Magic & Mayhem: Fiction and Essays LGBTQA Romance

Author: Various

Publisher: GRNW Press

Rating: 4.5 stars

Buy Links:  Amazon

Type: Anthology

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb: Everyone deserves to see themselves in stories, to see themselves get a happy ending. For the past few years, GRNW has helped to see those stories reach more of the LGBTQ community, and gain traction is libraries and beyond.

Furthering that goal is this collection of fiction and essays, including information on how to get books in libraries, letters from authors, why positive and happy queer books are so important, and short stories about tattooists, soldiers, mages, and cyborgs that span the LGBTQ spectrum.

STORIES:

“Broken Art,” by Dev Bentham
“Caroline’s Heart,” by Austin Chant
“Demonica,” by Megan Derr
“The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus,” by Ginn Hale
“Fade to Black,” by Josh Lanyon
“Charmed By Chance,” by Alex Powell
“Sun, Moon, and Stars,” by E.J. Russell
“Slack Tide,” by Karelia Stetz-Waters

ESSAYS:

“Romance for the Rest of Us,” by Jessica Blat
“Sad Queer Characters and the Revolution of Joy,” by Austin Chant
“Dear Rose,” by Rose Christo
“How to Get LGBT Romance Books Into Libraries” by Marlene Harris
“So What is “Character-Type Love Match” Anyway?” by Nicole Kimberling
“My Road to Romance,” by Susan Lee
“To My Future Self,” by EE Ottoman
“What I’ve Learned,” by Jordan Castillo Price
“Dear Len,” by Radclyffe
“A Letter to My Former Self,” by Rick R. Reed
“Five Things We Learned Running A Queer Romance Event (and the One Thing We Still Need to Do)” by Tracy Timmons-Gray (That’s me.)

Group review by Faye, BookSmitten, and Whit

 

Review:  The new Magic & Mayhem anthology from GRNW Press is not pure fantasy. It includes several non-fiction essays in addition to the short stories. One of the big things that stands out in these essays is that LGBTQ fiction has come a long way. LGBTQ fiction has become an industry. Another thing that stands out is the industry still has a long way to go. Gay romance is the biggest part of the LGBTQ fiction industry. If you’re not a white, able bodied, gay male there is a fairly strong likelihood you’re not going to see yourself represented accurately all that often. We need to do better than that. We know we can increase representation as we’ve done it before. And ask your local library to stock your favorite titles! Please!

Charmed by Chance: Merritt has a type. He falls for Mech mages. It ends poorly. Even as he’s having his hand fixed because his last mage girlfriend messed with it as she left he’s attracted to the mage fixing him. They’re just so attractive and mysterious. Their nametag says Verity. Merritt knows he wants to date Verity. Despite some attempts by his ex to sabotage the budding relationship, Merritt and Verity are going out on a date. Merritt is attacked and loses his prosthetic arm. Verity does their best to help Merritt.

Even if we have a type people are not a type. Verity was certainly a Mech mage, but they were not the same as the people Merritt had dated in the past. Merritt found out it wasn’t so much that he had dated mech mages in the past that was the problem, but he had dated people that were not very nice.

Broken Art:  Jim has spent his life in the military. Now he’/ preparing to re-enter civilian life, but before he embarks on his last tour he has some unfinished business to fix. Jim can’t bear the thought of beginning his life outside the military with the tattoo he has carried since the early years of his service, a tattoo he is too ashamed of to show anyone. Now he has come to Broken Art Tattoos to have it covered with something that has meaning. Over ten hours spent with Andy, the tattoo artist, creates a bond between the two men. Maybe one that runs deeper than either of them could have expected.

Even as short as it was, I really loved this story. I was drawn into Jim’s tale from the first line and I absolutely believed in the connection that built between these two men in those hours. The beautiful, succinct writing created that almost magical, dreamlike intimacy you often get with late night conversations. I became completely invested in both of the characters very quickly and was left wanting more in the best possible way.

Fade to Black: Ghost is leaving his tattoo shop when he encounters an odd man waiting for him in the shadows. He soon learns that they have met before as the man, Gene, reveals an early example of Ghost’s work tattooed on his chest from twenty years ago. After Gene’s good-natured refusal to allow Ghost to fix the old tattoo, they part ways. It turns out to be a brief parting, as Ghost runs into Gene once again when he stops in for dinner at Luau Louie’s.

Fade To Black is a nice little story about fate and second chances. While for Ghost, the memory of his and Gene’s original encounter had long since faded, for Gene it had been something special with the right person in the wrong time and place. The chance sighting of Ghost in his shop felt like fate for Gene, how could he not take the opportunity to see if maybe now was the right time and right place with the person he had always felt was the one for him? I enjoyed the exploration of the idea of random chance being fate providing possibilities. It’s up to the players if they choose to take the possibility provided and turn it into a future together.

Demonica: This was an excellent short story I would be thrilled if the author chose to continue as a series but at the same time felt really good about the story as a whole. There’s history between the MC, and the family of the man he’s hired to rescue. Life changing history. Even though it’s a short I felt the weight of that history without the author burdening the story with it overtly. There are princes to save! Demonica was action packed with fantastically vivid characters that I loved. The world building was great. I’m totally intrigued. Monks. Magic. Forbidden magic. Kings and Queens. Demons and mercenaries. A sweet love story without sex. I didn’t miss it at all. Physical intimacy isn’t just sex and I think this story if continued could prove that well. It is kind of insta love but it worked given the length of the story and the characters round about history together. I thought this story was really good. I was drawn in from the first page. There’s quite a few laughs thrown in there too. An excellent short story. I would love to read more. I loved this one!

The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus:  This was an amazingly rich tale about two women who have found respite hiding out in a magic show. They’re in a relationship but it’s new and their past means they’ve kept certain aspects secret form each other. Those secrets don’t stay hidden when Guela the magician assistant and love interest takes a job from 3 powerful women looking for a missing woman. It leads Abril our MC who has great skills in magic right back into the nightmare man from her past. If they want to escape their pasts for the life and freedom they’ve been dreaming of they have to face the man Abril has been running from.

This was am amazing magic filled steampunk short story. The world building was fantastic just like I’ve come to expect from Ginn Hale. The romance between the women was sweet and tenuous. I loved how I felt a very real fear and complete disgust about what the bad guys were trying to do to women. This story is told on the cusp of women gaining right’s and how fragile that time was. I understand that but I loved how our MCs who are the outlaws in the this story are ultimately the woman who handle the tough situation they find themselves in. They save the day! This one is fantastic and is a must read. Don’t let the love story being about two women keep you away. You’ll be missing out on a great story. Must read IMO.

Slack Tide:  This story is about a woman coming back from 4 years of service. She’s coming back to a woman she discovered wanted her the night before she left. Her sister’s best friend no less. It was sweet and you could tell the MCs cared for each other. They’d held out hope they’d be together again. The problem for me was it felt like a short. I can’t say it’s memorable or that I was at all engaged in the outcome of their story together. It wasn’t bad. Sweet but nothing to rave about.

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