Category Archives: short stories

Book Review: The Dog Days of December, by Kim Fielding

Alone in a new town, psychology professor Shawn Daly has resigned himself to a quiet, solitary Christmas. Then he nearly runs over a stray dog. She’s not seriously injured—but it turns out she has other plans for Shawn’s winter break. And that cute guy down the block with the friendly Newfoundland dog? Turns out he’s a big part of those plans.

Dogs may bring shedding fur and a heap of responsibilities. But they may also be just the right thing to give the holidays—and a love life—some sparkle.

Rating: 5 our of 5!

The Dog Days of December, by Kim Fielding

As much as I love m/m romances, I admit I’m not a fan of the annual slew of Christmas/holiday-themed books that come out each year. Bah, humbug. I am, however, a big fan of Kim Fielding. She has written some of my favorite books, including Rattlesnake, the Bones series, and The Bureau series. I was looking for a light “palate cleanser” after my last read, and so I picked up this novella, which Fielding mentioned in her newsletter.

The story starts and ends with the POV of a dog, Abby. This sets the tone and suggests not to take things too seriously. Of course, I’m a dog person, so I was instantly won over. I’m also a sucker for stories where the main characters aren’t young, beautiful, and buff. Shawn is a psychology professor in his 40s; Austin is a bearish fellow of a similar age who works in the university’s IT department.

Even though the story is short, I really enjoyed seeing these two slowly getting to know each other and struggle to take the leap past friendship. It’s sweet, adorkable, and captures the spirit of season. I definitely enjoyed this one!

Short Story Review: Bisclavret, by K.L. Noone

https://www.jms-books.com/images/bisclavret.jpg

A very long time ago, in the very old forests of Brittany, a werewolf loved a king …

The Lord Bisclavret has a secret. A family enchantment. A wolf’s curse, transforming him when the moon is full. He hopes to be a good lord for his people, and he’s always been a loyal king’s man, even if the new king is inexperienced and scholarly. But one betrayal might leave him trapped in wolf-shape forever … unless his king can save him.

Andreas would rather be a University scholar than a king, and has no interest in a royal marriage — desire’s always come slowly, if at all. But he loves his kingdom, so he’ll try to protect it, even when rumors of a man-killing wolf spread across his land. He’ll pick up a sword and go out on a hunt, and hope to keep his people safe.

But the wolf has the eyes of a man, and the scholar-king’s knowledge of folklore and fairy-stories might break a werewolf’s curse … with the help of love.

Very loosely based on the twelfth-century story by Marie de France, Bisclavret features a bisexual werewolf lord, a demisexual king who’d rather be a scholar, some exasperated men-at-arms, and very important stolen clothing.

Bisclavret, by K. L. Noone

I generally don’t review short stories but this was so good I’ll make an exception!

What a lovely story. I love so many things about this – the characters, the framing of the story, the sweet side-comments. The love demonstrated between these two men is what I adore most though. Grand, sweeping romantic gestures are nice, but someone who patiently deals with their love’s forgetfulness or silly habits with fondness? That’s a beautiful thing. Also, I always appreciate a demisexual character, and I like how it is explained in context.

Book Review: Rescued (Guardsmen #1.5)/Parker’s Sanctuary (Guardsmen #2), by Cooper West

Greg Lademar is an ordinary and average Army veteran who has settled down with his job as an accountant and his lingering PTSD. He lives a quiet life as a single man, alone on the former blueberry farm he bought from his parents after they retired to Orlando. When a friend who works with animal control asks him to foster Parker, a severely injured dog who has just been rescued from an abusive home, the last thing Greg expects is to be dragged into the mysterious world of the Guardsmen – the bonded pairs of humans and their weredogs, known as Protectors, who are literally the stuff of myths and legends.

Greg’s life is turned upside down by unexpected events involving Parker and the strange Guardsmen pair Marcus and Alex Stephanek, but far more dangerous to him is the man who used to own Parker and holds a grudge for having “his” dog taken from him. A game of cat and mouse ensues, with more on the line than even Greg ever thought possible: his life, and the life of Parker, who has become more important to him than Greg ever imagined a rescue dog could be.

Rescued (Guardsmen #1.5)/Parker’s Sanctuary (Guardsmen #2), by Cooper West

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

This is what I was hoping for! I’m fascinated by the world of Guardsmen, Handlers, and Protectors that West has created, and while the first book (The Protector) didn’t live up to my expectations, this book did and then some!

I’m reviewing the free short story (“Rescued,” which serves as a prequel) together with the book (Parker’s Sanctuary) because in my opinion they really do need to be read together. While the short story is told by Parker, the book is told from Greg’s point of view and I think is a better book because of it.

There’s so many things here to like here. The world-building is great, of course. The characters are sympathetic and interesting. Greg has no idea what he’s getting into, though adapts well as he goes. Parker is shocked to find he’s a Protector (weredog) at an age far older than any Protector has ever manifested and struggles to adapt to new senses, feelings, and a rigid tradition where Protectors are second-class citizens whose lives are controlled by their Handlers. The latter aspect is something I found particularly interesting, and I love how West has built this into the book’s popular culture. I’m very impressed how the author has set up a world with a lot of possible narrative threads to follow. The occasional sex scenes are pretty damn hot, too!

The pacing of the story keeps things moving along at a brisk clip. The suspense builds nicely – the tension and wanting to see how it all worked out kept me up entirely too late reading! My only complaint is a small detail that was thrown in at the last minute that could have used more explanation, but the story did not suffer for it.

It would probably be best to read these in order (The Protector, “Rescued”, Parker’s Sanctuary), even if the first book drags a bit. The payoff in the second book is well worth it. I would recommend this series highly!

Short Story Reviews: Corruption and Marine Biology

I don’t generally review short stories/novellas because (guilty admission here) I don’t generally read short stories/novellas. That said the blurbs on these were interesting enough that they caught my attention. Both are prequels to upcoming series, and I’m pleased to say that I eagerly await both series.


Corruption: A Bureau Story, by Kim Fielding

Once a proud demon of the night sky who carried nightmares to humans, Tenrael has spent decades in captivity as the star attraction of a traveling carnival. He exists in miserable servitude to men who plunk down ten dollars to fulfill their dark desires.

Charles Grimes is half human, half… something else. For fifteen years he’s worked for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs, ridding the country of dangerous monsters. When his boss sends him to Kansas to chase a rumor about a captive demon, Charles figures it’s just another assignment. Until he meets Tenrael.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Set in a rural, Dust Bowl Kansas of the 1930’s, this story creates quite an atmosphere in its 46 pages. The existence of paranormal beings is known, though how common they might be is unsuspected by most people. This is a world that makes me think of washed-out colors, and where there is not much in the way of black and white but many shades of gray.

Fielding gives readers enticing bits of background and character that leaves them wanting more. For me, I wanted to know more about Charles, more about demons, more about other paranormal beings in this world. Interesting side characters appear briefly, hinting at other story threads to be pursued. I am looking forward to reading more of this world and it’s coming at some point since the story ends with “Coming Soon: Clay White – A Bureau Story”.


Marine Biology, by Gail Carriger (San Andreas Shifters 0.5)

Alec is a werewolf with problems – he’s unexpectedly alive, he’s quite definitely gay, and he’s been ordered into a partnership with one very flirty merman.

Rating: 5 out of 5

From the somber setting of Corruption, we move to this much more lighthearted story. Again, in its short 42 pages Carriger sets up an interesting world. This one is like our own, but where shifters of all kinds exist in secret alongside humans.

Alec is a lovable goof who inadvertently transcends stereotypes of all kinds – he’s just contrary that way. He is pulled into an investigation that throws him together with Marvin, a cute and sexy merman. Hijinks ensue, with entertaining wordplay, innuendos, and sexual tension. The story wraps up quickly but I enjoyed it enough that I have already pre-ordered the first book in the San Andreas Shifters, The Sumage Solution, which comes out in mid-July.