Monday, September 12, 2016

Release Day Reviews: Starstruck ~ A Dreamspinner Press Anthology

Title: Starstuck Anthology
Authors: L.A. Merrill, Jay Starre, George Loveland, Avery Vanderlyle, Asta Idonea, M.T. Aspen, Elizabeth Coldwell, Rob Rosen, Sydney Blackburn, Bell Ellis, Charles Payseur, Jessica Payseur
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Category: Contemporary, Urban Fantasy, Western
Pages: 320
Lights, camera, action!
To the average person, celebrities seem to have it all—money, fame, and droves of adoring fans lining up to fawn over them. But a life in the public eye can make romance challenging, and deep down, these guys are looking for the same thing as any other man: someone to share a steamy tryst with between acts or to ride off into the sunset with after the curtain has gone down. Luckily there are those willing to love the men behind the billboards and on-air personalities, and they’re looking for a private performance from their favorite drag queens, musicians, reality TV stars, actors, rodeo champions, and video game designers. Even superheroes and legendary defenders. Money and fame might not always equal happiness, but these celebrities will leave stars in their lover’s eyes.
Buy it from Dreamspinner Press

Love, Stage Left—L.A. Merrill (M) 
Eli Gold has worshipped renowned Shakespearean actor Brandon Lee Williams from afar for years. The actor led the kind of life homeless, painfully shy Eli could only dream about, until Brandon disappeared from the spotlight after a disastrous production of King Lear. Now Eli’s coworker at Beth El Synagogue needs his help. Her production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is falling apart, and she needs a trained actor, stat. Fighting his crush on Brandon becomes secondary to the stage fright they’re both battling, and when a famous name in local theater crashes the performance, the stakes get even higher. The show must go on—but can Eli and Brandon’s newfound romance continue after the curtain falls?

Rodeo Champion—Jay Starre (J)
TJ Davis set his sights on a career as a broncobuster. He left the small town of Rockville and hasn’t looked back in ten years—not until he  returns home, as the headliner of a rodeo that he organized himself.
Graham followed his friend’s meteoric rise to fame and even attended a number of his events. But his shy nature prevented him from contacting his childhood friend, even though he still has strong feelings for TJ. Now Graham is working as a paramedic at TJ’s Easter weekend rodeo, and he’s determined not to let this chance—or any more time—slip through his fingers.

Marked by the Queen—George Loveland (J)
When Jake enters his favorite London pub, he doesn’t expect to see one of the stars of the TV show The Queens. Shelley Gardens takes him to the stage and leaves more than a lipstick impression on Jake. Jake makes sure he’s in the front row when Shelley performs the following night. 
When Shelley introduces Jake to Andrew, the man underneath the makeup, Jake is smitten. But his jealousy of another man being marked by the queen threatens their new relationship. Jake must prove to Andrew—and Shelley—that he’s interested in something deeper than the sparkling surface.

The Ruby—Avery Vanderlyle (M) 
Though it’s taken all night and all his character’s money, Ezra has done it! He’s won the Ruby Radiant—an in-game item that grants him a real-life dinner with the creator of Weird West, a virtual reality video game that’s become a runaway hit.
Self-professed shy nerd Toby Rodriguez is having a hard time being the poster boy for the game he created, but the dinner contest is part of the game’s publicity campaign. Toby is pleasantly surprised as he and Ezra learn they have more in common than a love of video games. When their date is cut short, Ezra embarks on another quest—to track Toby down and tell him how he feels.

Pride and Panoramas—Asta Idonea (M)
Cameraman Gregory Ward is thrilled when he’s chosen to work on a new drama based upon a recently discovered lost work by Jane Austen, especially since Alaric Devin, an actor Greg has loved for years, is playing the lead. However, Alaric is nothing like the dashing heroes he portrays in his period pieces; he’s haughty and unpleasant, and Gregory wants nothing to do with him. But when Alaric falls ill, he steps in to help, and they see that if they can both move beyond their hang-ups, friendship and love might be found outside of fiction.

Such Beautiful Music—M.T. Aspen (J)
Rock star Marshall Burns doesn’t date. So there’s a learning curve involved when he meets gorgeous librarian Nick. Because rather than taking him straight to bed, his first instinct is to take him out to dinner.
With Marsh in Chicago for only six months, Nick decides that he can pull off this casual dating thing, no problem. As long as he keeps the rock ’n’ roll strictly separate from his real life and his daughter, everything will be fine. 

Out on Stage—Elizabeth Coldwell (M) 
Stewart has never let his multiple sclerosis stand in the way of his passion. As the artistic director of the Harlequin Theater, Stewart has doubts when soap star Bradley East is hired for their latest production. He’s impressed by Bradley’s talent, and stunned by the attraction developing between them. Not that there’s much chance of a relationship, with Bradley firmly in the closet and planning to stay there. But Bradley is full of surprises….

Shooting Star—Rob Rosen (J) 
Jack Black—no relation to the Hollywood version—thinks he’s dreaming when he learns his favorite star is coming to his small town to shoot a film. Not only will Jack’s home be used in the movie, but Trey Jones will be staying in a trailer right outside. Just when Jack thinks things can’t possibly get any better, Trey invites him into the trailer for dinner—but they decide to have dessert first. Soon enough, Trey’s planning an announcement that will rock the entertainment industry, and he wants Jack by his side.

Drastic Measures—Sydney Blackburn (M) 
Keith’s gay nightclub packs a full house on weekends, but is deathly quiet during the week. He needs the restaurant at the front of the house to start making money or his dream is over. Desperate, he contacts reality makeover show Restaurant Take Two, who’ll match his investment in renovations and provide a new menu courtesy of a professional chef. He’s not prepared for celebrity chef Dominic Margolan. Dom’s high-handed ways could leave him in more trouble—and not just financially!

Garden Variety—Bell Ellis (J) 
Derek Vinquist, handsome star of a sitcom that recently ended, would rather do anything than star on a reality show about gardening. But he finds himself on Garden Variety anyway, doing his best to maintain his dignity while covered in dirt. Noah, the show’s head gardener, doesn’t particularly enjoy replacing plants that have been damaged by inexperienced celebrities either. When the two meet, attraction blooms instantly, but Derek must prove to Noah that he’s more than a spoiled celebrity while simultaneously protecting Noah’s beloved plants.

Defying Gravity—Charles Payseur (J) 
As superheroes go, Gravity’s not top tier, but he does okay. He’s got a nice apartment with neighbors who don’t mind him flying in and out at all hours and enough of a following to crowdfund his living expenses. Until a strange man shows up determined to become his sidekick.
Bruce isn’t a bad guy (and he certainly looks good in tight clothes), but now Gravity is suddenly getting trounced by enemies he used to have no problem with. Is he just distracted by his growing attraction to Bruce, or is there something else going on that might explain why every villain suddenly has no problem defying Gravity?

The Defender of Ruldan—Jessica Payseur (M)
Cade the Defiant. Cade the Determined. Cade the Defender of Ruldan. Ithrean, the Queen’s Master Painter, knows every title the hero holds, despite not even living in the same nation as the man. There is little he wouldn’t do to collect one more overseas paper on Cade, and he paints images of his obsession in his spare hours.
But news of the famed hero becoming the next ambassador throws the entire palace into chaos and sends Ithrean’s world spinning out of control. His abusive ex, Master Chef Mizean, will do anything to ruin Ithrean’s chance to snare Cade… if Ithrean’s sudden inability to speak in Cade’s presence doesn’t do it for him.

Jaymie and Mari's Reviews

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie in exchange for a fair and honest review. ***
Love, Stage Left—L.A. Merrill (Mari's Review)

This was such a sweet, cute story. I really enjoyed the almost immediate connection between Eli and Brandon and how the two of them seemed to fit together so well. It was lovely to see Eli get the man who'd been his inspiration through the hard times he lived and see that Eli's fan letters had made an impact on Brandon as well.

Rating: 4 Stars!!!

Rodeo Champion—Jay Starre (Jaymie's Review)

Graham and TJ grew up together but ended up going their separate ways. When they reunite their friendship evolves quickly into something more and they are unable to deny their attraction to one another. 

This was an okay read but in truth, I just didn't get invested in the story or the characters. I might have enjoyed it more had it been longer and fleshed out more. It's definitely got steam though, so if you're looking for that in a story, you'll probably enjoy it. 

3 Stars!

Marked by the Queen—George Loveland (Jaymie's Review)

Jake is pretty much enthralled with Shelley from the very first moment he sees her.  A kiss and a wink and he's hooked.  The mark from Shelley's kiss is captured and posted on social media, getting hit after hit and sparking a connection between the two. However, Shelley hopes Jake will be as interested in Andrew as he is in Shelley. 

This was a cute story. Jake was pretty smitten and super sweet up until he seemed to go a little overboard in his jealousy. When Andrew is performing as Shelley he has a whole persona he's perfected. Jake is unhappy when he sees Shelley place her mark on another man during a show and he throws a fit.  I had to roll my eyes at the whole thing because it was a tad controlling.  Luckily they work it out though because Jake and Shelley/Andrew are cute together and make a good couple. 

4 Stars!

The Ruby—Avery Vanderlyle (Mari's Review)

It was so cute to see this story evolve. Yes, it took some work and strategic planning on Ezra's part, since Toby didn't seem able to function if not directed by his handler at times, but it all worked out nicely in the end. 

Rating: 4 Stars!!!

Pride and Panoramas—Asta Idonea (Mari's Review)

This story was one of my favorites! It had great character development and a very intriguing plot that the author managed to do justice to in very few words. I would have loved for it to be longer, but that's because I'm a greedy wench, LOL. Still, I really liked Greg and Alaric and loved seeing how their relationship progressed from admiration to semi-loathing, then friendship to love. It was really, really good!

Rating: 5 Stars!!!

Such Beautiful Music—M.T. Aspen (Jaymie's Review)

Two very different men.  The Rockstar and the Librarian. This story was good as well as fun. However definitely not my favorite. 

3 Stars!

Out on Stage—Elizabeth Coldwell (Mari's Review)

This was a great story, as well. I really loved Stewart, even when he was a bit of a snob, but it was nice that he actually cut Bradley some slack and allowed himself some happiness. Bradley was a sweet character and it was nice how happy he was that Stewart was impressed with his talent. All in all, an adorable story, which left me smiling in the end. 

Rating: 4.5 Stars!!!

Shooting Star—Rob Rosen (Jaymie's Review)

Jack Black, Pharmacist and President of the Trey Jones fan club (there are only 2 members) gets the surprise of his life when he learns Trey Jones will be in Parker for his next film. As luck would have it, the film pays Jack to use his home for outside location shots. When it also turns out that they are placing Trey's trailer outside as well, Jack is on cloud nine. One thing leads to another when Jack decides to introduce himself to his crush and he soon finds that some dreams do come true. 

Okay, I guess I'm just a fan of Rob Rosen because this is the second story I've read by him and I absolutely loved it. Shooting Star is hilarious and while it's definitely unbelievable it does not matter in the least. The writing was great and the characters fresh and funny. This was definitely my favorite story in the anthology. 

5 Stars!

Drastic Measures—Sydney Blackburn (Mari's Review)

I'm very fond of cooking/business and home makeover reality tv and this one was amazing! I left it for the end, because I was pretty sure I'd love it and I definitely did. The chemistry between Dominic and Keith was magnetic and I loved seeing them butt heads and fall for each other, even if they weren't too sure of the end result. 

Rating: 5 Stars!!!

Garden Variety—Bell Ellis (Jaymie's Review)

Derek is talked into doing a garden reality show and while not excited in the least, he soon grows to appreciate the beautiful garden he's taking care of thanks to Noah.  Noah is the gardener tasked with repairing the damage left behind the various celebrities who work on the plants. While he hates how the show allows these plants to be treated, he works hard to make sure they look immaculate. With Derek's help, Noah is able to see a change in the way the plants are treated this season and finds himself getting to like Derek more and more. 

Another cute story that made me smile. While this was the first story by Bell Ellis I've read it definitely won't be the last.  

5 Stars!

Defying Gravity—Charles Payseur (Jaymie's Review)

Gravity had been used to working alone, now suddenly he has Bruce vying to be his sidekick. While he looks good in his singlet and half cape, Gravity turns down his offer to join him. But when Bruce is in need of help Gravity is there for him. 

A very different read but I definitely enjoyed it. It's not too often I read about Superheroes and their want-to-be sidekicks.  Fun, Unique and a bit of action. 

4 Stars! 

The Defender of Ruldan—Jessica Payseur (Mari's Review)

Much as I liked the other stories I read, this one just felt like it didn't quite belong with the rest. For one, it was set in a different world, with different values, and I for one I'm not overly fond of multiple pairings in books with the MCs when I'm not aware of it before I start reading. Still, the writing was good and while I didn't enjoy it as much as the others, it was mildly entertaining despite my personal issues with it.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

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