Never Say Never Anthology – Todd Allison, ed. (Silver Publishing)

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I’ve always enjoyed reading anthologies. You get a variety of voices, stories, plots, and characters. It’s like when you were a kid at Halloween coming home and dumping out your bag of candy, never knowing what you’re going to find, and of course there were always items in the bag that you didn’t like, mine were three musketeers bars. I hated the nougat, I still do.

Never Say Never Anthology is a collection of stories all set around Valentine’s Day, another one of those holidays that can be a real crapshoot. Luckily Todd Allison knew what he was doing when he selected the four stories that make up this collection. They are each well written, have strong characters, and with a few exceptions make for an enjoyable and rather hot reading experience.

Here they are in order of appearance in the collection.

A Secret Valentine – B.G. Thomas

Steve is a divorced man who has come out in hopes of finding happiness by being who he truly is. Unfortunately, Steve first experiences the ugly side of gay life: liars, cheaters, and men who just want anonymous sex. Things begin to look up for Steve when he meets a man who is everything that Steve wants in a boyfriend; the problem is Bill only wants to be friends.

B.G. Thomas has a well-written story in A Secret Valentine. His characters are strong, likable and get into some really interesting scenes, especially with the twins. I did feel however, that the story was a bit predictable. I knew how it would end long before the last page was turned. Still it’s a good story, and definitely worth your time.

A Valentine for Evrain – Xavier Axelson

Evrain is the owner of a chocolate store, and not just some run of the mill kind of place he’s the best in the business. Everyone in town knows him, that because he’s done pretty much everyone in the town thanks to his special talents in making the chocolate treats. It’s Valentine’s Day, a holiday that Evrain hates, but he puts his distaste for the day aside to make sure his customers get what they deserve for their special day.

Xavier is relatively new to writing m/m erotica and romance, but he has come onto to the scene in a big way. His writing is tight, well developed, and always steaming hot. His character, Evrain jumps off the page at you with his sexy attitude mixed with a little arrogance. And what he does to a shipment of fresh strawberries…well you’ll have to read it to find out. I’m looking forward to reading more from Xavier in the future.

Stripped – Shae Connor

When Jon decides to spend Valentine’s Day in a Manhattan strip club he gets more than he bargained for when Blake, gets up on stage. Jon becomes infatuated with Blake and pays for a private dance in the backroom. Blake expecting the usual horny customer is surprised to find out that Jon doesn’t want the dance, he wants to talk. Breaking most of the clubs rules about customer/stripper relations, Jon and Blake spend a very hot, sultry night together. Was it just a hot one-night stand, or the start of something special?

Shae has done a brilliant job casting these two characters. They are both strong, likable, and what I would call honest in their portrayal. The story, which is well written, has emotion, a touch of romance, and some great sex. I’ve not seen other stories by Shae, but after reading this, I’ll be looking for more from this author.

Valentine 2525 – RJ Scott

It’s the year 2525, and humans are being cloned as companions. Meet Max a man who never wanted a companion that is until “Sam,” a cloned human that was mistakenly given a human trait – emotion. Sam fears this “flaw” and tries to end his own existence before he is “erased” but Max has other ideas.

I’ve never been a big science fiction fan. Frankly I avoid them at all costs, but I knew I had to read Valentine 2525 for the review, so I did. The first part of the story, I had a difficult time getting through. It’s futuristic language and bizarre unpronounceable names made for a rocky start. I stuck with it however, and was surprised to find a very well written and imaginative story hidden within.

Never Say Never Anthology is a well-written collection of stories with some talented writers behind them. Valentine’s Day is just one day out of the year, but love, sex and romance lives on day after day. You don’t need fifteen or twenty stories in your bag of goodies to enjoy a good selection all you need are these four for a wonderful treat.

Reviewed by William Holden

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