Start Here: Short Stories of First Encounters edited by Ronald S. Lim & Brigitte Bautista
Genre: Anthology, Romance, YA / NA, #ownvoices, LGBTQIA+
Publication: January 27th 2018 by #romanceclass Books
Series: None. Standalone.
Length: 271 pages
Format: e-ARC from the tour host
There’s a first time for everything. Gatecrashing a KPop concert with an oppa in a business suit. Taking shelter from the storm with the girl you’ve been meaning to shake off. That kiss that blurs the line between friendship and something more. A one-night stand (or, is it?) with your best friend from across the hallway.
Dive into these 10 stories of first encounters – unapologetically queer, happy endings required, with a smattering of that signature #romanceclass kilig. Whether you’re recalling your own firsts or out there looking for one, there’s a story in here for you.
So, go on.
Turn the page.
(Edited by Ronald S. Lim and Brigitte Bautista. Featuring short stories by Agay Llanera, H. Bentham, Ella Banta, Danice Sison, Yeyet Soriano, Barbie Barbieto, Katt Briones, Bobbi Moran, Motzie Dapul, and Brigitte Bautista. This anthology contains M/M, F/F, F/NB romance stories with happy endings. Some stories have a high heat level.)
Huge thanks to my friends from #romanceclass for allowing me to be a part of the blog tour they’re hosting for this title and for sending an e-Galley in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.
Based on the cover and the synopsis alone, one would already know the lengths I’d go to to support, and help promote this anthology. I loved reading every single story in this collection, and I don’t know other ways to talk about them in a more detailed way other than reviewing each of the stories, so bear with me!
In The Moonlight by Agay Llanera – I haven’t had the chance to read Another Word for Happy when I read this, and I thought I won’t love it but DEAR GOD, was I wrong? I breezed through Agay’s short story, and I absolutely adored Caleb and Ezra. I love how in every page, I was stuck wanting for Caleb to find happiness, wherever (or whoever) it may be. Agay’s story is gripping, and it will no doubt make you swoon like you’ve never swooned before.
Come Full Circle by Bobbi Moran – I’ll be honest and share that I didn’t realize that this is a F/F story until after a specific scene, and I’ve never really had a favorite book with F/F characters, but DAMN was this good. I love how it was written in somewhat like a letter, and I appreciated the heat that the author added, and I love the story’s overall theatricality. From the first page to the end, I found myself deeply in love with Alana and Marion’s story.
Gorgeous by Motzie Dapul – This story takes place in New York, and I adored the MC’s story towards self-love and acceptance. I also appreciated how this somehow tackled high school bullying, making the story a lot more relatable and it definitely made me feel a little represented. I need to confess, though, that I grew somewhat confused while reading half of this story because after a few turns of the page, I noticed that the LI was referred to differently, and so I had to reach out to my friend Gavin for clarification. He then shared with me that NB (non-binary) characters are referred to like that, and albeit this realization somehow disoriented me, I still very much enjoyed this one.
Shipping Included by Danice Sison – This short story’s perfect for fans of Kpop references since this story’s meet cute happens at the concert grounds of a Kpop Concert. It has Titos for an MC and an LI and I. ABSOLUTELY. ADORED IT. Personally, when it comes to NA romance novels, I love reading single daddy tropes and so reading this was so, so enjoyable for me. I love how this tackled the experience of stanning someone (or something), and I love how cute the MC and LI is individually and as a pair.
Delubyo by Barbie Barbieto – This short story has a very successful MC, and an easily irresistible LI. It showcased a good and very much involved and supportive family dynamic, and I like how this aspect played it’s role in bringing the MC and LI closer together. I also appreciated the fact that this story first started out as a break-up story, and turning out to be a very warm-hearted one towards the end. And looking at the story as a whole, I like how unpredictable it turned out to be.
The Other Story by H. Bentham – THIS ONE’S AN INSTANT FAVORITE. It has a bookish and spontaneous MC, and a dashingly sporty LI who met at a gym (one that I would want to visit some time soon *wink*), and what I mostly loved about this is the undeniable chemistry between these characters, and I love how this short story wasn’t just about the sex. I feel like this was written with so much love, and faith, and respect, and I absolutely adore how everything was wrapped up towards the end. The only problem I have with this one is that I. NEED. MORE.
Blooms and Hues by Ella Banta – This one’s actually reminiscent of another #romanceclass title, The Bye-Bye Bouquet by Chi Yu Rodriguez, just because of the flower shop aspect, but with more diversity added into it. This also features a great family dynamic, showcasing a great bond between the MC and her sister. I love how involved she was, and how supportive and enthusiastic she was towards her brother’s love life. And although I wasn’t a big fan of the romance (it somehow lacked for me), I did like their meet cute, and the overall feel of the story.
Another First by Yeyet Soriano – As for this one, I love how it mainly focused on finding and loving one’s self before trying to commit to a romantic relationship. I love how in every page, the MC was basically forced by the LI to face her fears and do things she has never done before. And at first, I was afraid that the story might involve someone cheating, and I was so relieved to find out I was wrong towards the end. I love the overall feel good feel of this story, and I can’t deny how much I loved this one too.
Luck From The Skies by Katt Briones – Out of all the short stories in this anthology, perhaps this is the one that I easily related to the most. The MC in this one is young, sensitive, and very much aware of his sexuality, and it heavily reminded me of my younger years (high school – college JM is much like Asher), and it almost brought me to tears how much I felt and rooted for him. And the LI, Chan, reminded me so much of someone that I used to know. It hurt so much to read this, but at the same time, I felt so well represented, and everything was so well-written. The only thing I hate about this is how much I’m craving for more of their story.
Lemon Drop Friday by Brigitte Bautista – Brigitte’s is a story about great friends becoming lovers, and y’all know how much I love this trope. This F/F short story is sweet, and at the same time showed an in-depth look at how friends should celebrate each other’s seasons in whatever way they can. I love the MC’s fluffiness, the LI’s spontaneity, and the overall feel of the story. I found myself easily rooting for their love to sprout and I’m so, so satisfied with how everything turned out in the end. Brigitte’s short story is no doubt a great way to end this amazing, star-studded anthology.
“To say that the Start Here anthology is an amazing, 5-star read would probably be an oversimplification. Each short story is written with so much love, hope, and longing, and I honestly have no words to describe just how madly in love I am with this book. Every author had so much to offer in their stories, and I had a wonderful reading experience, thanks to this work of art. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and it feels good to have felt the things I did while reading this, and I’m looking forward to reading more books from the contributing authors.”
Have YOU read the Start Here Anthology from #romanceclass? How was it for you? Tell me all about it via the comments section below!
Until the next one!
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