The problem with anthology is that the best has to compensate for the worst, and sometimes that is some awfully heavy lifting.
Riptide Rentboys: The 2012 Collection features three stories: “Cruce de Caminos,” by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, “Priceless” by Cat Gran, and “Where You Hurt the Most” by Anne Brooke and Fiona Glass’s “Necessity’s Door.” Each of the stories takes the idea of a man-of-the-night and uses it as a springboard. Some of these stories work to better effect than others.
The best story in the bunch is probably “Priceless” by Cat Gran. The story follows Connor, a straitlaced, overly serious college professor who is being pursued by a young student named Wes at a local convention. Though Connor avoids Wes’s advances, it eventually comes out that Wes was hired to pursue Connor by Connor’s best friend in an effort to have Connor let his hair down and have some fun. Well, Wes gets into trouble with a rough john, but because of his dire financial situation, he can’t afford to do anything about it. That is, until Wes beats the guy up and comes to his rescue. This story is definitely more romance than erotica, but because of its emphasis on actual story line and character, it remains memorable and sweet. You end up caring about both of the main characters, and you root for them to get together in the end. If anything this story is more short novel than short story.
I also have a soft spot for “Where You Hurt the Most” by Anne Brooke. This story follows a higher class rentboy who entertains certain clients with special needs in his house. He’s the perfect courtesan, but he keeps his heart hidden away. Anywho, his boss wants him to take care of the boss’s cousin Dan. Dan was injured in a car accident and hides his scars behind an over-sized hoodie. The cat and mouse routine that unfolds over this story is delightful to read and very sweet, and let’s not kid ourselves: Anne Brooke can write a bedroom scene.
The other two stories in the collection…it’s not that they’re bard. It’s just that they don’t rise to the level of the other half of the collection. “Necessity’s Door” is a convoluted tale of an undercover gay vice cop and “Cruce de Caminos” places a voodoo spin on the gay-for-pay world. While the stories progress quickly, they didn’t hold my interest or my attention nearly as well as the first two stories.
Overall, this collection is a strong if a little uneven first offering in this series. I look forward to this becoming a yearly collection from Riptide.
JMF Rating: 6.4/10 (8/10 for the two good stories).
‘Til next time,
Note: This book was received from NetGalley in exchange for a review.