Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hearts Afire: September by Philippa Grey-Gerou and Michael Barnette

TITLE: Hearts Afire: September
AUTHORS: Philippa Grey-Gerou and Michael Barnette
PUBLISHER: Liquid Silver Books
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 49k)
GENRE: Gay erotic romance
COST: $5.50

A pair of erotic novellas, each about a gay romance with a fireman involved…

I didn’t buy all the books in this series that Liquid Silver did a couple years ago, but based on the ones I did, I’d say that’s a good thing.

This two-author collection begins with Philippa Grey-Gerou’s “High Heat.” Chef Roman Geary finds himself in trouble when his home and restaurant go up in flames, leaving him without facilities to prepare his upcoming catering jobs. At the suggestion of his house manager, he rents out the catering kitchen at the local firehouse, the same group that put out the fire on his restaurant. One of the firemen, Jacob, shows an interest in him, and through the time they spend getting to know each other, the two develop a relationship. Roman’s left wondering, however, whether or not he can be involved with someone who could die at any time.

On the surface, there’s not much that’s really wrong with this novella. It’s clean, it’s evenly paced, and there’s a lot of detail to make the background seem real. But by halfway through, I wasn’t connecting with anybody in the story, and that never really changed. None of the characters felt like they leapt off the page. In fact, the most vivid portrayal in the whole thing is Roman’s cooking. There, the story goes into incredible detail with his various responsibilities and cooking sequences, so much so that I always forgot it was about a fireman romance. When Jacob’s job would get mentioned again, I was often jolted back, because it seemed so inconsequential and unnecessary compared to the loving attention paid to what Roman was doing. If the same care had been given to either of the men, I might have responded more positively to the story as a whole, but that imbalance ends up being the story's biggest downfall.

I started reading the second story, “Five-Alarm Lover” by Michael Barnette, with reservations, too. This is a futuristic sci-story set on a distant mining moon. Del Preston and his partner work at putting out a horrendous fire in one of the mines, during which they’re both convinced they see a man made of fire racing through the flames. They save two of the suits who were down in the shafts, one of which turns out to be a telempath. Del is drawn to Aaron, and vice versa, but the difference in their stations seems a stumbling block to acting on their desires. That is, until the heat between them gets too hot to ignore.

I hadn’t bothered re-reading the blurbs before starting this anthology. I just knew it was two erotic m/m firemen stories. Thus, I wasn’t prepared for the lack of information at the start of this one letting me know where and when this was going on. In fact, much of the world-building that prevails throughout this novella is sketchy at best, provoking more questions than answers. This didn’t bother me as much as it could have in the first third of the story. In spite of the holes in my knowledge, I was mildly intrigued by the two men and their dilemma. But then they finally come together. And in that single night, in a single act of sex, when Aaron gets into Del’s head and vice versa, they decide they love each other, and all my interest in them disappeared. It became too much insta-love, with feelings that felt entirely manufactured rather than organic to the men or their situations. Not my cup of tea at all. Add in the fact that it suffers from more editorial issues than the first (using affect for effect, subjective pronouns used instead of objective, etc.), and it never regained my interest.

I’d like to think my luck with the books I chose from this series was just bad. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to try any of the others to find out.


7/10 – Information dumps slowed down the first, while editorial mistakes marred the second


5/10 – The insta-love of the second really ruined the characters for me


5/10 – Characterizations feel flat in the first, and over the top in the second

Entertainment value

4/10 – Failure to engage in the first and the too-swift love in the second made this not really worth it

World building

7/10 – The first goes overboard with setting and the second not nearly enough



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