100 Stories 100 Days

Quick Review: New Game, Start by C.S. Poe

New Game, Start by C.S. Poe

Edgar is a medieval scholar and translator who likes to relax by watching Walter’s gaming livestreams. Walter is an online superstar who’s kind and gracious to all his fans, he’s also ridiculously cute as well. When he announces that he’ll be the special guest at an upcoming convention in New York, Edgar can’t believe that he’ll have the chance to see his celebrity crush in person. He leaves a mildly flirtatious comment on Walter’s tweet. To his surprise, Walter flirts back, leading to a one-on-one gaming session that just might be Edgar’s best date ever and they chat online in the week leading up to the event.

Walter arrives in town the night before the con and Edgar goes to a bar where Walter is having a fan meet-up. The place is packed – it’s definitely not the right time to take out his laptop and show Walter the gay dating sim he’s been working on as a special surprise for his… well, is it too soon to call him boyfriend?

When Walter finally catches sight of Edgar in the crowded bar, he gives him a very eager kiss. It seems they have great chemistry both online and in the real world. They head back Walter’s hotel where they enthusiastically tumble into bed for a very sexy night together.

In the morning, Edgar is able to download the dating sim for Walter to play before he realizes he’s missed a deadline for one of his clients. A quick trip back to his apartment so he can send the file turns into a prolonged ordeal, leaving Walter to wake to an empty bed. He heads to the convention alone, worried that he may have said or done something wrong.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Edgar finally arrives at the sold-out convention and descends into the ninth circle of hell that is the Javits Center in NYC.

He can’t find Walter anywhere, but gets a notification on his phone that he’s starting a livestream. Edgar watches as Walter enthusiastically opens the file for the game he made him.

Edgar finally finds Water in a corner playing the dating sim, and they rush into each other’s arms, their kiss broadcast for the entire world to see. The internet’s favorite gaymer definitely has a brand-new boyfriend.

This sweet and sexy short from C.S. Poe is full of charm and cute, nerd-boy awkwardness. Edgar and Walter have delightful chemistry and I loved all their geeky conversations, especially their meet-cute dialog in the first chapter. I have a soft spot for nice guy characters and this adorable instalove story gave me all the schmoopy feels.

Quick Review: Served Hot by Annabeth Albert

Served Hot by Annabeth Albert

Robby has a pretty big crush on David, the cute business guy who stops by his coffee cart every afternoon. They run into each other at Portland Pride, the only problem is that Robby is terrible at flirting and David is pretty bad at picking up the hints that Robby is trying to drop. Despite the awkwardness, they do share a really intense kiss. When Robby asks David out, he says no.

A few days later, David stops by the coffee cart to explain that he’s still working through the grief of losing someone he was in a relationship with for more than a decade. He likes Robby a lot, but ‘getting back out there’ is hard.

They make a date for brunch and it becomes their regular thing. David is the sweetest, most kind and thoughtful guy Robby has ever dated, and he’s okay with taking things slow – but he’s getting antsy and wouldn’t mind if things got more physical. David doesn’t seem to be in any rush though.

He brings Robby to a soccer game that his company has box seats for. He sems to be testing the waters of being out and in a relationship at work. Later they go back to David’s place to finally indulge in the carnal activities that Robby has been craving. It was definitely worth the wait.

After the amazing night (and terrific morning follow-up), Robby sees a framed photo of the dead boyfriend, prompting a discussion of the topic they’ve long avoided. He was closeted sheriff’s deputy who insisted that his relationship with David be kept a secret. After the traumatic way he died, David wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to sleep with another man, let alone have any kind of serious relationship.

For several months everything is great, but Robby doesn’t always know how to ask for what he wants, which isn’t helped by the fact that David doesn’t know how to offer. It seems their relationship is always one step forward, two steps back. David choses to spend valentine’s weekend with his family instead of with Robby, putting a further strain on things.

When David doesn’t seem able to commit to their future, Robby calls things off, which leaves both of them miserable. After a week, David comes over and opens up about everything that has been holding him back, primarily anger at his ex and how it kept him from embracing what was so special about his relationship with Robby.

A successful visit with David’s family leads to them picking out paint colors for their new place in the Spring. The happiness and security they’ve both craved for so long has finally been found… they’ve found it in each other.

One of the things I feel was so special about Robby and David’s story is that the author navigates their issues without bogging things down with a ton of angst. That certainly doesn’t mean that Annabeth Albert glosses things over… not by a long shot. But there was a sweet simplicity to this story about two nice guys, doing nice things, and falling in love, that I really responded to.

I also liked how David was able, with Robby’s patience and guidance, to work through the issues in his past. There was a lot of toxic baggage that came from his closeted relationship with his ex. It was Robby who really opened David’s eyes to the possibilities of what a genuinely loving and supportive relationship could be.

Isn’t that what romance fiction is all about… the hope and joy of loving someone and being loved in return? I think that’s the real reason Served Hot makes me so dang swoony, it’s a wonderful example of the possibilities of love and romance in fiction.

This novella serves as an irresistible introduction to the author’s Portland Heat series.

Quick Review: Cinderfella by AJ Lange

Cinderfella by AJ Lange

As you can most likely tell from the title, this short story is a gay twist on the classic fairytale.

When Jamie isn’t at school, he’s busy avoiding his stepmother, or working at the local diner where he diligently scrimps and saves for the day that he can finally leave his small-town behind.

But it’s not all bad. He likes hanging out with his youngest stepsister Alexa, looking out the window of his attic bedroom and stargazing… dreaming of bigger and better things.

Then there’s Wyatt, son of the mayor, star of the high school baseball team, and way too good-looking to be interested in someone like Jamie. Wyatt is just too dang nice and keeps asking Jamie to tutor him in chemistry. What’s his angle?

Alexa is excited about going to prom but doesn’t want one of her sister’s hand-me-downs. Jamie takes her to a consignment shop, and they find the perfect dress, but it’s too much for their meager budget and she’ll have to make do with a less than ideal frilly purple monstrosity.

On the night before the big dance, everyone gathers at the lake for a bonfire. Wyatt attempts to chat with Jamie, but what are you supposed to say to the most perfect boy in the world? To escape the awkward small-talk, Jamie kicks off his shoes and leaps into the lake. Wyatt jumps in after him to save him from ‘drowning’. Jamie’s life might not be perfect, but he certainly doesn’t need a prince to swoop in and save the day.

Jamie uses his savings to buy the dress that Alexa really wanted. She is ecstatic and he heads to the diner for the night shift, but his co-workers aren’t having it. They loan him a suit so that he can go to the dance with the man of his dreams.

When he arrives, Alexa tells him that Wyatt left when Jamie didn’t show. There’s one last place he might be.

He finds Wyatt at the lake, with Jamie’s shoes from the night before. They flirt awkwardly, but when Jamie finally gets to kiss his handsome prince, it’s the perfect end to a rocky courtship. After graduation they make plans for their own fairytale ending… only it’s not an end, it’s just the beginning of their new adventures together.

I really enjoyed this queer young adult spin on classic cinderella themes. Author AJ Lange took the traditional situations that we all know and love, and made them fresh, fun, and modern. I also found the awkward interactions between Jamie and Wyatt to be endearing and completely adorable. They’re just two young guys in love who have no clue what they’re doing or how to express it. A happily-ever-after has never been so sweet.

If you’re in the mood for a short but satisfying fairytale, I think Cinderfella just might the YA romance that you’ve been looking for.

Quick Review: Exposure by AJ Lange

Exposure by AJ Lange

Beau isn’t sure what to expect when he goes to an audition for nude art models. To his surprise, he gets the job and will be the solo subject of the photographer’s next big project. At the first session he discovers that Killian doesn’t speak. He communicates through instructions written on index cards. This is awkward at first, but Beau soon comes to enjoy posing for the enigmatic and sexy photographer.

Their sessions soon move to outdoor locations, a pre-dawn deserted city street, up against a majestic tree in the forest. One night, while spread eagle on the hood of a car in an abandoned field, Beau can’t fight his attraction any longer and moves the photoshoot the backseat of the car.

At the gallery opening of his new exhibit, Killian has plans make his artistic collaboration with Beau much more personal with a public proposal that, if Beau says “yes”, will guarantee a joyful artistic and romantic partnership for many years to come.

Exposure by AJ Lange is a sexy short that combines the sensual with the sweet. It’s cute how Beau tries his very best to keep things as professional as possible while provocatively posing for Killian, a man who presses all his erotic buttons. When they finally do kiss (and do a whole lot more) it’s a relief to finally see these nice guys achieve their happily-ever-after.

Quick Review: Baker’s Dozen by AJ Lange

Baker’s Dozen by AJ Lange

Goaded by his brother, Ellis finally gets up the nerve to talk to the handsome regular who’s been coming into their bakery/café every afternoon. Patrick is sitting with his coffee and book when Ellis shoves a sandwich his direction as an icebreaker.

Awkward first impressions aside, they get to talking over the next couple of days, until a pie related emergency on Thanksgiving brings Patrick to Ellis’ shop just as he’s closing. The very last pie leads to their very first kiss.

As it turns out, his brothers meddling may have given Ellis a holiday that he is truly thankful for.

Baker’s Dozen is a sweet short about the initial steps of a budding romance. Ellis and Patrick have a ton of adorably awkward romantic charm.

Quick Review: Believe Me (Love in New York Book 2) by Avery Ford

Believe Me (Love in New York Book 2) by Avery Ford

The last thing big, surly, and mostly straight bar-owner Drew Bryant wants to do is take part in a charity bachelor auction. But Alex, Drew’s brother, who is in charge of the event, reminds him that it’s all for a good cause. The auction will raise much needed funds for the LGBT center.

Nice guy Shane is looking forward to the charity event (his best friend is organizing it after all) and Alex asks Shane to bid on his brother, explaining how skittish Drew already is, and it would be just too damn awkward if Drew got up onstage and there were no takers.

The night of the big event, Shane gets in a bidding war for Drew and ends up winning the auction.

They make plans to go on their date the following night. Drew feels a little strange making plans with a guy, even if it is just a “fake” date. But Shane seems nice, and is awfully handsome, so what could go wrong?

As it turns out, absolutely nothing. The dinner date goes perfectly, and Drew finds that he is really into Shane, like really into him. So much so that he even kisses Shane goodnight.

After dropping Shane off at home, Drew decides that one kiss isn’t going to be enough, and texts if he can come over.

Shane says yes. They’re not sure what the chemistry between them means, but it’s not something that they want to deny.

Afterward they make plans for a real date, which goes even better than the first, Drew later spending the night with Shane and intimately exploring the crazy hot attraction that they have.

Alex calls up Shane to see how the date went. Unable to lie to his best friend, Shane ends up telling him just how well things have gone with Alex’s “straight” brother. This prompts Alex to have a serious conversation with his big bro. Alex is fine with whatever their relationship ends up being, he just wants to make sure that neither his brother or best friend gets hurt.

A relationship is exactly what Drew wants, just before Shane decides to call things off. Well, if they’re gonna break-up, then Drew wants to hear it from Shane, face to face. Explaining that it was just the fear of getting hurt, Shane admits that he is really into Drew. And since Drew is really into Shane, everything works out for the best. A short epilogue shows our two heroes a few months into their new relationship. Their first date may have been “fake”, but the love that they share now is most definitely real.

Believe Me is a terrific blend of sweet and sexy romance tropes, featuring two heroes who are likeable and relatable. Though they fall for one another pretty quickly, but Drew and Shane’s chemistry is undeniable, and their HEA is sweetly satisfying.