Life can seem bleak for people suffering devastating injuries or illnesses of the mind and body, and every day can be a struggle. But sometimes, when hope seems in short supply, they find a reason to keep up the fight. The men in these stories face some of the most difficult challenges imaginable, but fortunately they won’t be facing them alone, because when everything seems darkest, a point of light appears. With compassion, understanding, and love, these hurt souls have a chance to piece the broken parts of their lives and themselves into something strong and beautiful. Love might even be able to mend the most serious wounds of all—those of the heart.
I asked all three authors to tell us about a time when they overcame great adversity. Gotta say their responses are amazing. Read and enjoy!
LJ: 2015 was an incredibly bad year for me. My father died and my mother, for whom I am carer, had some difficulties with her health which are ongoing. My own health and personal issues sank to what I can only describe as a bleak nadir. While in the midst of these situations, there is no real way to “overcome” them per se; all one can do is grit one’s teeth and plough on, determined not to be overwhelmed by everything. Eventually there is light in the darkness, but the journey to getting there is best taken by putting one foot in front of the other and dealing with everything as it rears up in front of you.
Raine: I’d say facing–head on–a mental disorder that directly, and cruelly, tried to rip my writing away from me–saying, “Screw you!” to malfunctioning brain chemistry and maladaptive patterns, especially in the face of sometimes very real terror–and writing, sharing, and publishing inspite these things has been one of my biggest triumphs over adversity. (Though I do feel totally silly calling it that, despite the very real, very debilitating nature of the situation.)
Cate: I have been incredibly lucky in my life that, while I have dealt with illnesses and losses, I haven’t endured anything close to the gravity of the challenges faced by our characters in this anthology. I have borne witness to those I love overcome all manner of things. Both my parents have been diagnosed with cancer—my mother with breast cancer at age 42, and my father a little over ten years later with a very aggressive form of malignant melanoma. I watched them both fight, and win, against a disease that had the ability to erase them both from our lives. Their resolve and never ending hope (along with an amazing medical team) got them through it. So if I ever have to stare catastrophe in the face, I have excellent role models to emulate.
Read Runs Through by Cate Ashwood
Carter McClintock’s life is uncomplicated. For the past five years, he’s spent so much time in hospital scrubs that one day bleeds into the next, and that’s just the way he likes it. That is, until he meets Matthew Nolan. Carter has never had a patient affect him the way Matthew does. During Matthew’s stay in the hospital, the chemistry is unmistakable, and once he is discharged, Carter asks him out.
Despite the obvious attraction between them, Matthew’s HIV status keeps him from handing Carter his heart, refusing to believe anyone could ever truly want him. When Matthew’s past comes to light, their budding relationship is threatened before it has even begun. But Carter isn’t one to give up without a fight and he will do anything to show Matthew the lengths he will go to keep them together.
I freaking loved this story. The way Matthew and Carter handled Matthew’s positive status was beautiful. Carter is amazing in how he lets Matthew know that his medical condition isn’t what defines him. I love how informed the characters are (when appropriate of course as there’s a scene where some of the characters are completely judgmental and positivephobic towards Matthew). The relationship between them is wonderful to watch grow. I love how much Carter cares for and protects Matthew. I love how worried Matthew is for Carter. They fit so well together. The epilogue is my favorite. I loved seeing them far enough in the future to know they’re still solid and will continue to be solid.
Carter looked at Matthew, and there it was. That moment of electricity that arced between them. Matthew didn’t let go of Carter’s hand, instead cradling it in his own. Carter inched closer and waited patiently to see if Matthew would do the same.
Slowly, they erased the space between them until they were a fraction of an inch apart.
“Carter,” Matthew whispered a sliver of a moment before Carter closed the last of the distance between them and pressed his lips against Matthew’s. For a moment, Carter thought Matthew was going to pull away, but then he kissed him back, his lips parting slightly and his tongue darting out to lick Carter’s bottom lip. Carter hummed his pleasure and opened for Matthew, letting him in and kissing him with everything he had.
It was a little bit fumbling and a lot sexy as they got their hands involved, touching and teasing one another until Matthew pulled back, pushing Carter away with a firm hand on his chest.
“I’m sorry, Carter, I can’t….”
Stunned, Carter didn’t know what to say other than, “Why not?”
Matthew sighed. “It’s not that I don’t want to. God, do I want to. But… you don’t know everything about me, and I can’t take advantage of you like that. You need to know if you’re going to make an informed decision about me.”
Carter’s eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “So tell me and I’ll make the informed decision to go back to kissing you. I like kissing you, Matthew. Actually, I like everything about you.”
“You don’t know that,” Matthew said sternly. He sat back on the couch and scrubbed his hands over his face.
“Tell me,” Carter said.
Matthew looked at him, his eyes wide, his face pale. “I’m HIV positive.”
Swimming With Elephants by L.J. LaBarthe
After suffering a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, Garrett believes his life is over. Depressed, bereft, in pain, and unable to return to the career he loves as an arborist, he sees no hope or future for himself. But a trip to Havelock Island in India turns his world upside down. He meets Jai, an Indian nurse, and becomes smitten with him. Near the end of his trip, while swimming with an elephant, he tells Jai how he feels.
After Garrett returns to Australia, he wonders if he can ever be healed of all his pain—physical, emotional, and mental—and fears that love and romance will never be his again. But then Jai turns up in Perth and brings with him astonishing news.
I really enjoyed this story. Garrett was so broken with the loss of his dreams. But it was wonderful seeing how he was able to change his outlook with some redirection. Jai was such a great influence for him. The side characters were a great part of the stor and I enjoyed getting to know them too. I would have liked to see a little more of Jai and Garrett after Garrett figured out that things are good and he can handle his new path. But they have a solid relationship and are happy together.
All That Shimmers by Raine O’Tierney
Beau Bell is a former Olympic hopeful, left paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident. He has every reason in the world to be pissed off and miserable, yet he’s training for the Paralympics Men’s 100m—S6 division. The chair? Just a part of who he is now. Beau’s attitude is golden. If only he could contend with this one little issue: errant erections and no way to relieve them!
Nikša Meríc is a lonely scientist and really bad poet living underneath the old building where he does his research. Every night he watches his neighbor through his basement window as he undresses in his wheelchair. Although there is no apparent reason for Nikša to be unhappy, he’s struggled with depression his whole life and has tried to kill himself on multiple occasions.
When Beau proposes that his “voyeur” come over and help him experiment with the erections he can’t actually feel, the relationship they build is a sexual one. But the relationship they need is one that will heal each other’s heart as well.
Oh Niksa! With your beautiful naivety and pure heart, giving Beau exactly what he didn’t know he needed. And Beau growing and showing Niksa he has reasons to live. This story is so lovely. I enjoyed seeing these two figure out there was more to life than their little corner in the world and help each other open their eyes. I would love to see more of these two. Maybe Beau competing like he’s training to do? Or the two of them together longer to show them happy long term?
Four and a half
About The Authors:
Cate Ashwood wrote her very first story in a hot-pink binder when she was in the second grade and found her passion for writing. Her first successful foray into romance writing came five years later when she wrote her best friend, who was experiencing a case of unrequited love, her own happily ever after.
Cate’s life has taken a number of different and adventurous roads. She now lives a stone’s throw from the ocean, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband, her brand new little boy, and her two cats. Her life is filled with family and friends, travel, and, of course, books.
L.J. LaBarthe is a French-Australian woman, who was born during the Witching Hour, just after midnight. From this auspicious beginning, she went on to write a prize-winning short story about Humpty Dumpty wearing an Aussie hat complete with corks dangling from it when she was six years old. From there, she wrote for her high school yearbook, her university newspaper, and, from her early teens to her twenties, produced a fanzine about the local punk rock music scene. She loves music of all kinds and was once a classical pianist; she loves languages and speaks French and English and a teeny-tiny smattering of Mandarin Chinese, which she hopes to relearn properly very soon. She enjoys TV, film, travel, cooking, eating out, abandoned places, urbex, history, and researching.
L.J. loves to read complicated plots and hopes to do complex plot lines justice in her own writing. She writes paranormal, historical, urban fantasy, and contemporary Australian stories, usually m/m romance and featuring m/m erotica. She has won a Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention and another award for Best Historical Gay Novel.
L.J. lives in the city of Adelaide, and is owned by her cat.
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/dreadpiratestarkiller and https://www.tumblr.com/blog/historybuffstar
Raine O’Tierney lives outside of Kansas City with her husband, fellow Dreamspinner Press author, Siôn O’Tierney. When she’s not writing, she’s either asleep, or fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom at her library day job. Raine believes the best thing we can do in life is be kind to one another, and she enjoys encouraging fellow writers! Writing for 20+ years (with the last 10 spent on M/M) Raine changes sub-genres to suit her mood and believes all good stories end sweetly. Contact her if you’re interested in talking about point-and-click adventure games or about which dachshunds are the best kinds of dachshunds!
Where To Buy:
Piece Us Back Together Anthology
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6413
All That Shimmers
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6340
Swimming With Elephants
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6379
Red Runs Through
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6412
6-May: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews
7-May: Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies, Oh My, MM Good Book Reviews, Bayou Book Junkie
13-May: Amanda C. Stone, Bike Book Reviews, Hearts on Fire
14-May: Carly’s Book Reviews, Molly Lolly
20-May: Decadent Delights, TTC Books and More, Prism Book Alliance
21-May: Inked Rainbow Reads, Love Bytes, BFD Book Blog, Chris McHart
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