About Animal Attraction 2
Edited by Vincent Diamond
Love animals? Love hot men who love each other? Animal Attraction 2 has all that and more. Talented authors Kiernan Kelly, Aaron Michaels, Jane Davitt, CB Potts, Julia Talbot, and Sean Michael go all out to prove that animals can bring people together, and that love can turn up in unexpected places and in unusual ways. From slow and steady to a hot, fast burn, the romance is right there for the taking, right along with the adventure.
Angela Benedetti, author of A Spirit of Vengeance, writes:
In Kiernan Kelly's "Elusive Blue," set in a small town shortly after World War II, Paul is the sheriff of Poplar Grove, a small town with parochially narrow attitudes. A local man who's known to beat his wife is safe from punishment because the prevailing opinion is that "what happened under a man's roof was his own business." That doesn't extend to homosexuality, though; society, the law and the medical establishment would be only too happy to trespass under a gay man's roof and exact a penalty.
Paul is well aware of all this, and so when a carnival rolls into town and sets up, he firmly buries his attraction to handsome Max, the big cat tamer. It looks like everything's going to go back to normal when the carnival packs up to leave, but a train wreck throws things into chaos, and throws Paul and Max together when Max's tiger, Elusive Blue, is missing.
I really liked this one. I could feel the tension in Paul, both on the personal side as he tried to stifle his dangerous feelings for Max, and professionally while he was helping clear up after the wreck and see to the needs of the carnival folk, who are suddenly not so popular now that they're no longer safely away in their tents to be gawked at. The disaster brings out the good and bad in people, and shows up the conflicts in Paul's life in sharp relief.
"The Case of the Missing Boa" by Aaron Michaels is a fun, short mystery story with sweltering Vegas, the seedy side of showbiz, and boa constrictor named Marty. Jake is a low-rent PI but is more used to handling things like insurance fraud than snake-napping. When Leo, a (hot and gorgeous) man who owns an animal sanctuary, comes into Jake's office to hire him to find a missing seven-foot boa, it's not exactly Jake's usual line, but he's in no position to be choosy. Jake does some research, pokes around, and questions an array of suspects, then a ransom note turns up the heat.
The mystery is fun and the identity of the snake-napper wasn't immediately obvious. I could feel Leo's concern for Marty, and Jake's determination to help Leo out even when the trail seemed to cool. There was a noirish feel to the story as a whole, added with a light touch; I'm not usually too fond of that subgenre, but there was just enough here that I had fun recognizing it, and not so much as to weigh the story down with darkness or a depressing cynicism. Good stuff.
"Driven by Destiny" by Jane Davitt is another recent-historical, this one set in Hollywood during Prohibition. Kerr and Tony both work for a flamboyant, self-centered actress named Destiny, as agent and bodyguard respectively. When a panther escapes its cage in and is snarling and clawing at the door to get in at them in Destiny's otherwise empty mansion, the two men have some time to kill.
The escaped panther set-up is handled nicely, and doesn't intrude too much on the real story here, which is about Kerr and Tony, who've known each other and worked together for years, discovering that they have something in common besides an employer. And what's more, Tony, tall and handsome and muscled like a bodybuilder, wants Kerr to command him. I enjoyed watching them come together, in a way which was new to Tony, at least; he'd never done anything like this before, but it felt right, in a way no quick and casual encounter with any other man ever had. There's no bondage or pain-play or anything really sophisticated, but their play gets to the heart of BDSM, with a man who wants to let go and submit, and another who wants to command and care for. Very well done.
"Slow and Steady" by CB Potts is about snails. No, really. A wildlife biologist, called "Professor" by the others, narrates an expedition into the Amazon. Along with Everett the camera guy, Greg the talent, and Rafe the guide, he describes the experience of trekking through the jungle, the sounds and smells, the feel of it all, in lush prose. They're exploring an area which will soon be under water if a planned dam project goes through. Rafe is bitter about the coming destruction, but can't do anything to stop it because money always wins. Then they find the snails, and suddenly there might be hope.
Although there's a well written sex scene, this isn't a romance. Or at least, that's not the impression I got after I read the last scene. But that's fine -- the story and characters were engaging, the writing flowed beautifully, and I was interested enough to Google the snails. The larger conflict is resolved by the end and that was definitely satisfying. The lack of a clear happily-ever-after isn't any kind of a fault or flaw; read this one for the eco-struggle plotline, the expert writing, and the Professor's narration.
Julia Talbot's "Rodeo Mafia" starts out with Lanny attending a rodeo with a T-shirt that says "Meat is Murder" and a camera to capture all the rampant examples of animal abuse perpetrated by those evil cowboys, but then Harley saves Lanny's (very nice) butt from an escaped bull in the parking lot. Lanny's a nice kid underneath but he's a little confused, which is why it's fun watching him learn that the real world is an analog spectrum, not a binary switch, while working with Harley to see the difference between responsible ranching and a feedlot slaughterhouse. The two guys get thrown together for a while, with the usual consequences.
This was a lot of fun. I liked Lanny and Harley both, even if I did want to smack Lanny a few times toward the beginning. But he's basically a good guy, and he's bright enough to learn a few things along the way, which is what a good story is supposed to be about.
"Hiding in the Snow" by Sean Michael is an adventure trek with a little more adventure than the guys were betting on. Mickey and Boston are a wildlife biologist and a camera guy respectively, hoping to film some snow leopards in Uzbekistan, where the smallest remaining population in the wild still (for now) lives. The two men go trekking up a mountain into the teeth of a storm, hoping things will clear and that they'll see a snow leopard while they're there.
Mickey and Boston don't get along so well at first, but I definitely enjoyed watching them work out their differences. It was also different to have two guys so clearly in lust with one another when neither had seen the other anywhere near naked; it was all sweaters and parkas until much later in the story, but seeing what a turn-on personality and circumstance can be was great. A fun adventure-and-sex story.
From “Elusive Blue” by Kiernan Kelly
Paul couldn't understand what brought him back to the gaudy midway night after night. There was nothing here of interest to him. Nothing he dared admit to, anyway.
When the carnival train had pulled into the station and the parade of performers and animals debarked and made their way to the empty field on the outskirts of town last weekend, he met with the owners. He flashed his sheriff's badge and carefully checked their papers, and gave them the obligatory warnings about cheating the good people of Poplar Grove. Later, he personally inspected every ride and game of chance on the midway, looking for rusty couplings or weighted bottles; anything that might signal a threat for his citizens, either physical danger or one posed to their wallets. He'd found nothing, no reason to suspect the Fairfield Brothers Carnival was anything other than what it appeared: a dusty, slightly shabby traveling show.
Yet he couldn't stay away. The garish lights shining through the darkness at the edge of town drew him like a deer to a salt lick. Even during the day, when he should've been concentrating on important matters like the Anderson boys running wild and playing pranks on their unsuspecting neighbors, or the drunk sleeping off a bender in cell three, Paul's thoughts wandered. His mind continually drifted to the colors and music of the carnival midway, to the smell of freshly roasted peanuts mixing with the less pleasant odors of camels and elephants.
"Sheriff? Fancy meeting you here tonight. Didn't think you were one for all this flashy hubbub."
Paul turned at the sound of the familiar voice. Joe Westfield, owner of the five-and-dime store on Main Street, stood nearby with his wife and two little girls. The girls held cones of bright pink cotton candy, their tongues and lips dyed the same brilliant color as the fluffy sweets.
He forced himself to return the greeting and be polite about it. "Evening, Joe. Nice night, huh? Having fun?" The last thing he wanted was to spend time making small talk. The show was due to start soon. He needed to get moving, or he'd miss it.
"Yeah, the girls sure like it. Got to admit, I'm partial to the corndogs, myself. Listen, Paul… while I've got your ear, I have to tell you I ain't too happy about that new parking law the mayor is all fired up about. If'n folks can't park in front of my store, how am I supposed to make money? It's gonna ruin my business! A man's got a right to earn a living!" Joe's jowly face grew as pink as the girls' cotton candy as he began working himself up into a state. His wife's benign smile slipped; it was no secret that Joe's temper often left its mark on her. "If'n he puts in them fancy meters, I'm bound to lose business. You have to stop that dang fool, Paul!"
"Now, you know I don't have the authority to do that, Joe. You can bring it up at the next town meeting, though," Paul said, a little impatiently. He forced his lips to curve into a pleasant smile, trying to cut the vinegar in his voice.
The threat was there, even if it hadn't been spoken aloud. Paul's own chances for re-election hung in the balance, even though he'd had nothing to do with the decision to put the meters in. There was an us-against-them mentality in Poplar Grove. If Paul wasn't with them, then he was against them, and most likely out of a job come the new elections.
"So I've been hearing. Take a deep breath, Joe. Getting all worked up isn't going to change the mayor's mind. We'll figure it out at the meeting. Y'all go on and have a good time, now. Mary, girls." He tipped his hat, grateful to get away so quickly. He could hear Joe continuing to rail against the new parking meters, and hoped he wouldn't see the result of Joe's anger printed in black and blue on Mary's face the next day.
Unless Mary wanted to press charges -- which Paul knew from experience she'd never willingly do -- there wasn't anything he could do to stop it. Even if she did, and Paul hauled Joe's ass in, the court would probably turn a deaf ear. It was a family matter, according to the town fathers. In their esteemed opinion, what happened under a man's roof was his own business. Paul didn't agree with them, not a lick, but his hands were tied.
Too bad they didn't feel the same way about what happened in a man's bed. If they did, at least Paul would be free to be happy after work, if not while on shift. Forget it, it'll never happen, he told himself. They'll forgive a man for beating his wife, but never for sodomy.