Unicorn Favorites: Love's Landscapes Stories : Week Eleven

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 Game On by Olley White, before moving on to some of our other  favorites from the eleventh week of the event, August 10-15:

Lorix: Bird Meets Cage by Anyta Sunday 

This is possibly my favourite prompt of the event, so when it was chosen by one of my favourite authors I began an agonising wait....until, finally, today, I got to read, Bird Meets Cage. I was not disappointed.

While reading it I was transported back in time, my study disappeared and I was in the hot and humid circus field. The descriptions...oh, wow, the descriptions. Each sentence is beautifully crafted, almost lyrical in it's execution, creating the most wonderfully real atmosphere. Stardust & Floss...both as magical as their names. Anyta achieves in 15,000 words what some fail to do in 50...she made me believe in magic, she made me fall in love.

Thank you a million times for this story.

(And the cover...oh, my, god, the cover. Stunning.)

Natasha: Bird Meets Cage by Anyta Sunday  

This story is the single most beautiful, flawlessly romantic story I've read (at least) all year.

Do you like romance? No, not the power-hungry, needy kind I so often find associated with the m/m genre. I'm talking romance. Romance so thick and surreal, it's practically tangible. Romance that starts as a hum, and then, within a moment, there's a full orchestra blaring in your ears. Romance that keeps you up at night thinking about the effect of a few simple word choices.

(This review is spoiler free, except for a few characters real names)

I've loved my share of men. I've loved my Adrien English and his Riordan drama. I've loved Gordon Frost and Adam Blake. I’ve loved my poor Sebastian Swift and Max Prescott. I’ve loved Ty and Zane, and who hasn’t, at some point?
But now it’s time for Stardust and Floss.

Trying to describe Bird meets Cage is like trying to describe what your childhood wants were. Everything. Possibly the whole sky, but probably the earth and the sea, too.

I asked for a cookie, and Anyta Sunday gave me a wedding cake. This story is the child of my prompt from this year’s MMRG event, Love’s Landscapes. I’m not prone to sugar-coating much, and if I thought this story deserved fewer stars, I wouldn’t be afraid to mark it so. But since Goodreads only allows 5 stars, those will have to do. I’ve also added this book to my 100-stars shelf, and Anyta Sunday earned herself every damn one of those.

I’m struggling to say everything I need to, to find some way to thank Anyta for giving me such a beautiful story, but like all great love, my heart can barely comprehend the things my mind wants to say.

Floss, Nathan was such a beautifully real character. His stardust-struck looks had me in an instant, and his sweet, down-to-earth charm made me love him even more. His attitude toward Stardust at both ages was… real.

Stardust, Blue, Jean was everything I wanted him to be, and more. He was quirky and kind and felt just like one of his sparkling cigars—all boom, and pop, and luster, until he finally wore down at the end. He was flawed, and perfect, and one of the only men who was magical enough for Nathan's love.

Danny, my fantastic clown. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. He actually had me laughing with his antics. Anyta Sunday’s writing is so strong, I easily visualized this silly clown doing these devilishly hilarious things, almost like a black and white film playing behind my eyes. And god, did he make me laugh. At a moment when my heart was breaking for Floss, Danny showed up and smoothed everything over. He was dangerously funny, and I felt all his goofiness felt so real for the time this story took place.

My favorite trope in my romance is long-lost lovers, and when I asked for there to possibly be a clown in this story, I was given one of the best clowns that’s ever been written. I was given so much more than I asked for, and I feel so greedy, because I’m taking it all.

Oh, and a moment for the dialogue. God, the dialogue was amazing. Not a single word was uttered that was not needed, and the flow of it was completely seamless. It’s so rare and magical when characters don’t say overly much, but what they do say, is so powerful, that you’re glad you weren’t given filler words.

Thank you, Anyta, for this. I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly rip my heart out of my chest and give it to you, so we’ll never be quite equal in gifts.

Optimist ♰King's Wench♰: Blood in the Water by Tami Veldura

High seas high jinks, battles, some freakiness, some sexy times… I mean…how's a girl to keep up?

Every time I turned around something else was happening! Action packed fails somehow. I tell you what though, I want more. More. MORE! When's part two coming out? Ms. Veldura put me through the wringer and left me dangling on a cliff by my fingernails and yet… I'd do it all over again.

It was awesome. If I smoked, I'd be doing so now.

Eric and Kyros are both pirates with their own ships. Pirate ships. ARRR! There is some sort of history between them which we're not privy to and I'm hopeful at some point will be addressed. Kyros seemingly has been carrying a torch for Eric for some time. What better way to demonstrate ones affection than by shooting at him and putting a huge hole in his sail? Nothing says 'I've missed you' like a hole in the sail and a middle finger.

*smh* Pirates.

Everything that happens from about 13% to 99% I can say nothing about. You should experience it for yourself. I will say most of that time I gaped like a wide mouth bass.

UNLESS it was the sexy times. Then it was more of an 'awww yeah' look.

They didn't make another step toward the bed. Eric pushed him to the wood floor, slicked himself, and staked his claim. Kyros clawed and scratched him closer, faster, harder. He bit what he could reach and cursed what he couldn't. He didn't know how to express the blinding relief flooding his veins with adrenaline.
It is violent, folks. They're pirates. Hello. I think I'm ready to take my pirate training wheels off now and brandish my own pirate sword. I do like the democratic nature of pirate society. I'm not as badass as Araceli, but a few months as a pirate and who knows?
It could happen. >___>

Sunny: Bird Meets Cage by Anyta Sunday 

Yes, I'm throwing my vote to Bird Meets Cage, too.  It was so good!

A bit melancholy, but not depressing.

Such vivid imagery...the sights, the smells, the atmosphere.

Wonderful characterization...distinct personalities, consistently shown thru actions and dialogue. Special nod to Danny, here. What an awesome character :)

So many feels...all those emotions Anyta yanked out of me, so effortlessly, it seemed, and with an economy of words.

So very romantic.

I had quotes all picked out for this review, but they are too special not to be read in the story first.

Because I also loved two other stories, I have to mention them, as well:

I chose Bird Meets Cage because of the incredible writing, but a close second for me was Into the Wastelands by Gywnn Marssen.

My review on Goodreads was overlong, so I won't post it here, but this was a fantastic story with incredible world building and wonderful characters, including a pony :)

And I'm going to add just one more favorite, because I still can't think of it without smiling...

Fleece, Fleas, and Flirtation by Ava Penn

An adorable story about Jace, a human, and Dios, a satyr. 
Caution: tail kink is present :D

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