Reviewed by Ami
Title: Starstruck Anthology
Authors: L.A. Merrill, George Loveland, Sydney Blackburn, Charles Payseur, Asta Idonea, Jessica Payseur, Rob Rosen, Jay Starre, Elizabeth Coldwell, Bell Ellis, Avery Vanderlyle, M.T. Aspen, Nicki J. Markus
Length: 320 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Available at: Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: Lights, camera, action!
To the average person, celebrities seem to have it all—money, fame, and droves of adoring fans lining up to fawn over them. But a life in the public eye can make romance challenging, and deep down, these guys are looking for the same thing as any other man: someone to share a steamy tryst with between acts or to ride off into the sunset with after the curtain has gone down. Luckily there are those willing to love the men behind the billboards and on-air personalities, and they’re looking for a private performance from their favorite drag queens, musicians, reality TV stars, actors, rodeo champions, and video game designers. Even superheroes and legendary defenders. Money and fame might not always equal happiness, but these celebrities will leave stars in their lovers’ eyes.
Review: There are several new-to-me authors in this anthology, and I thought it was a good opportunity to sample their work, and who knows, they might just enter my authors-to-watch list in the future. As always with an anthology, some stories are good, some are just okay. My favorite of the bunch was Marked by the Queen by George Loveland. It brought a sappy happy smile to my face when I got to the ending.
Love, Stage Left: It was okay
Although Eli had a crush on Brandon for years but this short story just didn’t have enough to justify the possibility of the romance in the present. I felt like I understood Eli and connected with him emotionally but not Brandon. His characterization was too thin for me to root for him and Eli. Plus, considering that he just left everything for 10 years after a stage anxiety fiasco, I felt like Brandon’s return to the stage was a little too easy.
Rodeo Champion: It was okay, but not good
Felt like it was more tell than show, I felt detached from the characters. Plus, they easily went in for kisses even when they hadn’t seen each other for YEARS. Not like Graham told TJ how he felt in the first place. For a short story, I lost interest in it very early on because I felt like there wasn’t any beginning and progress of the relationship. Just a flimsy excuse to get to the sex scenes *hmph* Oh, and I wasn’t really a big fan of using pronouns like “the cowboy” or “the rancher” frequently instead of using character’s names (my issue not yours).
Marked by the Queen: I really liked it
Awww, this one was SO CUTE!! Yes, it was short, but it felt complete. We got the first meeting, the first exchange of Twitter and DM conversations (ah, love in the time of social media), the first date, heck even the whole dealing with Jake’s jealousy over one of the job elements of Andrew’s stage time as Shelley. I LOVED Jake’s attempt to win Andrew back after he screwed up with his jealousy (showed me that the man was paying attention!!).
The whole story was playful, fun, and a little naughty when it came to the drag queen show on stage. I adored the ‘queen bitch’ banter between Shelley and Tina. But what clinched the story for me as one of my favorites of this anthology was the ending. I was literally awww-ing when I got to that part. It was sweet and romantic. I had my sappy teary-eyed eyes when I reached the ending. LOVED this, Mr. Loveland!!
The Ruby: It was okay, but not good
At first I thought it was cute, even if my eyes glazed over the whole description of the virtual game. I am not a gamer, will never be a gamer, so things related to VR and games don’t interest me much. But then suddenly it was **SPOILER** six weeks later … and it just stopped. It took me by surprise, and I actually ended up flipping back the pages (or something similar to that because I read through my Kindle) to see whether I missed something! But nope, that was it. The End. Felt like I got a whiplash out of it.
Pride and Panoramas: I liked it
This was cute — I could feel Alaric’s frustration of being type-cast in period drama and I thought the progress from him being antagonistic towards Greg to later softening up on the cameramen to be believable. Greg taking care of Alaric when the actor fell ill was sweet. The ending slightly felt more like happy for now but it fit with the timeline; it was a beginning of lovely new life for both.
Such Beautiful Music: I liked it
While it took me a while to get into the rhythm of Aspen’s writing (she’s a new-to-me author after all), I thought this story was good. As I was reading, I kept thinking that the relationship felt mature, even if Marsh acted like a playful kid sometimes being a rock star. Nick even had a good relationship with his ex-partner! I did wish there was more interaction between Marsh and Nick’s kid, but then I realized the reason why the author didn’t do it. It was an understandable reason! So yeah, rock star and librarian. It worked 🙂
Out on Stage: It was okay
Things happened a bit too fast for me to believe that Bradley was ready to come out of the closet for Stewart. I just didn’t see enough interaction between them *shrugs*. I couldn’t help but feel that the author just wanted to include a sex scene rather than actually exploring the situation of Bradley being in the closet. Also, with Stewart having Multiple Sclerosis (as stated on the blurb), I wished it was explored further in regards to the relationship with Bradley (like maybe a little hurt/comfort situation?). On a different note, I thought the (fictional) play that Bradley was involved in was such a great theme.
Shooting Star: It was good
Had a similar situation to the previous story, Out of Stage. Things happened fast. BUT I thought the tone of this story was light and funny — and I couldn’t help chuckling over Jack Black’s (no relation to the actor) reaction towards knowing that his favorite actor, Trey, came to his small town. So yeah, I skimmed the sex scene, but I was amused and entertained with Jack’s narrative voice that I enjoyed it more than the other story.
Drastic Measure: It was good
There were definitely sparks between Keith and Dominic, and while I don’t usually like anything related to reality TV show plots in my romance, I admit that in here it was pretty entertaining. I enjoyed the parts that were scripted because Keith was having fun doing it, even if he was not faking when he found out what Dominic did with Keith’s own cook *laugh*
Garden Variety: I liked it
This was LOVELY. I enjoyed the progress of Derek paying attention to the gardens and the slowly built trust between him and Noah which of course progressed into friendship and then something better. I also loved reading about Noah’s passion for plants and flowers. I always admire people who have gift and talent for nature. 🙂
Defying Gravity: It was good
This was MEH for me. Probably because I am not really into superheroes, unless they are in movies (and I can ogle the prettiness of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes *lol*).
The Defender of Ruldan: DNF/No Rating
My issue not yours … mainly because this was fantasy with weird names like Ithrean. It just felt off considering the previous stories were all contemporaries. I just couldn’t get into it at all. No rating because it is more of my preference/taste rather than the quality of the story.
Overall Impression: It was good
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.*