamspinner Press’s Daily Dose collection for June. It’s a good story, but didn’t work great for me as a short. I think it would have made a great novel or novella. I wanted to know more about these characters’ back story, their lives before page one of this story.

Sage was once an Olympic swimmer. His career ended when he slipped on a wet floor and suffered a head injury. His best friend Piper is a professional ballet dancer. Unbeknownst to everyone except Piper and his doctor, he recently suffered an injury. Piper has a stress induced injury to his knee and it is a career ending injury. He has been miserable to be around since he found out about the injury a month ago.

Sage and Piper have been best friends forever. They have also secretly been in love with each other forever. Ms. Laine creatively uses a game of “Truth or Dare” initiated by Sage to try and figure out what has been bothering Piper for the last month. Sage and Piper both secretly also want to use the game to find out how the other feels about him.

Ms. Laine does a good job using the game as a tool to get at the truth regarding Piper’s injury. Once that is revealed, Sage is able to comfort and commiserate with Piper because of his own career ending injury. In Piper’s haze of self-pity, he had forgotten about the support that Sage could offer.

While comforting Piper, Sage wants the game to continue. It is soon revealed that the men are deeply in love with one another. Ms. Laine writes really hot sex scenes between them since the final “dare” of the game is for Sage to take Piper to bed and “…make love to me all night… then cuddle me all morning.” A dare that Sage happily takes.

Over all, a good short, but I would have loved more. Recommended to those who enjoy short stories with bits of hot, steamy sex.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Sage Advice here:

Dreamspinner Press, S. Blaise

A Daily Dose Of Snookered by S. Blaise

Whoever called snooker ‘chess with balls’ was rude, but right. — Clive James

Snookered is part of Dreamspinner Press’s Daily Dose Collection for June. It is a cute little short that works well as what it is.

Neil Davis is a three time World Snooker Champion. He is traveling from New York to Florida and makes a stopover in a tiny nowhere town. In the local sports bar he spots Paul Burnwix playing pool. Paul looks like a lumberjack to Neil, due to his clothing and build.

Paul challenges Neil to a game of American pool and Neil accepts. The two exchange only first names. I must say that Ms. Blaise came up with more pool and sex related innuendo than I realized existed. Some of them were quite funny, what with the balls and shafts and all.

Eventually the innuendo and flirting gets Neil and Paul thrown out of the bar. At some point in the evening, Neil tells Paul his last name and what he does for a living. They head to Neil’s hotel for a one night stand. When Paul wakes up, Neil is gone but has left the cue ball from their game the previous night. Paul decides it’s not over between them yet.

A month later Paul shows up in England at one of Neil’s snooker tournaments dressed in a business suit. He introduces himself for real this time, as the owner of a company that makes pool tables. Paul has brought along an eight-ball. This is the ball that needs to be sunk to win a game of pool. He challenges Neil to another game and the stakes are a date. As Paul bends Neil over the table and kisses the breath out of him, it is obvious that the challenge has been accepted.

This short story left me feeling satisfied. It didn’t hint at a backstory that I would want to know more about. It was self contained and stands alone quite well. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Snookered here:

Dreamspinner Press, Mary Calmes

Mary Calmes Delivers A Heaping Dose Of Speed In Heart of the Race

Maverick: “I feel the need…” Maverick & Goose: “…the need for speed !” – Tom Cruise & Anthony Edwards in Top Gun.

Wow. Heart of the Race is part of Dreamspinner Press’s Daily Dose Anthology for June. As usual with Ms. Calmes’s work, it towers above the rest. I must issue a disclaimer that I am a huge fan of her work. But, wow.

Heart of the Race is the story of Brian and Varro. Brian was nine years old and in his sixth foster home when he looked out his window and saw Varro on the roof of the house next door. Varro was about to jump a go-cart off the roof. Brian asked if he could be next and they were inseparable for the next decade.

The go-cart jump was a massive fail but Varro’s parents fell in love with Brian and immediately took him in as a foster son. Brian had the forever home he had dreamed of. One problem. He realizes that he is gay and in love with Varro, whom he considers off limits due to their best friend/foster brother relationship.

When it is time for college, Brian can’t take the close proximity any longer. He leaves to go to college. Varro leaves and starts racing motorcycles all over the world. Brian proceeds to turn avoidance into an art form. He only goes home when he knows Varro won’t be there. They don’t talk or keep in contact like they used to.

Brian’s pain is palpable. He suffers constantly both for loving and missing Varro and because he worries about Varro’s safety. The first time Varro has a life threatening injury, Brian is called to the hospital. Varro’s parents, brother, friends and co-workers are all there. They talk to Varro to try to get him to wake up.

Varro remains comatose until he hears Brian yelling at him to wake up. Brian proceeds to do what he needs to do to bring Varro back to them. The intimacy with which he shares secrets with Varro is deeply moving. Brian whispers threats to tell Varro’s mother about embarrassing teenage memories. The memories are mostly about girls that Varro slept with and where he did it. For Brian to re-live this must have torn him up inside. When Varro wakes, Brian needs to leave the room immediately.

Varro uses emotional blackmail to convince Brian to go on the racing circuit with him. Brian agrees to one season only. Varro still seems oblivious to Brian’s true feelings. He doesn’t realize that he is causing his best friend such pain. Only the reader knows. We feel it because Ms. Calmes is such a master at making us feel it.

While on the circuit, Brian watches Varro put his life at risk on a daily basis. He watches Varro sleep around with sometimes multiple women in a day. In the midst of this, Brian has an epiphany. He realizes that his dream of Varro figuring out that he isn’t straight after all and professing his love for Brian is not going to happen. The writing at this point in the book, the revelation itself, just sucked all the air out of my lungs and made me tear up.

As agreed, Brian finished the season. He returns home to the states. Brian starts a life. He opens a center for troubled youth which gives them a place to go and just be or to get vocational training if they need it. Brian buys a house. He starts to date. Varro and Brian don’t speak for a year.

Suddenly, Varro is back in Brian’s life. After having Brian there full-time for a season, then gone for a year, it seems that he, too has had an epiphany. He is in love with Brian and wants a life with him. He is willing to, as he puts it “be gay” if he gets to have Brian. The kissing scene alone that follows pretty near burned up my Kindle. It was passionate, loving, coming-home, so hot for you, going to die if I don’t get you naked soon kissing. Wow.

Varro has had a job offer to be a test driver for a new motorcycle manufacturer. While the job involves travel, it allows him to be home most of the time. He wants to know that Brian will be his home and vice versa. They both settle into their new life together and have page burning sex.

This story is so well-written, I could read another 300 pages about Varro and Brian. But I don’t need to. Because it is so well-written that I don’t have to read 300 more pages to be satisfied. I loved this little book and order you to read it immediately!

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Heart of the Race here:

Andrea Speed, Dreamspinner Press

Are You Ready For Your Daily Dose Of Thunderballs?

So they were both crushing on each other, and yet, both were afraid of venturing into dangerous territory. – Andrea Speed

Luke Diaz has his friend Marc and an herbal drug laced health shake to blame for his sudden, and now soberly inexplicable, urge to sign up for an adult dodgeball league. He’s baffled, sure, but now that he’s done it, it’s more curiosity than anything that draws him to the high school gymnasium to check out what kind of people actually take the sport, if that’s even the right word for it, seriously enough to try out for a chance at one of the four vacant spots on the Seattle Thunderballs’ team roster.

It’s all a bit of a weird experience for Luke, and he’s sort of tempted to write it off as a momentary lapse of sanity…until the team’s captain saunters his way across the gym floor, blowing his whistle and clutching that red rubber ball. Oh yeah, Shane Kinrade catches Luke’s attention and suddenly dodgeball doesn’t seem so weird after all. In fact, Shane makes Luke want to try really hard to earn one of those coveted spots on the team, and now it’s not a matter of blaming Marc and that herbal shake for the urge to dodge some balls as much as it is thanking them both for the eyeful of pretty that is the sexy captain. The problem is, Luke has no idea if Shane is gay.

Thunderballs is Andrea Speed’s contribution to Dreamspinner Press’ Daily Dose collection, and if you’ve ever seen the movie Dodgeball, you can probably imagine what was going through my head when I snatched this one up to read. But let me assure you, Thunderballs is much less goofy than the movie (nary a wrench to the face to be found), and Luke and Shane and their winks and smiles were fun to watch as they finally got about the business of getting their flirt on.

You can buy Thunderballs here:

Dreamspinner Press, J.P. Barnaby

There’s A Dose Of Forgiveness In Bane of Boston by J.P. Barnaby

When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game. – Joe DiMaggio

Jonathan Young did a very bad thing. Something so bad that he was turned into a pariah by an entire city. You might not think it such a bad thing. I certainly don’t. The very bad thing that Jonathan Young did? He caught a baseball. Not just any baseball, though. The baseball that Jonathan Young caught could have been the ball that landed the Boston Red Sox in the World Series for the first time since 1918.

Baseball fans in Boston take their Sox very seriously. Jonathan was harassed from every angle. The photographers wouldn’t leave him alone, so he lost his job. He changed his phone number five times. His boyfriend of five years couldn’t take the pressure, so he left. Even his own brother wouldn’t speak to him. All over a baseball. Jonathan refused to talk to any reporters regarding the incident, no matter how much money they threw at him. All this over a baseball. He earned the nickname The Bane of Boston.

Jonathan changed his name to Jack and moved to Chicago. Jack thought he could easily get lost in such a big city. For three years, this proved to be true. Then Jack me Ryan in a bar near Wrigley Field. Ryan was the first man Jack had met since moving. Unfortunately, Ryan recognized Jack. Even more unfortunately, Ryan is a sports reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

Ryan sees in Jack the possibility to have the career he always wanted. He had the chance at an exclusive interview with the Bane of Boston! He would take Jack home, and after spending the night with him, get him to open up about the very bad thing.

After spending some time together in and out of bed, Ryan confesses to Jack who he is and that he took Jack home in hopes of writing an article about him. He also tells Jack that now that he knows him, he can’t write the story, because he wants Jack more than he wants an exclusive. He wants to spend every day proving it.

Jack leaves, but not before Ryan writes down and gives him his phone number. That piece of paper seems to burn a hole in Jack’s pocket. He avoids the bar where he met Ryan. Ryan searches for and eventually finds Jack in a new bar and repeats his desire to have Jack in his life.

My favorite thing about this book was Jack and Ryan’s ability to forgive and forget. Ryan was willing to forget that his Jack was Jonathan Young, the Bane of Boston and was willing to sacrifice his career goals for Jack’s love. Jack was able to forgive Ryan for starting their relationship on a lie and he finally found someone to love him in spite of being the most hated man in baseball.

Bane of Boston was a short, but sweet read. I highly recommend it to the romantic in all of you!

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Bane of Boston here:

Dreamspinner Press, Posy Roberts

Posy Roberts Is Risking It All In Dreamspinner Press’s Daily Dose 2013

If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained. ― Neil Gaiman

August Ferrell and his high school basketball team are playing in the North Dakota Class A basketball tournament, and this one’s for all the marbles because August is a senior, so there are not more do-overs if his team doesn’t pull out a win this time around.

August has never been what you’d call a risk taker. He’s always played his cards pretty close to the chest, and there are only a couple of people in his life who know he’s gay. He’s never learned the finer art of flirting, or even how to tell if another guy’s gay without getting his behind kicked for coming on to the wrong one. Keeping his secret has conditioned him not to take chances when there’s a safer alternative, but that all begins to change the moment he meets Luca Knutson, point guard on a rival team that August’s own team needs to defeat to make it to the final round of the playoffs.

Posy Roberts’ Risking It is a lovely coming-out and coming-of-age story, in which somewhere amidst the smiles and the eye contact and the adrenaline of the competition, August discovers that taking risks is often the only way in life to win. It’s the story of two young men who are about to take the monumental step from high school to college, and is a story of the freedom simply to be. It’s the promise of a relationship that began with secret stolen kisses but will grow in the pride of living and loving out loud.

I’d love to see August and Luca, Part Two: The College Years someday. That’s how much their new beginning drew me in and made me sorry to see their story end.

Risking It is part of Dreamspinner Press’s 2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play project, so this book’s individual release date is a super top-secret-reveal-it-on-pain-of-death surprise, but if you’re interested in pre-ordering it, you can do that here:

Dreamspinner Press, Maja Rose

Sometimes A Little Flexibility Is All You Need

Love is blind and thinks that others don’t see either. – Danish Proverb

Flexibility is Maja Rose’s second contribution so far this year to Dreamspinner Press’s Daily Dose Anthologies. Her previous story Made Good Under Pressure was featured in DSP’s “Closet Capers” anthology.

In Flexibility, we meet a pair of Olympic Men’s Gymnastics hopefuls. Jared Glass and Andrew Blackwell have been best friends since grade school and roommates for almost two years. Andrew is gay and, unbeknownst to Jared, Andy is in love with him.

The story opens with Jared’s teammate Sam breaking a leg (literally!) and being replaced on the team by Andrew. Jared reacts badly to this information. He doesn’t want to have to spend more time than necessary with Andrew, but doesn’t understand why. His twin sister, Anna, has a pretty good idea of why, though. She thinks that Jared has been in love with Andy since they were in third grade and held a mock wedding. Where they married each other!

The more Jared thinks about spending much more time with Andy at home and at the gym, the more he gets a warm fuzzy feeling. He refuses to admit to himself that it may be something deeper than friendship until Andrew is involved in a minor car accident.

Suddenly, Jared realizes that he wants to be the one at the hospital comforting Andy, taking care of him. He realizes that his sister just may have been right all along.

Ms. Rose is a young woman of only twenty-one, and I believe she has a long future ahead of her as a gay romance writer.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Flexibility here: