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Format: Format Kindle
3.5 stars - Cross Bones is a pirate-themed m/m romance anthology, and like many anthologies, is a mixed-bag. Some stories were great, some were just okay, some I couldn't wait until they were over.
Rather than do my breakdown of each story as they appeared, I'm going to do it in the order that I liked them.
Objectivity by K.J. Johnson - 4.5 stars: Very well-written and tense contemporary story about a journalist who is shadowing/tagging along with a pirate who plunders ships off the African coast. Great chemistry and back-and-forth as Matthew and Achmed disagree over Achmed's raids, and Matthew worries if he'll survive his expose. Really well done story that balances characters, story, and yes, even sex.
Rough Trade by Cooper West - 4.5 stars: I really enjoyed this sci-fi space story about a gunner on his sentient ship who makes a deal to rescue an imperiled doctor from a dicey space port job. Great chemistry, fun dialogue, and neat world-building. The short story format worked, but I could have read a full novel of these guys. Fans of shows like Firefly would especially like this one.
On the Wings of Lir by Riley Shane - 4.5 stars: Steampunk Pirates! Yay! Very fun adventure romance story set an AU Victorian times as young Hugh takes it upon himself to capture the famed air pirate Captain Kelly, but as usual, not everything is as it seems. I love steampunk adventure romance, and this was a very fun ride with great character chemistry, and I liked how the author switched POVs between the MCs. Good times.
Captain Merric by Rebecca Cohen - 4 stars: Nice short story about two men who were once lovers and are reunited fifteen years later at sea--one now a pirate, and the other a British Navy Captain who was left adrift by his mutinous crew. Good atmosphere and enjoyable character interaction. I'm always a fan of the reunited lovers trope.
My Hand in Yours by Emily Moreton - 4 stars: I liked this one a lot. Set in an AU world where magic exists, this story tells of an affair between a young peacekeeper and a pirate who visits him every few months. The world-building was minimal, but the hints were enough to be interesting. It was a good read, and I wouldn't have minded following along for further adventures with them.
From a Simmer to a Burn by B. Snow - 4 Stars: Well-written as well as an interesting historical story of Sule, an escaped slave who works on a pirate ship, and who directs his never-ending anger at the large, young Norwegian carpenter working on the ship. Sule was a fascinating character, especially as he battles within himself over his feelings for sweet, open Olaf.
Irish Red by M.J. O'Shea - 4 stars Although too short for much development, and the plot didn't blow me away, a tale of a barkeep on a faraway island and his gentleman pirate caller that comes around every few months, I did like the characters and the romance between them, so this was an enjoyable read.
Black John by Piper Vaughn - 3.5 stars: A companion story to O'Shea's Irish Red that is set two years later with a different MC. (Irish Red's MCs are in the background though.) I wasn't as attached to the main couple in this one, but it was a nice read.
I did really like how O'Shea and Vaughn played in the same world though and made me wish that they had taken that concept further, maybe have more writers work with "the island" that these two had created.
Ghost of Jupiter by Jana Denardo - 3.5 stars: Interesting sci-fi story of a privateer raiding a ship, only to find a group of enslaved chimera fighters as part of the cargo. There was some good sci-fi world building, but the short story format didn't lend a lot of time to build the relationship between the captain and one of the freed fighters. I think this would have worked better as a longer story with more development, but I liked Talek, the chimera, and his fascination with new things, especially freedom.
The Winds of Change by Maggie Lee - 3 stars: The last story in the anthology is another traditional historical, this one about two longtime friends who take a commission on a pirate ship. The characters were nice, as is the writing, but I'm not always a fan of multiple liaisons with other people in order to understand who your one true love is.
Touched by the West Wind by Ellen Holiday. 3 stars: A pleasant read about two young men on a pirate ship who grow from fast friends to something deeper. Nice, but a little emo with the internal struggle over all the feelings the narrator was going through.
Worth the Price by Cornelia Grey - 3 stars: Another traditional pirates story. This one of a British Navy Lieutenant who is captured by an infamous pirate that he's been chasing, only to be swayed by that pirate, and then when the tables turn, is faced with a hard choice. Even though I like swashbuckling stories, this one just didn't reel me in, and I started to skim to finish it.
The Golden Galleon by K.R. Foster - 2.5 stars: A short contemporary romance about a couple who run a pirate-themed restaurant together. The writing was fine, but it felt like everything, characters included, was mostly there to build up to the sex scene at the end. So, just an okay read.
Officer and a Gentleman Pirate by E.S. Douglas - 2.5 stars: Very over-narrated historical story about a soldier who captures a wily and charming pirate. Wasn't too drawn in to this one.
Peter and the Lost Boys by Juan Kenobi - 2 stars: This contemporary story isn't really a romance, and accomplished the feat of creeping me out as I waited for the eventual shoe to drop. Peter is looking for work; the bearded and cheery "Kap" is looking for assistance at his film company that he bases at his house boat. Even though the tone of the story wasn't at all dark, "Stranger Danger!" kept blinking in my head. And yes, it's easy to figure out Kap's business. Even though it read like the beginning of a stereotypical porn film with all its poly possibilities (just need the pizza boy to knock on the door), things fade out before any possibility of a porn can began. I was so thankful.
Anyways, very much a mixed-bag, which was sometimes disappointing since I really do love adventure stories, and the lack of consistency made this book somewhat a slog to get through.
But with that said, the stories that I liked, I REALLY liked, and I did find a few new authors to look out for, so that's a plus.