Anthology, Ariel Tachna, Dreamspinner Press, Emma Michaels, Holiday Romance, J.J. Carroll, Michael Cross, Reviewed by Angel, Rory Ni Coileain, Sean Michael

Wrap Up Reviews: Dreamspinner Advent Anthology – Celebrate!

Hello! Angel here again with five more reviews from Dreamspinner’s Advent 2014 Anthology,  Celebrate!

CelebrateTitle: Ilya and The Wolf

Author:  Rory Ni Coileain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 25 Pages

At a Glance:  Highly recommended! 

Blurb: Ilya, the youngest son of a Moscow oligarch, is so deep in the closet he’d find Narnia if that weren’t a decadent Western story. On Christmas Eve, his brothers lure him into the forest, intending to murder him and erase the shame he inflicts on their family by existing. However, the attempt is interrupted by Volyk, a wolf who carries the blood of the ancient oboroten’ —shapeshifters. Ilya never imagined a Christmas gift like the handsome wolf, but accepting what Volyk offers will have consequences that change both of their lives forever.

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Review:  Too short! And by that I mean, I was really getting into the story, and then it ended. On a good note, but still I wanted more of this tale. I loved the author’s take on the fairytale and shifter aspects of the story. The world building was fantastic for such a short piece, and I liked that it was contemporary. It had an old world feel to it, though. I adored the Russian setting and politics, which added to the tale.

One minor squabble with what I thought was the continuity editing. At first, it was stated that the time frame was January, then suddenly it was Christmas Eve. However, after posting my thoughts on this story to Goodreads, the author contacted me and informed me that Russian Orthodox Christmas was celebrated on January 6th. It was good to get the clarification, but I think it would have better served some readers like myself, who might be unfamiliar  with the traditions, if this could have been explained somehow in the story itself.

I really enjoyed this author’s writing, and with the promise of more from this particular verse, I will definitely seek out more works.

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Title: Business or Pleasure

Author: Michael Cross & Emma Michaels

Pages/Word Count:  36 Pages

At a Glance:  Jumpy storytelling that doesn’t fit together well

Blurb: When American Ian lands a secretarial job in the United Kingdom, he thinks he’s set for life. Admittedly, he’s still a bachelor living in a small apartment and working for a complete jackass, but other than that, his life is everything he ever hoped for in an enticing city full of beautiful people. When Alistair Security is robbed during the Christmas Fundraiser, the last thing Ian expects is to end up locked in with his boss, Alex Alistair, and to realize he might have mistaken his resentment for something else. The two men find common ground throughout the night, but when morning comes and the news hits the headlines, their connection will be tested. Ian might find himself at the start of a hot office romance—or he’ll spend the holidays browsing the classifieds.

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Review:  I hate to run down anyone’s story, and I am not going to do so here, but this one needed some help. Not the editing of the spelling, grammar or punctuation, but an editor to say something along the lines of, “We need more to make this smooth.” Granted, this is my opinion after reading, but the entire story just made me cringe with the homophobic references and insults, the implication of blackmail for employment, as well as the jumpiness of the segues. Don’t get me wrong, executed differently this would have made for a good story. I liked the set-up, as it appeared to be one of those billionaire/assistant stories that is so popular now; however, I quickly changed my opinion. Neither of the MCs were that likeable. Ian was this arrogant man who was God’s gift to personal assistants, but supposedly had a heart of gold, and Alex, well, let’s just say that he was a jerk is the nicest thing I can say about him. Al Bundy had more tact, and if that doesn’t date me, I don’t know what will. I hated Alex from the get-go, and nothing he did could redeem him.

There were crazy jumps in both plot and the romance that made my head spin and forced me to go back to see if I had misread something. But I hadn’t and didn’t miss them even on a second read thorough. I really tried to give this story the benefit of doubt, but in the end there were so many odd happenings coming out of nowhere that I just can’t recommend it. I’m not certain I’ll look for other works either, which I can honestly say makes me disappointed.

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Title: Home For Chirappu

Author: Ariel Tachna

Pages/Word Count: 53 Pages

At a Glance:  Highly recommended!

Blurb: Nikhilesh (Nik) Sharma hasn’t been home to Alappuzha, India, since he came out to his family ten years ago. Now that his relationship with them is less strained, he’s bringing his boyfriend Trent along to celebrate the winter holidays. As excited as he is to see everyone again, he worries the foreign culture, religious differences, and disapproval might shock Trent. At the same time, Trent worries Nik’s big, close-knit family won’t accept an American—much less a man—as Nik’s partner and that his presence will impede the otherwise happy reunion. Whether the trip leads to misunderstandings that will drive them apart or to a new understanding that will draw them closer than ever, it’s sure to be an experience they’ll never forget.

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Review:  Again, this is how you tell a short story. I’ve read Ms. Tachna before, and she just about killed me with her book, Once in a Lifetime, so I was prepared to cry. However, I didn’t and fell in love with more of her characters and writing.

This story was wonderfully detailed with characters, Christmas traditions from India, the culture and the place itself. Tachna weaves a story of family approval and how being gay affects people the world over. I have never been out of the states, but Tachna’s writing put me there right smack-dab in the middle of India. I could almost smell the spices and incense, feel the heat, and enjoyed every minute of it.

The problems Trent and Nik faced felt real and not contrived. The anxiety each man had wasn’t overdone nor did it weigh down the story. The flow and continuity of the story was slow but deliberate and I liked that aspect. It gave insight into the characters without the sex getting in the way. Mind, I love a good sexy story as much as the next person, but I loved the character development more. Nik’s family was diverse and wonderful, and I would gladly read more about him and his sister as she finishes her surgeoncy (Indian term for medical residency), and finding her husband.

I can’t recommend this, and more of Tachna’s writing, enough and will continue to seek out her works.

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Title:  A Snowman Made of Sand

Author:  J.J. Carroll

Pages/Word Count: 37 Pages

At a Glance: Recommended, cute story, but more show than tell

Blurb:  Last year in England, Australian Ethan Harvey not only met his “perfect” man in Tristan Lewin-Jones, Ethan shared a wonderful Christmas with Tristan’s “perfect” family—an ideal British holiday full of genteel good cheer and all the traditional trimmings.

Now Tris and Ethan are living in Sydney, and Tris wants the quintessential Australian beach Christmas, with sun, sand, surf, seafood… and the Harveys. But Ethan didn’t mention the Harveys are politically incorrect, rude, crude, and loud. He worries his family will drive Tris away. Giving Tris the perfect beach Christmas with the imperfect Harveys is going to take a holiday miracle

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Review:  As much as I enjoyed this story, I really would have loved to see Ethan’s crazy family antics than just read a recap of them. There was one incident shown and I loved it. It rather sounded like something that would happen at my own Christmas gathering. I laughed throughout the story because I know families like this. I’m part of one, and while you can chose who you fall in love with, you are stuck with family, no matter what.

Despite Ethan’s family being so crazy, they love and support him. Tristan is thrilled with the happenings and just can’t understand why Ethan was so upset. Their priorities are important and both of them have points when it comes to the definition of family and perfection, but it all boils down to actions speak louder than words.

In spite of the ‘telling’ of the story, I enjoyed this author’s humor and will seek out more of her work.

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Title:  The Swag Man Delivers

Author: Sean Michael

Pages/Word Count: 31 Pages

At a Glance:  If you like a ton of smut, then this is the story for you

Blurb: Orpheus “O” Drummond, a recent Ph.D. graduate, is visiting Australia after defending his thesis, and being dumped by his boyfriend. While alone on the beach in Australia was not how he’d originally planned on spending his Christmas, when O runs into Gage, he figures Santa knew exactly what he was doing.

Gage is traveling away from his Texan home, trying to “find himself.” When he finds O instead, he doesn’t think things could have worked out better. Together Gage and O celebrate Christmas in the best way they can think of.

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Review:  The best way to celebrate Christmas… sex with a stranger in a strange country. Yup, that’s about all there is to this story. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the story, because at its heart it was about a hook-up and like I said earlier, sometimes all you need is a sexy story to fill a reading need.  It was sexy, at times, but I found the characters annoying. The banter O and Gage have is filled with not-so-funny puns and cutesy pet names. Not really my cup of tea in the best times, but it wasn’t bad writing.

I might seek out more of this author’s works because, for what it’s worth, the story set out to tell the tale the blurb promised.

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You can buy the Celebrate! Anthology, or each of the stories individually, here:

Dreamspinner Press

Dreamspinner Press

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