Release Day Review by Pixie: Beneath the Layers (Anthology)

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Beneath the Layers (Anthology)
Stories By: Caitlin Ricci, CL Mustafic, Elizabeth Coldwell, Sita Bethel,
E.M. Hamill, Sydney Blackburn, C.A. Blocke, Asta Idonea
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: April 17, 2017

Anthology Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

See each story for individual ratings

Eight stories of men who like a little satin and lace.

A Linebacker in Lace by Caitlin Ricci
This ex-linebacker is impossible for his friend to resist.

Satin Secrets by CL Mustafic
Sometimes secrets are better when they’re shared.

Backwards and in High Heels by Elizabeth Coldwell
Tonight he has the chance to live out his dream.

Angels in Delaware by Sita Bethel
When one finds two partners, it helps to dress for the occasion.

All That Entails by E.M. Hamill
A gender-fluid prince with a penchant for gowns finds his unlikely match in an arranged marriage.

After the Dance by Sydney Blackburn
Sometimes happily ever after requires a pretty frock.

A Secret Shared by C.A. Blocke
One sweet secret shared—and a spicy one returned.

Ruffle My Feathers by Asta Idonea
Sometimes love can be found behind a feather boa.

Publisher Tags:

Bisexual Characters
Gay Characters
Transgender Characters
Menage
Contemporary
Historical
In the Closet
Coming Out
Friends to Lovers
Cross-Dressing
Drag Queen
Law Enforcement
Sports
Royalty
Geeks

See reviews for individual tags.

If you have followed my reviews at all you may have noted I have a… fondness for men that embrace their femininity. Imagine how excited I was to receive this ARC… my enthusiasm was at an all time high, and while I think this book mostly delivered, some of the stories did not.

A Linebacker in Lace, by Caitlin Ricci
This ex-linebacker is impossible for his friend to resist.
2 stars

Tags: Gay Characters, Former Athlete, Secondary Transgender Character

(One of the main characters’ sister is transgender; while she is not (obviously) the male who adores dressing in women’s garments, I thought it was noteworthy because it provides a certain level of understanding about the ease at which Arliss accepts Brent’s desire.)

Initially I thought I would really like this story based on the introduction to the two characters. Brent is at a bar when Arliss recognizes him as former football player from his college which is surprising to Brent. He also notices Brent’s panties after his shirt rises up in the back unbeknownst to him. Arliss sister has a store that caters to men with similar tastes as Brent and he encourages him to visit.

In the end there were a few things that ended up taking me out of this story and the first is that Arliss is super prefect. He’s in his mid-twenties but has already adopted a son on his own (who’s 10) and because his son is way into football, which Arliss is not he’s gotten into it as well which is how he knew who Brent was…the problem is at first him remembering all these football facts comes down to him reading a lot, but by the end of the story he says his profession is as a sports writer for the local newspaper. I thought it odd.

The other thing was Brent was really uncomfortable with himself when it came to his desires to dress in women’s garments and Arliss seemed pushy to me. My literal note to myself reads “Cute introductory story, lace aspect was nice but Arliss was a fetishist”. Also the rapid introduction to family members and overnight I’ve arranged for the kid to stay elsewhere felt forced. Also I know we all love a wrap up but the exclusive boyfriend talk after what amounted to three meetings. I could not…

Satin Secrets, by CL Mustafic
Sometimes secrets are better when they’re shared.
2 stars

Tags: Gay Characters, Cop Fantasy

This story… again, another one where Gavin, who appeared to be some type of doctor, was possibly just exploring– or just sharing with his partner– his fondness for dressing in women’s garments.

There were several things with this one that kind of put me off. The first is that for most of the story I just wasn’t sure what was going on. Turns out the two are playing out a fantasy where Lex, who may have legitimately been a cop, comes to the house to check in on a reported possible break in, only to find Gavin dressed in women’s panties and cami… and other things happen.

One: I’ve read this set up before done MUCH better. Second: by this point in the book I was concerned that every single character that liked to wear clothing traditionally thought of as for women was going to be angst-ridden. Lex was not only accepting but on board, but Gavin even by the end seemed uncertain. Put me off.

Backwards and in High Heels, by Elizabeth Coldwell
Tonight he has the chance to live out his dream.
3 stars

Tags: Gay Characters, Cross Dressing, Established Relationship

Things here started to get better for several reasons. While there is a sexual aspect to the story, the main character, Billie, was more comfortable with his desire to cross dress. He was also in what appeared to be a long-term relationship, where it was already established that it was something the two incorporated as part of their life. Billie’s partner, Oliver has been away for an extended time for work, and Billie decides to surprise him by taking dancing lessons and taking him out to a special dinner.

I whole-heartedly love, with everything I am, watching a man dance the part that is traditionally thought of as female. I also adore a man that allows you to lead. Billie is not only seeking to do this, but also give Oliver an experience that really didn’t have much to do with crossdressing. It was more about doing something in public that most people take for granted, which is dancing a romantic dance with your significant other. The gift aspect wowed me. Now, Billie chose to do this dressed in a lovely blue dress and heels, and I could envision that the effect was stunning.

Angels in Delaware, by Sita Bethel
When one finds two partners, it helps to dress for the occasion.
2 stars

Tags: M/M/M, Established Couple seeking a third, Gay Bashing (highlight for spoiler: Beau is jumped by some guys for being gay.)

Beau meets an established couple, Angel & Delaware, at a club, and it turns out they are looking for a third companion. I toed the line of liking this story and really despising it. I am a firm believer in “non-traditional” relationships. But something about this story felt slightly unrealistic to me. Delaware’s character, out of all the characters, I think I possibly liked the most. As he was written, I really envisioned a tall, obviously-male man who happened to like to rock a short dress and eyeliner. Bald, in my mind black (I have no idea if the author intended him to be but my version is) and glorious.

But again… there was something about how the story progressed with regard to expanding the relationship to include the three that went awry. Initially Angel and Delaware mentioned using condoms with Beau, because obviously he was just a club hookup, but they didn’t use them with each other they said. Fast forward and there’s an awkward (for me) discussion about how if Beau wanted to be part of their relationship so long as he was monogamous (with the two of them) they were fine with the three of them not using condoms. I just… I wanted to focus on the man in lacey, frilly things, and Delaware felt more like a side character than a main plot.

All That Entails, by E.M. Hamill
A gender-fluid prince with a penchant for gowns finds his unlikely match in an arranged marriage.
5 stars

Tags: Bisexual Character, Gender-fluid Character, Transgender Character

 

From the author: This is historical, romantic fiction in which a gender-fluid nobleman with a penchant for gowns meets his unlikely match in an arranged marriage with a transgendered man. The heat level in this story is sweet.

So I won’t go too much into the details of this story because I want you to read it. Then, once you do, please feel free to DM me all your thoughts and we can discuss it at length. Tweet me, friend me on GR, whatever, let’s do this.

This story got so many things right. I will say it’s about an arranged marriage and the concept of denying yourself to meet societal expectations. While sexuality is discussed, I loved the fact the story in itself is not sexual at all. Even thinking about it, I have strong emotions: grief, when it starts the story saddened me to no end. Had it been longer I may have been distraught. The second feeling was one of hope…

After the Dance, by Sydney Blackburn
Sometimes happily ever after requires a pretty frock.
2 stars

Tags: Gay Characters, Cross Dressing

This story… well it threw me. Even looking back, I think my biggest take-away was I was never certain if Frank was a cross dresser. This book is set during a time when men are supposed to be married by a certain age, and for a man to not be seen in the company of a woman was definitely something that got talked about. Frank’s roommate ends up convincing him to accompany him out and about dressed as a female in order to keep the rumor mill down.

Frank falls for his boss’s son, Charles Quinn, and in the end the cross dressing is something that ends up being essential to the progression of their relationship.
I cannot for the life of me figure out why this story didn’t work for me other than the fact I just don’t think Frank truly was a cross dresser. The willingness to wear women’s clothing on request is not the same as a desire to do so.

A Secret Shared by C.A. Blocke
One sweet secret shared—and a spicy one returned.
1.5 stars

Tags: Gay Characters, In the Closet, Athlete, Cross Dressing, Geeks, Gaming

This felt not only rushed, but the whole cliché of closeted football-playing ‘potential NFL draftee’ who secretly cross-dresses and dates a hot nerd was lost on me. I will not remember this story if you ask me about it after this review posts.

Ruffle My Feathers by Asta Idonea
Sometimes love can be found behind a feather boa.
3 stars

Tags: Gay Characters, Drag Performer, Employee/Boss Relationship

This story had potential that I’m not sure it was able to deliver on in the few pages it had. The premise worked for me. I was surprised this was the only book that incorporated a man who actually did drag in it. Barrett is a builder, who is also gay, which his co-workers are aware of. What they don’t know is at the end of every work week he showers off the grime of the work site, and goes to his second job where he becomes Betsy.

Keith is Barrett’s boss, and the absolute last person Betsy imagines she’ll see during one of her performances. She’s even more shocked when Keith recognizes her.

This story is really about how people live with secrets, and maybe sometimes they don’t have to. There is a lot of angst here because Keith is closeted. There’s also the employer-employee dynamic, since Barrett works for him. I loved the ending though. I also like that Barrett, I thought, was more a performer of drag. I think he enjoyed the freedom that being Betsy allowed him, but I’m not sure there was a sexual aspect to his cross dressing.

Keith on the other hand…he really, really enjoyed a man in women’s clothing.

For more information about the authors in this anthology, please visit them at their websites:

Caitlin Ricci
CL Mustafic
Elizabeth Coldwell
Sita Bethel
E.M. Hamill
Sydney Blackburn
C.A. Blocke
Asta Idonea

You can purchase Beneath the Layers from:

Publisher
Amazon
Smashwords
Kobo
iTunes

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

2 thoughts on “Release Day Review by Pixie: Beneath the Layers (Anthology)

  1. Like you, I have a fondness for men wearing lacy undies so I know that I’m going to read this anthology. I’m super curious about the story featuring the genderfluid character and I’m hoping that I’ll dig the rest just as much.

    Like

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