Review: Dreamspinner Press' Simmer Anthology by Various Authors

edited by Tricia Kristufek

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 Tam MacNeil
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

I can't tell you how many times I've read a story where the characters are off eating something super delicious and I'm stuck raiding the pantry, because, dammit! They're eating cake for dessert and I really want some too! Instead, I have to make due with Oreo's.

If you're anything like me, this anthology is for you. I won't give you that slice of ooey gooey chocolate cake I now have you craving, but it will give you the recipe to make it! Or something equally as delicious, as each amuse-bouche ends with a recipe that was featured in the story.

The Cake by Ann Marie James 3 stars

Poor Kirk is not good in the Kitchen. After 10 rounds with disastrous cake meant for his niece's birthday, he concedes the fact that he needs help. And STAT. He calls Eric; neighbor, birthday cake maker extraordinaire, and father of Kirk's niece's best friend, to help rescue the birthday. Together, they'll save the party, and find out that the crush they have for one another isn't just one sided.

The result is a cute and humorous story ending at the beginning of their relationship.

A short and promising story that's a nice start to the anthology.

All is Well by Dale Cameron Lowry 4.25stars

Elder Pratt is an amazing cook, and any young man on their mission in the Mormon faith knows they're extremely lucky to be paired with him. Tanner especially, who not only gets along great with Elder Pratt, but happens to think he's exceptionally handsome as well. Tanner knows that in the Mormon faith there are big consequences to loving a man, but he can't change the ever growing feelings he has towards his Mission partner. Somehow they're both going to have to reconcile their faith and their feelings, and see if there's a future for them when their mission ends.

This was a little more religious than I was expecting, but it managed to not come across as preachy in any way. What it was, was a slow burning and sweet romance. It gets a wrapped up and somewhat rushed ending, but a well deserved HEA for our adorable Mormons. A well written and easy read.

Another Saturn Monday by R.A. Thorn 4 stars

Ugh! Saturn traffic is the worst! Routinely stranded at the space station where he works, due to traffic delays, Theo has time to spare, and when hunger gets the best of him, he'll give the Hirculian food stall a shot. It's cabbage, so it's going to be hard to choke down, but the beautiful face serving him helps make it a bit better. Where Theo is shy, Ekain is endearing, and a flirtatious rapport develops between the two. Just when Theo gets the courage to ask Ekain out on a date, a misunderstanding happens, and he thinks he's lost his shot with the handsome Hirculian. When he ends up staying at the station overnight due to a cancelled flight out, it's Ekain that comes to his rescue.

I might not be a fan of cabbage, but I am of this story, that's both cute and entertaining. I wanted to read more, and see how their night ended *waggles eyebrows* but it ended on a promising note all the same.

Theo's opinions on cabbage alone, make it worth the read.

Man of Steel by Rob Rosen 3 stars

Scott is a self proclaimed foodie. At the prospect of a new restaurant opening up, he's stalking the windows, hoping to get a glimpse of what type of cuisine will be offered. When he meets Monty, the restaurant owner, he discovers that maybe he hasn't tried every food that there is. Jewish is certainly something he's never even heard of (Ha! And he calls himself a foodie!) but with Monty's encouragement, he returns on opening day to see what the fuss is about. Together, he and Monty will make their way through the very large sample platter, and Monty will invite Scott back after closing for some "dessert".

The title comes from Monty's good looks, since not only can he cook, but he looks like Clark Kent.

*sighs* If only I had that man in my kitchen.

It's a cute, short story. Not much happens in it, but it did leave me wanting some Apple Kuchen.

Breakfast at Timothy's by T.J. Masters 4 stars

Someone's got the hots for teacher!

I'm not going to lie, this one was a bit strange. But then again, so was Professor Timothy Shaw, who answers questions with more questions, and is notorious for his breakfast meetings. When Connor meets him to ask him to be his PhD supervisor, he expected a fantastic breakfast meal, but he didn't expect the meeting to end without talk of his school work. Or an invite back for breakfast the next day. More days pass and there's still no talk of whether the Professor will take Connor's request, but there is an underlying current that Connor can't put his finger on.

Professor Shaw can't possibly be hitting on him, can he?

It's bad enough he has the hots for teacher, he doesn't know what he'll do if it's reciprocated.

Timothy's seduction is a bit strange, but overall, this was a really entertaining read.

Probably the best thing that came from this story is Connor's life motto:

“Limits are for testing, boundaries are for crossing... Earth is for exploring and life is for living.”

On a side note, I could totally go for some french toast right now...

A Second Season by Tali Segal 4 stars

The smell of apple cider is amazing right? On a cold/crisp day, there's nothing better, and that smell is what hits Chris the moment he walks into the kitchen of Maple Creek Bed & Breakfast. He may have just recently lost his job writing reviews for restaurants, but once a foodie, always a foodie, and Drew's B&B has everything that brings the feeling of childhood joy to the forefront. It's no surprise that he's going to do what he can to help Drew save his floundering business, and it just so happens that there's a sizzling chemistry between the two that offers even more incentive to help the man out. They knew each other in high school, and where they didn't have the chance to explore their feelings then, now they have all the time in the world, if, Drew can accept Chris's help and Chris decides to take a leap of faith in the life department.

Sweet and spicy, just like apple cider, this story was warm and cozy, with a promising ending, and two characters I would love to read more about.

Kneading You by C.S. Poe 4 stars

Moving from the big city to a small town brings it's own set of challenges, but Chris is up to the task and looking forward to it. However, he's about to take on his biggest challenge yet - he has to save a library by bring it up to modern standards, but do it with a budget much smaller than the one he needs. Despite the fact that there are some people in the town who can't wait for him to fail, he has a few allies, and one of them is the sexy, tattooed handyman, helping out with the library repairs.

Miles is a man of mystery to most people, but not to Chris, who sees beyond the taciturn, to the man with the quiet smiles, who loves to bake, and who expresses himself through actions.

Chris is smitten, and so was I. These two are just so cute together and I would love to see more of them. This is a sweet and sexy read, where Miles will bake up a miracle for his librarian, and you'll be left with that warm feeling of community, and almost smelling the scent of freshly baked bread.

If You Give an Incubus a Cookie by Ki Brightly 4.25 stars

Poor Hal is cursed to live his immortal life stealing a little life from his sexual partners. He tries to lessen the guilt of what he is, by choosing men whose shortened life wouldn't be such a bad thing, but the weight of what he is still weighs heavily on him. His one bright spot in his day is the stunning man who sells cookies out of his mobile cookie truck. Porter has his own secret. Where Hal takes life, Porter is brimming with it. He gives life to the plants around him, and his home looks like his own personal rainforest. Winter in Pennsylvania is hard enough, but for a creature like him, it's an ansty horrible feeling of excess energy with no outlet.

When Porter asks Hal out for a date on Valentine's day, Hal is quick to say no. He's not about to ruin the one good thing in his life, but things will work out for these two in the most delicious way.

It was great to see Hal get his much deserved HEA, and Porter's reaction to Hal was all sorts of wonderful. This story is as warm and gooey as a chocolate chip cookie, and as spicy as Porter's curry. I really wanted to read more of them together, and was really hoping there was a teeny tiny epilogue in there. A definite re-read for me in the future.

Moon Cakes by T. Neilson 3 stars

What once started as a joke, has now become an internet sensation, as Connor bares his buns weekly on his cooking show. Wearing nothing but an apron (where do I subscribe?!) he prepares a recipe dish for the public, on his web show, Bitch, Peas.

What used to be fun, is now more of a chore, and he's pretty burnt out on it, and with life really. He's looking to be happy in more than just his career choice, and a date with Reuben from a dating app may change all of that for him.

Reuben is more than just a date, he's also the man who's been posting revisions of Connor's recipes on the Bitch, Peas forms. And he's also has a wealth of wisdom that Connor might not want to hear, but needs to.

Reuben is going to give Connor some food for thought about where his priorities really should lay, and how to get on track to being happy again.

This is a low/no steam story that's still entertaining. It's an easy read and well written. Bonus points for the best dog name I've heard in awhile: Biscuit 'N Gravy ;)

Tortilla Pie by Rick R. Reed 2 stars

Josh volunteers his weekends cooking meals for TeenCare, a homeless shelter reaching out to the homeless 21 and under. It's rewarding work, and Josh is all too aware that he has to maintain his boundaries. Getting friendly with any of the kids could mean the end of his work there. But there's something about Anderson's eyes and smile that leaves Josh with butterflies. Anderson is on his last night at the shelter; come the next day he'll be 21. He decides to take a leap of faith and pursue something with Josh. It's difficult to cross his own rules and boundaries, and try for a relationship with someone who has a home, and comes from a different place than he does, but he wants to give it a shot.

The result is a sweet story with the beginning of a blossoming relationship.

The rating of this story is completely on me. I couldn't connect to it, probably because there were too many asides in the narration. I also found it a bit too cliche and too clinical. Sometimes it read like a how-to/how-to-not manual, instead of a story that breached the economic and racial divide.

Taste of the Forest, Dark and Sweet by Charles Payseur 4.5 stars

Bastian has the hots for his line chef, Colin, but doesn't have the time to contemplate action before things take a turn for the weird. After tasting a sauce Colin was secretly working on, Bastian finds himself in a weird dream where the forest is large and dark, and there's a house made from a tree. Inside he sees Colin, and has a moment to wonder why Colin isn't naked, after all, this is his dream. Colin should be naked.

But it's not a dream. And now rules have been broken. This is a world Bastian knows nothing about, but Colin does, so he removes himself from memory and the mortal world.

With the taste of the sauce still fresh in his mind, Colin finds his culinary muse again, but the memory of Colin teases his periphery. He sets out to find him, and hopefully show him that sharing what you love, and cooking up a bit of magic, might be worth breaking the rules.

Taste of the Forest was a delightful urban fantasy that read longer than it was, and has a recipe that I really want to try. It might be a little confusing at first, but completely worth the read. I loved this story, and thought it had the perfect ending.

Operation Wild Thumb by Tray Ellis 3 stars

Heath loves to garden, but a rogue Zucchini patch run riot leaves he and his sister wondering what on earth to do with so many vegetables. Deciding that the best plan of action is a practical joke on the neighborhood, he and his sister set off to leave the crops on neighborhood doorsteps, only to be caught by hunky neighbor, Alex. Alex tags along on the joke, and soon it's full steam ahead for the two men. Like literally. It was a bit distracting, really. These two guys go from "Hi! Nice to meet you!" to "Hello! kitchen floor!" in like an hour, tops.

The story itself was sweet and humorous, and even a little steamy, but Heath and Alex were a little difficult to wrap my head around.

I'm also a little disappointed that we didn't get to see the result of the prank played on the neighborhood.

And Everything Nice by Ada Maria Soto 4.5 stars

For seven months, Angelo has tried to seduce Simon with decadent pastries and desserts, only to have Simon refuse to try even a nibble. Who could say no to Angelo's baking? There have been sexual harassment seminars held because of what people have been willing to do to get a slice. Angelo refuses to believe that Simon doesn't want to taste his cake, but he doesn't have the courage to ask him out without pastry somehow being involved. He's always used it as an icebreaker in the past, and without it, he's left stammering and grasping (and missing) opportunities to ask Simon out.

Poor Simon and dessert are not on speaking terms. Between his gluten allergy, dairy and egg allergy, soy allergy, artificial sweetener aversion, (and you don't even want to know what happens if he eats banana)... dessert just isn't in the cards. But Angelo isn't about to give up and is determined to bake him the best brownie possible for his birthday.

The result is a very adorable, slow burning romance, that completely won my heart. Seriously smile inducing, this was my favorite read of the anthology.

... Even though the MC said he was only good at three things, and sex was one of them.

And he clearly had sex, and I wasn't invited.

I mean, it was good, even without the sex, but pervy minds want to know.



It was the perfect story to end this anthology, that was a delight to read.

Are you hungry yet? Because I know I am.

Sugar and spice, and everything sweet, sexy and downright entertaining in this food based anthology that's more than just nice. There's a little something for everyone and helpful little recipes along the way.

Highly recommended!

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

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