Usually I don't like anthologies. The simple reason is that I can't be satisfy by too short stories, and when I like the characters is even worst, since I always felt like they are gone too soon. So it's always with a bit of prejudice that I start an anthology, and the reason why I choose to read it is always different, but usually since there is at least an author in the anthology that I like.
Rough Cut is different so. First of all it's a collection of stories from the same author, Vincent Diamond, ones I had the chance to read and like, especially in the Under Arrest Anthology. One reason more is that, the very story I like in that anthology, was also in this collection and it has also a sequel, so even better, since one of my prejudice falls as I have the chance to read more on two characters I liked very much and way better since the story I read in the past didn't have an happily ever after and I'm a looser for HEA. And finally the big surprise, almost all the stories in the anthology are related one to each other and tell us about the same pair, an ex cops and his bad boy lover, and so it's almost like having a full novel, plus some nice appetizers and desserts.
"Lions and Tigers and Snares" & "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" : Byron is an agent who has to discover an illicit traffic with dying big felines. So he works undercover in a shelter, playing the role of volunteer and looking around. But more than looking to illicit traffic, he is looking at Kendall, the man who leads the shelter and that probably is head to foot involved. But Byron sees how Kendall loves the big cats and he is sure the man can't be the ones who sells them to certain death.
"A Cold Night's Sleep" & "Fire": Sandy is a retired cop. He had a very bad experience during a fire and he still blames himself for the death of a little child. Plus he is scarred by the fire, inside and outside. He prefers to live alone in a cabin with a cat and no one to care who can leave him like his former lover did. Tanner is an ex con who arrives to the cabin during a storm and Sandy offers him a shelter to the bad weather. Also Tanner has his scars, they are only inside, but they are not less painful. And from a scarred man to another, Tanner can see beyond Sandy claims to want to be alone. But probably Tanner needs to set something in his life and it's not time for him to stop with Sandy. And Sandy is not yet ready to forget and move one. Maybe not now, maybe not ever.
"A Cold Night's Sleep" is the short story I remember. In "Fire" Vincent Diamond tells us something more on these two guys, and maybe the romance I thought ended in the first story, could have a "better" end in this second chapter.
"Haunted", "Slide into Desire", "Walking the Blue Line", "Deep Trouble Undercover", "A Question of Taste", "Dangerous Days" & "Tropical Daze": all these stories are about Steven and Conrad. Steven is a undercover cop, he is searching proofs of a drug dealing during the rave parties. Conrad is the man who organizes the raves. It should be a simple mission, not a very dangerous one, they are dealing mostly with young kids, college animals... But Steven cares too much, since he falls in love with Conrad. Conrad is an half spanish half cuban guy, sexy and smooth talking; he lures Steven inside his world and in his bed. Steven is new to all this, he can't even imagine to fall in love with a man, but here he is and in love. But Conrad? it's only sex? and then there is the little problem that Steven should do his work and his work probably will lead Conrad in prison.
I don't want to spoil the story, since probably I will ruin to you the big surprise it revealed me. Reading "Haunted" I almost believed that this one was one of that wonderful but sad story, with two star-crossed lovers condemn to be forever torn apart and instead... read and you will know!
Sheperd: Felipe is a good guy who ends in prison. He is not gay, but two years in captivity could change a man. This is not a love story, maybe it's more a life journey, the surviving tale of a man who sees his world collapse and needs to refocuses his priority and beliefs.
"Bruised", "Back in the Saddle" & "Horsing Around": another pretty long and so very satisfying story. Marcus is a man who has loved and lost. He is still mourning but maybe he is ready to be back in the saddle. David is a vet student who helps Marcus in his horse farm during summer. He is young and innocent and so tempting. He sees and wants Marcus and with his joy of life forces Marcus to live again, to want again, to want David. But David is soo young, and new to real love, plus Marcus is his first man, before him David never thought possible for him to love a man. Family and future seem big handicaps in their ride to life.
Irish Cream: an old man remembers a lost lover, a love born and died when they can't even think for it to last, but if death didn't call, what could be? Now he has only memories, sad and cold, but cherished.
What links all the stories? they are sweet and sexy, but a bit sad. Even when there is an happily ever after, and lucky for me, there is often, I always felt like a suffused sadness. Erotic stories sometimes are like a roaring fire, these instead are like simmering ashes, and maybe it is better, since a roaring fire blasts and ends in a blur, and instead the ashes last longer. So these stories, they spread inside you like a comforting warm, and remain with you long before you close the book.