Jeff Mann is an excellent writer. No question of it. As Patrick Califia says in the opening words of his intro:
Poets. They'll break your heart every time. But until then, the sex is amazing.
I found it interesting reading this anthology after having read Jeff's essay in [b:The Other Man|17823716|The Other Man|Paul Alan Fahey|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1366201771s/17823716.jpg|24932743] based on something that happened to him in real life. He talks about being involved with "Another Man" even though he was in a committed loving relationship. This theme resonates through his stories. Having a lover who is a good, kind reliable person - but not kinky-and the way he got so aroused whenever he thought about being tied up and taken to his physical limits.
I've always been interested in uncovering men's fears and fantasies as knowing these gives a better picture of who they are. Jeff's are written here, plain to see.
Above all, this is a book about bears. Nowhere else have I really felt the essence of these big men. And not just big, hairy men with voracious appetites for food and drink, but also sex, especially the intense experiences brought on by the extremes of leathersex.
I deliberately skipped reading the introduction by Patrick Califia until I'd finished the collection as I didn't want to be influenced by anything other than Jeff's own words. However, Patrick does sum up what this essence is.
The last story was especially interesting from a writer's POV after having read [b:Fog: A Novel of Desire and Reprisal|12388664|Fog A Novel of Desire and Reprisal|Jeff Mann|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1338748876s/12388664.jpg|17369662]
The two stories have very similar plots but just some slight shifts as far as goal, motivation and circumstance leads to a different take on the scenario. Yes, there are similarities. But the differences are what makes them both worth reading. Both are satisfying in their own rights. Both had me on the edge of my seat wondering how it could ever be resolved without something drastic happening to one or all of the characters.
That's what good writing is all about.
(Incidentally, I managed to buy this through All Romance Ebooks but it definitely shouldn't be shelved as romance even though there is a lot of affection and love in the true sense of the word)