Group Review: One Pulse Anthology by Various Authors

Stories drive life. Sometimes life is good; sometimes life is bad. But it’s the nature of our community that in the aftermath of an act of hatred, we respond with love. Because darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. Cruelty cannot stand against compassion. Negativity will never overcome hope.

To show our support for those affected by the Orlando shooting, our authors, editors, artists, and staff have volunteered their talents to create this anthology. All proceeds will be donated to LGBT organizations in central Florida. Join us as we celebrate the triumph of love over every obstacle.

We unicorns pride ourselves on not taking life too seriously. We try to have a good time because we feel reading about queer people falling in love should be fun, but on that fateful day in June we felt the loss as acutely as so many others. On June 12th a madman snuffed out 49 beautiful unicorn lights in an act of senseless violence.

So on this day when you're with family or friends eating too much, watching football and maybe arguing about brussel sprouts or sweet potatoes vs. mashed potatoes maybe take a moment to remember the ones left behind who are spending their first Thanksgiving without their partner, friend, son, daughter, sister or brother. And maybe, if you have the means or the time, pick an LGBT+ charity and donate your time or your money in an effort to stem the tide of hate for those 49 and their loved ones whose lives will never be the same.

4.2142 Average to be exact!

Sara’s Reviews

For the First Time 4.5 Hearts by Ellis Carrington

This is my most favorite trope in romance ever! The unrequited love of best friends and this one just turned me into a puddle of goo.

If I hadn’t grown up right next door to Wyatt, I’d be invisible. The kids I tutor pretend they don’t know me outside study hours. Everyone but him.

Wyatt and Gary have been next door neighbors and best friends for years. Wyatt is the jock with girls waiting to be on his arm and Gary is the smart boy that goes unnoticed by everyone but his best friend. The thing is though Gary has the hots for his BFF and before they head off to college, he asks for a room assignment – NOT with Wyatt – which totally pisses Wyatt off. Gary can’t deal being roommates and seeing Wyatt go off with girl after girl while he’s in serious want of his best friends D so he figures if he puts space between them, he’ll get over it. Right? UGHHHHH! I loved this so much, it’s super sweet with how they deal with the UST between them and it helped that the boys were named after my favorite bromance à la John Hughes and Weird Science!

I hope college is an amazing time for these boys!

About Best Friends & Boyfriends 4.5 Hearts by Alicia Nordwell

Another best friends to lovers story that didn’t disappoint. This one has the added bonus of the boys having a small but still decent enough age gap that things and feelings have been put on hold until everyone is legal. Legal and well aware that the feelings Cory has for Elliott are not one-sided.

Waiting for Cory to turn eighteen might have killed Elliot, but all good relationships started with a friendship. They didn’t have to stumble through first-date conversations because they already knew everything there was to know about each other.

I love that the boys meet and bond over being on the receiving end of a jerk and the way they became blood brothers. I adore that Elliott has made it his life’s mission to make sure Cory is always protected and revenged when harmed. I loved that we got both boys POV’s and how Elliott is determined to get Cory to finally SEE what he wants and who he wants. Le Sigh. Friends to lovers just gives me all the right feels and this story did not disappoint at all.

A Single Night 4 Hearts by Jon Keys

This had a slow and slightly sad feeling to it. The story begins with Logan and Devon making dinner for guests. We get the details of their home, the sweet and flirty banter between the established couple and yet, there is something underlying that sets the tone for the story.

“We’re still here and together. The other crap doesn’t matter.”
“I almost lost you.”
“Why did we live? Are we supposed to make things better? We need to enjoy whatever time we have.”

From the beginning, we know something has happened to Devon to make Logan worry more than the average spouse. We learn Devon has a stressful job but it isn’t until the men decide to clean up before their guests arrive that we, well… we know. We know part of what Devon is dealing with but not the how of it and that is where my heart began to hurt and I wasn’t sure if this was a story I wanted to read… but those are the ones we must read, right?

…the sight would dredge up memories of that night until they overwhelmed him. If anyone had earned the right to feel sorry for himself, it was Devon and not him.

A Single Night is a short tale of treasuring those you love and not losing sight of that love to anger or regret. It’s about trying to stay true to your relationship when things have changed physically and the moments where you both let go of the past and remember the love, passion and trust between you. It’s a bittersweet story with a light-hearted ending that I am happy I stuck with.

Adíos 4 Hearts by Mickie B. Ashling

This story was a bit tough. We meet Joaquin Gallegos as he is in some sort of limbo after dying. He’s learned there is a limited measure of time to right the wrongs he committed while alive and his ex-wife and son are at the top of his list. But, there is a catch to how he “communicates” with them and knowing that Joaquin was, in his own words “a Homophobe and Asshole” even to his gay son, had me wondering how this story would go and could it possibly end on the positive.

Judging by the pitying looks they’re sending my way, it’s a given they know. I’m a misguided jerk who alienated his only son for being gay.

I am not sure what to think about this one. I mean, giving us Joaquin’s journal from the time he learns his son is gay and reading his honest thoughts were hard, and yet maybe more par for the course than the average person realizes? I don’t know I just know the journals were a story unto themselves and at times maddening while utterly heartbreaking for both father and son.

I wish I had seen things more clearly, though. It’s as if my right brain was telling me one thing, but my left was running the show. How different things would have been if I’d cracked a door open.

This was written in a unique way and I admit to getting teary eyed at the end. Regrets suck and once you’re dead, you don’t have the option to say what you could have to let it be known how you truly felt. It’s the now that matters and swallowing your pride when it comes to those you love. Shit is hard but people truly can see things differently given time. Man… this was just, tough and I am still not sure how to review it.

More Than a Pact 4 Hearts by Renee Stevens

I know miscommunication is the bane of some romance reader’s existence but for me, I love the holy hell out of it. It creates drama and angst that brings out gut-wrenching honesty and usually pretty hot sex to follow. Yup, miscommunicating and I are best buds.

Yay for this one! Here we have the story of Mac and Paul, best friends who had a drunken one night together but both decided they were too young to commit. When another drunken night of emotional vomit happens, they concur they are too young to be in a relationship BUT that when they are 35 and IF they are BOTH still SINGLE, they try to make it as a couple.

When Mac calls Paul on this 35th birthday and reminds him of their pact, the men open up and finally start talking. They start talking and start making up for a lot of lost opportunities in more ways than one.

The pact we made—about when we were both thirty-five. If we were both still single…. I thought I’d dreamed it.”
“Nope, no dream. We’re both thirty-five. We’re both still single. Here I am.”

I eat stories like this as if they were candy. Red Vines in particular since those are my favorite. They are also super sweet with the honesty pouring out of the men as they declare how long and hard they’ve wanted one another. Sure, wasted time sucks but making up for that time can be totes emotional and hella sexy.

Breann's Reviews

Everyday Miracles 4 Hearts by Bree Cariad 

Aw! If this doesn't warm your insides, I don't know what will. Reverand Jonathan was trying to open a LGBT shelter, but his proposal kept getting shot down by the judgemental city council. Now that there's new leadership on the council, he decides to try one more time.

This isn't a romance. The story is all about opening this shelter and how the council's new leader, Court Brecker, helps him do that.  There was such a spirit of giving in this short story. Brecker didn't just help Jonathan open the shelter, he went all in and gave so much to the kids that needed a safe place to stay.

Everything I Need 4 Hearts by Chrissy Munder 

Super cute! Joshua and Michael are planning their big day. Michael's family is all about traditions and they expect a big, fabulous wedding. Joshua and Michael felt like they were getting bogged down by all the wedding planning and losing sight of who they were as a couple.

The "big family" shenanigans were fun. They definitely got way too involved, but their hearts were in the right place.

It took a dramatic incident for Michael and Joshua to go back to who they were as a couple. I guess they needed something to go wrong to remember what was right? It was all very lighthearted and fun. A cute, feel-good story.

Perfection 5 Hearts by Dev Bentham 

I loved this one! Kevin is ready to get back into dating and who better to  help him than his ex wife? She takes him to a Pride Parade meeting to see if he can meet someone. Well, he does.

Kevin and Ty are instantly attracted to each other and they have a great time together. But there's something about Ty that Kevin didn't realize. When he found out about Ty's disability, Kevin was a jerk. He reacted horribly to Ty's news and crushed anything they had together.

After some moping, Kevin comes to his senses and wins the sexy guy back over.

I liked that this was out of the norm when it comes to characters with disabilities. Kevin's reaction was terrible. He wasn't perfect and instantly accepting, but he realized his mistake and came around. I liked how real and likable his character was, despite his faults.

They had a great little story and I would love to read more about this couple!

Ann's Reviews

Everything I Need 4 Hearts by Chrissy Munder

The strength in this author’s writing is in her consistently well fleshed out characters and Everything I Need is no exception. In all my readings, that seems to be the downfall of many short stories in that the balance between current events and character history isn’t there, so one of the two ends up falling short. But then you find an author who gets the balance right and the story works perfectly.

Everything I Need is the story of two men, Michael and Joshua as they plan their wedding. Michael comes from a large close knit family with a lot of traditions. Michael’s family loves both men dearly and it was obvious in the few on page interactions and the way the men spoke about family, especially Michael’s mom. Joshua is estranged from his family, his family’s religious fundamentals don’t accept Joshua so Michael’s family is the only one he has. That’s a lot of backstory to have to convey, but Chrissy Munder lets it all flow organically through conversations and references so the characters get the depth they deserve.

The two are met with some unexpected homophobia and while it should have added to the tension they already felt that comes with wedding planning, the strength of their characters came through and put things in perspective for them right when they needed it. Michael’s family defended them strongly and circumstances put them back in connection with the bigots and while the resolution was pretty quick without a lot of drama (it is a short story after all) it still worked for Michael and Joshua. They kept their humor, dignity and love throughout and I could completely believe and HEA for these guys. Also, I would LOVE to go to their wedding, there are going to be lots of happy tears at that one for sure.

Cucurrucucú 5 Hearts by George Seaton 

I’m really not going to be able to do George Seaton’s words justice. When I read a story of his I highlight a lot because he’s got a true gift for writing poignant sentences. The kind of sentences that you read, then stop, read again, let them sink in and then go, “Holy Hell, that means a lot of seriously important things”. Yeah, so like I said, I can’t do his words justice. BUT, I can encourage and recommend Cucurrucucú to you.

While Cucurrucucú was written as part of the One Pulse anthology to support the victims of the horrific shooting in Orlando I also couldn’t help but find it so incredibly relevant to our current state of days as well. It’s a powerful read for difficult times and I found it gave some perspective and hope.
It’s not a traditional MM romance, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t subtly romantic and all about love and acceptance in its many forms.

Hope 3.5 Hearts by Grace Duncan

I’ve been on a shifter kick lately and I couldn’t miss out on reading this one. The author did a great job of weaving the themes of acceptance and progress into shifter politics. She also managed to pack a lot into a short story and keeping it on point with the characters and the end message.

The strength is in the MC’s, Miguel and Luis. They are destined mates who haven’t bonded yet out of fear of their pack’s rejection. And rightly so, as all the packs they know of have no tolerance for their union. I could feel the tension in the two of them as they traveled from pack to pack looking for acceptance and a home. The individuals they met overall had no problem with the two of them together and the issues they ran into came from a few individuals at the top and the fear trickled down through the ranks. Pretty accurate portrayal I felt.

The guys get there HEA though and the wrap up was neat and pretty easy. But, considering what they’d been through, it made me happy for them and their future.

Cupcake's Reviews

Pride 4 Hearts by Andrea Speed

“Be yourself. We are all beautiful motherfucking unicorns!”

I’ve never read a single thing from the Infected universe and despite the author’s warning I forged ahead and read this sweet little story. Because I’m a rebel like that. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was able to keep up reasonably well. Pride takes place during a Pride parade in Seattle and I believe all the main characters make appearances.

I felt pretty confident that I was going to like Holden based on an interview he did on the blog but when he rolled up wearing a unicorn tee then uttered those words… I was a firmly ensconced on #TeamHolden. His gin infused wisdom, sly musical references and mirrored sunglasses made me chuckle more than once. Roan and Hottie McHotface aka Dylan also hold enough appeal for me to give the series a whirl.

The banter between all the characters was scathingly humorous while still conveying the import of their connection to one another and the subtext was heartfelt. This story is not only sweet but worthwhile.

Pull 3.5 Hearts by Laura Lascarso

This is my first experience with this author; she has a way with words. This story packs an emotional punch with two high school age boys spending a day together. One is closeted, one is not. Hiro clearly has a painful past that perhaps he’s trying to move past or perhaps this is a one day pass to see how the other half lives and to partially deflower the hot football player.

Hiro and Berlin have some chemistry and there is a certain amount of teen angst embedded in this story but it’s really just a snapshot in time between them. We get but a glimpse of them through a revolving door and are left to make our own assumptions regarding their future which gives it an ethereal quality. I’d be interested to see what she could do with a full length novel or even a novella.

Curcurrucucú 5 Hearts by George Seaton

I’m going to echo Ann’s thoughts on this one. I’m glad I just randomly chose it as this was my first experience with this author and he has a sophisticated style of writing that drew me in. I found myself affected by this story more than I had anticipated. It's unusal for me to invest in characters as much as I did these in a story of this length but I did. I will definitely be reading something else by this author in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving all you beautiful Unicorns!

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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