Hearts Afire: January
by Bonnie Dee and TA Chase, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-509-1


Hearts Afire: January is a collection of two short stories by Bonnie Dee and TA Chase, with both stories featuring firemen who like to use their big hoses on hot hunks that they encounter in the line of duty.

Bonnie Dee's story is Ignite. We have our NYFD hero Pete Santori who, after an usual round of fighting fire, encounters a man who claims that he can start fires just by experiencing strong emotions. Alan Delaine may or may not be crazy, but he will soon lead Pete into a merry adventure involving lube, evil scientist types, and taking hostages.

This one could have been an interesting story, but the short length means that the author is rushing her story at breakneck speed. The adventure is over before I know it, the two are having sex and declaring their affections before I can blink and ask, "What the heck is that again?", and then, wham, it's the end of the story. Details are superficial, which is probably a necessity given the length of this story, but at the same time this lack of detail is frustrating because I want to know about Alan and his relationship with the villain. I'd like to see Alan and Pete having a more well-developed bond than this wham-bang-whatever-the-end thing.

Ignite is too short for its own good.

TA Chase is next with Where The Devil Dances. Our architect fellow Eric Sandel survived a terrible fire and now he has taken up "emo" as his middle name while he moves to Morley and design the Opera House. Well, when the story opens, Eric and his dog quickly encounter firefighter David Browdie and his dog in a park. Instead of rushing into the bushes to inspect each other's private parts like you know any respectable gay man would in a story by Edmund White, Eric sighs and whispers and goes into lovelorn mode. This is how I know this story is written with sweet little slash-loving teenage girls in mind.

The best thing about this story is Eric's developing relationship with David, which manages to be sweet without being too saccharine. Eric is a decent hero in that he isn't completely an emo oyster type - the author manages to show that Eric can be quite emo but he is also trying to live a normal life and move on from the tragedy in his life. David is a nice complement to Eric's personality. Both guys come off like ordinary people instead of token "straight-acting jock" and "girly sensitive emo boi" stereotypes that plague gay romances. I think this is the best effort by this author that I've read so far.

Bonnie Dee's story Ignite is too ambitious and tries to do too much, while TA Chase hits the perfect stride in Where The Devil Dances. This makes it one out of two for me. Still, TA Chase's story is good enough to tip this collection towards a score a little higher than 50. I'll give this one a 60.


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