boys, boys, boys

Boy Crush - From a bittersweet tale about unrequited love to the story of a deaf jock secretly in love with his teammate to a Hitchcockian thriller, this internationally flavored anthology features seven gay-themed short films with a singular topic: the crush. The collection includes "Summer" (Great Britain), "Night Swimming" (United States), "Running Without Sound" (United States), "Out Now" (Germany) and "The Bridge" (Australia).

(rent) There are two other shorts in addition to the ones listed. One was “Hitchcocked,” one of my favorites, and the other was “Oedipe - [N+1]” which was interesting, sort of dystopian future. The first two shorts were kind of sad, the second more than the first. The third had a glimmer of hope and the fourth was very sad, but ended on a positive note. Unfortunately, “The Bridge” didn’t really make sense to me and I’m not sure if I’m missing too much cultural context or what, but I feel like parts of the story were left unexplained.

For those who are interested, you can watch “Hitchcocked” here. (Be sure to watch after the first set of credits for a bit more of the movie):

Romeos - Transgendered 20-year-old Lukas is going through gender reassignment treatment, a process eased by his friendship with the lesbian Ine. As Ine introduces him to Cologne's gay scene, Lukas sees his romantic opportunities open up.

(rent) While I felt this was a well-done film focusing on trans* issues while also providing a romantic plot, I also felt it was somewhat lacking. It was a little slow, probably because of the subject matter, and I had a hard time understanding what Lukas saw in Fabio. That aside, the film gives a raw look at humans being humans in all their self-centered glory, while trying to be themselves. While it wasn’t powerful enough to move me, I’d definitely recommend people check it out once. Also, once again the summary feels very different from what we’re given.

Ciao - After the death of his close friend, Mark, Jeff (Adam Neal Smith) begins corresponding via e-mail with Andrea (Alessandro Calza), an Italian with whom Mark had an online relationship. Upon Jeff's suggestion, Andrea comes to visit, and the two men explore Mark's life and grow closer. A quiet and tender look at relationships and desire, this drama also stars Ethel Lung, Chuck Blaum and John Boles.

(rent) This was a slow moving film, definitely more artistic than action, but it’s very moving and touching. The exploration of feelings, relationships, and how we know a person is well done and often without many words. I’m not really sure why this is rated R, as nothing sexual happens and I don’t even think there’s much (if any) cursing. This is beautiful, but was kind of hard for my heart to watch as well.

Loveless - Director Kurenai Yu's adventure-filled anime series finds sixth-grader Aoyagi Ritsuka at a crossroads. His older brother Seimei was brutally murdered two years ago, and now Ritsuka thirsts for revenge. But how can a 12-year-old fight for justice? Enter Agatsuma Soubi, Seimei's former cohort, who arrives on the scene to help the boy hunt down the killers and uncover the truth behind the mysterious murder.

(rent/buy) First of all, the Netflix description above is..um..interesting. And not really how I felt the story was portrayed, even if it’s sorta true. I watched this over about a year with a serious concussion in between, so keep that in mind. But Ritsuka isn’t really the “thirst for revenge” type.

I enjoyed this for the relationship between Ritsuka and Soubi, though I found things moved VERY slowly and ultimately left us with a cliffhanger ending (aka, blue balls). While there is some resolution and the characters are bonding, it’s not really a complete resolution. It’s mostly a teaser to encourage you to read the manga. For lovers of anime, for people who like teases of BL, and for lovers of cat boys, this is worth checking out, but keep in mind my warning.

Ai No Kusabi: The Space Between - In the future, on a distant star lives a new society. Ruled by a computer system named Jupiter, men are divided into classes based on their hair color. The Blondies, genetically altered by Jupiter, are the highest class and occupy the capital city of Tanagura. Those with black hair, Mongrels, are forced to live in the slums, Ceres. Iason, the leader of the Blondies, encounters Riki, a mongrel, in the streets of Ceres one night and sets out to own him.

(rent) While I enjoyed what we’re given here, it’s more of the beginning of something rather than the complete set. This could easily be a 12-episode set, but I’m not sure we’ll ever get that. What we get here is good, but is mostly building a plot that we’ll never see, so while I think it’s worth a watch, I can’t outright recommend it for purchase.


The Good Fight (The Good Fight Series) by Andrew Grey

The Good Fight (The Good Fight Series) by Andrew Grey
Stars: 3/5

Length: 200 pages
Jerry Lincoln has a problem: his Sioux Falls IT consulting business has more work than one man can handle. Luckily, that means he can hire some help. Jerry just hopes his new employee, John Black Raven, ends up being more helpful than distracting—but John’s deep eyes and long hair are very distracting.

John came to town for an education and a chance at a life he couldn’t have on the reservation, but what’s important to him now is getting a job and keeping it. Six months ago, his sister died, and now her children are in foster care. Despite having the law on his side, John can’t get custody—can’t even see his niece and nephew.

As Jerry and John grow closer, John discovers he doesn’t have to struggle alone. Jerry helps him win visitation rights and provides much-needed support. Yet their victories aren’t without setbacks. Child Services is tangled up with money, politics, and red tape, and Native American children are their bread and butter. But John and Jerry are determined to fight the good fight and to win—in more ways than one.

A classic Andrew Grey romance with an interesting story that touches upon specific topics I don’t see much in this genre. The unique elements definitely added to the story.

I'm not a huge fan of Grey's writing style, especially during sex scenes, but I can't deny he does standard romance well. And while many of the stories I've read by him involve a dramatic climax, I found this story to be refreshing in that the conflict happened over the course of the book.

In addition to the main struggle between John and children's services, there were also multiple minor issues that kept the story flowing at a steady pace, including whether to date an employee, cultural differences, family acceptance, and being gay in a small town. Not all of these themes are challenges they have to actively face, but they all play a part in creating the men we see on page.

Some of the best, and necessary, moments of the story involved racism, both against natives and against whites. ("Evil White Woman" as a nickname was great.) This did an excellent job of showing that racism works both ways (although some degrees of racism seems more reasonable), and also worked to open the minds of both sides of the race barrier, not just one. Because people are people, no matter the color of their skin or their culture.

While children in stories often play a background role, Grey did a nice job of involving the children without overwhelming the story. They were a central point of the story and necessary to its progression, but they were balanced in the writing, and in their personalities, adding flavor, not distraction.

I think my biggest qualm with the storyline was at the very end, when one character is gay that I felt would have worked better as straight. While there's nothing wrong with the character being gay, and possibly makes the support he offers “make sense,” I felt it also made the resolution there feel less solid, as if his support (and that of the group he represents) of the situation was only because he was gay. I don't think that's what Grey was saying, but it left the ghost of that impression when I read it.


A Lie I Can Live With by Eden Winters

A Lie I Can Live With by Eden Winters
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 67 pages
With a few extra pounds and a geek reputation, Otis Tucker despairs of ever finding someone to share his life with. When the GLBT dating service GetaDate.com matches him with handsome hunk Garret, he thinks it's some kind of joke. But the more he learns of Garret, the more he realizes that even gorgeous people can be taken at face value and that Mr. Perfects come in many different sizes.

A wonderfully sweet holiday piece that puts you in the lovey-dovey mood, but is more sugar than substance.

The only reason I couldn't give this a perfect 5-star rating was that not much happened. It's a great story to sit down and read in one sitting, and it has all the required tender moments, but it lacks in plot. Aside from Otis's internal struggles, there is no conflict. Which is great for our leading guys, but will leave some readers disappointed.

Despite the lack of conflict, I still enjoyed this. Maybe I associate with Otis too closely (and hey, where's my Garret?), but if you're looking for a laid-back romance, this will probably be your thing. I found Otis to be positively adorable, and hearing their tame exploits as they wooed each other was fun and sweet.

So yes, there isn't much plot, no twist, no real challenge to overcome, but if you need your shot of romance happiness, this will give it to you tenfold.


More by Sloan Parker

More by Sloan Parker
Stars: 2.5/5

Length: 245 pages
For fifteen years Luke Moore has lived by three rules: stay off his father's radar, never spend more than a single night with any man, and never fall in love again. But one night of explosive sex and two men whom he can't get out of his head have Luke breaking them all. Richard and Matthew push him past all his boundaries--both sexually and personally--and now he's no longer hiding from his senator father; he's taking him on. And he isn't just falling for one man; he's falling for two. If you're going to break the rules, might as well break them big.

But Luke's father has his reasons for hating how his son lives, and he'll do whatever he can and use all his power to keep Luke away from Richard and Matthew.

Can this threesome find a way to make their unconventional relationship last with the world around them trying to pull them apart? And will Luke be able to keep breaking his rules for Richard and Matthew, or will he head back to his familiar way of life just when his new lovers want to bind him tighter?

An interesting story with a sexy threesome that dragged out the plot with too many sex scenes and a somewhat unbelievable set of circumstances.

This is a long novel, which isn't a bad thing--at least not completely. The pacing is fairly steady in regards to the actual plot. However, the length at times felt due to the author not focusing on the flow of the story, or maybe focusing too much on too many different parts of the relationship.

The main conflict (Luke versus his father) was always an underlying threat as these men came together, but while it worked as a motivating factor for Luke, I found it difficult to believe. (From the beginning, Luke came across more as paranoid than cautious, which made it hard to suspend my disbelief.) Obviously people often behave irrationally, but I found it hard to believe that Luke, who has been tormented by his father for years, never actually takes any action to protect himself besides hiding.

On the other hand, unless Luke's father is insane (which his final scene would indicate he's not), I found his obsession with his son kind of extreme. He's always talking about how Luke will affect his career, but he keeps pushing Luke in ways that would make any rational person draw as much attention as possible so that people knew what a crazy asshat the father was. Why would a man who wants his son to keep quiet keep doing that?

To some degree I give leeway because obviously people react differently in different situations, but I just couldn't buy both of these men making such idiotic choices at the same time.

On the other hand, I love how Luke's father screws with Richard and Matthew, and I particularly like the small dramas that these men bring to the table as well and how they work together in the relationship and help Luke handle things.

The relationship between the three men was handled well, and while at times it was hard to see what the other two saw in Luke, I think it worked--mainly because it was from Luke's perspective and he found it difficult to understand what they saw in him too. There are glimpses where he is the perfect fit for one or both of them, and that made the relationship work. I also liked that all three men came together at once instead of a pair taking on a third. This seems to be the way a threesome would work best, although it's obviously the hardest to conjure. Parker did it well here.

I found the sex scenes to be kind of repetitious after a while, and also too many (which kind of go hand in hand). Anytime they have an argument, a bad day, or eat food, sex happens. While not all of the scenes are detailed, I still found myself rolling my eyes and saying, "Another sex scene." Also, although it is pointed out once, they tended to use sex to solve problems, or at least as a Band-Aid. I think if it wouldn't have happened so often, I probably wouldn't have minded, but the continuous "Disagreement-Fight-Sexy" pattern wore me out.

Finally, although I couldn't buy the conflict between father and son, I thought the final confrontation between them was very enjoyable. Not completely surprising, but I liked seeing a different part of the father and the resolution, along with the conversation Luke has with his mother after.

There are definitely positive parts of this book, but I found the overwhelming amount of supposedly mind-blowing sex weighed down the flow of the story, and I had a difficult time believing some of the actions of the antagonist and protagonist.


Good Breeding by JL Merrow

Good Breeding by JL Merrow
Stars: 5/5

Length: ~6,000 words
Adopted as a baby, Giles Frobisher has grown up with every privilege. Encouraged by his best friend—and secret crush—Oz to seek out his birth mother, he’s appalled to discover she’s loud, lower-class, and insists on calling him Wayne!

Giles’ snobbier-than-thou, none-too-faithful boyfriend Hugh is equally horrified, and Oz, who’s always been secretive about his own family, starts acting very strangely.

It seems Giles is about to learn that good breeding has nothing to do with who your parents are!

Utterly adorable. Good, clean fun in a short story.

This is less a romance than a look at English social class, genes versus environment, and an inner reflection in a cute, humorous way. The main character is a classic "too blind to see the love in front of him" type but the characters in the story make this tale come to life.

There are no real surprises or twists, just a slice of life as a snob finds out his true heritage, the unveiling of which reveals truths about his boyfriend and his best friend. A character study of sorts, although I don't think this short takes itself quite so serious, although it touches upon serious topics. It's a feel-good romantic comedy and I think it plays out perfectly.

Because this is a short story, there isn't a whole lot of meat here, but that would probably be my only complaint. And along those lines, while it's not meaty, it is a good thick broth with some hearty chunks. (Me and my food comparisons, right?) For what this is, I think it brings a lot to the table, and that's what really won me over with this story.