If All The Sand Were Pearl
by Pepper Espinoza, fantasy (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-60504-199-8


If All The Sand Were Pearl - I really like that title - is a readable story, but the conflict in the story is actually a no-brainer for me. Then again, I'm not the biggest fan of martyr characters who set themselves up for self-inflicted very difficult choices. Apart from that, this story is pretty much a typical example of a heterosexual fantasy romance that is "homosexualized" by sticking the relevant male body parts to the designated heroine.

Jaq Martin - skinny, emo, and therefore your typical Nelly Bottom 101 archetype - believes that he is supposed to lead the life of being in religious service to the Goddess. However, a mysterious fellow named Brace Rivers - built like a strapping warrior, macho, and no doubt has more body hair than Jaq could ever grow on his pinky finger, thus fulfilling the Straight-Acting Macho Top 101 archetype - has pretty much paid off Jaq's family to arrange a wedding between him and Jaq. Jaq isn't keen on getting married, as you can imagine. The pearl in the title refers to the pearl ring that Bryce presents to Jaq. Bryce allows Jaq to do whatever Jaq wants with the ring - he doesn't have to return it even if the wedding doesn't take place.

The way I see it, given that Bryce has given Jaq the right to do anything Jaq wants with the ring, Jaq could easily sell that thing and pay back Bryce for the expenses of the wedding preparations and keep some loose change to help his family. Of course, if Jaq does this, there will be no story, so Jaq instead plays the Mary Balogh heroine by going, oh, family honor dictates that he should abide by the agreement that Bryce made with his family. Oh, and he doesn't want to hurt Bryce's feelings. So he's just going to make sure that I know that he's unhappy because he's so noble in wanting to make everyone happy, ugh.

The rest of the story is predictable. The characters wallow in blue and make sure that I am told every detail of their sad blues repeatedly. The tough butch guy is the top, the "husband", and the "man" while the sensitive emo one is the bottom. It will be nice if, at the very least, Jaq turns out to be this voracious top that likes to spank his men or something. Hey, if Clay Aiken can claim to be a power top, I don't see why we should apply stereotypes so liberally in gay romances, right?

I like the title of this short story, but the rest of the tale is pretty much a standard, formulaic, and predictable gay romance. It is very much like every other gay romances that are saturating that particular section of the market right now.

Rating: 65


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