Unicorn Favorites: Love's Landscapes Stories : Week Eight

The M/M Romance Group on Goodreads hosts a Don't Read in the Closet event each year where they invite members to submit a photo with a story prompt.  Interested authors then volunteer to write the requested stories, which are published for free for everyone to read.  It's a fun/exciting/stressful process, and a great opportunity to read stories from favorite authors.  And chances are, you'll also discover some new authors, who hopefully have a backlist of goodies to check out :)

This year's event was named Love's Landscapes and they started releasing the completed stories on June first. Here at BMBR, we've been following along on comment threads, anticipating the stories from our favorite prompts, and now greedily reading the stories as they become available.

You can read about some of our favorite stories from earlier weeks of the event here. And as mentioned in earlier posts about this event, the interwebz couldn't handle it if mysterious and magically rare unicorns showed up in our reviews, so we'll just say this week we LOVED Geeking Out on 11C by L.L. Bucknor, before moving on to some of our other  favorites from the eighth week of the event, Jul 20-26:

Breann: Under Pretenses by Jessa Ryan

Whaaaa? That's it? That's THE END? Yer killin' me.

I know it's a goodie when I'm dying for more and yet, I feel completely satisfied with this adorable story.

I loved the slow build and the tension between Mark and Landon before they really even got to know each other. Their attraction from afar was just so cute and apparent through their awkward interactions. They were awesomely awkward.

The dialogue was funny and engaging between all the characters, not just the MC. I especially loved Sam. Which, I think, is a theme amongst reviews for Under Pretenses.

Please, pleasepleaseplease, tell me there's more.


Lori: Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins 

Five Dates is the kind of gooey, yummy short little romance that I adore. Devin just can't stop betting with his little sis - even though he always loses and the forfeits are always embarrassing. This time is no exception, when the team he backed loses he has to agree to five dates, of his sister's choice. Oops.

The first hottie she sets him up with is Jay, and Jay is amazing, but about ten years younger. He's also pissed off because the picture Devin's sister had used of Devin was a decade old.

Fun, sweetness, sexy times and friendship ensue as Devin works his way through his dates and his new friend Jay is never far from the scene.

I would tell anyone who loves a little bit of sweet and fun in their romance to read this. Five stars from me.

Optimist ♰King's Wench♰: Stranded by Lies by Finn Marlowe  

"Are you lonely, Aiden?"
…"Not anymore," he answered.

Did this thing ever start off with a BANG!

"Don't say anything," he ordered. "it's true and we both know it. I don't give a fuck how young you are, and I'm not going to fight it anymore. You're mine now, and I'm going to own you. I'm going to fuck you until you can't walk, until you're so sore you'll be begging to suck my cock so I'll leave you alone for five 
Faptastic Angry Sex! I tell ya that Aiden has a dirty, filthy mouth.

For those not as keen on the smexy times as I there was an actual story with a plot and everything. Aiden and Jase have known each other all of Jase's life. Aiden is half Vish/half human. The Vish's lifespan is quite a bit longer than that of a human. Jase has crushed on Aiden for years and has given up hope of him reciprocating his feelings. The events that transpired which lead up to Jase going on the run also propel the story forward once Aiden tracks him down.

You see, they have to go on a mission which involves a road trip on Route 66. This was like a trip down memory lane for me. I love road trips. The trip to Santa Fe has become somewhat of a Christmas tradition, so when I read Tucumcari, I squeaked. I've been to the Cadillac cemetery and stopped to see the petroglyphs. The music was an excellent accompaniment for any decent road trip, so Stranded by Lies made me a bit nostalgic.

The glimpse we get into the Vish as a society is imaginative and one I wouldn't mind exploring further. I'm always amazed by those creative types who can envision these things. Finn did an excellent job of translating her ideas to the page. The action/adventure aspects were entertaining with all the cryptic clues and whatnot.

Jase is hilarious! Aiden aka ginger bossy dude is bossy. He's also patient, so not an alpha hole.

Jesus. What the hell was wrong with me? No way did I have an inner submissive dying to get out- and if I did, I was going to kill him. With fire.
Aiden and Jase's relationship is complex and beautiful. Not a drop of instalove. They're both gaga about each other and that oozes off the page.

The dialogue is fresh and funny. The story captivated me. The ending is… sort of cliffy. Well, maybe open-ended is more accurate. All of it was great, great, great, but the sex…

My secret desire was no longer secret. I was his. Tied, dominated, and used. My body wasn't mine anymore, it was Aiden's.
Scoot! Get to reading it already. ;)

SheReadsALot: My African Prince by Vona Logan

Zithembe Kekana, also known as Zee, is an African prince and black lion shifter. He's the future ruler of his pride. He's protected by his best friend and second in command, Ben, and has a lot of his shoulders trying to play the future leader role. He puts the pride first above all things, runs a wildlife park with little complaint. But there's just one thing. Zee is gay. He know his lion shifter pride would never accept a gay king. So other than his best friend knowing, he hides who he is.

The new groundskeeper, Luka Petrov, is 6'5", blonde and super hot. And a shifter in his own right (it's kinda of a mystery that gets solved within the story- his animal is pretty hot). Luka is taller than Zee, different than Zee...and Zee's mate.

The story delves into a tried and true plot theme - you're my mate, I need to deny it, but damn do I need to jump your bones, no matter our differences or that I'm in the closet. This story delivered enough of the main characters feelings that I could ignore the short time frame that passed. I usually do when mates/bonded pairs are involved.

This prompt was excellent. And it was given to the right author to breathe life into it. I am so excited from the moment I read the legend/fairy tale prologue.

It was a joy reading this story. What I also found refreshing was that this was not cliche IR that played into stereotypes. And the hot alpha sex? *nods head slowly and licks lips* Smutty goodness...biting, mating, hot smexing...oh yes. Hint: (view spoiler)

There's some minor angst that was expected. Does love prevail or that yucky closet and its unfair strictures? Guess you'll just have to read to find out.

I hope the author does consider carrying on with sequel with Ben as the lead, the other gay lion deserves to have a HEA just as happy as Zee and Luka. That little teaser at the end has got me anxious. ;)

Major thanks to the author (I'll be checking out other works from her), the prompter and the team behind this story! This is definitely one of my favorites from this event.

Sunny: Stranded by Lies by Finn Marlowe 

A bossy alpha with a serious talent for dirty talk and a boy who protests too much, but secretly (not at all secretly) loves it all.
“Are you hard? Again?”
“No,” I muttered.
And man, did they argue. Aiden knew exactly how to handle Jason, though, and all those hot emotions often led to some fiery sex. The bickering, the bantering, it was all so well done. I was impressed with all the dialogue, actually, especially Jason's. He cracked me up with some of his comments and thoughts.

The world Finn created was fascinating, with aliens living on Earth, hidden from most humans. It took me awhile to understand the timeline because information came slowly, in bits and pieces, but as I learned more of the back story, things became more clear.

The story itself was intriguing and kept my interest. I can't wait to read more, and based on the ending of this story, we'll be getting more. OMG, tell me we are getting more!!!

Favorite quote:
"Are you lonely, Aiden?"
..."Not anymore," he answered.
Side notes:

I liked getting Aiden's POV, but after being in Jason's head for so long, it took awhile to get used to a new voice, especially because Aiden's thoughts were milder than I expected, not quite as bossy. Which makes sense because he wouldn't think he was bossy, but Jason totally would :)