Hearts Afire: April
by Emery Sanborne and Jamie Craig, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-59578-527-5

It's April, so it's time for this month's entry into the Hearts Afire special line featuring hot firefighters and hotter romances. As you can probably tell by the names of the contributors in this particular entry, we have to gay romances in this collection.

Emery Sanborne kicks things off with Once Burned. This one has a simple storyline. Imagine, if you will, a fire department in Philadelphia where everyone there is okay with openly gay colleagues and the firemen there all speak as if they are in a PG-rated version of a Stephen Soderbergh script. Andreas Sullivan has been blue from a romance with a fellow fireman in the past, so when new kid Bobby Sullivan starts making the moves on him, he's all, "Oh! Emo! Is this my Roman Spring?"

This one is a pleasant and breezy read, actually. Andreas turns out to be mercifully far less whiny than expected, and the story focuses as much on tender moments between those two as it does on the hose inspection sessions of the two blokes. All in all, this is a pretty enjoyable read, although I feel that the story ends up being dragged out a little too long, padded with scenes of the two guys having fun together without the story actually going anywhere at that point. Still, I can't say it's an unpleasant experience watching two guys in love enjoying each other's company.

Jamie Craig is next with A Voice In The Dark. This is a more "heavy" story, if only because one of the guys is still trying to get used to having lost his sight in an awful accident. Anthony Saunders is blind as a result of very bad traffic accident. Dan Middleton happens to be the fireman who comforts Anthony as best as he could as his colleagues pry him loose from the wreckage of his car. A year after the accident, Anthony pays a visit to the fire station where Dan is stationed, wanting to thank the man in person now that he has recuperated enough to do so. Of course, Dan's tender and soothing words during that day stays with him, so he's a little bit more affected by Dan than he'd like to show. Fortunately for all, the two men are attracted to each other, so the first date is actually quite pleasant.

Actually, the whole story is a very pleasant read. Anthony is free from heavy self-pity. I actually admire and adore his determination to keep living with his head up high here. As for Dan, he comes off like an ordinary guy who does his job the best he can - the average Joe kind of hero, which I always have a weakness for. He and Anthony have a sweet, tender, and heartwarming thing going on here, as they date and take the time to know each other even as they get down in the obligatory shag scenes. And unlike the previous story that gets bogged down toward the end with TLC scenes that come off like filler, this one is well paced and ends on the dot at the perfect moment. These two guys are so sweet, for the want of a better word, when they are in love and, if they are real, I would have sent them a nice wedding gift.

Hearts Afire: April is, in a word, sweet. Oh, not sickeningly sweet - sweet as in the way I would go, "Awww! That's so adorable!" when two hot guys make eyes at each other and act like they are the only sweethearts in the whole wide world. The fact that the guys here come off as ordinary fellows instead of stereotypes or little girls with penises is icing on the sweet cake. There is an excellent amount of TLC to go with the man-on-man bedroom antics here, and I just can't resist the whole sweetness of it all.

Rating: 86

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