Book Reviews

Simmer (Anthology) at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Mixed Time Periods/Genres / Erotic Romance
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 25-February-2016

Book Blurb

There’s no denying preparing and eating food can be a sensuous experience and an experiment in pleasure. The men in these stories are about to find out just how satisfying it can be. From spicy to sweet and everything in between, things are heating up in the kitchen… and in the diner, on the food court, over the Internet, and even at a breakfast booth beyond the stars. Join them as they touch, taste, sample, and savor their way to steamy romance and maybe even a happy ever after that will last long after the dishes have been cleared.


The Cake by Ann Marie James
All Is Well by Dale Cameron Lowry
Another Saturn Monday by R.A. Thorn
Man of Steel by Rob Rosen
Breakfast at Timothy’s by T.J. Masters
A Second Season by Tali Segel
Kneading You by C.S. Poe
If You Give an Incubus a Cookie by Ki Brightly
Moon Cakes by T. Neilson
Tortilla Pie by Rick R. Reed
Taste of the Forest, Dark and Sweet by Charles Payseur
Operation Wild Thumb by Tray Ellis
And Everything Nice by Ada Maria Soto


Book Review

An anthology filled with stories based on the premise that “…preparing and eating food can be a sensuous experience and an experiment in pleasure…”? Is there anything more delightful for a foodie like myself? Not much! As I read these stories I was impressed with the variety of settings, foodstuffs involved, and the authors’ imaginations about the situations these lucky characters find themselves in.  Most of these stories are contemporary, but a few paranormal beings and a couple of men from the far future pop in as well. All of them are gourmets in one way or another, with no resistance to food whatsoever. The ingredients and recipes are varied and I loved the veritable smorgasbord of treats offered in this collection.

I do have to give fair warning though – make sure you are not hungry when you read these stories. But even if you don’t start out on an empty stomach you might find yourself tempted to nibble on some treat… These tasty little bites of wordsmithery are just that delightful!

The Cake by Ann Marie James
What a perfect opening story for this anthology. In a hilarious yet sweet tale of “Marine versus cake” it is, for once, not the Marine who is winning. Much to Kirk’s disgust the cake defeats him at every turn and he is ready to buy instead of making one. But his niece requested he make one and she has already lost so much – how can he disappoint her? Kirk is a newly minted guardian to his sister’s daughter and has not received any training. Poor guy! At least what he does have is a fellow single father’s phone number, and when he calls Eric, the neighbor-three-houses-down-the-street is only too happy to assist. The scenes that follow as they get rid of all traces of the “cake murder” and Eric sets out to give Kirk the “sleepover training” the poor man so desperately needs are funny, sweet, and result in a very promising make-out session on the sofa once the girls and their many snacks seem to be asleep.

If you like to see former Marines face new challenges, if two single fathers figuring out how to raise little girls sounds like fun, and if you’re looking for a sweet read with lots of humor, then you will probably like this short story as much as I did.

All Is Well by Dale Cameron Lowry
Food plays a central role in uniting Kyle, a missionary who is also talented in the kitchen, and Tanner, his companion on part of their two-year mission. Both young men have been raised in the Mormon tradition and are determined to finish their missions - a time of bringing the Mormon message to nonbelievers while watching each other to ensure they remain celibate. As they get to know each other better, and Tanner develops romantic feelings for Kyle despite all his efforts to the contrary, they begin to think about the value of ending up in a heaven that Kyle has already decided is not for him. I admired how they were able to keep their faith and spirituality, even though they diverged from official teachings. Not an easy thing to do, but their love for each other makes it possible – necessary even for their happiness.

If you like stories about the role of faith in people’s lives, if you believe that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and if you’re looking for a sweet read full of angst but ending in a very happy place, then you will probably like this short story.

Another Saturn Monday by R.A. Thorn
To see today’s travel issues - like public transportation delays, appalling traffic, and budget cuts – transferred to interplanetary space is hilarious. Granted, these issues may happen in the future, but most science fiction stories assume those problems will be solved by the time we build space stations orbiting Saturn and the other planets in our solar system. Not so in this case. Theo is the narrator of this story that begins when he discovers a Hirculian stall in the food court where he works. The descriptions of interstellar cuisine and the various aliens battling for seats in the food court are funny, but Theo’s careful exploration of the cabbage-based Hirculian cuisine (since cabbage is the only vegetable that grows on that colony planet) is extremely entertaining. Theo, with his shy demeanor, and Ekain, with his dedication to making interesting cabbage dishes, steal the show though. A misunderstanding almost ends the romance before it begins, but luck is on their side in the end.

If you like cross-cultural relationships, if you’re curious about cabbage dishes, and if you’re looking for a read that is as fun as it is entertaining, with the tiniest touch of angst, then you will probably like this short story as much as I did.

Man of Steel by Rob Rosen
Scott is a foodie, and he is extremely curious about what kind of restaurant might be opening in the currently empty place in his neighborhood. His thoughts about past establishments there – none successful – as well as his speculations about what might be next made me laugh out loud. So much of “wining and dining” is pretentious that it was a relief, as well as very funny, to read about a much more down-to-earth perspective. But when Scott meets the new proprietor, Monty, and realizes the cuisine is “Jewish”, he is thrown for a loop. Not to be daunted by the fact that he has never tasted anything on the menu, he courageously tries everything on the sample platter that Monty ordered for him. And when he is invited back for dessert after closing by the equally interested and eager Monty - things heat up!

If you like food adventures, if you want to find out more about the delightful foods offered by Jewish cuisine, and if you’re looking for a read that is hilarious, sweet, and might make you hungry, then you will probably like this short story as much as I did.

Breakfast at Timothy’s by T.J. Masters
Anyone into different types of breakfast and curious about the variety or recipes and dishes available will find plenty of yumminess in this story. Post-graduate geology student Connor doesn’t know what hit him when one Monday morning meeting with his potential academic advisor, eminent geologist Timothy Shaw, turns into a weeklong lesson in preparing various breakfast dishes and discussions about a lot more than geology. The sexual tension increases day by day until it boils over into passion on Thursday, and their discussions take a whole new direction. Wonderful!

If you like breakfast, if you want to find out more about two men who are ideally suited to be partners but might not have realized if not for the older man’s determination, and if you’re looking for a read that is as entertaining and hunger-inducing as it is sweet and hot, then you will probably like this short story.

A Second Season by Tali Segel
Second chances, or second seasons, come in many different shapes. For Chris and Drew it happens when they reunite at Drew’s about-to-fail B&B. Much has happened for both men since high school and a shared home economics class, and they quickly discover they still share a love of food. Drew has been living in the countryside and loves the quiet, as well as working with local ingredients. He isn’t good at attracting customers. Chris has just been fired but his talent for marketing tells him the B&B could go far with just a little nudge in the right places. But most of all, the crush that never turned into anything back when they were teenagers is now ready to blossom, and their passion is stronger than ever. All they need is for Drew to be sure this is not a one-night stand, and for Chris to believe that he and his help are welcome.
 
If you like reunions, if two men who both love food seem like they belong together, and if you’re looking for a read that is as yummy as it is wistful and full of longing, then you might like this short story.

Kneading You by C.S. Poe
Small towns have their own kind of charm, and so do antique libraries in need of rescue. Well, at least they do for me, so by the time the baking of bread was mentioned, I was looking forward to reading this story. And what a treat it turned out to be! Christopher is ready to leave the big city behind and wants to make his new home in a small town. The job of taking over the town library (after the previous librarian passed away) is ideal for him, but it may not last long. There are budget issues and plans to tear it down to make room for a shopping center. Christopher needs help with repairs, so he engages Miles, but the good-looking repairman has other skills – he bakes the most divine bread. Both men are interested in each other, and teaming up proves to be a good idea for more than one reason, not just because kneading dough together is fun.

If you like sweet men who fight the odds, if a small-town library makes your blood flow faster, and if you’re looking for a read that contains a touch of suspense but is otherwise very sweet, then you will probably like this short story.

If You Give An Incubus a Cookie by Ki Brightly
Cookies as part of the road to salvation? Yes please! I felt sorry for incubus Hal. He may lead a long life and remain forever young and good-looking, but the price he pays is high. No personal relationship, no love in his life, and damned to steal small amounts of life force from the men he f*cks for money. Then there is Porter, who is in many ways the exact opposite. He has been rejected by his parents as he refuses to agree to the arranged marriage waiting for him if he ever returned home. But he makes a living baking and selling cookies and, on the whole, he is happy. His secret is one he has been able to hide and he can live with it. All he needs is a date with his most loyal customer. What better opportunity than Valentine’s Day to ask for a date? I could see how this would end, but it was wonderful to watch Hal and Porter figure it out.

If you like supernatural beings who try to fit into human society, if you want to watch two men who never thought they’d find love figure out they were made for each other, and if you’re looking for a read with a touch of mystery, and a whole lot of fantastic-sounding cookies, then you will probably like this short story.

Moon Cakes by T. Neilson
A lot of hilarious stuff happens on YouTube, so I can well imagine a “naked cooking show”. For all I know, one already exists! The way the author describes Connor’s setup in this story is so realistic, and the reason for starting it – a bet – sounds just right, it made me laugh. He has given up his day job, slaving away in someone else’s kitchen and has spent a year becoming more successful and garnering followers. But now he faces criticism from one particularly annoying “contributor” who tweaks his recipes, dwindling ratings, and far more stress than fun, Connor worries about his future. Then his attempts to date lead to meeting Reuben and things change abruptly. Reuben is exactly who he needs and the man he fears most all in one attractive package. The way they go at each other, no holds barred, is hilarious, and once they figure out what is what, more than fun is back in the kitchen.

If you like the idea of a “naked cooking show”, if two men who are passionate about food and cooking strike your fancy, and if you’re looking for a read that is as entertaining as it is hilarious, then you will probably like this short story as much as I did.

Tortilla Pie by Rick R. Reed
Tortilla pie sounds delicious, and I’ll have to try some the first time I encounter it on a menu. For Josh, who is twenty-five, has a job, and volunteers in TeenCare’s kitchen, it seems to be a staple food and one he enjoys helping to make for the homeless kids they feed on the weekend. Anderson is one of those kids, but he is about to turn twenty-one and knows he will no longer be able to pick up a meal there once he does. Anderson is a survivor and is okay with not having a home, but he realizes that not all “homed” guys will be able to deal with or overlook the fact that he lives on the street. The thing is, once the two men meet, they both realize they are interested in more than talking, and since the no-fraternization rules stop applying after Anderson’s birthday… it opens the door for them getting to know each other better. The hopeful note at the end of the story was great, but I wanted more! Anderson and Josh are so different, yet potentially very good for each other, and I want to find out how they deal with the budding relationship that only just begins with this glimpse of their lives.

If you like stories where food brings together men who might otherwise never have met, if you enjoy being tantalized by the sweet beginnings of a romance, and if you’re looking for a read that is as heartwarming as it is short, then you will probably like this short story.

Taste of the Forest, Dark and Sweet by Charles Payseur
“Dark and sweet” is exactly what this story is like. It starts out with Bastion, a chef who is trying to make a success of his restaurant, trying to impress a famous food critic. Instead one of his sous chefs cuts herself and the evening goes down the drains. Colin, the line chef, helps out and while he helps manage the disaster, Bastian tries one of his sauces. One he is not familiar with- and it’s his kitchen! This one taste has all sorts of consequences, not least him breaking rules he isn’t even aware of, Colin trying to stop him, and Bastian refusing to give up the dream of sharing his kitchen and the creative process that goes into designing food experiences. While there is some darkness in what happens, the ending is very sweet and hopeful.

If you like your romances to come with a supernatural twist, if two men who are not supposed to meet, never mind staying together, sound intriguing, and if you’re looking for a read with a touch of darkness and lots of yummy foods, then you will probably like this short story.

Operation Wild Thumb by Tray Ellis
Playing pranks may usually be associated with kids and teenagers, but I have to say, this story about two adults thinking up “Operation Wild Thumb” was hilarious. The whole thing starts with an overabundance of zucchini and squash from their garden. Most people would pickle or gift them, maybe think about selling them or donating them to a homeless shelter. Not so Heath and his sister, Sara. They tried the pickling thing the previous year, and agree this year the overabundance is too significant to try that again. Giving them away carries the risk of people refusing them, and it could take a long time to get them all done. So what do they decide? They’re going to leave them all on people’s doorsteps in the middle of the night so nobody will know where they came from. Hilarious, right? But it gets funnier when one of the so gifted is awake and catches Heath leaving a “phallic object” on his doorstep. What follows is a polite introduction and Alex joining the dark forces. Even better, when they are done Alex sticks around and tests Heaths zucchini pancakes, also known as latkes. Charming!

If you like stories about pranks and getting caught, if two men who met under cover of darkness seem like fun, and if you’re looking for a read that is entertaining and might make you smile, then you will probably like this short story.

And Everything Nice by Ada Marie Soto
I know it’s not very nice of me to laugh about computer programmer Angelo’s increasingly interesting attempts to get tech writer Simon to try one of his cakes, but this story had me in stitches. Poor Angelo was trying so hard because he can only ask someone out while they are eating one of his creations. Whenever he attempted it without the protection of cookies or cake, disaster followed. He’s pretty ingenious about the things he tries, but nothing works. Until he manages to confront Simon, both desperate by now but equally unable to ask each other for a date. And what he finds out may just be the recipe for success Angelo has been looking for…

If you like to read about nerds and their social issues, if the idea of a man attracting someone by using his baking skills seems like a good idea, and if you’re looking for a read that is as hilarious as it is yummy, then you will probably like this short story as much as I did.

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Anthology/13 short stories, 310 pages/107770 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 24-February-2016
Price $6.99 ebook, $17.99 paperback, $17.99 bundle
Buy Link https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/simmer-5594-b