Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and a Giveaway: The Happy Holidays! Edition

flashback-friday Christmas

Happy Ha-ha-holidays, everyone, and welcome to a special edition of Flashback Friday. We’ve dusted off a few of our favorite reads from Christmases past (some not so very past, really), but they’re holiday romances that have warmed our hearts and cheered us from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes, and we wanted to share those warm feelings with all of you.

If you’d like the chance to win a couple of the e-books we’ve featured today, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_AngelI’ll Runaway for the Holidays was written in 2010, and was the first M/M romance holiday story I ever read. Incidentally, it was also my first Stephanie Hecht book. I loved it and the author’s writing style, so I sought out more of her many works. The story is one of the first on my re-read list for the holidays, and I love how all of Stephanie Hecht’s characters get their happy endings.

This story is everything great in a feel good holiday romance. It isn’t real angsty, has sexy times between two fun characters that have a sort of quirky frenemies-to-lovers relationship, as well as some life lessons thrown in for good measure. Add in the crazy antics of Madison and Anson’s family, and this book was laugh out loud funny. There’s also some seriousness in the story dealing with Anson’s grandfather, but it was delicately handled and filled out the story for me from being just cute to complete. The sweet epilogue was adorable, too.

I'll Run Away for the HolidaysScott Cooper has never liked the holidays. So when his best friend, Madison, asks him to travel to her childhood home to celebrate Christmas, he can’t refuse fast enough. Scott doesn’t even get along with his own family, so the last thing he wants is to get saddled with her relatives for a whole week of snow and holiday cheer. Madison is good at getting what she wants, though, and before he knows it, Scott finds himself in for a seventeen-hour drive back to their home state of Michigan.

Just as Scott is getting adjusted to the idea of having to deal with Madison’s crazy family, another one of her relations joins in for the car trip; her very sexy, very younger brother, Anson. Not only is Anson still in college, but he’s the baby of the family, both of which should make him hands-off for Scott. To Scott’s horror and joy, however, Anson doesn’t want Scott to keep his hands to himself. The younger man immediately makes it clear that Scott is the only present he wants to unwrap for Christmas.

Holiday miracles can happen to anyone, or so Scott would like to believe. And it will take true magic for him and Anson to survive the holiday with their sanity intact, let alone for them to find a happily ever after…

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaWhen Lisa asked for favorite Holiday reads, I knew immediately one of the stories I wanted to highlight.  This story was part of the Dreamspinner Christmas Advent Calendar from 2011 – the first year after I had started reading M/M and knew about Dreamspinner.  The name of the story is A Wealth of Unsaid Words and it was written by R. Cooper.  Fair warning that this is a difficult but beautiful story.  It’s in many ways a heartbreaking story of two men who have been apart because one of them has a mental illness that he believes threatens both of their happiness.  They spend the holidays together and try to find their way.

The words that I used to capture my first impressions of this story were as follows:

Stunningly beautiful. The hell and hope of mental illness strikingly described. The fragility of Alex’s “sanity” and life brilliantly expressed. Ultimately about the strength and power of love and hope. Amazing. Touching. Painful. Beautiful. Poetic. I LOVED this.

I raved about this story and a friend who is bipolar saw that and she read it right away – thank god she also loved it since I was worried about recommending it! Little did I realize that a few short years later, I would have a family member who would be diagnosed bipolar and is struggling mightily.  And it will be a lifelong struggle.  There is much pain for him and all of us who love him.  It’s devastating and heartbreaking the impact it’s having on his life.

This story gives me hope and I hope will give anyone else hope who reads it.  It really is ultimately a beautifully written story of love and acceptance and hope.  I urge everyone to give it a try.

WealthofUnsaidWordsAlex has always known his bipolar disorder made him too flawed for his boyhood hero, Everett. So when his feelings for Everett became overwhelming, he forced a separation that saddened them both but gave Alex the clarity he needed. Now a year has passed, and he and Everett are together again when Everett’s noisy, imperfect family reunites for Christmas, pulling Alex into their chaotic warmth the way they always have. Can Everett convince Alex that, in spite of his fears, starting a relationship would make for the perfect holiday?

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TNA_Signature_CarrieIt’s always been a game of cat and mouse.  A dangerous game both men have enjoyed.  Noel is fascinated with the staid FBI agent, and they recognize in each other a worthy adversary. Unable to keep away from the flame, Noel gives in one New Year’s Eve and allows himself the touch of the man he is desperately in love with but knows he can never have. Fast forward 10 years, and there the man stands on Noel’s front porch—all crackling electric and ice cold in more ways than one on Christmas Eve. You can feel the sparks coming off the page – so much attraction – so much mistrust – it’s amazing!

This is a second chance story between two very complicated men. You would think that with two such weighty protagonist that the story would drag, but the author brings in such witty and tension-breaking secondary characters that it keeps this story flowing and downright entertaining. Llamas. Yeah, llamas.  That’s all I’m saying.

Josh Lanyon is the queen of the short story, no one writes them better than her, and this story is no exception. The pacing here is something few authors can achieve in a short. Plus, I enjoy authors who put subtle nuggets into their writing; here it’s an FBI agent named Cuffe and a thief named Noel Snow. Yes, Cuffe finally gets “snow” for Christmas. Love it!

IcecapadeOn the eve of the new millennium, diamond thief Noel Snow seduced FBI special agent Robert Cuffe, then fled into the dawn. Now a successful novelist, Noel uses his capers as fodder for his books, and has modeled his hero’s nemesis (and potential love interest) on Cuffe. Though he leaves Robert a drunken phone message every New Year’s Eve, Noel hasn’t seen or heard from him in a decade.

So he’s thrilled when his former lover shows up at his upstate farm one Christmas Eve. Elation quickly turns to alarm when Robert accuses Noel of being responsible for a recent rash of diamond heists. Robert is all business and as cold as ice: it seems his only interest in Noel is to put him behind bars.

Innocent of the crimes, and still as attracted as ever to the oh-so-serious lawman, Noel plans a second seduction–providing he can stay out of jail long enough!

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TNA_Signature_SammyWill is returning home after several years of near non-communication with his parents.  When confronted with the fact that their son was gay, Will’s parents turned to their overly zealous Pastor and church for guidance in dealing with the shocking revelation. The more they denied who he was and tried to “pray the gay away,” the more fractured their relationship became. A few years pass, and Will realizes his dream of becoming a published author. He also uses his novel as a sort of cathartic experience, detailing under the guise of a fictional story, the pain he went through with his family.  During this time, letters from home go largely unread, and Will keeps his parents at bay in order to cope with the pain of their rejection.

However, what Will doesn’t know is how his parents have changed, how much they have finally come to understand how their blind beliefs pushed their son away. As the years progressed, they moved away from their church to one much more tolerant and take in a young man named Ryan, whose own life actually mirrors in many ways exactly what happened with Will and his parents. When Will finally returns home for Christmas, he is met with what is akin to a substitute son who is not only loved but fully accepted. While he grapples with the various emotions this unleashes within him, he is least prepared for the blooming attraction he has for Ryan.  Now Will must both confront his parents over their painful past behavior and come to terms with how he feels about Ryan.

The Healing Power of Eggnog is artfully simple yet so multi-layered with emotional overtones it seems to capture one’s heart and mind so very thoroughly without the reader realizing.  As is par for the course for this author, the characters are both realistic and intentionally flawed, yet self-aware and never pandering—never shallow or cookie cutter.

When Lisa put out the call for our favorite Christmas stories, I didn’t even have to think twice before grabbing this gem from the past. It was one of the first things I read by author Jamie Fessenden and solidified for me that this author would be an auto-buy for me in the future. This author’s skill at writing emotionally genuine characters makes him one of the best authors on the m/m scene today.  I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did–and still do.

19086803Will Sutherland hasn’t been home to see his parents in four years—not since they reacted badly when he came out. This Christmas, he’s finally worked up the courage to go home, where he’s surprised to find they’ve taken in a boarder. Ryan Bennett is just a couple years younger than Will, cute, sweet… and openly gay.

As Will deals with his jealousy of the man who’s been receiving the love and acceptance he was denied, Ryan finds himself falling for Will’s brooding good looks. But Ryan also suspects the Sutherlands may be using him as a pawn in their long-standing conflict with their son. Will this Christmas finally tear the family apart, or is there a chance they can put their hurt and anger behind them?

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TNA_Signature_JulesWhen asked to choose a favorite story for a special holiday blog post, I didn’t even have to think about it. I’m a Christmas girl. Without a doubt my favorite time of year. So, I look forward to all of the Christmas books every year, and there are MANY that I completely adore. But, hands down, my favorite M/M Christmas story is Blame it on the Mistletoe by Eli Easton.

Fielding Monroe is one of my favorite characters ever. I’m a big fan of quirky – and, Fielding has quirks for days! Here is a bit from my review when I first read it:

I don’t think I can adequately describe how much I adored Fielding. His character is obviously reminiscent of Sheldon Cooper, from the T.V. show Big Bang Theory; but, Fielding is even more endearing. Mick, who is also fabulous, just rolls with all of his new housemate’s quirks, and the two of them quickly become best friends. Mick is a natural caretaker, and takes on the role of teaching Fielding many things.

Things certainly get complicated when Fielding decides that one of the things he wants Mick to teach him is how to kiss…but, what happens is anything but predictable. While I think it can be very difficult to write a really strong, believable GFY storyline, Easton does an excellent job here. The timing and pace of the story are perfect. There is obviously going to be some awkwardness and tension, and that is all there. The genuine fondness, admiration, and eventually love that these two feel for each other really jump off the page. I was hooked from beginning to end.

I have read this book three times, and listened to the audio twice, and, I’ll undoubtedly read it again. If you have yet to read this one, I highly recommend you do! Eli Easton also has Fielding’s Fa-La-La, which is a must read also, available for free on her blog. Go check it out! Or, read it again if you already have. :)

Blame it on the MistletoeWhen physics grad student Fielding Monroe and skirt-chaser and football player Mick Colman become college housemates, they’re both in for a whole new education. Mick looks out for the absent-minded genius, and he helps Fielding clean up his appearance and discover all the silly pleasures his strict upbringing as a child prodigy denied him. They become best friends.

It’s all well and good until they run into a cheerleader who calls Mick the ‘best kisser on campus.’ Fielding has never been kissed, and he decides Mick and only Mick can teach him how it’s done. After all, the physics department’s Christmas party is coming up with its dreaded mistletoe. Fielding wants to impress his peers and look cool for once in his life. The thing about Fielding is, once he locks onto an idea, it’s almost impossible to get him to change his mind. And he just doesn’t understand why his straight best friend would have a problem providing a little demonstration.

Mick knows kissing is a dangerous game. If he gives in, it would take a miracle for the thing not to turn into a disaster. Then again, if the kissing lessons get out of hand they can always blame it on the mistletoe.

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TNA_Signature_LisaAs I was searching through my memories trying to find a Christmas favorite, sooooo many titles came to mind: RJ Scott’s The Christmas Throwaway, Amy Rae Durreson’s Gaudete, Gale Stanley’s Bashert, L.B. Gregg’s Waiting for Winter, the books in Charlie Cochet’s North Pole City Tales series… I love a great holiday romance. The book that finally won the day, though, is a book that had me giddy with Christmas glee.

That book is Josephine Myles’ Merry Gentleman, a book I read and reviewed not all that long ago–back in November of 2013. And can I just say I think I must’ve been on some kind of Christmas crack when I wrote it? ::smh::

The first thing you have to appreciate about Myles’ writing is the thoroughly English charm of her characters. I absolutely adore Christmas stories and their sugarplum sweetness, so leave it to this author to write a holiday treat that takes place around Christmastime but has little to do with the miracles and the fa-la-la-la-la, and everything to do with romantic complications, with much hilarity and bird poop thrown in just for fun. Yes, there’s a point to the poop. It’s pointedly practical poop, relevant to the plot and character development, even, so there. Read and you’ll understand.

Myles breaks a tropey little mold in her story, taking the standard boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy, boy-gets-boy back formula and giving it a little twist, in that when the story opens, Riley and Stan had already met and were kaput well before the reader even gets the chance to relish in the angst of their breakup. But wait, it’s okay because when the country mouse comes back to the city, and the city mouse gets a gander at his ex-toppy git country mouse, it doesn’t take long to figure out there will still be plenty of “can I smack some sense into these two guys?” moments to get through, all to scratch and satisfy your angsty-loving itch.

And the end of my original review?

“So, if you’re making a list and checking it twice, let’s recap:
Ri + Stan=Love – Check
Plenty of Naughty Fun – Check
Face Splitting Grins – Check
Poop – Check

Really, what more could you possibly want from a book?”

What more could you possibly want? I have no idea!

Merry Gentlemen’Tis the season of goodwill to all men…even the one who dumped you.

Riley MacDermott’s ambitions are simple. Managing the annual Bath Christmas Market—which involves long hours in the cold and a whole lot of hassle—will secure the promotion he needs to afford to move out of his noisy, top-floor flat. Where not even his balcony is safe from an aggressive herring gull.

The last stallholder he expects to see is his ex. Riley never recovered from their break up, and five years on the old chemistry still sparkles. So does their habitual head butting.

Stan never wanted to leave the love of his life, but the pull of the woods was too strong—and Riley was firmly planted in the city. Reconnecting is painful, but Stan still jumps at the chance to stay with his old flame during the Market. And damn the consequences.

As the weeks pass, the two grow closer than ever. But despite scorching sex and cozy intimacy, they both know they face a cold and lonely future. Unless one of them can compromise.

Warning: Contains sex in a shed, a seagull with a grudge, glamping, awful Secret Santa underwear, misuse of an Abba song, and as many wood-related puns as the author thought she could get away with.

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13 thoughts on “Flashback Friday and a Giveaway: The Happy Holidays! Edition

  1. susana says:

    I really like holiday romances… Some of my favourites are Humbug by Joanna Chambers, Out, by Harper Fox, Lone Star by Josh Lanyon, Blame it on the mistletoe by Eli Easton, Dust of Snow by Indra Vaughn… I think I can go on forever!

    Like

  2. jenf27 says:

    I love holiday romances! Some of my favs are (and there are many more…):
    Sock it to Me Santa
    Blame it on the Mistletoe
    North Pole City Tales series
    Minnesota Christmas series

    Like

  3. Angela says:

    Some of my favorites are:

    Everything he Needs (The last thing he needs 1,5) by JH Knight
    Red Dirt Christmas by NR Walker
    Silent Night by Erin E Keller
    The Christmas Throwaway by RJ Scott
    Sixty Five Hours: The Twelve day’s of Christmas by NR Walker
    Dust of Snow by Indra Vaughn
    Humbug by Joanna Chambers

    I also really loved (especially because they are somewhat different Christmas reads) :
    Willy the Kinky Elf & his bad-Ass Reindeer by Candi Kay
    Evan the Virgin Reindeer & his sexy Buck by Candi Kay

    Like

  4. suze294 says:

    Sixty Five Hours Christmas by NR Walker
    Sock it To Me, Santa by Madison Parker
    Nine Lights over Edinburgh by Harper Fox
    Merry Gentlemen by Jo Myles
    Twelfth of Never by NR walker

    Like

  5. Jbst says:

    The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon, Snow Globe by L.E. Franks, Going Up by Amy Lane, Fear, Hope & Bread Pudding by Marie Sexton are some other holiday stories that were not named and that I really loved.

    Like

  6. Toni says:

    I love holiday romances. A few favorites: Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane, the North Pole City series by Charlie Cochet, the Minnesota Christmas series by Heidi Cullinan, Lone Star by Josh Lanyon, Winter Knights by Harper Fox, The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn

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  7. Some of my favorite are:
    Holiday Outing by Astrid Amara
    If I Must by Amy Lane
    Making His List by Devon Rhodes
    Better with Sprinkles by Chrissy Munder
    Cherish your Name by Mary Calmes

    Like

  8. Carolyn says:

    I thought Merry Gentleman and Blame It on the Mistletoe were great! I don’t know that I have specific favorite holiday reads, but Heidi Cullinan’s Christmas series is great, though I still have to read the latest. The Trouble with Elves by Therese Woodson is another I can think of that made great holiday reading. I don’t always read them around the appropriate time of the year, so I’m having trouble thinking of more. Thanks so much for sharing new ones for me to try. :)

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  9. I loved Josh Lanyon’s “Icecapade”! But for this year’s holiday, my highlights would be Joanna Chambers’ “Humbug”, Marie Sexton “Winter Oranges”, L.C. Chase “A Fortunate Blizzard” and Megan Linden’s “Cherish and Give” — to name a few

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