Ah, at last I have come to the end of the alphabet in this massive collection, and with it, authors both new to me and familiar. And all made for great reading. And now I have to go buy some more books!
Mind/Body Medicine by Gabriel West
Rindae's fa'ithe Justan, the warrior he has given his life to, has succumbed to the force that drives all Maa'rish warriors. It has taken over his mind so completely that Justan is trapped within the force. Rindae goes to see what has become of Justan during his stay at an institution. Can the bond that they forged before Justan's mind was swept away be strong enough to bring Justan back to him?
This was one of the few stories in the collection not set in our world or some recognizable derivation of it, and it took me a bit to take in the world and it's inhabitants (no blurb-induced expectations, didn't even see it until I grabbed it to post here). Then it took me a while of thinking about how the Maa'rish could distinguish a force within them as separate from them, and then I decided, just accept it, Crys.
Anyway, this story went deep into the choices that one partner has to make when the other partner becomes very impaired, and in this world, those are hard, hard choices. I was astounded at how much hope one word could generate. And I applaud the author's restraint in not going for a miracle.
This is a new-to-me author and it took me a bit to get in synch with the world, but the ending was good for half a marble all by itself. I'd read more.
What You Can’t Live Without By Eden Winters
A flashy car, a trendy apartment, membership at a swanky country club -- Dr. Mitchell Rollins has it all, except someone to share it with. Dr. Arnulfo Oliva doesn't share his materialistic views and has no use for expensive toys. Turning away from all the U.S. has to offer, Nulfo returns to El Salvador, where he feels truly needed.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocks El Salvador and both men. Desperate to find his former lover, Mitch joins a mercy mission to the devastated country, coming face to face with the man who left him behind. Can two men from different worlds find common ground after the crisis?
This one left me sniffling. But aw. Dr.Mitch has had his expectations slapped around and his needs redefined in terms of what's really important, like what will you carry if that's all you can have. The author did a super job of portraying the beauty and the danger of El Salvador in the earthquake - that all felt very real. "Welcome to my shaky country," she has Dr. Nulfo saying. I felt like I was there, and I bet she's been.
Mitch had a pretty drastic change of heart, but I think his experiences should have changed him, and being with a person who lives his convictions has to make a difference. (But I think the mini-van was still a Lexus!)
The Boyfriend Line By Avery Zeno
David and Rafe are “friends with benefits,” but definitely not boyfriends. When David discovers he might have cancer, he doesn’t tell Rafe for fear that leaning on his friend would be pushing too close to the boyfriend line. When Rafe finds out, will David’s secrecy push them farther apart?
There are a lot of 'big misunderstanding' stories, where the problem would be solved pretty fast if the two people would just talk to one another, but that isn't what we have here. It's more the second half, minus the watching them flounder around, though it's pretty clear that the relationship David and Rafe have isn't satisfying either of them when something big and life changing happens. And then they talk, and we get to listen, which is pretty satisfactory, although Rafe is awfully perfect. I kept waiting for him to waver in there somewhere. This story started at the emotional bottom and just kept going up up up. No dips.
Pasion’s Dream By Kate Cotoner
Pasion of Miletos has suffered from insomnia for over a year. He's traveled the length of the Eastern Mediterranean in his search for a cure, and desperation leads him to the shrine of the healing god Amphiaraos. There Pasion meets Kyronides, his former beloved and once the most beautiful youth in Athens. An accident has robbed Kyronides of his sight, and if the shrine's priests can't cure him, Kyronides will be sent into exile.
Finally able to tell Kyronides why he was forced to end their relationship, Pasion discovers that the truth cures his affliction -- but as the days pass without a miracle for Kyronides, Pasion must think of another way to heal his beloved.
I like historical, and the world here is very complete, but I couldn't help feeling that the story was a bit dry, just trying to get the feel of the ancient times. Pasion (nice choice for a name) and Kyronides meet again on their pilgrimages to find cures for their afflictions, and their relationship existed more offstage and flashback, but they leave the story with hope, and I liked that. Not all tidy wrapped ends, either, and I liked that too. But I feel like I shared that meal of dry barley cake, dried fruit, and dry red wine, from all the formality of the language.
Buy any or all of these books here.
Having this entire monster collection of twenty eight stories in one volume, made me treat it like an anthology, which it probably wasn't meant to be. But what it also did was give me a look at authors I haven't read before and authors I've seen before but doing new things and going new directions. And there might have been a place or two where there was a bit of overlap that wouldn't have happened in an intentional anthology, or where one story suffered a bit for comparison to another story, but this is an amazing collection all the same, and more than worth the time and the money. And I have lots of names to add to the "watch for" list.
And everybody remember that my ratings aren't the same as others, a 3 is still I liked it, a 5 is I fell over whimpering. Check the details here.