Book Review: Heart2Heart Vol. 6 (multiple authors)

I was honored to be asked to review an advanced digital copy of the 2022 Heart2Heart collection, featuring many of my favorite authors. Since I’m reading this charity anthology for free, I’ve made a separate donation to a local LGBTQ+ organization. This book is only available for a limited time, so don’t wait to grab your copy today!

Overall rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars
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Heist of Hearts” by Alice Winters

This collection starts with a bit of sheer ridiculousness, as one character flirts with another by app while mid-heist. Turns out that’s also a quick way to my heart because I was as invested in the full story as I was in Reed and his secret charmer. The shenanigans continue when they attempt an actual date, and I was entertained for the entire ride. Reed’s narrative voice was continually over the top, but it fit the vibe for the entire story. A full-length novel might have exhausted me, but this was the perfect amount of time to spend with these characters on this particular adventure, and I firmly believe in their “happily for now” (as long as Dylan brings the Thin Mints on the second date).

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars


Keeping Him in Cornwall” by Con Riley

Favorite Story

This story starts with an old trope (brother’s best friend) that Riley immediately turns on its head when the brother is completely supportive of the potential match. I also loved the inversion of the two heroes not meeting on the app, but the app still acting as a hinge point for the new development in their relationship. Stef is a quiet man, but that laconic nature doesn’t equal spare narrative. Riley’s internal voice for him is as rich as the setting itself. Cornwall is as much a character and integral part of this budding relationship as Stef and Marc are, and this stunning novella made me hungry in more ways than one for a place I’ve never been.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars


“Hate 2 Love U” by Daryl Banner

I had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters in this story, likely because the narrative style was set at more of an emotional distance than I’m used to in romance stories. Coupled with not feeling like any chemistry existed between Pete and Teague, I’ll admit to skimming much more of this novella than I wanted to. Banner did grab me a few times with some delightful turns of phrase, but they were always about the environment rather than how the characters saw each other. Pete and Teague have a chance at a happily ever after, but unfortunately, I came away from this story feeling like I’ve been told so rather than shown.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5) stars


“Love Down Under” by Eden Finley

Story I Want Expanded Into a Novel

I pretty much immediately adored the characterizations of Dorian and Kero from the get-go, so it was a given that I’d love them even more once they started on the path of being together. That path isn’t so easy, however, since Finley does an excellent job of working external conflict into this novella without making the pacing feel rushed. Of course, that conflict does result in our heroes reconnecting, and I adored their perfect first date and their perfectly awkward first-date hookup in equal measure. I’m more than satisfied with their happily ever after, but I wouldn’t say no to spending much more time with these delightful men.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars


“Rock, Paper, Scissors” by Kate Hawthorne

Favorite Story

Hawthorne manages to deftly hit a bunch of romance tropes and pack an emotional wallop in a small package with this story. Xavier and Bastian first exist in a weird sort of middle ground between “opposites attract” that almost verges into “enemies-to-lovers” territory. However, once the first of the planned dates gets going, things quickly turn romantic AF. But this is also a Hawthorne story, so things also quickly turn hot AF. After a brief detour to “idiots in love,” these sweet characters get their happily ever after in a way that involves believable real-world compromise. (I also firmly believe that Bagel also gets his HEA with all the donuts.)

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars


“Dog Days” by Kelly Fox

Favorite Story

I’m not a dog person, but I am a Star Trek person. I’m also already a huge fan of Fox’s work, so I knew I was in for a treat even before I saw the opening question. Only real Star Trek fans are going to fully appreciate the quality of the initial flirting that occurs between Alfie and Gideon, but all readers will grasp the undeniable spark between them. The high of their first hug is followed by acute second-hand embarrassment that is only possible because of Fox’s amazing ability to get you inside her characters’ heads. The date is quickly recovered in spectacular fashion, but I almost wanted to fast-forward to how these men deal with the obstacle that does exist to their happily ever after. I appreciate the work and care that both put into it, and even this cat person loved the result.

Also, the correct answer is Pike. Except when it’s Sisko. (Sorry, Alfie.)

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars


“The London Chance” by Lane Hayes

I had such mixed feelings for about the first 90 percent of this story. Savage Garden was my jam in the 90s, so Chance got immediate points for that one. His internal narrative also flows so well that by the end of the first chapter, I was super invested in him meeting Roman for the first time in person and I forgave the info dump that got us to that point. Then, their date happened. My note to myself for that bit was literally “oh nooooooo.” It turned into the worst first date that wouldn’t end, and I wanted it to despite their obvious physical chemistry.

Then…a bad idea lost its battle with the hope both Chance and Roman had for each other. I caught feels for them right alongside, and this is the first story in the collection that made me cry. So, even though it’s a rough ride, this story is very much worth the journey.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars


“My Darcy” by Lily Morton

Morton’s writing is so lively and comfortable, and her characters always draw me in, that I’m not even mad that I predicted the entire story arc in the first chapter. With such limited space in a novella, it’s always easier to focus on the two main heroes, but Morton is also adept at creating vivid secondary characters to enhance the drama. In this case, they also come with just the right amount of meddling that the inevitable reveal actually came earlier than I expected. Rom-com levels of adorable sappiness ensue, but Jane Austen would blush at the heat level that follows. Freddie nails it on the head at the end when he notes that this is not an extraordinary romance, but it is his romance, and each is special in its own way.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars


“A Drag Made in Heaven” by Max Walker

I was already grinning like an idiot by the start of Malik and Ferrin’s first date together. Walker’s story filled me with all sorts of warm fuzzies. The chemistry (and heat) between the characters was off the charts, and this low angst story is mostly fluff but still a delicious treat. Walker balances that with the subtle character development woven into the story for Ferrin, addressing realistic fears that I haven’t often seen in queer romance for femme guys. In a way, following Ferrin’s happily ever after embracing his authentic self is almost more important than any contrived external conflict.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars


“Connection” by Nicole Dykes

Story I Want Expanded Into a Novel

The initial question that launches this story is pretty cliché, but I enjoyed the touch of whimsy that spurred the characters into the initial connection that turns into a genuine theme of soulmates and fate. As Eli and Oliver’s short-term fling turns into a long-term romance, the ending was inevitable; however, I appreciated the balancing bit of realism that leads to the true potential for a happily ever after. The writing was solid and I truly enjoyed these characters. With plenty of potential here for more story, I’d be more than willing to revisit them. (And not just because I really like Hawaii.)

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars


“Worst. Date. Ever.” by Onley James

Favorite Story

James brings her signature morally-gray heroes and cinnamon roll foils that I instantly adore to her contribution to this collection, while keeping both men distinct to what I’ve seen from her before. The “date” Tris and Cade go on is definitely the worst date ever, since it’s not even really a date, depending on how you squint. Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong (except when they go very, very right). Tris is kind of both the worst and best thing to ever happen to Cade, and luckily both men are just “off” enough to understand the potential between them.

This story works perfectly as a stand-alone. I would almost rather them show up farther down the line, enjoying their happily ever after, in another work by James than read a full-length story featuring just these characters. (If she happens to be taking suggestions.)

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars


“Down the Mountain” by Rachel Ember

Story I Want Expanded Into a Novel

This is a lovely second-chance story with just the right amount of angst for its shorter length. Everything we need for the moment is included here, including a dramatically sexy interlude, and Ember does an excellent job seeding hints of what’s to come in a way that makes the reveal anticipatory rather than anticlimactic. That being said, I would absolutely love to read a full novel depicting the evolution of Vic and Bennett’s relationship. So much potential exists here with the main and secondary characters, the various relationships, and the setting itself.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars


“The Anti-Wingman” by Saxon James

This story has totally ridiculous rom-com vibes that are only enhanced by the manic enthusiasm (and overall life situation) of one of the characters. I was exhausted before I finished the first chapter. Don’t get me wrong, the narratives from both heroes are extremely well-written, but readers’ mileage may vary. I wasn’t really sure what was happening at any given moment, even while I totally saw the ending coming at breakneck speed. This story definitely satisfies any cravings for the accidental dating/idiots in love trope you might have, plus it can replace your morning coffee.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars


“The Choice” by Sloane Kennedy

Kennedy immediately paints a vivid picture of a potentially drama-packed situation, leaving me desperate to know what happens next. This story definitely includes hints of darkness in both Hudson’s and “Mouse’s” pasts, but I know this author will make the vibrancy of their connection worth it — once they get over their own mental obstacles. These two shouldn’t have real-life chemistry, but the way Kennedy writes them makes me absolutely believe they do. For the second half of the story, I was immersed in the obvious love these men have for each other, developed over computer screens and cemented despite external conflicts (I may have shed a few tears along the way).

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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