Heart2Heart Anthology Volume 3
What I’m Talking About:
This was my first opportunity to read one of the Heart2Heart anthologies, all of which benefit LGBTQ+ causes. Each revolves around their namesake dating app in different ways and include short romances based on reader suggestions, which I think is a super fun idea. Volume 1 involved a glitch in the Heart2Heart dating app algorithms which accidentally generated the unlikeliest of matches. In Volume 2, the app hosted a globe-spanning charity raffle that paired up random entrants in specific locations for an adventure. Volume 3 cleverly introduces each short story with a classified ad that bring the characters together under some very interesting circumstances.
The Closet, Part 1 by Eden Finley
This story, and its companion, “The Closet, Part 2,” are the bookends of the anthology and provide both the framework and conclusion for the rest of the stories included. In “The Closet, Part 1,” we meet Kable and his roommate, Adam (who works for the Heart2Heart marketing department), as they explore the possessions left to Kable by his recently-deceased uncle. What they discover leads to the creation of classified ads within the app through which the other tales get their start.
The Book by Aimee Nicole Walker
This is an author that I’ve heard about for years, but this is the first chance I’ve had to read any of her stories. In “The Book,” we meet Gideon, whose recent breakup has left him feeling awful about himself, especially his ability to sexually satisfy his potential lovers. When his search for a particularly indicative self-help title at a local book shop goes horribly awry, the store’s owner, Evan, puts an ad in the Heart2Heart classifieds in an effort to find him. The rest is mostly sweet, with more story than sex (which I liked), and worked out well in the end. There were a few places that nagged at me, but being so short, I think it’s to be expected. Overall, I believe it was a good way to begin the main part of the anthology.
The Date by Annabeth Albert
When soon-to-be discharged marine Xavier Porter sees an ad in the H2H classifieds for a no-strings “gourmet Valentine’s Day dinner” engagement, he’s intrigued enough to reply. Food columnist/blogger Damien isn’t looking for another relationship that’s sure to fail, but becoming friends with the sexy, funny, gorgeous man who’d agreed to accompany him for his Valentine’s Day assignment would be fantastic. If only they weren’t so perfect for each other in every way imaginable. I’m a sucker for the charmingly maladroit, and found it especially entertaining that Damien’s “bad luck” with relationships stems largely from unfortunate visits to the ER. I was also particularly fond of the suggestion that their mutual kink curiosity might actually be a practical exercise in self-preservation. I really liked “The Date,” and think it’s one of the stronger stories in the collection.
The Yarn Wrangler by Charlie Cochet
I’ve read quite a few titles by this author, and was happy to see “The Yarn Wrangler” included in Heart2Heart Volume 3. Having just lost his job at a prestigious law firm, the last thing Simon needs is to be confronted with his spoiled boyfriend’s latest credit-destroying shopping binge. Unable to make his boyfriend understand, and unwilling to ask his family for help, he answers the strangest, most ridiculous ad he’s ever seen – “HELP WANTED: Yarn Wrangler.” The rest of the ad, placed by the delightfully adorkable Liam, is wonderfully unhinged, as is a fair portion of the story itself. Liam was easily my favorite of the two main characters, and I enjoyed the way he helped Simon find happiness, too. “The Yarn Wrangler” is definitely one of my top picks of the anthology.
Dork Lord by Damon Suede
I haven’t read anything by Damon Suede in ages, so I was extremely curious about this contribution to the anthology. Not many (any?) romances could successfully begin with a fainting spell in a campus STD clinic following a serious instance of curry regret. Yet, that’s exactly what happens to Columbia University swimmer, Tarquin Azrak after a full day of messing around with the team captain. The real gem of the story, however is RA, undercover author, grad student, and part-time dungeon master Josh Novak. “Dork Lord” is an unexpectedly charming case of a secret admirer hiding in plain sight, and was one of the most unique stories on offer here. By the end, I’d been won over (mostly by Josh), although I really was just happy to see them figure things out.
The Top Shelf by Hailey Turner
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this one, but I’m really glad it was in this anthology. Nothing would have made moving day better than a nice, cold beer. But, at almost five feet, one inch tall, Alec Quinn can’t reach it, thanks to his sadistic best friend/moving assistant. After seeing the quirky request for help in the H2H classifieds, Max Coleman is intrigued—and tall—enough to offer his assistance. Flirty, sexy, and sweet, “The Top Shelf” was a lovely surprise.
The Family Reunion by K.M. Neuhold
Studious, goal-oriented Lawrence has been singularly focused on his degree for so long, he can’t imagine wasting his time doing anything else. That is, until he accepts an offer he receives via the H2H want ads to be a pretend boyfriend for a stranger’s family reunion at a lush Florida resort. Beautiful, hedonistic Roman can’t stand the idea of spending another week failing to measure up to his successful, but clueless family’s expectations. Showing up with a cute, nerdy med student might keep them off his back and prove that he’s good enough for someone like them. “The Family Reunion,” while establishing a premise for two people who’ve never had a serious relationship before to take a chance on one another, is just as much about families—the misunderstandings, and the desire for acceptance, and loving each other despite the wrongs. Though it’s not really among my favorites, there were still some very nice moments here.
The Last Drop by Layla Reyne
Layla Reyne is still another author I’m kind of embarrassed not to have read yet, so I’m grateful for the chance now. “The Last Drop” is definitely for the gourmands out there. Just when restaurateur Greg Valteau is ready to give up on his dream, he meets the perfect guy—who is also leaving town for good the next day. “Tony” Monaco has been a wanderer for five years, never staying long enough to get stuck. But, something about the big chef from New Orleans might change all that if Tony lets himself want too much. This title really stood out for several reasons, particularly because I wasn’t completely sure how things would turn out until the very end, which I appreciated.
The Dog Walker by Lily Morton
Of all the stories to this point in the Heart2Heart Anthology Volume 3, this is the first that made me feel a bit bruised around the heart (but in a good way). Beginning with one of the more explicit scenes in the whole bunch, “The Dog Walker” is the tale of a forty-something Simeon Frith and twenty-something Ziggy Tuesday, neither of whom have ever considered a fairytale ending. I think this story appealed so much because I was almost convinced they wouldn’t get theirs, and I’d have been okay with it, despite a little sadness. Regardless, getting to know these two characters ended up being a real pleasure.
The Treehouse by Lucy Lennox
It’s been two years since the anonymous hookup that turned out to be the most incredible sex Harvey Hamilton ever had, and he still can’t let it go. Now that he’s moved back to the US to be close to his family, though, maybe he should follow his sister’s advice and try again. All Bryn Hughes wants is to build an amazing treehouse for his twin daughters’ birthday that they’ll never forget. Which is why his best friend posted an ad in the H2H classifieds for someone else to do it. What a coincidence that the perfect man for the job just happens to be the one he’s dreamed about for two years. This story was welcome because it was a quick read and offered up some easy happiness. The characters are quirky (a programmer and a hunky rabbit farmer), the setting unexpected (a north Georgia mountain town), and the HEA was sweetly inevitable.
The Restoration by Mary Calmes
Of all the stories in this anthology, I just couldn’t get into “The Restoration.” In this second-chance romance, Alasdair McKenna is trying to move on with his life in the wake of a separation from his formerly black ops, current Reservist, FBI Special Agent ex-husband, Kyler Blue. Being married to a guy who’s one rescue away from full-on superhero status means a lot of emptiness for the partner left behind, especially when Alasdair’s attempts to fill that void with a travel-heavy career of his own weren’t exactly met with equanimity. That Kyler’s most winning traits (aside from the hero thing) seem to be excessive possessiveness, the ability to charm everyone else in his orbit, and having a good rapport with their mutual friends, I never was entirely won over. Owning that I likely took this story too seriously, there were some funny moments throughout that provided balance. Ultimately, it worked out because both main characters wanted it to, which was enough.
The Vase by May Archer
“Home renovation specialist” Landon Lang knows about having a bad day or two. In one, quick string of events he lost his boyfriend/business partner, his best friend, everything in his bank account, and apartment. And things only continued to get worse from there. What he needs is some good karma. Malachi Fortier has been working to match his own successes to those of the privileged company he keeps for so long that he’s forgotten what’s really important to him. Crashing (almost literally) into someone else’s point of view might give him a change of heart and put him exactly where he ought to be. I enjoyed “The Vase” very much. It was funny and sweet, with just the right amount of sarcasm and an optimistic future.
The Helping Hand by Nora Phoenix
“The Helping Hand” by Nora Phoenix is another cute addition to the anthology, and one that seems meant to simply enjoy. AJ Wilson—photographer, mouse blogger, and IKEA construction specialist—would happily settle down, if only every guy he’s been interested in didn’t make the wrong assumption about what he role he enjoyed taking in bed. Shy, disaster-prone “Las,” secret science fiction author, just needed some furniture put together. He never thought that the colorful swearing that accompanied his efforts would bring the sole person who could give him exactly what he’d always been too afraid to ask for right to his door. This story was well-placed in the order of things, as well as being sweet and unexpectedly fun.
The Dream Machine by Piper Scott (writing as Emma Alcott)
One of the things I liked best about “The Dream Machine” was that it was based on a strange premise: lonely, gay young man seeks to dream a happy ending, which then becomes reality. In such a small town in North Dakota, Tucker is incredibly alone, and the sadness of it is so pervasive, it’s taking over his dreams. Darwin, thirty-two, is the rebel of his scientifically gifted family, somehow shredding his career at a fracking company in favor of pursuing his own inventions and tutoring high school students. When Tucker finds Darwin’s ad on H2H offering his “dream machine” for free, he jumps at the chance. From there, the story takes a fairly normal, if geeky path to a promising conclusion. I did find the endearment used in the original dream was a little creepy, and didn’t translate overly well for me in its reprise, but I don’t know that it would bother many others.
The Wedding Date by Susan Hawke
Having his sister find him a date for his ex’s wedding wasn’t exactly what Hunter Riley had in mind. In fact, he’d considered skipping the event altogether—he had a squillion high-maintenance kittens to care for, after all. Still, one look at the gorgeous stranger who showed up at his door, and who wasn’t scared off by spontaneous kitty projectile was a really good sign. Quinn wasn’t sure what to expect at the wedding, but seeing how cold the entire town was acting towards Hunter made him want to do just about anything, even in the unlikeliest of venues, to get him to smile again. Though it wasn’t a favorite, I thought “The Wedding Date” was interesting for quite a few reasons, and I couldn’t help laughing in places along the way.
The Wrong Guy by Sloane Kennedy
“The Wrong Guy” is another story that I really wanted to roll with and enjoy without reservation, but just couldn’t. Travis Rush has respected and been friends with Jackson Doyle since the latter first took him under his wing at the Broken Tree Ranch in Wyoming. Young, gorgeous, and restless, Travis has frequented the local bar with Jackson regularly for a long time—so Travis could hookup with random women whenever the “need” arose. Jackson, on the other hand, is ten years older, has a son, and got a divorce when lying to himself about being gay became too difficult to bear. And he’s buried the fact that he’s loved Travis almost from the minute they met. Jackson is an amazing character, and I wanted him to be happy more than anything, so for that I’m glad. Still, I believe Travis is out of line in a lot of ways, and “ends justify the means” stories often make me uncomfortable. Regardless, there’s plenty to recommend “The Wrong Guy” to the right audience.
The Closet, Part 2 by Eden Finley
After finishing the Heart to Heart Anthology, Volume 3, I was happy to see how the end of the beginning turned out. There are a few surprises—good ones—but mostly “The Closet, Part 2” was filled with acceptance and hope, and plenty for Kable to look forward to, just as his uncle would have wanted. As to the rest of the stories, not all will be for every reader, but I believe that there’s something here for nearly everybody. I also got to read some new authors, which is always appreciated, and that it’s for charity is an excellent reason to give it a try all on its own.
My Overall Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot
About the Book:
Once upon a time, a group of authors wondered… What if the Heart2Heart app—the dating app with a glitch that matched up the oddest, most perfect couples, and sponsored the charity date raffles that helped dozens of people find love—offered a classifieds section, too?
Need a handyman who knows how to wear a tool belt? Have a closet of drag costumes that needs a new home? How about finally tracking down that guy who made the perfect drink, or who’s just the right height to reach the top shelf?
Join some of your favorite authors of gay romance as they bring you sixteen brand-new stories inspired by reader suggestions!
Once again, all proceeds from this collection will go to the authors’ favorite LGBTQ charities, to ensure that love in all its forms will be celebrated and protected every single day of the year!
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Series: Heart2Heart #3
Genre: Romance, LGBTQ
Book Source: Publicity Tour