Stormy Nights, by Jules Jones and Stormy Duffy

17 May

There really is no rhyme or reason why books languish in my physical and digital TBR Cordilleras of Doom.

Case in point: it had been a long while since I read anything by Jules Jones, though what I have read, I have liked, and there are a number of her works in my digital TBR pile.

So why I haven’t read more of her stuff? (I got nothing¹)

At any rate, back in August 2017, Ms Jones very kindly sent me a copy of this anthology for review. And while my reading has been iffy at best for a long time now, I read all nine stories in the book in one sitting just a few days after that.

Sadly, then the “can’t write to save my life” curse struck, fueled by current events, and here we are now, nine months later. ::guilty wince::

Warning: there is explicit sex and some light kink in all of these. If that’s not your thing, stop here. None of these are genre romance stories, with HEA/HFN, though all are full of hope and joy. Also, Jules Jones and Storm Duffy are two writing facets of the same author.

Stormy Nights, by Jules Jones and Stormy Duffy

This is a collection of nine short stories of varying lengths and genres; some are very romantic, some are more short erotic vignettes than stories, and one is an incredibly poignant fantasy with very strong romantic elements. There are merpeople, and fae, and just plain contemporaries.

In competition for the shortest blurb EVER:

Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.

Told ya! (but never ye worry, my pretties, I’m adding the blurb-ettes for each story at the end, after the footnotes)

In the interest of full disclosure, one of the reasons I have struggled writing this review is that I loved every single one of the entries in this anthology, and it’s proving difficult to write something other than an uncritical squeefest. Between my unbridled enthusiasm for Ms Jones’ writing voice and the fact that most of these are quite short (so that going into any detail would go against my “no spoilers allowed here” rule), I have struggled mightily.

You’ve been warned.

You see, there’s something incredibly engaging, to me, about Ms Jones’ writing voice. It’s familiar–despite my not having read any of her work for a while–and comforting, cozy even. Which is why I started the anthology thinking of stopping at a reasonable time, after one or two of the stories, and instead read it well into the wee hours until I was done with the lot.

All the stories are hot, and quite explicit, but the sex is not…I want to say, not “detached” for lack of a better word. There’s an intimacy and a hopefulness in all of them (yes, even in the one about a quick, random hookup in a public lavatory), and even in those that are more what we’ll call ‘fetish vignettes’ rather than short stories, the characters’ care and affection for each other are evident through Ms Jones’ writing.

The characters take care of (and with) each other, and with themselves; this care is present in things like clearly waiting for consent–even in fetish scenes where lack of consent is the kink–and the use of condoms. There is none of that ‘carried away’ bit where after the fact a party wonders about their health.

Some of the stories have happy or hopeful endings, some (most notably “If I offered Thee a Bargain”) do not, but there is in all of them an undercurrent of care and sweetness. Not one character is looking to hurt, abuse, or take advantage of another. Consent and mutual enjoyment are the very premise of all of these stories–whether the participants are in a long term relationship, starting one, or simply sharing a few moments of pleasure.

I love that. It fills me with hope and joy to think of people, even strangers who don’t expect to ever run into each other again, taking care, being considerate, wanting to give, and not only to receive care and pleasure.

And I seriously love knowing that I can trust the author to deliver this hope consistently through her characterization, even when the stories do not necessarily fulfill the one rule of romance.²

I cannot really grade each of the entries in the anthology, however I’ll say this: my most favorite is “If I Offered Thee a Bargain.” My least favorite is “Car Wash” (mostly because for me cars are tools and nothing else, I think, though perhaps the age difference there has something to do with it). And I was just a bit uncomfortable with one moment in “Any Port in a Storm” because there was no previous consent or discussion for a particular act, though everyone involved is happy when all is said and done. So, overall, Stormy Nights gets an 8.25 out of 10

~ * ~

¹ Except that the freaking grandmother of all reading slumps has been going on for almost three full years now, which really doesn’t help matters any.

² HEA or HFN–and don’t get me started on some people selling depressing stories and killing off protagonists as the end, as romance. Seriously, do. not. get me started on this. Also, read this most excellent piece on the topic by K. J. Charles.

~ * ~

As promised, the blurbs:

GONE FISHING
Mike’s doctor prescribed a few weeks on a lonely beach as a rest cure for a weary mind. But even if the beach is empty, the sea holds more than fish.

NAKED
Just how far will a man go to understand his partner’s desires? Will he bare all – including all of his skin to the razor blade?

ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Hugh’s everything that Gavin could ask for in a lover. Everything, apart from his taste in underwear. It’s boring. So Gavin decides to rummage through Hugh’s underwear drawer—and what he finds is so interesting that he tries it out for size.

THE FRAUDSTER
A forensic accountant’s job offer to a computer fraudster fresh from prison is a second chance for both.

A SPARROW FLIES THROUGH
High tech cottaging provides a few moments of light and warmth on a dark cold night.

IF I OFFERED THEE A BARGAIN
Just one night of your life in exchange for seven years of love. Would you pay the price?
Jack never dreamed that a reluctant trip back to his home town would thrust him into the world of the sidhe. He finds that the legends are true, but the sidhe have changed.

ANY PORT IN A STORM
A spilt coffee at the tram station on a snowy night leads to a table set for three.

MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
Leave two engineers in joint charge of a works site and they’ll have to find a way to settle their philosophical differences on management techniques.

CAR WASH
Colin had always loved washing the neighbour’s car for pocket money. Rod’s classic car collection was a boy’s dream. And so is Rod, now Colin’s home from university and not a boy any more. Colin’s had a little fantasy about Rod’s vintage Jaguar and her gleaming curves for a while now…

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