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Note: The three novellas in this collection – two co-authored by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews, the third by Leta Blake, solo – have been previously published.
Levity (previously published as Earthly Desires) and Flight (previously published as Love’s Nest) were originally part of a three part series of Gay Fairy Tales, and are, respectively, retellings and reworkings of The Light Princess, a Scottish fairy tale published in 1864, and the more well-known The Twelve Dancing Princesses, as published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. The style of the storytelling in both works well to create the overall ‘feel’ of a fairy story, and there’s magic and true love and princes, princesses, fae and witches galore. Oh, and lots more sex than is to be found in either of the originals!
Levity: A Gay Fairy Tale by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews (2012)
Cursed as an infant with a lack of physical and emotional gravity, Prince Efrosin can’t keep his feet on the ground or his head out of the clouds. Laughing his way through life, he’s never been weighed down by love and lust. When his tenuous tie to the earth is severed, he blows away on the wind. Rescued by Dmitri, an equally cursed woodsman, the two men are irresistibly drawn together. But Efrosin and Dmitri must fight free of their curses in order to find their fairy tale ending and live happily ever after.
Prince Efrosin is cursed to a life devoid of physical or emotional gravity. Always tethered, lest he float away and become lost forever, he floats – literally – through life without a care in the world, unable to experience any of the weighty emotions, or even to understand them, which often leads to his responding to such things in a completely inappropriate manner. The only place he’s different is in the water, where his late mother’s magical gift prevents him from floating away and enables him to experience emotions more normally.
Carried away by the wind one day, he’s rescued from a tree by a handsome woodsman named Dmitri, who was cursed by a witch to be unable to ever leave the land in which he lives. He’s bound to the earth and able only to imagine all the far off places he would love to see. Thus Levity is the story of how the earth-bound woodsman and gravity-less prince find freedom and love.
It’s all quite silly – it’s a fairy tale! – but it’s entertaining and there’s plenty of hot sex if that’s what you’re here for (although the lubeless shagging on the riverbank… ouch?). Like most fairy tales, there’s an evil witch putting a spanner in the works, a rescue to be performed and a sacrifice to be made before our heroes can reach their HEA, which – also like most fairy tales – is a sufficiently gruesome one (it put me in mind of Ashputtel’s sisters trying to get the slipper to fit!) Levity is cute, sexy and imaginative, and, despite the title, not without some heavier themes.
Flight: A Gay Fairy Tale by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews (2013)
There’s no greater mystery in the kingdom than where Prince Mateo’s sisters disappear to each night. The king is determined to discover where they go and issues a challenge to all the nobles to help him learn their secret. Hoping to protect them, Mateo hides beneath a magic cloak and follows his sisters to an enchanted world of fairies and lusty delights.
Ópalo has waited years to finally meet his human lover. But while Mateo soon succumbs to the pleasures of the flesh, he refuses to surrender his heart so easily. As their worlds collide, Ópalo has to risk everything to win his man forever.
The longest of the three stories, Flight follows the storyline of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, although in this version, there are eleven princesses and one prince, who has not been included in the mysterious nightly excursions that ruin his sisters’ shoes! When the King issues a decree that whoever can find out where his daughters are going at night can marry any of his children (including Mateo) Mateo is furious at the idea that he could be offered up as a reward and decides to find out what is going on himself.
Ópalo is the youngest of the twelve fae princes and princesses who await their human brides every night. His bride has not so far arrived, but his patience is rewarded when, at last, Mateo appears. For three days and nights (time works differently in fairy land!) Ópalo woos Mateo; unlike his brothers and sister, he warns Mateo not to eat anything while he’s there, as otherwise, he’ll be permanently bound to Ópalo. Mateo is momentarily outraged at the thought that his sisters have been unwillingly enchanted, but Ópalo is quick to reassure him that they ate the fairy cakes they were offered completely of their own volition. He knows Mateo is his fate, but wants him to want to be with him; and Mateo makes it clear early on that his heart and his love are his to give, and that he’s determined to make his own decision.
That was the most interesting aspect of the story, and it was kind of a double-edged sword. I liked the emphasis that Mateo placed on making his own choices, but on the other, his refusal to admit that he and Ópalo are destined – and his insistence on not wanting to love anyone – caused Ópalo unnecessary hurt. That didn’t stop them from having lots of energetic sex though 😉
There’s a dramatic denouement that sees Mateo forced to make a choice – but even then, he’s not all in with it – and the ending was something of an anticlimax; it just seemed to fizzle out and we never got to see Mateo actually commit. Flight started well but got a bit repetitive around the middle and the ending was disappointing.
Angel Undone: An Urban Fantasy by Leta Blake (2016)
The Archangel Michael is tired. He fought wars and shoved his brother Lucifer out of heaven all before the Dark Ages rolled around. His role as protector of Israel now encompasses all of humanity, and while he performs his job perfectly, there’s little personal joy in it.
Until one night in a bar when he meets Asher.
Michael isn’t sure what it is about the vulnerable, self-deprecating Asher that calls to him, but something about his restrained depths, gentle smiles, and encyclopedic knowledge of flowers tugs at Michael in a way that can’t be denied. Too bad romance isn’t part of his mission.
This story by Leta Blake isn’t a fairytale retelling; rather, it’s a modern fable – sort of. The Archangel Michael is frequently sent to Earth to help or protect humans, and on the night this story opens, he’s been instructed to connect with Asher Rosenthal, a depressed, lonely forty-year-old man who has lost his job and been rejected by his family after coming out. He’s drinking heavily on the verge of making a decision that could cost him his life; Michael steps in and engages him in conversation, and very soon and finds himself in the grip of an intense attraction, the like of which he hasn’t felt in centuries. He’s done his job and saved Asher… but for Michael, one night isn’t enough and even though he knows he shouldn’t, he arranges to see Asher the next night. And the next. Even though he fears his Father’s wrath and being cast out, Michael can’t give Asher up.
Most of this story deals with Michael’s conflicting thoughts and desires, and while Asher is sweet (and there’s plenty of angelic sexytimes!) he’s not especially well-developed. I enjoyed the scenes between Michael and Lucifer, who Michael asks about what it’s like to truly fall (if this was a movie, he’d have all the best lines (!) and steal every scene he was in). Lucifer never passes up a chance to provoke Michael into rebellion against their Father, but even though he’s supposed to be the bad guy, he does listen to Michael and try to help him out.
Angel Undone ended up being my favourite of the three, and I would have given it a higher rating had it not been for the sudden time-jump near the end. I’m not sure what the author was trying to achieve – a last minute bit of conflict, perhaps? But whatever it was, it felt off, and I knocked half a grade point off because of it. I found the premise an interesting one and would have liked it to have been more thoroughly explored, together with more development in terms of the romance and the characterisation of Asher.
I’ve read and listened to several books by Leta Blake and Keira Andrews over the last year or so and they’re both firmly on my radar as authors whose work I enjoy and will always look for. But these novellas, while well-written and imaginative, didn’t quite hit the spot. I enjoyed reading them, but they’re not stories I’m likely to revisit.