Review and Guest Post: Summer Bigger Than Others Anthology

Blurb:
Beaten Track authors present fourteen short summer reads filled with friendship, romance and, of course, enough heat to make your ice lolly dribble.

Summer Bigger Than Others takes you away to your own private island of diverse stories that will make your summer days sweet, sizzling and sexy.

From relaxing on a sandy beach or hiking in the great outdoors, to nights at the opera or days at the strawberry farm, an adrenaline-shooting roller coaster rush awaits.

Make this summer the best it’s ever been; make it bigger than all the others.

THE STORIES:
Aligning North – K.C. Faelan
Aloha? Oy! – Jonathan Penn
Anything or Nothing – Terry Kerr
Dazzle Me – Ofelia Gränd
Fang and Fortune – L.L. Bucknor
Finally – Amelia Mann
Home is Where the Hard is – Caraway Carter
Offline – L.M. Steel
Ribbons and Frills – Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Roller Coaster – J P Walker
The Strawberry Farm – Victoria Milne
Ultimate Summer – Alexis Woods
Waking Up in Vegas – Hunter Frost
Will…You Have Me(?) – Shayla Mist

Review:
This anthology is so fun! So many summer adventures and sexy romps. There is truly something for everyone. At over 550 pages it’s a total bargain to get a look at a massive list of authors, some new to me, some I already enjoy.
Overall Stars:
Four
Aligning North by K.C. Faelan
This is a super fun story. I liked how Blake describes the scenery and some of the history of places in the park. It’s done naturally so you feel like you’re on the hike with them. I felt bad for Chris during the story but he became a good friend to Blake and Zac. Zac is sweet but has a filthy streak that he slowly shows Blake as they get to know each other. Blake’s fantasy the play out is so hot. But I love Zac’s fantasy too. Solid happy for now at the end of the book. I would love a sequel to this story. Maybe in Chris’ story and we see Blake and Zac again since they’re friends now. Because I NEED Chris’ story!
Stars:
Four and a half
Aloha? Oy! by Jonathan Penn
Asher is so sweet! Plus Paul is such a mush. They both are worried the other is falling out of their feelings. Paul works so hard to plan the perfect vacation for the two of them. I can totally get how to people together for so long have to work harder to keep their relationship alive. Loved the happy ending though.
Stars:
Five
Anything Or Nothing by Terry Kerr
Sweet story. Mike is so wary of the stranger that visits him. I feel bad for Mike until he gets visited by the strange older man. But the ending is wonderful. I’d love to see a sequel to this story with Mike in his late thirties to early forties to show how he’s doing now that he changed his outlook.
Stars:
Four and a half
Dazzle Me by Ofelia Gränd
Hysterical! Poor Tom goes through so much to have the perfect anniversary with Santino. Of course it doesn’t turn out the way he expects either. But the happy ending is so sweet. I laughed at some of the things Tom had to deal with. I enjoyed the writing and hope to read more by this author and maybe even these two men.
Stars:
Five
Fang and Fortune by L.L. Bucknor
Micah is a character you just want to pick up and hug until he stops hurting. Omar is intriguing and full of mystery. I love that Micah decides to let go while he’s with Omar. they are wonderful together. I want more stories of these two guys. Some of their adventures they talk about at the end of this story. And possibly even more relationship building?
Stars:
Four
Finally by Amelia Mann
This is a sweet story. I liked that Phillip put himself out there even if he thought Andrew was straight. Andrew always took such good care of Phillip. The two were definitely meant to be together. I would love to see a sequel where these two figure out a long term relationship with Phillip’s schedule.
Stars:
Four
Home is Where the Hard is by Caraway Carter
Chad and Nik have an open relationship. However it’s not balanced and the two don’t communicate as well as they need to in order to make the open part work. Wasn’t a fan of how the relationships in this story unfolded. Not enough talking and how something as complex as four people involved wasn’t figured out and explained before people got their feelings hurt.
Stars:
Three
Offline by L.M. Steel
I like how Bernie just picked up and went on an adventure when she had nothing else to lose. Kerra was very fun. She helped Bernie realize there was more to life than what can be found on the internet. Loved the scene with the police officer. I got a good laugh at that. The ending though was wonderful! Such hope for a future for these two!
Stars:
Four and a half
Ribbons and Frills by Claire Davis and Al Stewart
This was such a cute and sweet story. You start out wanting to hate Ashley. But you can’t because he makes everything right in the end. Gary is a character that you want all his dreams to come true. Loved the ending. Super cute happily ever after. These two men, and the people they work with, create a fabulous cast of characters and I’d love to read more about them.
Stars:
Four and a half
Roller Coaster by J.P. Walker
Quinn is very interesting in that she is career focused and doesn’t handle relationships and emotions very well. But she also isn’t overtly mean or rude. Sarah comes off a little timid at first, but she’s not. Deep down she has huge feelings that she shares with everyone. These two women are wonderful together. I so want to see more of them and how they make a long distance relationship work.
Stars:
Four and a half
The Strawberry Farm by Victoria Milne
I really liked this story. Tai and Charlie are so good together once they get over their issues. I was glad it didn’t take them long to figure out they’re better together than apart. I would love to see these characters again. Plus Kevin and Ray were a fun addition. They seem like great friends to have, even if they’re a bit meddlesome.
Stars:
Four and a half
Ultimate Summer by Alexis Woods
A very interesting story. Brett is a little broken and Sean naturally takes care of him. There’s more to Brett’s story and I would love to read it. Sean is sweet and has a good heart. There’s such hope for these two for a future at the end of this story. But I wanted more from the story for the length.
Stars:
Three and a half
Waking Up in Vegas by Hunter Frost
This is such a fun story. I really enjoyed how Reed and Grant meet. They both have their share of heartache and are good for helping the other heal. They have such a sweet happy for now ending. They are clearly going to make the relationship work. Plus the situation in the last scene had me laughing.
Stars:
Four and a half
Will You…Have Me(?) by Hayla Mist
Cute story that’s full of emotions. Thought it was interesting that two guys fall in lust when their parents are about to get married. Two brothers that don’t want to be “brothers”. Tommy is a little skittish. Though understandably so.  He just runs away whenever there’s conflict. Very interested to see how these two make it work.
Stars:
Four

Guest Post:
A bunch of the authors of the anthology, plus Debbie McGowan the owner of Beaten Track, stopped by to tell us about their favorite summer. When, what happened, why it’s their favorite. All the good things like that! I have to say they are all fabulous responses. Read and enjoy!
AL STEWART:
My favourite summer 🙂

A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks travelling round Europe by train. It was amazing seeing all the various cultures and landscapes, tasting all the food and coming across so many lovely people. I had a ball trailing round galleries and gazing at famous landmarks. I even went to a nude gay lake and beach in Berlin.

It is my favourite summer and one that I will always treasure because I went with someone very special, who was not really into galleries. But yet he sat through hours of me looking at paintings, just for me.

Lots of things stand out about this time, but perhaps most is how, much you learn about another person when in the midst of foreign lands. The further I went from home, the more I realised that he was my home.

ALEXIS WOODS:
The best summer ever, huh? Easy. The summer between sophomore and junior years of high school, I joined 30 other Jewish teenagers from across the US and Canada and spent six weeks touring and hiking through Israel. Even today, almost 25 years later, many of those images are still vivid.

The summer of 1988, I learned a lot about my roots, and it solidified my faith in my religion. History that was only told through books and pictures were brought to life among the archeology ruins. Hiking through the desert, our guides carried Uzis, and a scary thought hits you: at any minute the neighboring countries could invade. Why? All for a piece of land to call theirs. We prayed each Sabbath to God, renewing ourselves to our commitment to Judaism and that we also must fight everyday against injustice and oppression. Several nights we lay in sleeping bags, the rocky ground beneath us, listening as Ron, our fearless, twenty-something-year-old leader, whispered a tale meant to lull us to sleep and staring up at the brightest, clearest night sky you’ve ever seen… Yeah, just like that. Peace descends and eyes close to awaken to a new day full of adventure and camaraderie.

Alexis Woods

CARAWAY CARTER:
It’s funny, my favorite summer was the year I worked at Yosemite National Park. How’s that for a promo for Aligning North? I was recruited out of college to work the summer or as soon as I got there. My first three months at the resort were spent cleaning tents. You heard it, tents. At Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, they have these above-ground tents. Cream canvas over forest green wood slats. There were two twin beds and a metal table between them. I’d get up at six a.m. every morning, stumble to the office, get my list of tents—I had to make the beds and clean the room, yes I was a maid. I got tips though, because when I was good, people left me money. When I was very good, they left their alcohol.

It was my favorite because I was 23, it was 1988 (yes, I’m that old) and I was experiencing everything for the first time. I was getting drunk every night, I’ll admit that I was experimenting with drugs, I was getting artsy-craftsy and wrote poetry about the people I worked with. I thought some of it was good. I’ve never submitted any of it, never even posted it. But, they were interesting. I’d write the poem, paint some custom paper and give the poem to the person I wrote it about. Usually, they liked it.

This was also where I discovered that I’m a gigantic flirt, but I can never tell when someone is flirting with me. There were several experiences that summer, where I had to have it pointed out to me that someone was interested. It was an amazing six-month experience.

DEBBIE McGOWAN:
My favourite summer was the first time I went to Watergate Bay, which I think was the year 2000. I know we were only down in Cornwall a short time, but I recall nothing else of that summer. At the time I was managing a home care agency, and I’d been working 24/7 for a year. I needed to just stop.

There is nowhere quite like Watergate Bay to make you just…

Stop.

The bay is a surfers’ haven a couple of miles along the coast from Newquay, beyond which is Fistral Beach—a prime surfing spot. But Watergate Bay is different. It has a noisy quietness, a drowsy energy—the power of the Atlantic Ocean, the constant roar of the waves…

I suffer from constant tinnitus, and the only sound I’ve discovered that overrides it completely is the sound of those waves.

Plus I get to watch sexy surfers.

And drink coffee in the Beach Hut.

Where I can plug in my laptop and write.

And if I get bored, I just wander down onto the beach and sit on a smooth, sun-warmed rock and read my Kindle, or watch the surfers, or listen to the waves…

Win to the power of N. 🙂

JONATHAN PENN:
In fairness, I should qualify my answer, because summer is generally not a great time for me. Nor is winter. Though a relatively mild case, I’m seasonally affective. Spring and fall, I tend to be peppy and zippy and bursting with joy. When it’s too cold or too hot outside, I become a bit lethargic and doleful.

That said, and to answer your question, 1980: The Summer of Firsts!

It was the summer I turned eighteen.

It was the summer I first experienced freedom from any and all ties to my past. I’d been hired to work in a theatre—my first-ever job in the profession I dreamed of pursuing. I had packed a car-full of stuff and moved to a town four hundred miles from home, where I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me.

It was the summer I first admitted to myself—despite an alarmingly long string of somewhat bewildered ex-girlfriends—the truth that there’s a word for the way I’d always looked at men. That word is “ogling.” Once I’d made this admission, and introduced the two halves of my brain to one another, the synapses all started shaking hands, becoming friends. A few weeks later, I fell in love for the first time.

Not so very long after that, came a monumental first, when I slipped between the sheets on Joe’s bed and discovered why people make such a fuss about sex. I had enjoyed it up to that point—I mean… it was pleasant enough—but it had never rocked my world. That night, our lovemaking touched me in a fundamental way that reached my core. I knew I had come home.

August brought my first experience of heartbreak. Joe and I each had lives to return to, and I was given no choice but to endure a pain more profound than anything even my angsty teenage mind could ever have imagined.

When I first read the question for this post, I scoffed. What a silly thing to ask! But now that I’ve taken time to reminisce, I’m grateful for this silly question. It’s good to be reminded that life can turn on a dime, and that the events of a single season create ripples that spread across the decades.

OFELIA GRÄND:
My favourite summer?! I don’t think I have one, I’m not a summer person, it’s too hot, too many creepy animals out there. If I get a mosquito bite it’ll itch for weeks. On me they look more like wasp stings than actual mosquito bites. But if I have to pick one…my daughter was born on the 23d of July, which made 2013 a pretty good summer in my world. A more romantic summer was that of 2005. My husband, he wasn’t my husband then but anyway, was a UN soldier in Liberia. I hadn’t seen him in months, and I was quite honestly worried all the time. I wrote him a letter every day, I’m not kidding, every day. But he was to come home on leave and I went to Stockholm to be on the airport when he arrived. I was standing there waiting, I had been waiting for hours—well months, but for hours on the airport—and all of the sudden the almost empty arrival hall filled with green-clad men. They all looked the same! Everywhere I looked I saw tall, blond men. But then all of sudden, there he was. His hair almost white from having been in the sun so much and his skin a golden brown I’ll envy to end of my days. He didn’t have any tan lines, so I wonder what he did walking around naked at camp week in, week out.

TERRY KERR:
My favourite summer? 2000. I was 35, and fell in love for the first and only time in my life. Falling in love late in life is the best thing a human can do. You appreciate it more. You understand it better. It means more. It’s like finding the one thing you were looking for, except you didn’t know you were looking for it. It is the summer by which all others will be judged and found wanting. But once…yes. I had it once. That’s enough.

Where To Buy:
Beaten Track Publishing: http://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=sbto_format&cat=42
ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-summerbiggerthanothersananthologyofshorthotsummerreads-1839841-166.html
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0104LRAUW/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/552636

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