Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Manthology Anthology by various authors

TITLE: The Manthology Anthology
AUTHORS: Adam Carpenter, Derek Clendening, Ginevra Ermine, Ken Ives, John Jockel, Dalyn A. Miller, Ron Radle, Parker Sheridan
PUBLISHER: Ravenous Romance
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 44k)
GENRE: Gay erotic romance
COST: $4.99

A collection of eight gay erotic romances…

I have to admit, I bought this last February and let it languish on my TBR pile primarily because of who the publisher is. I’ve reviewed three other Ravenous books on my blog, of varying success though each problematic, but I’ve also seen reviews elsewhere, for books I haven’t bought, and my impressions of the publisher diminished. In fact, I haven’t bought a book from them since March, though I still have two more of their books on my TBR. While a few of the stories within this anthology didn’t rise above my expectations, several exceeded them, one so much so that I feel little guilty about judging this anthology based on other preconceptions. I can’t say I’m now excited about Ravenous offerings, but perhaps I won’t drag my feet about trying the other ones I own.

The anthology starts strong with “Adam” by Ron Radle, the story of a bookstore manager crushing on a young man who works in a DVD/record store in the same mall. Though this one does become erotic, the emphasis is on the gradual, almost whimsical development of their friendship/relationship. Both men are vividly drawn, and I ended the story with a smile on my face, eager to move on to the next offering.

That was “Arezzo Development” by Adam Carpenter. This is one of the shortest stories in the collection, the telling of a young American traveling to Arezzo on the train and the hot Italian he hooks up with on it. There’s no romance here. This is purely erotica, and while the setting is evocative and lovely, the characters and the rest of it fall flat. I do have to say, however, I adore the title. I smiled when I saw it, and I smiled again as I wrote this review. I think it’s delightfully clever.

Things didn’t improve with “Emergence” by Parker Sheridan. This starts with the premise that in 2012, instead of the world ending, all the lost civilizations re-emerged, including a desert empire called Al Tahar. British Neil Barton is traveling with his sister, the diplomat, to try and gain an audience with Al Tahar’s Sultan. Instead, they meet one of his generals, Asad, a man Neil suspects is the Sultan himself. While this story was more creative than some, I never engaged with it. First of all, it was way over the top. Asad is some Japanese/Native American mixture – which, granted, sounds sexy as hell – but he’s a caricature, not a fully fleshed man. All Neil does is lust after him, and his eventual seduction, with Neil in a submissive role, does nothing to make him more interesting. One of the big misses for me.

The worst story in the anthology for me, though, was what came next. “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy – and Girl” by Ginevra Ermine is a ménage about a couple who, after an unfortunate incident with another woman in their bed, decide they want a committed threesome and settle on the gorgeous Charles. I think it’s meant to be humorous. I hope it’s meant to be humorous. My first introduction to Charles has the narrator – the husband – asking him what it’s like to be gay. Charles then launches into how he discovered musical theater, and then Barbra Streisand, so of course he turned out gay. It all turns out to be one big joke, but it plays out for pages and pages, and it just wasn’t funny. What bothered me even more than the failing humor, though, was how Charles freely admits he’s gay…except for the wife. It’s a Straight For You story that never succeeded in convincing me he wouldn’t just ditch the girl at every opportunity once he had the chance. It's made even worse by continuity that's shoddy at best – the wife enters the hotel room, takes off her top, then a few pages later the husband slips his hand under her blouse (that she’s supposedly still wearing), and then a few pages after that when they’re laying down in bed, she’s got a tank top on. It’s like watching Sean Connery’s collar open and close in The Untouchables.

I wanted to be done with it by now, but then came “Second Chances” by Derek Clendening. Young man Peter gets an email from college buddy Dale asking to meet up after not seeing each other for years. Peter had a crush on Dale in college and fears attending. There’s nothing hugely original or outstanding about this one, though the characterization of the two guys is top notch, but I think coming after the increasingly disappointing stories previous, it shines.

But not as much as “South” by Dalyn A. Miller. This story – by a mile – was my favorite. It tells of Kenneth and Daniel as they travel south in Daniel’s A/C-less pick-up truck. The difference here is that Kenneth and Daniel have just broken up recently after a long relationship, and now Daniel is driving Kenneth back to his parents in Alabama, to turn around himself and return to Seattle alone. We learn what happened in their relationship – how they met, what came between them – through the course of the story, but this was so heartfelt, gut-wrenchingly real, that I was holding my breath for these two by the last page. I literally shouted at my screen when I read the last sentence. And then promptly went back and read the whole story again. This story all on its own made the cost of the anthology worth it.

Needless to say, it would be hard to follow that. “The Big Bang” by John Jockel is the romance between two astronomers who work together, a nerd and the gorgeous guy who loves nerds. It’s easy-going and mostly nice, and a good way to come down from the emotional high of “South,” but I’m not sure if I’d remember it very well if it came elsewhere in the anthology or stood on its own.

The final story is “Willie the Wad: A Sentimental Reminiscence” by Ken Ives. In this, a man gets his invitation to his 20-year high school reunion, and then reminisces on the jock he crushed on at the time. The emotions feel genuine for the ages of the two men in the flashback, and the sex is surprisingly hot. On an erotic level, this was my favorite one, and so ended the anthology on a very positive note.

But “South” is what made it worth it. By a mile. A long, hot mile with wet sandals. Which makes a lot more sense once you’ve read the story.


8/10 – Surprisingly strong, with only a couple stories really letting this down


6/10 – Most of these only work as one or the other, not as both


7/10 – A couple stories drag this down unfortunately, with over the top, unbelievable characters

Entertainment value

7/10 – I was surprised by how few stories I just didn’t like

World building

7/10 – Again, a couple stories just really dragged this down



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