4.5 Stars, Amy Lane, Anne Tenino, Anthology, Holiday Romance, L.A. Witt, Reviewed by Lisa, Riptide Publishing, SE Jakes, Z.A. Maxfield

Review: Lights, Camera, Cupid! An Anthology From Riptide Publishing

Title: Lights, Camera, Cupid!

Author: L.A. Witt, Amy Lane, SE Jakes, Anne Tenino, Z.A. Maxfield

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 226 Pages

At a Glance: Instant gratification in five satisfying pieces

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Cupid is visiting Bluewater Bay, and he’s leaving chaos in his wake.

Nothing’s been the same in this sleepy little logging town since Hollywood came to shoot the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing—especially Valentine’s Day.

In L.A. Witt’s Just Another Day, beloved actors Levi Pritchard and Carter Samuels have an announcement for their fans, while in Z.A. Maxfield’s I’ll Be There, actor Spencer Kepler and his boyfriend Nash Holly brave a blizzard and a fan convention to spend their first February the 14th together.

Of course, it’s not just TV stars celebrating the day. In Anne Tenino’s Helping Hand, an aspiring artist eager to escape Bluewater Bay decides he just might have a reason to stay: lust-inspiring logger Gabriel Savage. In S.E. Jakes’s No Easy Way, a local teacher reconnects with an old lover working security on the film set. And in Amy Lane’s Nascha, a Bluewater Bay elder recalls how his own unconventional family used to celebrate the holiday.

Real life may be nothing like TV, but when Cupid comes to town, there’s plenty of romance and drama to go around.

Dividers

Review: If you’re like me, going into an anthology with the anticipation that there’s going to be one “weak link” story which then makes for an imperfect reading experience, I think I can safely say you can put that expectation away for Lights, Camera, Cupid!, a collection of stories set in the Bluewater Bay-verse and centered around Valentine’s Day.

Whether or not you’ve read every book in this series, or just a select few, it shouldn’t affect at all the ability to enjoy this collection for what it is: a glimpse into the lives and loves of its characters on the one day of the year dedicated to romance. In fact, at publication time, only L.A. Witt’s and Z.A. Maxfield’s characters have been introduced in Baywater, Washington, home to the popular TV series Wolf’s Landing, so enjoying the remaining three stories in the anthology is based solely on the talent of the authors and the strength of their writing.

Fittingly, L.A. Witt’s Just Another Day kicks off the collection with Levi Pritchard and Carter Samuels, as they were the first men to be introduced in the Bluewater Bay series, in Starstruck.

Levi feels a lot like I, and many others do, about Valentine’s Day and the poor excuse it makes for picking a man’s pocket every 14th of February. Being in a relationship, however, means thinking not about himself but about the man he loves. Carter doesn’t want grand and ostentatious shows of commercialism. He just wants his and Levi’s first Valentine’s Day to be special.

And wow… does Levi deliver.

There’s a bit of conflict thrown into this day founded on the idea of romance, but it’s that conflict’s sweet and satisfying resolution that is the true definition of the word romantic.

Nascha, Amy Lane’s contribution to the anthology introduces characters who have yet to be discovered in Bluewater Bay, and won’t be until The Deep of the Sound is released in June 2015. Cal McCorkle’s introduction, that novel’s MC, is peripheral to the story told in Nascha, that of Cal’s aging granduncle and how Cal and his brother Keir came to live with Nascha.

This story is told in the present and through flashbacks, plucked from the mind of a man whose lucidity ebbs and flows. For this brief moment, Nascha relives his past and recalls the love he shared with a man and woman with whom he’d intended to spend the rest of his life, but for the fact that fate and circumstance intervened, then the system declared his relationship an unfit environment in which to raise a child—his niece Beth.

There is a strong sense of longing woven throughout this unexpected tale, threaded with the sharp sting of regret and the pain of lost years, and, without giving any more of this story away, it ends with an unapologetic tug at the heartstrings, which is probably not altogether unexpected from an Amy Lane story, is it?

SE Jakes’ addition to the collection, No Easy Way, is, I must say, my favorite novella in Lights, Camera, Cupid!, and that’s saying something because I found all the stories engaging.

At the age of sixteen, Cary Teijan lost the love of his young life. Dylan James disappeared without a word or a backward glance, so when Dylan turns back up in Bluewater Bay, working security on the set of Wolf’s Landing, not to mention returning with the intent to claim Cary—finally and irrevocably—the stage is set for six years of anger and resentment to throw plenty of roadblocks in the way of their journey to reconciliation.

There are secrets that Dylan’s been keeping from Cary which, coupled with the fact he saw nothing of his future but the possibility of following in his own father’s miserable footsteps, is why he enlisted and is what kept him from returning to Bluewater Bay until he’d worked to become the man Cary deserves.

Jakes mixes just the right amount of emotional conflict with sexual tension, unresolved anger, and regret to deliver a great second-chance love story.

Anne Tenino’s Helping Hand wins the award for story most in need of a sequel, and I’m hoping Lucas Wilder and Gabriel Savage are set to have their own novel in the series.

This story has a bit of a different flair to it, as it’s a coming out/coming of age story. Lucas has always been the odd piece in his blue collar family’s puzzle, and he’s just been accepted into the California College of the Arts, but first he has to break the news to his parents. Which he does…right about the same time he also announces to them that he’s gay.

Family tensions run high in this story, but not nearly as high as the sexual tension between Lu and his brother’s friend Gabriel. One moment of passion between the two leaves us with an inkling that Gabriel’s not half the ass he lets Lucas believe he is, and left me wanting more—Lu and Gabe, the post college years.

Tenino wrote this story with humor and heart, but if you’re not a fan of loose ends, well, just be prepared.

Finally, providing the bookend to L.A. Witt’s piece, Z.A. Maxfield treats readers to another taste of the delicious that is Nash Holly, first introduced in his and Spencer Kepler’s novel Hell on Wheels.

I’ll Be There finds the men hundreds of miles apart in the days before Valentine’s Day, with a snowstorm bearing down on the Midwest that threatens to keep them apart on their first February 14th together.

For all you readers who attended GRL2014, be prepared to recognize the setting of the convention Spencer’s attending, and be prepared to smile at the tenacity and ingenuity Nash uses to make sure he makes it to Bloomingdale, Illinois to be with Spencer, come hell or high water. Or feet of snow and treacherous road conditions, as the case may be.

This is the one story in the collection that I’d suggest might be best appreciated by reading Hell on Wheels first—to know these guys is to love them—but as sweet and romantic gestures go, Nash’s is just about the sweetest and romantickest. If not the dangerest.

If you’re looking for a little variety, solid storytelling, and some romance to round it all out, Lights, Camera, Cupid! is instant gratification in five satisfying pieces.






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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Jackie, Rhys Ford

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“We’re guys, we don’t do this romantic shit.” – Rhys Ford


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Author: Felicitas Ivey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 40 Pages

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Pages/Word Count: 51 Pages

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Publisher: Self-Published

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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