Title: Start Here
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.
Release Date: January 27, 2018
Book Cover Design: Dani Hernandez
Additional Photography: Alexandra Urrea & Chachic Fernandez
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.
This anthology contains M/M, F/F, F/NB romance stories with happy endings. Some stories have a high heat level.
You know those books that make you burst with so much love that you just about pass out. Yeah? Well, Start Here is one of those.
In this post, I’ll be reviewing and talking about the two stories from Start Here that were the most special to me along with sharing an aesthetic for one.
First off, I want to say that for those of you who are looking for a Queer Anthology that isn’t 99.99% M/M stories and then one F/F one: Congratulations, Start Here is for you. There can be this strange ignorance of F/F stories in Queer anthologies, but that wasn’t the case with Start Here. Plus, there are characters who specifically use labels, like the pansexual heroine in Gorgeous, and characters who don’t. There’s such a variety of tropes and characters that I think you’re bound to spot one close to your heart.
Aesthetic & Mini Review:
Delubyo by Barbie Barbieto
Pebbles has a strict four-month rule when it comes to relationships. But she’s about to find out what happens when you meet a woman who defies all your ideas of how long the space between endings and beginnings should be.
Delubyo was without a doubt my favorite story from Start Here. Anything that compels me to make an Aesthetic deserves 3948092 stars. If it was possible to do that on Goodreads, I totally would.
Heroines that have commitment issues are my absolute favorite thing. Anyone who feels like that will love Delubyo too.
The story starts out with Pebbles, a serial ‘date them for 4 months & then done’ kind of girl, getting ready to break up with her girlfriend of 8 months at the restaurant she breaks up with everyone out…. Things don’t go as planned.
My favorite thing about Delubyo was how natural it felt. The characters themselves and the progression of the relationship between Pebbles and Gab flowed perfectly. Pebbles’ situation she lands in after not breaking up with Gab was funny while also staying grounded in reality. I loved them so much in part because they felt like people I could’ve known.
Come Full Circle by Bobbi Moran
You know you’re in love when you put somebody else’s happiness before yours. But waiting for fifteen years for someone to realize you are THE ONE may be taking this to the extreme.
To All the Haters of Second Person: Come Full Circle is the story for you.
Lan, the heroine, starts the story out by reflecting on “You” aka Alana when they were in high school together playing the two leads in Sound of Music. The story follows Lan’s reflections throughout the years as Alana and Lan live their lives and then eventually become friends and then lovers.
Normally, I don’t read Second Person POV stories. Not because I’m an avid “disliker” of it, Second Person stories aren’t something I come across often. When I read the first line of Come Full Circle, I was completely sucked in and there was no going back. My favorite thing about the use of Second Person in it was that I truly felt the emotions that Lan was feeling towards Alana. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that immersed in a story.
Somehow, the story managed to employ a ton of tropes that I enjoy including Loved You for Years, Friends to Lovers, basically Accidentally Dating (I mean, how did they not realize), and a of course a story that comes full circle. I’m a huge fan of cyclical stories, so that was the icing on the cake.
Also, the fact that Alana realized she liked women later in life made me happy to see. The little details about this story where what got me so hooked. If you’re a fan of High School Reunion based tropes, make sure to watch out for Come Full Circle while reading Start Here.
Learn about the rest of the Stories!
In the Moonlight by Agay Llanera
Seventeen-year-old Caleb has been burned by a previous relationship. While on vacation, he meets Ezra of the sculpted calves and disarming smile, who surprises him with a moonlight kiss. Caleb retreats–and regrets his decision. Thanks to the internet, he knows where to find his summer crush, but the more pressing question is, will Caleb have the courage to bare his heart again?
Gorgeous by Motzie Dapul
New love in New York with a twist!
Two home-grown Filipinos fall in love after a chance meeting on a train to Little Manila in Queens, NY. They learn, over time spent enjoying the colorful culture of New York City’s streets, that they are, by all accounts, perfect for each other—before some unexpected baggage and a surprising history threatens to tear them apart.
Some things just don’t heal with time alone, but sometimes it’s only when it hurts that you know it’s worth trying for.
Shipping Included by Danice Sison
Two cute guys sneak into a K-pop concert. Neither one could be called a fan of the music, but by the end of the night, they might just find themselves with a new favorite song and a few romantic possibilities.
The Other Story by H. Bentham
A bored twenty-something goes to a sex club he frequently visits to while away the night and find that love sometimes comes at unexpected places.
Blooms and Hues by Ella Banta
Experience love in color and flowers,
Another First by Yeyet Soriano
Jess finally gets to have a long-delayed romantic get-away to Bohol with her hot but busy boyfriend Matteo. Beautiful resort, check! Romantic ambience, check!
But wait . . . Lily Rose, the resort’s resident singer and self-proclaimed mermaid, is distracting the hell out of everyone.
Luck From the Skies by Katt Briones
Asher Lee knew from the beginning that he was going to win the teen model search, but didn’t expect to share the title with his biggest competitor, Chan Valiente. Previously threatened by his former adversary’s talent and looks, Asher kept his walls up, only to find them crumbling down with Chan’s charms.
Would Asher be brave enough to take the leap and actually find his chance at love? Or will he and Chan remain to be a fan-made bromance?
Lemon Drop Friday by Brigitte Bautista
Tala has been secretly in love with her best friend Liv for years. Living right across the hallway, she has seen through Liv’s revolving door of Friday one-night stands. The rule: they always say goodbye in the morning. But, what happens when a rainy Friday night leads Tala to Liv’s apartment in what looks like another one-night stand?
All in all, Start Here is a good place to start
(kill me, I know) with Queer anthologies. Be prepared to break out the heart eyes.