Since I haven't read the novels yet, this free short story (set after The Boss and The Girlfriend) is my introduction to the "Boss-verse". Rumour has it the series was created as an "anti-Fifty Shades of Grey" - Dom/sub, boss/employee, billionaire/middle-class, but without the abuse. That seems fair, but it does mean the inclusion of tropes that piss me off: Both parties in a couple are never truly happy without the other, the most insecure in the relationship is the most loved, etc.
I think I've read so much erotic romance (m/f, m/f/m, m/m/f) that I'm getting bored. Maybe because of the groupings, but also the lack of conflict. A romance guarantees everyone (or at least the main couple) lives happily ever after, which means any conflict in the story doesn't feel real, because you know it'll be solved/tolerated in the end. This is why I prefer erotic FICTION (rather than erotic ROMANCE), but hey - The Hook-Up is free, so I gave it a chance.
So yeah, the beginning and ending don't work for me because they're Neil/Sophie lovey/lusty talk. But the middle with Neil and Emir is AWESOME and actually ground-breaking for me as a reader. Condoms and lube are both common in the romances I've read - as they should be - but The Hook-Up also features condom-oral, dental dams, and latex gloves (which I've never read in fiction unless a sex worker is involved). Sure, Neil and Sophie probably go unprotected because One True Love, but this is the story's unspoken nod that infections do exist in Fictionland after all. (Perhaps even unwanted pregnancies; who knows?)
Overall, a pretty great introduction to the Boss-verse, and at such a fabulous price (it's legally free) it shouldn't be missed.
It's Saint Valentine's Day in futuristic New York, and all commuter Amy wants is to get to Long Island, where her three-year-old daughter waits at home. A friend warns her of a massacre going on at Penn Station, but then Amy's train stops, and technology shuts down. Next, the carriage is invaded...
As the handful of surviving passengers make their way on foot out of the subway, they try to figure out what's happened and why.
There are no concrete answers, which may frustrate readers demanding closure, but it's a beautiful tale set in a dark world. Amy is easily relatable, trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Ronnie is world-weary, a feeling we all get. I liked Michele Lang's time-travel story, THE WALLED GARDEN, but I love SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY more. She may be a novelist, but the author's short stories are brilliant.
I assumed Bleeding Ink was written entirely by Lisa Forget, Patricia Hollett, and Tammy Crosby, but instead there are many contributors, all of them members of Kelley Armstrong's Online Writing Group.
There's poetry. I'm not a fan of poetry, and these poems didn't work for me. There are vignettes/scenes - simply pieces of writing that aren't stories, as they're seemingly plot-less.
But there are proper short stories, of varying quality. My favourites:
-Phil Temples' Last Call
-Nicky Peacock's Bad Baby
-Maxwell Zwain's Deal with the Devil
-Christian A. Larsen's Club 27
-J. A. Campbell's Roses for the Devil
Nicky Peacock's Bad Baby is the best of them all, and I love it to bits. So relevant to my interests, and written well.
J. A. Campbell's Roses for the Devil could be expanded both before and after what happens in this tale.
One of my beefs with self-publishing is the lack of gatekeepers. Kelley Armstrong's Online Writing Group is actually a critique group, but in this collection I saw plenty of room for improvement: Scenes should've been rewritten as stories; some paragraphs should've been deleted at the beginnings to hook readers faster; and the lack of copyediting! For me, copyediting is the easiest part of critiquing, even without Microsoft Word which points out grammatical errors. Oh, and this is a finished edition of the anthology, via Smashwords. So if you purchase it, likely these errors won't have been corrected.
And then there are contributions that self-reference Bleeding Ink or the Ink Babes, or are about writers. That kind of stuff makes me cringe. Methinks this is a collection for writers, not readers. Either way, I can't recommend this book, though I do recommend the five short stories I name-checked earlier.