7/28/13 Edit: Stormmoonpress is now also offering all the stories as individual short stories.
This book is really a mixed bag and the editors didn’t help themselves by opening with one of the weaker stories. But two of these six stories are fantastic, and two others are very good. I'm hiding my comments for those who like to open their short stories completely fresh.
1. Out of Options – Angelia Sparrow and Naomi Brooks
Rent boy story
Connor turns tricks to make up his rent shortfall each month. Then he gets fired and becomes desperate enough to ask one of his clients for help, and gets more than he expected. This story had true non-con but it wasn’t hot – at least I couldn’t really get into it. It was hard to care about this couple because Jarrett didn’t appear to care about Connor at all, and Connor seemed to submit only because he’s spineless. Connor’s reactions are just off. He’s tied up and beaten by a guy he barely knows, and he just accepts it. No fear that he’ll be killed, no fight. His insecurities and low self esteem were painful to read about, but even for a guy at pit bottom, the lack of resistance is unnatural and idiotic.Ending Spoiler!
The ending was also a poor transition - he literally hates being a slave (as in, not turned on at all by the reality of it) and then suddenly everything is fine because he gets a little petting and a dress to wear?
2. Obedience Training – Sean Michael
Trevor is a young rebellious wolf who thinks his pack should move into the twenty-first century and do away with archaic traditions like “scraping and bowing to the alpha.” Ha! Of course something has to be done about him!
Lovely idea, lovely couple, awesome story. The dynamic between these two is just yummy. This is Sean Michael in his comfort zone, writing about a theme that he’s absolutely mastered, and the execution of the cat and mouse chase is excellent.
3. What It’s Worth – Gryvon
Leather club scene
Writer researching an immigrant family interviews an old man who turns out to be a mafia boss and sends him to a club to meet his grandson, where he’s promptly drugged, tied up and molested. As with the first story, what didn’t work for me was the unbelievable character interactions. You’re a confused virgin and yet when you’re told to give a blowjob in a public bar, you drop to your knees and reach for the other guy’s zipper?!!?? Again, you’re a virgin who’s been drugged and kidnapped by a stranger with mafia ties, and you lie there in your restraints thinking, he’s kind of hot???!!!?? Then you think, okay, I’ll let him beat and rape me to get information for my story???!!! What about wondering if he’s going to kill you??! What about thinking, oh shit, I’m a virgin??
In dubcon situations, there's a moment I've dubbed the "give" - when the victim stops struggling and submits. When it's too easy, when the MC finds himself restrained and at the mercy of strangers, and immediately goes "okay maybe I'll like this," that takes away from the credibility of the story because it's not a normal reaction. In other words, as a writer, you have to earn the "give". I'd have much preferred a more natural reaction (fright/protest/struggle), and then we see the MC falling into stockholm syndrome or learning to adjust.
4. Blindside – Stella Harris
College jocks and hazing.
This was actually very sweet, with a good dose of suspense and very realistic interactions. The dub-con was mild but titillating, and I enjoyed these two together.
5. Unnatural Means – T.C. Mill
Isak is a confessor (read torturer) of the inquisition and Sain is imprisoned for witchcraft and murder. Isak has to get him to confess and repent, but he’s also attracted to him. This story was intense and complex (wonderful moral ambiguities) and strangely compelling, and I can’t quite pinpoint why it works so well, but it does.
6. Salting the Earth – Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Captured by Fairies
Hands down the best story of the anthology and a great one to end on. Ronan is back in Ireland after his college trip abroad, and his sister is out every night and coming home wrecked. He’s sure she’s been snatched by fairies, and he takes the confrontation to the fairy mound, where he gets more than he bargained for. This story was lyrical and beautiful. The rape/seduction of the fairies is simply gorgeous. There are a few flashbacks, and I usually dislike flashbacks, but I liked these - they fit into the narrative perfectly and had nothing superfluous about them. This story had good writing, steaminess, and emotional depth - in other words, everything.