Review: Cross Bones (short story anthology)

Ahoy, me proud beauty, shiver me timbers! I ask ye to sail me jollyboat on the high seas, lubber, but will ye dare to accept? On offer be a pirate’s life full of danger and risk, and not just to yer neck, but to yer very virgin heart! There’s many a bodice to be ripped–or perhaps I should say many a codpiece to be snapped–and should ye be graced enough to cross bones with a corsair, don’t be an addlepate! Heave ho, lad, handsomely, and show him how ye bury yer treasure!

Pirates didn’t only sail the high seas in historical times. Modern-day renegades and futuristic rebels are just as ripe for adventure and plunder. No matter the time, place, or circumstances, bad boys steal affection as often as they salvage treasure, and in these stories of romance, a rogue’s black heart always conceals a center of gold.

Review by Sal Davis

This is one of the jolliest covers I have seen. Well done Catt Ford. Looking at it one knows EXACTLY what’s on offer – piratical passion, and that’s what the reader gets. Here are nine stories with an historical setting, 2 stories set in the present, 2 fantasies and 2 futuristic ‘piiiiirates in spaaaace’ romps, all of which are good fun too.

Captain Merric by Rebecca Cohen – Captain Daniel Horton risks losing more than his life when he falls into the hands of notorious Captain Merric, who is surprisingly familiar.

Touched by the West Wind by Ellen Holiday – The lyrical tale of Thomas’s love for Brendan.

The Golden Galleon by K.R. Foster – called in to work by his partner on his day off, restauranteur Flynn gets a surprise.

My Hand in Yours by Emily Moreton – pirate captain woos peace keeper in a world full of magic.

Ghost of Jupiter by Jana Denardo – space privateer Al is shocked to find his latest raid has netted him a collection of dangerous alien slaves.

Officer and a Gentleman Pirate by E.S. Douglas – the capture of pirate Rheinallt Jones causes a naval lieutenant a crisis of conscience.

Objectivity by K.J. Johnson – American journalist Matthew risks all to get a story about African pirates.

Worth the Price by Cornelia Grey – Lt Edward Moon, abandoned to pirates by his commanding officer, has to choose between loyalty to the Commodore he despises and the pirate he desires.

Peter and the Lost Boys by Juan Kenobi – Peter is drowning his job related sorrows in a cocktail bar when charismatic Kap offers a solution.

Irish Red by MJ O’Shea – Loving a pirate can so easily lead to heartbreak, as Chris, barman of The Dagger, discovers.

Black John by Piper Vaughn – Juan has to choose whether to declare himself or let his love go free when Jacob is returned to him by the sea.

Rough Trade by Cooper West – “Black market trader” Audacity Gunner, unofficial captain of the AI ship Carthage, has his already random lifestyle further disrupted by the embarkation of Dr Sagittarius Deifenbaker.

From a Simmer to a Burn by B. Snow – Sule Okonjo, ex-slave, hates the Dutch. Ship’s carpenter Olaf is Norwegian but that’s close enough to engage Sule’s fury.

On the Wings of Lir by Riley Shane – Hugh Edward, officer on one of Her Britannic Majesty’s airships, is determined to capture Patrick Kelly, airship pirate.

The Winds of Change by Maggie Lee – Theo Cook, pirate, is perpetually unfaithful to his mess mate Sebastiano. Then they ship out with Edward Teach and Theo suddenly has competition.

Good fun is what this selection of pirate stories is all about. But if you’re the sort of reader who demands pin-sharp historical accuracy before you can even begin to think about enjoying a book, you may not like this anthology. Some of the stories are much better than others in that respect but, as short stories, none of them have much time for world building. Some authors set the scene admirably but some have concentrated exclusively on the passion while hand-waving the historical/naval research. As a representation of generic pirate fiction the anthology is good – I enjoyed the rompy bits while greeting the more thoughtful stories with a cheer – but it’s not Patrick O’Brien.

Buy from Dreamspinner. (paperback and ebook)

Review: Frozen Embers by Sasha Skye

Rescued from the freezing streets, Ashley finds himself in the arms of an angel – a handsome doctor who nursed him back to health. Little did he know that he’d crept into Oliver’s heart, and the other man wants him to stay warm in his arms forever.

Review by Erastes

Short review for a short story.  It’s only 35 pages, so there’s no point me going on and on.

It’s a recognisable theme; the first part is almost entirely a rewriting of The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson. Ashley is a starving, badly dressed and hungry wood carver and we are told this over two pages.  He strikes a match, sees a wonderful feast, and instead of his grandmother, a dove arrives, disguised as an angel to take him to heaven, and the little wood carver lies down to die, just like the Match Girl.

However, this is a gay romance so matters don’t end there.

I found it a little confusing, because he was in his freezing cold rooms attempting to burn his carvings to keep warm and suddenly he’s dying in the street.  When he’s rescued it’s Christmas, and when he wakes up it’s New Year. Seems a little long to be comatose and near to death without nourishment, but I’m not a doctor.

However, things move along, Ashley is rescued and finds himself warm and dry and being interviewed by a strange woman.  For some bizzaro reason, we are told that Ashley has a “soft, English accent.”  What else would he have, considering this is England?  We are introduced to the woman’s brother (he’s Danish, as a wily tip of the hat to Hans) and things move predictably from there, it’s fairly obvious that within  minutes of meeting each other (especially due to the shortness of the story) that Ashley and the good Doctor will be falling in love and getting unsuitable feelings in no time at all.

It’s a decent, if short read, but what spoiled it for me was the fact it was obviously written by (I assume) an American, (or at least a non-Brit), and the thing needed a damned good Britpicking.  British readers will get annoyed at the Americanisms, and frankly Dreamspinner should have edited them out–it’s an old complaint by now–we don’t have sidewalks in London for example, or cranberry sauce  either at this time in history and other things–and it’s about time that authors and publishers were hotter on this aspect than they are.  Either that, or what would be the harm in writing this set in Victorian New York?  Write what you know is a good adage at times.

It’s not a bad little story, but it’s rather overpriced at $2.99 I feel (considering some pubs do novella-length for this price, and Torquere do sips for under a dollar) but I found it rather over saccharine .  I’ve grown out of weeping heroes, but anyone with a penchant for schmoopy will love it, and it is seasonal.

Author’s Livejournal

Dreamspinner Press

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