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February 26, 2016 by kitmoss

A Dreamspinner Press anthology


Celebrating bears.. whether grizzlies, panda bears, koala bears, chubbies or otters… they need love to, and this anthology has a lot to share with them.

My own story is in here, so I won’t review it, but I will include the burb:

Truck Stop by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
When a snowstorm strikes an isolated diner in 1940s Nevada, diner owner Cleve is trapped inside with a single customer, a surly truck driver named Sully. As country songs play on the juke box, both men begin to reveal their secret desires and realize they have more in common than a preference for other men. They’ve made mistakes and faced disappointments, and they’ve both given up on finding love.

See if the country songs bring back some lovely memories.

Now to the reviews:

The Bear Fetish by John Amory
Robert has a full plate when he’s sent from New York City to Albuquerque to prepare a regional bank to merge with a national chain. When he looks for a place to unwind, he inadvertently ends up at a gay bar on Bear Night. Used to living in the closet because of his cutthroat career, Robert is nervous… until a sweet Native American bear named Louis buys him a drink and starts to break through Robert’s shell.

A warm and endearing story of a man who finds love where he does not expect it.

The Bear Next Door by Jack Byrne
It took a lot of effort for Bryce Philipson to get the attention of his neighbor, Rob Johnson, and even more persistence to prove to the middle-aged bear that he’s more than a spoiled rich kid. But both men are plagued by insecurities that threaten their relationship, and a tragic misunderstanding might prove the last straw unless they can learn to trust and forgive each other.

This one will make you appreciate what you already have.

The Bear at the Bar by J. Scott Coatsworth
Dex’s life is all about the hook-up, and he knows he’s attractive enough to have any man he wants. If a guy isn’t his idea of hot—gym-toned with zero percent body fat—he won’t give him a second glance, especially if he’s a bear. But then something happens that flips his perspective and makes him rethink his entire life and the decisions he’s made. In the end, though things go back to “normal,” Dex will never be the same.

Everyone dreams  of this sort of switch, or at least those of us not so traditionally beautiful.  I thought the insights Dex gains from his transformation were real and accurate enough to make the story work quite well.

Barefoot by Lillian Francis
A crunching tackle brought Finn’s rugby career to a premature end, shattering his confidence and leaving him shy and insecure about his sexuality, despite his size. Now, knowing how it feels to be left with no hope for the future, he volunteers at a homeless shelter.

One night he gives up his shoes to a homeless man. Of course, that’s the night he finally gets an opportunity to talk to Sam, the cute twink he’s been crushing on.

Mistaken identity and assumptions keep you guessing as this volunteer at a homeless shelter makes time with the man from thee grocer store where he picks up day old bread.  Thoughtful and enlightening.

Just Breathe by John Genest
Checking into a clinic one evening, Will is unnerved by the woofy Daddybear of a technician who hooks him up and gets him into bed… for a sleep study. When Will can’t relax, the technician tells him a story confirming he prefers chubby cubs like Will. But recent performance problems and issues from his past hold Will back. After some uninterrupted sleep and an extraordinary dream, perhaps Will can let go of his pain and move forward.

I got such a kick out of this story of a man going for a sleep study, something this little bear had to do recently.  True to life the story yet hgas a magical side to it that makes it almost mystical.

Bear Chasing by Renae Kaye
Neil has a crush on the big guy across the road. But someone so masculine wouldn’t be gay, would they? And even if they were, they wouldn’t be interested in someone like Neil. The guy across the road could only be described as a bear, and Neil? Well, he’s skinny, awkward and shy.

But what on earth was this “Woof!” business?

Neil’s rather humdrum life takes a turn for the adventurous when he and his sister’s kids get to know Rob whose car obsession causes first trouble but then a chance to get quite neighborly.  Bryce is endearing but Rob’s affectionate nature towards him and others is the real selling poinct of this story.

Golden Bear by G.P. Keith
Norm’s comfortable city lifestyle is challenged when an ice storm downs his Internet and threatens his power lines. When friendly, golden-bearded Hydro worker Winston comes to remove a downed tree limb, Norm is smitten and insists on him staying for dinner. With his outside work uniform off, however, Winston is self-conscious about his heavy build. Norm has always gone for perfectly-toned gym rats, but as he discovers that Winston’s open, good-natured personality fits his build, Norm begins to see the beauty of a bear body-type.

How many of us have admired the city worker who comes to dal with one mishap or another.  In this case the fellow in Norm’s backtard has insecurities of his own, making him a tender morsel for a tryst.

Hunting Bear by Edmond Manning
In Chicago’s warm June, bear-loving twink Tyler will go to any length to win the affection of his crush, the sexy construction worker known as “The Great White Bear”. With the help of his loyal friend Derrick, Tyler’s persistence finally pays off. Will he find true love with the Great White Bear? Maybe…maybe not. Tyler learns a few things about “hunting bear” that may change his heart.

The way this story brings two people together who were already friends is exceedingly satisfying.  The story is written with a precise wit that is masterful.

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Robert B. McDiarmid
Following a brutal public breakup, Bill nurses his broken heart at a resort in Palm Springs. At his roommate Barnum’s insistence, he’s looking for some wild and sexy fun to help him get over his ex. He might get even more than that when he meets Arthur by the pool and they decide to see where the night will lead.

Just plain charming.

Banyan Court by Samuel Scott Preston
Returning to Honolulu for his sixtieth birthday, Professor Dan Kumagai sits by the tree in the Banyan Court and thinks back forty-odd years to his first and only romance. His time for finding love has surely passed. His grandnephew gives him an unexpected birthday present: a surfing lesson from a former Marine named Hank Ross. Dan assumes his attraction to the younger Hank is one-sided… but he couldn’t be more wrong.

This was easily my favorite story in this collection.  It has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it interrupted by grim reality so well handled that you sense the abruptness  yet fall in love with the two characters all over again.

Amped by Zoe X. Rider
Twenty-year-old Toby has looked forward to the Firesiren show all week, and now that he’s there, he’s in a rotten mood. He sulks at the back of the club, where he hopes to talk Wolf McCandless into buying beer for him. Wolf is older, always comes to the local metal shows, and is hot in a way guys Toby’s age aren’t. Toby wouldn’t mind getting more than beer from him. He just has no idea how to go about it.

The unexpected interlude in this story makes it all come together.

The Bear King of Snowbird Mountain by Michael Rupured
Recently single Jeremy Jenkins is an average guy working hard as a landscape designer in the mountains of Tennessee. At a conference in DC, he meets gorgeous Donald Matthews, who says the strangest things—like how he thinks Jeremy is hot and wants them to spend the rest of their lives together.

But Donald isn’t just a gorgeous man. He’s a descendant of the bear king of Cherokee legend, forfeiting his crown for a future shown to him by a seer long ago.

A charming fable with a heartwarming core.

Life’s Tiny Surprises by Tara Spears
What possessed Mac to celebrate his thirtieth birthday alone at Giordo’s restaurant, he’ll never know. He’s as lonely as ever, until the tiny wisp of a waiter makes a declaration that leaves Mac dumbfounded. He worries that accepting Jerrod’s offer to make his birthday special will end the way such nights always do: with Jerrod gone without a trace after he’s conquered the bear.

I loved this story.  It turns convention on its had and makes two men’s dreams come true.  It’s surprising how sych a simple premise can come alive in a story well told.

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