I really appreciate Ann's way with words. I get the impression she chooses each one very carefully.
Of these stories, I actually preferred the last one the best. Ann's stories often have a social agenda. That's fine with me. Fiction is a great way to explore themes that worry you in the world. However, I acknowledge that many readers don't agree.
I felt her story about homeless men and the difficult transition to feeling you have worth and being able to trust again was expertly handled in just a few pages. I may not have worked with them directly but I have worked in a shop opposite a shelter, and the men and their circumstances were real.
Jamie, who would have been the first to acknowledge he wasn't the most empathetic person in the world or the most altruistic, was taught that he had that capacity in him.
I liked the way the sex wasn't present. Not because it took place behind closed doors but because it didn't take place at all.
Readers who equate sex with love and vice versa and romance with sex would undoubtedly find that disconcerting, however in this case, the willingness not to take things further spoke more about the chance of the relationship being long term than actually having sex would have. The mutual sexual attraction comes through strongly enough anyway.
The other short story of the young man drinking at the graveside was very moving also.
Interestingly, the BDSM story that started the book held less interest to me than the one that followed in which the couple hooked up in the first place. And it wasn't because of the first story's drift into multiple partners or even rape. In fact, that added a bit of spice to what had until then lacked conflict. Despite the pain and struggle, I don't define BDSM itself as conflict. Strangely, though, if the two stories had been in chronological order, the twist in the first would have made more sense. Been more logical. Interesting publishing decision.
That's why I took off half a star.