“Charming Princes” by Jamie Freeman, Best Gay Romance 2013 (Cleis Press). Edited by R. D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert.

This is just the breather the reader needs after several more serious stories.

Ashe is protesting modern industry and the plight of workers in the Third World when he crosses paths with Fletcher, who is just trying to buy some shoes. Ashe tries to lay a head trip on Fletcher but the latter will have none of it, and a verbal sparring match ensues. Knowing there’s a fine line between love and hate, Fletcher asks Ashe to lunch and then to more, action that very nearly lands them in hot water. But it’s the need Ashe feels to disguise his true self which proves the real danger to their budding romance. Fast and funny, this contemporary tale explores the masks we construct for ourselves and the roles we portray for one another.