“Serengeti” by Madeleine Urban
When Ric “Chopper” Baxter arrives at
Kambi Alfajiri (Dawn Camp), Nathan “Captain” Foster thinks
he’ll be a good man to have around. He doesn’t anticipate
how his boss will react to the man. Boss and Chopper fight
constantly. Is there more to their relationship?
“Serengeti” was an interesting story
that had the potential to be really great. Madeleine Urban
made the unusual decision to tell the story with a
first-person narrator who watches much of the action.
Unfortunately, this left me feeling distanced from what
could have been a fascinating and heart-wrenching love story
between Chopper and Boss. I still enjoyed the story, but
not as much as I wanted to.
“Poker Face” by Dar Mavison
Frank Jackson meets Joe when he helps
Joe out in a fight after a poker game. Afterward they ride
to Carson City together, trading stories and maybe more…
“Poker Face” was an almost lyrically
written tale about the stories men tell each other, the
nature of truth, and atoning for past mistakes. Dar Mavison
penned a deep and thoughtful story, but be warned—it doesn’t
end happily. The bittersweet ending lingered with me after
I read “Poker Face,” somewhat dampening my enjoyment of the
“Rendezvous” by Catt Ford
Jack has been living a lonely life in
the mountains, visited only by his new friends, the trapper
Wolf and his wife, Nizhoni. After nine months there, it’s
time to go down to town to buy supplies for the coming
winter. Jack goes with his friends, certain he’s in for a
miserable few days hiding his nature from everyone. He just
might get a surprise, however…
I really liked “Rendezvous.” It was
easy to sympathize with poor Jack, who’d been reviled and
even beaten because of his desire for other men. His
shyness and fear were understandable, and made his actions
reasonable. Although everything in the story happened
quickly, Catt Ford did a good job making events seem real
rather than contrived. Seeing Jack get the happy-ever-after
he deserved was very satisfying.
“Fancy Pants” by Connie Bailey
As a gambler, Bayr Fortier has become
an expert at reading people. When he meets cowboy Dash
Langtry, his interest is sparked. Will Dash prove to be
what he’s been looking for?
“Fancy Pants” portrayed the banter and
interaction between a clever but uneducated cowboy and an
intelligent, educated gambler in a way that was sometimes
humorous and sometimes hot. The double entendres and tricky
wagers Bayr and Dash employed were a form of cerebral
foreplay, and were a lot of fun to read. If you’re in the
mood for something quick and hot, with a happy ending,
“Fancy Pants” is a good choice.
“The River Flows South” by John Simpson
Businessman Gerard Dupont is on the way
to New Orleans aboard the steamboat Cotton Queen. He
expects to be lonely on the voyage. To his surprise, he
encounters more than one possibility for love on the river.
Who will he choose?
“The River Flows South” contained
several hot scenes. I wasn’t sure at first who Gerard would
end up with, which made the story more interesting.
Unfortunately, a couple of issues marred “The River Flows
South” for me. For one thing, there were several turns of
phrase that struck me as anachronisms, which pulled me out
of the story. The bigger issue here, however, is the lack
of romance. While there were several sex scenes, they
seemed rather mechanical and non-romantic.
“Back in the Saddle” by D. G. Parker
Obie Watson, a gambler and general
ne’er-do-well, is annoyed when his horse goes lame outside
of town. He makes his way to the Bar J Ranch, where the
taciturn Ben agrees to take care of the horse. In order to
pay for the horse’s care and board, however, he’ll have to
work at the ranch for two months…
“Back in the Saddle” was one of my
favorite stories in this anthology. D.G. Parker manages to
pack a lot of character development into the story as Obie
slowly goes from lazy and selfish to hard-working and
caring. Damaged, lonely Ben made a perfect match for Obie.
The conflict is believable. “Back in the Saddle” is an
emotional and satisfying tale and well worth a read.
Know When to Hold ‘em contains stories with a
wide variety of historical times and places. While not all
the stories were “keepers” in my mind, several of them were
excellent. Know When to Hold ‘em is a good
way to try new authors and get several quick fixes of gay