3.5 Stars, Andi Van, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules

Review: A Certain Kind of Holiday by Andi Van

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Title: A Certain Kind of Holiday (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Andi Van

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 28 Pages

At a Glance: This one was cute, guys!

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: When Elliot Knapp took a business trip over the holidays last year, he didn’t expect to run into the professor his first serious boyfriend cheated on him with. The man was handsome, certainly, but Elliot has better things to do than deal with drama from a decade ago.

Luckily for him, Howard Wise wasn’t going to let him get away without an explanation. A year after meeting again, the couple is making their first holiday trip to celebrate Christmas. Everything is fantastic, but Howard is obviously keeping secrets, and Elliot can’t help but wonder what his silver fox has up his sleeve.

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Review: Elliot and Howard, who haven’t been in contact in ten years, run into each other unexpectedly on a train ride from Seattle. Their reunion is, of course, soured by the fact that Elliot’s last memory of Howard is him kissing Elliot’s college boyfriend. Howard manages to talk Elliot into letting him explain, however, which turns out to be a very good thing, as things are not always what they seem. I really liked Howard – sexy professor, twinkly eyes, playful demeanor – and I loved that he remembered Elliot right away. Obviously their connection all those years ago wasn’t just one-sided.

A Certain Kind of Holiday is short and sweet. Via three consecutive Christmas vignettes, Andi Van takes us on Howard and Elliot’s journey, allowing us to get to know them and showing us how good they are together.  Again, Howard’s character was the main part of the appeal for me, but I definitely liked Elliot as well. It’s hard to cover much ground in just twenty-eight pages, but Van did a good job of engaging me. This one was cute, guys!

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5 Stars, Bey Deckard, Holiday Romance, M/M/M and More, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus by Bey Deckard

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Title: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus (Baal’s Heart 3.5)

Author: Bey Deckard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 43 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this savory and sweet little morsel.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A Baal’s Heart short, following the events in Fated: Blood and Redemption

Plagued by terrible dreams, Jon begins to distance himself from Baltsaros and Tom. Perhaps a little holiday cheer is just the thing to help the three of them find common ground again.

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Review: Well, this is a first. I never thought I’d use the words “sweet” and “Bey Deckard” together in a review, but here I am doing that very thing. Never say never…

Careened directly follows the events in this series’ Fated: Blood and Redemption, so if you’ve not read book three yet, this short holiday novella may not pack quite the same punch for you as it would knowing the full scope of events in that novel. Of course, though I say this story has a tinge of the sweet to it, it also offers just that much of the bitter to remind you that the alternate universe Captain Baltsaros, Tom, and Jon inhabit isn’t one without its dangers and grief and pain.

Jon is in a bad way after what happened to him in Sormaheine, the dark shadows of anger and regret following him through his days and nights as he tries to drink away the memories that dog him…though he can’t escape his sub-conscious and the nightmares that manipulate his thoughts and drive his depression. This is where the bitter tempers the sweet in this story, complements the storyline without overwhelming, and, in the end, makes the turnabout that much more satisfying.

Writing a convincing threesome is exactly what Bey Deckard has done. Believing in this threesome and the dynamics of that relationship is exactly what readers of this series are able to do because this author has created three men who just work, plain and simple, in spite of the challenges thrown their way. Crafting this short story to coincide with this verse’s version of a winter holiday is the perfect scenario to offer healing to Jon and begin a mending of the relationship between him and Baltsaros. There was, without a doubt, some truly romantic gestures in Careened, and, as has been the case all along, a Baal’s Heart book wouldn’t be a Baal’s Heart book without a wildly sexy scene or two to watch these three connect and command and show readers the bond they share.

I loved this savory and sweet little morsel. What a great interlude with these characters at a wonderful time of the year.

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3 Stars, Genre Romance, Holiday Romance, J.D. Walker, JMS Books LLC, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: Grateful for You by J.D. Walker

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Title: Grateful for You

Author: J.D. Walker

Publisher: JMS Books LLC

Pages/Word Count: 33 Pages

At a Glance: If you enjoy those feel good kinda short stories, then this one is for you.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Jared Gillespie left the family farm five years ago because Walt Schneider cheated on him. With a woman. What he didn’t realize was that Walt, the man he still loves, was trying to tell him something, and it takes a trip home to figure it out.

After Jared’s mother convinces him to return for Thanksgiving, Jared discovers Walt is a daddy now, of all things. His daughter’s name is Casey — Jared’s middle name. When Jared and Walt confront each other, the resulting confrontation causes Jared to realize he may have pushed Walt to cheat because of his overbearing ways. But would Walt be interested in trying again, after all this time?

Because a man doesn’t name his daughter after his ex-lover if he’s over him, no matter what he pretends to the contrary. Maybe Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful: for second chances, and for love found, not lost.

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Review: Jared knows it’s time to go home. He’s been away for five years, ever since his childhood love, Walt, cheated on him.  Jared didn’t stick around after it happened, he just left, and he’s never been back. He doesn’t know why Walt did it, or what message he was trying to send, Jared just knew it hurt. But, now it is time to go home and put those ghosts to rest so he can move on and heal—finally.

This is a short story of forgiveness and an example of what love can overcome if we let it.  Being so short, we don’t get a lot of backstory here, but we do get a good sense of who these men are individually, and we get enough to know that the love they feel is real.  It takes forgiveness on both sides to heal, and both men to be willing to put themselves out there again for this HEA happen.

If you enjoy those feel good kinda short stories, then this one is for you.

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4 Stars, Holiday Romance, JMS Books LLC, John Amory, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: It’s a Wonderful Afterlife by John Amory

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Title: It’s a Wonderful Afterlife

Author: John Amory

Publisher: JMS Books LLC

Pages/Word Count: 25 Pages

At a Glance: It’s a Wonderful Afterlife is a short, sweet and to the point story with a magical twist that, brief though it is, packs an emotional punch.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Workaholic Logan rests only one day of the year: Christmas Day, and then only because when he tried to open his coffee shop on that day once and no one showed up. Ever since his parents died on Christmas Eve over ten years ago, Logan keeps busy to keep his feelings at bay and keep people at a distance, even going so far as to ignore his younger brother’s invitation to spend the holiday together.

But a car accident and a Christmas Eve encounter with a mysterious stranger named Michael, which may or may not be a dream, will change the way Logan sees his past, his present, and his future.

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Review: Logan doesn’t have a wonderful life. In fact, he doesn’t have much of a life at all. He works, he goes home, he sleeps, he wakes up, and repeats the cycle on a continual loop. He’d do it 365 days a year were it not for the fact that the one year he tried opening his café on Christmas Day, he had no customers.

Logan is alone by choice, estranged from his younger brother—avoiding him, more to the point, working his life away and existing in a state of perpetual grief. Christmas is not a great time of the year for Logan, to say the least, and when we meet him, he’s driving home from work, yet again, on a dismal Christmas Eve.

John Amory does a splendid job of painting a visual of Logan, the man who brushes up against the same people every day but never bothers to make personal connections. He’s the archetypical loaner—the man you know will one day look back on his life and see the trail of regrets he’s left behind, a man who’s in dire need of a chance to turn his life around before it’s too late. Logan is in the process of rejecting yet another invitation from his brother Dave to come spend the holiday with him and his girlfriend, Tia, when a sudden turn of events sets the course for this touching little story filled with the magic of Christmas.

In the film It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey makes a wish. He wishes he’d never been born, and when that wish is fulfilled, he gets to experience the fallout firsthand, and subsequently is able to understand how beautiful the world with him in it truly is. In this short story, Amory puts his own twist on the second chance trope by showing Logan a significant moment from his childhood through his adult eyes, a past event filled with all the pain and sadness that’s brought him to this point in his life. And eventually, with the help of something a little supernatural, Logan is gifted with the opportunity to see it is indeed a wonderful life—even if life isn’t always wonderful.

It’s a Wonderful Afterlife offers a poignant look at one man’s salvation. It’s a short, sweet and to the point story with a magical twist that, brief though it is, packs an emotional punch.

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4 Stars, B.G. Thomas, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Kim

Review: The Beary Best Holiday Party Ever by B.G. Thomas

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Title: The Beary Best Holiday Party Ever (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: B.G. Thomas

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 76 Pages

At a Glance: I think The Beary Best Holiday Party Ever is a cute and sexy holiday read.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Before he discovered the Heartland Bear Clan, Ron Corbin figured no one could ever love a “fatass” like him. But the big group of big men accepts him, and likes him just the way he is. Having finally found a place he belongs, he works hard to get elected president of the club—and wins. He’s the happiest he’s ever been.

But Paddy Brennan, a sexy bear cub who blew into town and became Mr. Popular overnight, is elected vice-president. Ron doesn’t think Paddy has earned the honor, and now he’ll have to work shoulder to shoulder (and belly to belly) with the guy for a year.

Ron will do what’s best for the club even if that means setting his personal feeling—that Paddy is a jerk—aside. But then as the two men get to know each other, Ron reluctantly finds he not only likes the guy, but is growing more and more attracted to him.

Deep down, Ron still worries he isn’t good enough, but maybe Paddy can show him there’s a beary happy ending waiting for them after all.

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Review: I don’t care what a person looks like, it’s what inside that shows who you are, and it takes Ron a while to see that he is one sexy man. Oh la la! I really liked Ron. Even with all of his insecurities about his weight, he comes off as someone I’d like to know in real life. I liked how, when he joined Heartland Bear Clan, he grew to be more comfortable with himself. And it was just too bad that Ron let a comment made by Paddy bring back all those insecurities his parents instilled in him as he was growing up. I really dislike people who fat shame! And I more than empathize with Ron about being picked on for being overweight.

As for Paddy, he’s a really nice guy, so when you hear the comment that he made when he first met Ron…well, it’s just hard to believe that he would say something that vindictive. Despite everything, though, Ron is willing to put his negative feelings and conflicting attraction towards Paddy aside as they work together to make the very best holiday party ever for the Heartland Bear Clan.

There is one thing I really enjoy about B.G. Thomas’s writing, and what makes him an auto-buy author for me, and it’s that I know I’m always going to finish his stories with an “aaaaaah” feeling.

I think The Beary Best Holiday Party Ever is a cute and sexy holiday read.

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4.5 Stars, Felice Stevens, Giveaways, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review and Giveaway: The Greatest Gift Blog Tour with Felice Stevens

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Title: The Greatest Gift (The Memories Series: Book 3)

Author:  Felice Stevens

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count: 86 Pages

At a Glance: You’ll smile through the tears as you watch this family grow into everything you hoped they would become.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: After five years, Alex Stern and Rafe Hazelton have what seems to be the perfect marriage. Alex is entering his last years of residency and Rafe’s veterinary business is busier than ever. For Rafe, all that is missing is a child, but Alex, afraid of ending up to be a man like his father, isn’t as sure. He doesn’t want to make any mistakes.

When a new patient enters the hospital, Alex is drawn to the young, desperately ill single mother, who shares her fears for the future of her young son. Rafe worries about the toll on Alex becoming emotionally invested in a patient, yet he too can’t walk away once he meets the little boy, and together they vow to help in any way possible.

Families are not always born of blood— love is a gift no one can plan for. And sometimes from the darkest of tragedies, the brightest light will shine.

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Review: If you are going into this book hoping for, or thinking, you are going to get a sweet, fluffy romantic holiday story, this isn’t that book. There are many things in The Greatest Gift that are tough to read, and sad, and will completely break your heart.

But in this story, you will also find things throughout that are endearing, selfless, and sexy, as well as countless examples of absolute unconditional love. You’ll find yourself on this journey with Rafe and Alex, and all those around them, and will smile through the tears as you watch this family grow into everything you hoped they would become.

I love Alex and Rafe and love that we got to spend more time with them. The Greatest Gift really is a great gift from Felice Stevens this holiday season.

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Author BioAbout the Author: Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. While life is tough, she believes there is a happy ending for everyone. She started reading traditional historical romances as a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels was renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her reading shifted to stories of men falling in love. Once she picked up her first gay romance, she became so enamored of the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion there was no turning back.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. Although she practices law, she daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be some angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Joe Cosentino, Reviewed By JJ

Review: A Home for the Holidays by Joe Cosentino

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Title: A Home for the Holidays

Author: Joe Cosentino

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 60 Pages

At a Glance: I recommend A Home for the Holidays to anyone who loves travel adventures, Christmas themes, and m/m romance.

Reviewed By: JJ

Blurb: Bobby McGrath’s Christmas trip to the beautiful Italian island of Capri to meet his eccentric extended family offers stunning views—none more stunning than his third cousin, Paolo Mascobello, a real stocking stuffer. As the two young men embark on a relationship, Bobby, a driven law student, learns to relax and bask under the old Italian moon, and Paolo realizes there’s more to life than a frolic on the beach. For the two to find everlasting amore, Paulo must overcome his fear of commitment and learn to follow his dreams, and Bobby must get his wish for happily ever after.

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Review: This was such a sweet romance. The book begins when Bobby goes to visit his family in Italy for Christmas. He ends up spending a lot of time with his cousin, Paolo, who happens to be gay. While he picks his cousin’s mind about Italy, Bobby realizes that he is falling for him. Though the idea weirds him out at first, it doesn’t bother him too much since they are so far removed. They come together for a brief time, but the road ahead of them is not as clear as Bobby had hoped. When Bobby’s vacation comes to an end, he’s faced with the painful prospect of saying goodbye.

Home for the Holidays is an emotional and sweet holiday book. I loved how the author takes us to Italy, and I felt like I was actually there in Capri. The vivid descriptions ignited my wanderlust, making me want to travel to Italy. As for the characters, they are both very likeable. Paolo is a muscular, attractive young Italian man. He’s confident sexually, but when it comes to relationships, he doesn’t imagine he can have that. He’s grown up in a place where it’s okay to express his sexuality behind closed doors, but he doesn’t expect to have more. However, Bobby knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to reach for the stars when it comes to love.

Since the first book I read from Joe Cosentino ended in a tragedy, I was surprised and overjoyed with the ending of this book. I recommend A Home for the Holidays to anyone who loves travel adventures, Christmas themes, and m/m romance.

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4 Stars, Holiday Romance, Jay Northcote, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Review: What Happens at Christmas by Jay Northcote

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Title: What Happens at Christmas

Author: Jay Northcote

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 113 Pages

At a Glance: Jay Northcote has another holiday winner here.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: When two friends pose as boyfriends, could what happens at Christmas turn into something more?

Justin is recently and unhappily single. Christmas is coming, and he doesn’t want to face his ex alone at their office party. So Sean—Justin’s best mate and long-time secret crush—volunteers to go with him and pretend to be his new flame.

Sean has always lusted after Justin from afar, but there’s never been a good opportunity to ask him for more than friendship. Posing as Justin’s boyfriend isn’t a chore, and if Justin wants to rebound onto him, Sean’s more than willing. At the party pretence and reality blur, and a kiss on the dance floor leads to a night of passion.

In the aftermath, they both assume it was a one-time thing until fate intervenes. Stuck together in London over the holidays, they give in to temptation again. But what happens at Christmas stays at Christmas… right?

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Review: So many delightful little bits in this story! It was easy to fall in love with Justin and Sean. As soon as I read the blurb for What Happens at Christmas I immediately snapped it up. Anyone who knows me, or follows my reviews at all, knows that friends-to-lovers stories are totally my thing. I love the level of comfort the characters have with each other, the level of trust, and that there is so much shared history. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been together since we were nineteen – friends since we were fifteen – maybe I’m just a product of the formula…but, I know it works.

Justin and Sean were both extremely likeable, and the story was funny, charming, and sweet. It’s not a new idea – pretending to be dating, to piss off an ex at the office party – but it was well-done here. I also really liked that they were both in love with each other rather than it being a GFY situation, for example. To me that made it much more enjoyable; what they each thought was unrequited love was really just bad timing and poor communication.

Jay Northcote has such a light, easygoing style, and the guys are very sexy and fun together. That’s not to say that the book is without substance. Sean has a strained relationship with his father, and they are somewhat estranged. He is pretty troubled over that situation, and what he is going to do with himself now that he’s come back to England. Justin and Sean both have reservations about pursuing a relationship. They are extremely afraid of ruining their friendship, and unwilling to risk it, so they spend some time unhappily plodding along. In some books this can become a big stumbling block for me. You know those books? The “Just talk already!!!!” books? I didn’t feel that here, though. In this book it was more, “Awwww…these poor guys.” Their trepidation is more endearing than annoying.

Northcote has another holiday winner here. The guys had GREAT chemistry. The office party scene was tons of fun to read – it was VERY satisfying to watch the sleazy ex squirm – I imagine it also had to be fun to write! Super low angst, this one is perfect for when you need that feel-good read. I thoroughly enjoyed this easy-breezy Christmas novella.

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5 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Dreamspinner Press, Freebie, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Short Story

Release Day Review: A Serious Thing by Annabelle Jacobs

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Title: A Serious Thing (Will & Patrick: Book 1.5)

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 36 Pages

At a Glance: Annabelle Jacobs gives readers a sweet and FREE holiday treat.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Patrick has a plan, and he’ll go to great lengths to see it through.
After three weeks apart due to work and school commitments, he and Will are finally getting to spend some time together. Patrick is staying with Will over the Christmas holidays, and he intends to tell him how he feels on Christmas Day. It’s going to be perfect.
But of course, Patrick’s plans don’t always go smoothly….

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Review: For those of us who fell in love with Patrick and Will in Annabelle Jacobs’ A Curious Thing, this sweet little Christmas vignette, A Serious Thing, is the perfect follow up to the story that left us with their happy-for-now-ish ending.

Patrick is so near to completing school, and he and Will have had to make do with weekends together, but life in general and Will’s obligations have kept them apart for three weeks now, and Christmas is just around the corner. Patrick has plans to make this holiday a special one for both Will and himself, but there’s a trick to the timing of it that Will not understanding may make things tricky for Patrick to pull off. The chemistry between these two guys is still white hot, and Jacobs doesn’t bother to keep readers in suspense, waiting for the sparks to fly between them. That’s the beauty of the short story, though—the instant gratification—especially when we already know the characters, and let me tell you, Patrick and Will burn up these pages in such a delicious way.

Ben, the best brother ever to Patrick—not to mention, the best friend ever to Will—also shows up again to be supportive and generally awesome too. Bottom line here is that this short story is wonderful, beginning to end, but I wouldn’t recommend reading it as a standalone. Get to know these guys in A Curious Thing first, and while you’re at it, you can grab this freebie as a sweet bonus holiday treat.

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4 Stars, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Lex Chase, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Loving and Loathing Vegas by Lex Chase

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Title: Loving And Loathing Vegas (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Lex Chase

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 62 Pages

At a Glance: This little snippet is sure to delight and amuse you this holiday season.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Jackson has loved Vegas since God created Man—literally. As a demonic incubi hailing from the Seventh Circle of Hell, Jackson and Vegas have never been anything more than roommates. Now living among humans, they run Eaven, a TripAdvisor-recommended detour-worthy diner famous for its devilishly decadent pies. Business is dead on the holidays, and Jackson will gleefully stab himself with a spatula if he has to clean spotless pots and pans one more time.

For fun—or torture—Vegas makes him a bet that should Jackson win, they take a much-needed vacation. Should he lose, he’s doomed to clean out grease traps for all eternity. When the challenge is to fall in love with other people by Christmas, it proves Vegas isn’t the least bit interested. But when they find an abandoned baby in the trash, she could be the Christmas miracle to warm Jackson’s cynical heart.

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Review:   Author Lex Chase offers up a devilishly sweet story for the Sleigh Ride 2015 Dreamspinner Advent Calendar. Even demons, in this case incubi who feed off sex, deserve a holiday, and are determined to have it when they make a bet with each other to see who can fall in love by Christmas. The only hitch is Jackson is already in love—with his long time roommate and fellow demon, Vegas. The two have settled down and run a diner that is best known for its devilishly decadent pies, but Jackson is tired of cleaning the diner’s grease traps, and more than fed up with trying to hide his feelings for Vegas. To top off the whole crazy wager, a baby is left on their doorstep, and it is up to Jackson to make sure she is taken care of, especially since she can’t seem to stand the sight of poor Vegas.

Only Lex Chase could create such a crazy-hot and adorable Christmas story with a decidedly unique twist. The relationship and interchanges between Jackson and Vegas were sharp and humorous while also bordering on the frustrating—-all they had to do was admit how they felt, and yet the constant dance around those emotions made for a fun romp of a story. With more than a fair share of snark and sarcasm, the story flew along, fraught with sexual tension that you could cut with a knife. The resolution of that tension made for a very hot sex scene that left me breathless!

Loving and Loathing Vegas is an unusual and clever contribution to this year’s Advent calendar. While it would have been great to know a bit more about the baby’s origins and the backstory of the two incubi themselves, this little snippet is sure to delight and amuse you this holiday season.

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4 Stars, Clare London, Holiday Romance, Jocular Press, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Nice and Snow by Clare London

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Title: Nice and Snow (With a Kick: Book Six)

Author: Clare London

Publisher: Jocular Press

Pages/Word Count: 43 Pages

At a Glance: Nuri and Eddy are still just that lovable.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Nuri’s expecting a quiet Christmas, driving his cab, doing some studying, enjoying good food and drink – and devoting some serious loving to boyfriend Eduardo. Occasionally he misses his homeland of Turkey, but he’s content to share the London celebrations with Eddy.

But what with Eddy’s distress over his new role at the local comedy club, interference in their love life from Nuri’s irrepressible brothers, a disturbing number of costumed Santas on the street, the dangerous slush on the roads, and then the portly, bearded man dressed in red, in need of an urgent cab ride…

It doesn’t look like things will be that quiet after all!

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Review: Nuri and Eduardo first met in With a Kick, a book that oozed an excess of charm and wit, and now Clare London has brought them back in the excessively adorable and heartwarming Christmas short Nice and Snow, reminding me why I’d warmed up to this couple so well in the first place. Some of it, no doubt, has to do with Nuri’s family—in this case, his brothers—but there’s also no arguing that a lot of it has to do with this author’s sense of humor and, of course, then it doesn’t hurt that Nuri and Eddy are still just that lovable.

Eddy feels the same way about all the pseudo-Santas larking about the city as most people feel about clowns. But this time of the year, they’re near impossible to avoid—seems Eddy couldn’t swing a reindeer by the tale without hitting one of those jolly faux elves. As for our dear Nuri, this holiday season has brought on a bout of nostalgia for his childhood in Turkey, and the memories the two men share with each other are what make this story just that little bit extra special. That, and the fact they pick up a rather unusual fare in Nuri’s cab. Their passenger is an interesting man, to say the very least. But then, what would the holidays be without a touch of magic to make the season bright?

And what would a holiday romance be without a completely heartwarming ending? London deftly delivers that too, for this charming couple who maybe, in theory, shouldn’t work because they’re both so different, but do because they’re both so warm and wonderful.

If you haven’t read With a Kick, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading Nice and Snow as a standalone, but I can most definitely recommend getting to know Nuri and Eddy, so now’s as good a time as any to catch up on their story while you’re cuddled under a blanket on a chilly winter weekend.

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5 Stars, Charlie Cochet, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules

Release Day Review: Loving Blitz by Charlie Cochet

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Title: Loving Blitz (North Pole City Tales: Book Four)

Author: Charlie Cochet

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 94 Pages

At a Glance: Go forth and enjoy Loving Blitz!!! It’s a Christmas reading list must.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: From North Pole City to Winter Wonderland, preparations are underway after a royal announcement sweeps everyone into a frenzy of festivity. At the heart of the celebration are the city’s most beloved elf pilots, the Rein Dears. Once the Big Flight is behind them, the pilots prepare for the royal event. Assigned a special task of finding an Elska rose, Cupid and Blitzen are unaware of how their friendship is about to change forever.

Yet not all that glitters is gold. The sweet, angelic Cupid hides a dark secret, one that threatens to destroy his Rein Dear status, his friends, and the elf who’s captured his heart. It’s up to Blitzen to help Cupid see the light in the darkness and show him that together they can mend broken hearts.

Dividers

Review: I guess I have to quit pouting about having to wait another whole year for the next book, and get this review written…*grumble* Heh, heh.  I really AM pouting about having to wait for next year’s book – this series is neverending, right? – but, I’m happy to write the review for this charming story!

Loving Blitz, this year’s addition to the North Pole City Tales series by Charlie Cochet, opens at the Silver Bells Christmas Ball – held this time at the King of Frost’s palace – where Jack Frost and Rudy share some exciting news. I was immediately mesmerized, as I always am in this series, by the descriptions and the language in the book. The places, the creatures, the events, the magic and history: Cochet has created a world here that is so vibrant and so delightful, I can’t wait to immerse myself in it every year.

Best friends for centuries, Cupid and Blitzen are perfect for each other. They have always been close, but when they dance together at the ball, they both begin to having stirrings of feelings that are more than friendly. I really did love this pairing; the romance felt effortless, and had the perfect amount of heat. And, speaking of pairings…I have my guesses as to next year’s potential couple, and can’t wait to find out who it will be!

The drama is relatively low in this one as compared to the other books in the series, but the story still has plenty of substance. The angle with Cupid’s secret is very intriguing and well done, and I loved the subplots here also. Dasher provides some tension and comic relief – just what is he up to with the King of Frost??? – which was fantastic, and it looks like one of Cupid’s brothers will be back in the future as well!

Ok. That’s three mentions of next year’s book. I think I’ve established that I loved this installment, and that I can’t wait for MORE. My work here is done. Go forth and enjoy Loving Blitz!!! It’s a Christmas reading list must.

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5 Stars, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, John Inman, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Scrudge & Barley, Inc. by John Inman

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Title: Scrudge & Barley, Inc.

Author: John Inman

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I found this story to be just brilliant.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: A classic tale takes off in sexy new directions! Poor Mr. Dickens must be twirling in his grave.

When E.B. Scrudge, putz extraordinaire and all-around numbnuts, is visited by his dead ex on Christmas Eve, he can’t imagine how his life could sink any lower. But the three ghostly spirits that come along after are even worse! Good lord, a dyke, a drag queen, and rounding out the trio, a big, hunky bear with nipple rings and a butt plug! What’s next?

What’s next is a good deal of soul-searching and some hard lessons learned with a dash of redemption thrown in for good measure.

And love too, believe it or not. Love that had been simmering all along at the heart of Scrudge’s miserable existence, although he was too selfish to see it—until a trio of holiday beasties pointed his sorry ass in the right direction.

Dividers

Review: Such a well-known story—that of Scrooge and his miserly life, which is interrupted by three ghostly apparitions one lonely Christmas eve. It’s a classic tale that is performed and read every holiday season. Imagine my delight when I heard that author John Inman had re-imagined the old tale and given it new life, a clever twist that morphed into an amazing story called Scrudge & Barley, Inc.

E.B. Scrudge is a nasty man. Having learned from his predecessor, Barley, Ebbie has taken to the love of money and the glee of inflicting misery on others with gusto. He has no regard for his fellow man and unashamedly uses his faithful secretary, Willie, for occasional physical release. This Christmas Eve finds Ebbie handing out his special brand of Christmas cheer in the guise of termination notices delivered by poor Willie. Once done, he ignores the small gift his secretary has for him, uses him for sex and then sends him on his way without a backward glance. After attending the ballet, Ebbie returns home to his penthouse apartment, and a night of terror, revelation and soul searching begins. By morning, E.B. Scrudge will be a changed man—but will it be too late to undo all the harm he has done and prove to Willie he does have a heart after all?

If you have never read Dickens’ version of Scrooge, then this brilliant and campy version may not mean quite as much to you, dear reader, but trust me when I tell you this piece of work was so cleverly done. Not only are the three “ghosts” who visit Ebbie simultaneously terrifying and amusing, the build up to the visits, the eerie setup with lights going off and noises rattling the night, are rather scary to read. But it is the transformation in Ebbie himself that is so genuinely played out as the hours race by—this is the real beauty of the story. Far beyond a truly delightful retelling of an old classic, Scrudge & Barley, Inc. explores the place in each of us that allows for that bit of selfishness to grow. How many times have we passed the homeless and thought they could find work if they truly tried? Or perhaps remarked that it is not “our responsibility” to save everyone? Just these few scenes—and the uncanny voice of the narrator reminding us that we too may see a bit of “Scrudge” in the mirror is enough to realize that lurking behind this simple Christmas fare is a deeper message: hold on to your humanity at all costs lest you find yourself a scrooge as well.

I found this story to be just brilliant. I enjoyed the careful way this author reworked a somewhat tired and overused story and made it relevant and entertaining again. Not only that, I loved that Willie was not a carpet for Ebbie to walk over but more a compassionate and loving man who faced his difficult life head on and knew his own mind. Scrudge & Barley, Inc. is a fantasy wrapped in love and a touch of whimsy. If you are looking for a fresh and well-written holiday story, Scrudge & Barley, Inc. will fill that ticket nicely. I highly recommend this one to you!

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4.5 Stars, Holiday Romance, Kenzie Cade, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Short Story

Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade

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Title: Reindeer Games

Author: Kenzie Cade

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 68 Pages

At a Glance: If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Dashing von Stride has one thing on his mind: winning the window display contest for the Miracle on Main Christmas Contest. His plans are set and ready—and then he walks into his toy store, Reindeer Games, to find a sleigh that shouldn’t be there. The mystery sleigh sparks a new plan, however, and now all Dash needs is the perfect Santa to model his display after.

This year, the pranks with his reindeer have gotten out of hand. Instead of preparing for the Big Day, Niklaus Kringle is hunting for his missing sleigh. Locating it should have been easy, but games easily won are seldom worth playing…

Dividers

Review: Cute, sweet, lighthearted: any and all of these words could be used to describe author Kenzie Cade’s Christmas offering, Reindeer Games. If you are looking for a well written bit of fluff to take your mind off the holiday and its mad rush, look no further. This little story is the perfect ticket to some much needed getaway time from reality.

Cleverly based on the idea that Santa has children and that elves are the magic that is Christmas, the story begins with the reindeer having played a trick on Nik Kringle by hiding his sleigh right before the “big day”. Found by a toy store owner who turns out to have a little magic of his own, Dashing von Stride (Dash) discovers the sleigh standing in his display room and immediately uses it as the inspiration for the window decorating contest held annually in the small town of (wait for it) Wassail. I was laughing so hard at these fantastic names and the tongue-in-cheek humor the author obviously used when coming up with them.

When Nik and Dash meet, there is an immediate sense of rightness—of everything finally falling into place for both of these fellows. Once Dash is clued in to exactly who Nik is and why he is in town, the story moves swiftly to an immediate and delightful happy ending.

Pure fun and a sexy happy-ever-after is what this novella is all about. Nik and Dash could not be more perfect for each other, or sweeter, and did I mention hot? But honestly, there was little to criticize in this story simply because you can sense the pure delight the author took in crafting this holiday offering. The two main characters sensed their immediate bond, and wasted no time in exploring exactly what that meant. The mischievous and aerodynamically correct reindeer only added to the fun. Perhaps the only criticism I might have is that the smarmy and nasty shopkeeper who always seemed to take first place in the window contest was under utilized in this story. I felt like a slight tussle with him, one that might have threatened Nik and Dash getting to know one another, would have spiced up the story a bit. However, that was more a matter of my personal taste than a real fault in the story.

If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade.

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4 Stars, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Rob Rosen, Short Story

Review: Best Laid Trap by Rob Rosen

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Title: Best Laid Trap (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Rob Rosen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 24 Pages

At a Glance: Fans of Rob Rosen will immediately latch on to his wickedly humorous writing style and slightly crazed characters.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Roy has a crush on Steve, so when a work-related ski weekend is offered, Roy jumps at the chance to finally lay a trap for his hunky coworker. An abandoned cabin nearby is perfect for his scheme, and Roy stocks it with champagne, rubbers, and lube. But fate intervenes, and it’s not Steve, but Ranger Josh, who ends up trapped in the cabin with Roy during an avalanche. Roy’s plan might be ruined, but there’s still a chance for a very happy New Year indeed.

Dividers

Review: It’s holiday time and Rob Rosen offers up Best Laid Trap, another offering form the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar: Sleigh Ride. I must admit I am a huge fan of Rosen’s acerbic wit and snarky repartee, and this little short starts out in typical Rosen style, replete with a near stream of consciousness from the narrator and star of the story, Roy.

The plot is a simple one: Roy has been crushing on a coworker and accidentally finds an abandoned cabin right off the bunny trail at the ski resort they are both staying. With seduction on his mind, Roy sets the trap for his amour and sits back to wait. Little did he know that Mother Nature, a randy forest ranger, and some karma would change his whole night–and perhaps his future as well.

Be forewarned, this short story is about as insta-lust as you can get, but with lots of humor and a fairly hot, lengthy sex scene to boot. This is a mere snippet, so if you are looking for a great deal of character development, or much past a short rendezvous with a hint of a happy-ever-after, then this might not be the selection for you. However, fans of Rob Rosen will immediately latch on to his wickedly humorous writing style and slightly crazed characters.

Roy is sweet and funny as he lays out his night of seduction for a coworker. When he finds that he is going to be left high and dry, he barely has time to be disappointed before the ranger of his dreams appears and he grabs opportunity with both hands! Barely a short story, Rosen still manages to pack this gem with soppy moments filled with inner dialogue from Roy’s head that will have you laughing. All in all, this was a fun romp that will leave you wanting just a little more!

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Pat Henshaw, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Blame It on the Fruitcake by Pat Henshaw

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Title: Blame It On The Fruitcake (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015

Author: Pat Henshaw

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 36 Pages

At a Glance: Blame It on the Fruitcake is a sweet and funny love story. A perfect morsel of yummy goodness for this holiday season!

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Fruitcake is the laughingstock of the holiday season. But can it be an aphrodisiac instead? Motorcycle mechanic Sam McGuire is surprised to find a gaily wrapped box on his doorstep with a piece of fruitcake accompanying an invitation to a holiday party.

Wondering if he’ll fit in, Sam attends the party—mostly to get more of the fruitcake he falls in love with—and meets Jay Merriweather, his new neighbor. The lure of Jay’s big family and its holiday tradition of enjoying Grandma’s fruitcake hook Sam, as does the sexy man himself.

But Sam can’t imagine why handsome, college-educated Jay would want someone like him, who was raised in a children’s home and barely graduated high school. Maybe the magic of the holiday season can help two men who seem so different come together like the ingredients in a well-made fruitcake.

Dividers

Review: Blame It on the Fruitcake by Pat Henshaw is another delightful story from the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar Package entitled Sleigh Ride, a swiftly moving short story that brings together what seems like polar opposites and solidifies the idea that the heart knows what it wants despite what seems like insurmountable differences.

Sam McGuire has lived most of his life knowing that he is not the kind of guy anyone would choose to love. For years, as an orphan, he watched others be snatched up into middle class happiness by beautiful people who barely gave him a second glance. Now, as a successful mechanic and shop owner, he still believes that he is hardly a catch for some well-educated college boy who cleans up way better than he ever would.

Very much a loner, he is shocked when a small package appears on his doorstep containing an amazing piece of fruitcake and an invite to his neighbor’s party. After suspiciously and grudgingly tasting the cake–after all, everyone knows fruitcake is literally scraping the bottom of the holiday treat barrel–Sam decides to attend the party…in order to get more cake! Little does he know he is about to meet a guy who will challenge all his tightly held low opinions of himself, and of his certainty that he will never be worthy of being loved.

Author Pat Henshaw is a new author for me and I can honestly say, based on this little gem of a story, I will be looking up her backlist ASAP. Sam is such a sweet guy under his gruff exterior. Everything about him, from the way in which he dresses to his rough dialogue, was just so right and realistic. I honestly felt both these main characters were the perfect example of guys I’d be likely to meet in real life. There was such a genuine air about this author’s writing that made this instant attraction between Sam and Jay so understandable and believable.

Sam’s past created such a deep well of loneliness within him that it lent credibility to his automatic decisions that he would never be good enough for Jay. Jay’s admissions of feeling like he was pretending to be something he’s not allowed Sam to understand that appearance really is not all it’s cracked up to be, and it’s what lies beneath the exterior that really counts.

Blame It on the Fruitcake is a sweet and funny love story. A perfect morsel of yummy goodness for this holiday season!

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Angel, Sean Michael

Review: Unto Us the Time Has Come by Sean Michael

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Title: Unto Us the Time Has Come (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Sean Michael

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 59 Pages

At a GlanceA wonderfully rounded, second chances story.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: Last Christmas, Kenn Greyson gave husband Chris Martenson an ultimatum—spend more time with the family or we’re leaving. He never expected Chris’s reply would be “then leave,” but that’s exactly what happened, and Boxing Day took on a whole new meaning.

Separated for nearly a year now, both men are miserable apart and coping the best they can for the kids’ sake. With Christmas just around the corner, a new conflict arises: neither man is willing to forego Christmas morning with their children. Chris finally suggests they spend the holiday together at the house and, to his shock, Kenn agrees.

Armed with the knowledge that he’s been a stubborn idiot, but that perhaps he can change and begin to repair their relationship, Chris takes steps to win his husband back. He just hopes he can get Kenn on the same page before Santa comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

Dividers

Review:  I enjoy Sean Michael’s work, and this book was no exception. Michael didn’t skimp here on this story—despite the shortness, it packs a big punch. Both men are at fault as to the cause of their break-up, and both are doing what they can to remain friendly in spite of it, for their kids. It comes down to them both realizing that what they had could be saved if they would only communicate. Michael also shows the impact of adult decisions on children in a relationship, and once again, he doesn’t shy away from the hard emotions. I cried several times over the course of this short story, but I loved it all the more for the realness.

The ending was sweet and heartwarming. While the make-up was quickly resolved, it felt real to me and not tacked on to get a happy ending. Kenn and Chris had to work hard and learned their lessons, and I think both grew up a bit while they were apart. I would love to read about this couple again, in, say, a year later, just to see how they and the children are doing.

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5 Stars, Caitlin Ricci, Cari Z., Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Angel

Review: Worth the Wait by Caitlin Ricci and Cari Z

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Title: Worth the Wait (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Caitlin Ricci and Cari Z

PublisherDreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 32 Pages

At a GlanceWorth the Wait is a sweet coming together story for the holidays.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: When Tate promises his niece Addie he’ll get a book signed by her favorite author, he never expects to end up in a line four blocks long with sleet coming down around him. It’s three days until Christmas and he’s cold and miserable, but Addie will be devastated if he gives up.

A cute guy who offers him an umbrella is just the encouragement Tate needs to stick it out, especially when Brandon brings him something hot to drink. But the signing ends before Tate can get to the front of the line, and Tate is sure he’s ruined Christmas for his niece. Luckily Brandon gets him in to see the author, who happens to be his mother.

A simple thank you isn’t enough for Tate, and neither he nor Brandon wants to end things there. For two men unused to such an instant mutual attraction, the Christmas season just got a little more merry.

Dividers

Review:  I’ve read Cari Z before and loved the stories, but Caitlin Ricci was a new-to-me author. I’ll be looking into more of Ricci’s work now too, because I absolutely enjoyed this gentle coming together story.

I think I have said before that I love holiday stories, and Worth the Wait is no exception. I will be adding this one to my permanent re-read holiday list. The writing on this was seamless, and I couldn’t tell where the authors had switched off, if they had done so. Fantastic job on a short story and not one word wasted.

Tate seems like a loving and cool uncle to his niece, and I loved the way he and Brandon hit it off. Brandon reading to Addie melted my heart. I also really liked the fact that they had this attraction between them, but there was no insta-love or jumping right into bed. It wasn’t rushed, just some sweet kisses, coffee and dinner—two guys figuring out a way to be together for one another, and for the holidays, without the introduction of immediate sex. In fact, I’d let my teenage daughter read this one with no qualms whatsoever.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed By Carrie, Therese Woodson

Review: Hapless by Therese Woodson

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Title: Hapless (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Therese Woodson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 49 Pages

At a Glance: I thoroughly enjoyed this short story from start to finish. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I was reading it.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: All Ty wants is to propose to his boyfriend, Micah, before Christmas Eve. He has the perfect ring, the perfect setting, and the perfect plan, but the universe has other ideas. A sprained ankle, a choking woman, and a crying sister are just the tip of the iceberg as Ty stumbles toward his happy ever after. Now, as Christmas Eve looms before him, he has to figure out how to ask the biggest question of his life without his perfectionism getting in the way or he might lose the person he wants to spend the holiday, and every day after, with.

Dividers

Review: Ty wants to propose to Micah – before Christmas Eve – he does NOT want to be cliché.  He has plans. Why does everything have to be so hard?

Hapless is the delightful story of two guys who just know that the other one is “it” for him.  Micah and Ty have been together for three years. They graduated together, each got good jobs, settled into an apartment they love in a city that works for both of them. Ty can be a little uptight about things, though, and planning his proposal to Micah is the hardest thing he has ever done.

“Micah was always a whirlwind, chaotic and beautiful. Ty had fallen in love instantly. Micah possessed a wild spirit Ty found liberating… Micah was everything Ty didn’t know he wanted until he saw him…”

As try after try goes awry in this story, you just can’t help but really root for Ty to finally get it right.  The writing is witty and superb, with anecdotes like “Attempt number two was officially like swimmers in Jaws – dead in the water.” The running timeline down to Christmas keeps you in suspense; you can’t quit reading because you have to know what Ty is going to come up with next, and what the universe is going to come up with to counteract him.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short story from start to finish. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I was reading it. Sometimes we have to be reminded of the Who and Why of doing things, not just the How. I really enjoyed Therese Woodson’s writing – I will definitely be looking for more by this author.

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5 Stars, Holiday Romance, LC Chase, Reviewed by Jules, Riptide Publishing

Review: A Fortunate Blizzard by L.C. Chase

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Title: A Fortunate Blizzard

Author: L.C. Chase

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 179 Pages

At a Glance: Grab this book and curl up by the fire one weekend soon! You’ll be so glad you did!

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: There are worse things than being stranded in a blizzard….

Artist Trevor Morrison has always appreciated the little things in life, treating each day as a gift. And with good reason: he’s been on the transplant-recipient list for too long now. When he learns just how numbered his days truly are, he resolves not to take them for granted. But he won’t be unrealistic, either—which means romantic commitments are off the table.

Marcus Roberts seems to have it all. He’s handsome, financially sound, and on the fast track to partnership at a prestigious law firm. In reality, though, his drive for success has meant no time for friends or relationships. Add in the fact that his family discarded him long ago, and he’s facing yet another holiday season alone.

When the biggest snowstorm to hit Colorado in decades leaves Marc and Trevor stranded at the same hotel, a chance encounter and a night of passion leads to more than either of them expected. Finding comfort in each other is a welcome surprise, but time is not on their side. Either they find a way to beat the odds, or they lose each other forever. 

Dividers

Review: A Fortunate Blizzard by L.C. Chase was my first holiday read this year, and it was a fantastic way to kick the season off. I LOVED this story. As I was thinking about this book, and going back over my notes and highlights, I ended up reading the entire thing again, because it is just that yummy and swoony! As I was looking over my notes, though, I came across this highlighted quote:

“…the snow was beautiful to watch – peaceful in its silence, tranquil in its insistence that the world stop and take a breath, release its grief, cleanse its soul, and start anew.”

Not only is that exactly how I feel about snow, but it’s also a perfect summation of the story. Both Trevor and Marc are in need of ‘taking breaths, releasing grief, and starting anew.’ One of the central themes in the book definitely has to do with fresh starts – Marc letting go of his family angst and his drive to fulfill someone else’s dreams, and Trevor, obviously, quite literally needing a new lease on life –  this snow quote gave me feels and perfectly captured those elements in the book.

Trevor and Marc are fantastic together. And, sexy as hell. The immediate attraction between them – particularly Marc’s strong reaction to Trevor – is so well done. The tension in the beginning is perfect, and they are ridiculously hot together. The relationship happens quickly, but it completely works. The spark is there from the get-go, and they mesh so well with each other. I love how Trevor really sees Marc, and how he inspires him to seize life and rediscover his passion. Both characters are wonderful, but I found myself very drawn to Trevor. His story is extremely powerful, and the way he handles his dire situation – even his deciding to keep Marc at arm’s length – is so admirable. I completely adored him.

This story has all the components of a fabulous holiday read. It’s well-written, with a wonderfully easygoing style. It’s so romantic and swoony, but with the right amount of drama. The conflict is really well done – has you on edge but not wanting to throw your Kindle into the fireplace. And, there might be a few tears (I still can’t with Trevor’s letter to Marc!). Grab this book and curl up by the fire one weekend soon! You’ll be so glad you did!

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2 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sara Stark

Review: Leap Through Eternity by Sara Stark

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Amazon

TitleLeap Through Eternity (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Sara Stark

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 26 Pages

At a Glance: An Advent Calendar short that missed the mark for me.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Being evacuated from his apartment in the middle of the night because some idiot forgot his cookies in the oven isn’t the ideal way to meet a guy, but Mason’s hot neighbor Cole sure looks great in his underwear. The trouble is, Mason is the idiot who started the fire, and Cole doesn’t appreciate being lied to any more than he appreciates being driven out into the cold. It looks like their romance might end before it gets started, but Christmas is a time for second chances….

Dividers

Review: I wanted to like this story because I love clumsy main characters. Maybe it’s because I’m a clumsy person myself and can connect to the character so much; however, with this story I just couldn’t. There’s not much to it, being only twenty-six pages long, but I just couldn’t care about the characters. The plot is decent enough as a story idea, but a bit of a stretch. I can’t see firemen not allowing someone to grab at least pants when a fire is just contained in one apartment. Especially when the weather is so cold. As for Mason, he tends to ramble, go off on tangents, and seems repetitive. I found it to be tiresome after a few pages.

Another thing I didn’t understand was the title. I love to discover how titles connect to the story, especially when they’re clever. I have gleeful little moments of “found it!” whenever I see it. However with this story, I just don’t get it. Maybe at the end a bit, I suppose, but the ending was overly sweet and romantic for two people who basically just met. Had their romance been dragged out longer, I may have bought it, but as it stands, it was just too much.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, E.T. Malinowski, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Hearth and Home by E.T. Malinowski

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Amazon

TitleHearth and Home (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: E.T. Malinowski

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 56 Pages

At a Glance: Short but sweet story with an accident prone elf.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Thistle is a sweet elf with a kind heart. He tries his best to help all the other elves in Santa’s workshop. Unfortunately, Thistle tends to leave disaster in his wake despite his good intentions. He dreams of finding an elf who will love him in spite of his clumsiness, an elf he can make a home for. But what elf wants to live in constant peril? Thistle figures he should just stick with his anonymous treat baskets, especially where Bayberry, Santa’s production manager, is concerned.

Bayberry is a bit of a serious elf. A little distant from most of the North Pole crew, Bayberry is lonely. When another Thistle Incident occurs, pushing the production department behind schedule only a few weeks before Christmas, Bayberry gets a “suggestion” from The Big Guy to ask Thistle for help. What could an accident-prone elf do to assist him? But to Bayberry’s surprise, he might gain more than help with his monthly reports.

Dividers

Review: Hearth and Home is a story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar, and I loved it. Set in the North Pole at Santa’s workshop, it follows the accident prone elf Thistle, who wants nothing more than to help the others. The problem is he just gets in the way, and his magic is centered on the home. So while he’s great at baking and making a house a home, he’s not so good at making glass ornaments or toys. Thistle has a thing for Bayberry, the production manager, and when he accidentally breaks the glass ornaments, he’s drawn in to help Bayberry set it right by taking over the reports. And since it’s at Santa’s insistence, he can’t say no.

Bayberry has a crush on Thistle. While the other elves dislike how he gets in the way, Bayberry finds it endearing. So when he’s forced to work with Thistle, he takes it as an opportunity to get to know him. And when the two finally connect, sparks fly. Thistle meets the one who makes his magic worth it, and he finally feels useful to someone.

I enjoyed the story very much. It put me in a Christmas mood, and I liked seeing a clumsy elf falling in love. It was really cute and endearing. The only trouble? It made me crave cookies. Thistle always seemed to bake them!

If you’re looking for a short, heartwarming story, I highly recommend checking this story out. Well worth it!

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You can buy Hearth and Home here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, Bru Baker, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: Talk Turkey by Bru Baker

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Talk Turkey (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Bru Baker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 58 Pages

At a Glance: This is an incredibly delightful tale of turkey woe.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Carson is a California transplant settling into life in the Windy City. On his first Christmas away from home, he assures his worried family he’ll be having a real Christmas dinner.

Recent culinary school graduate Tom Stockton earns some extra money giving out cooking advice at the Talk Turkey hotline. Tom’s honeyed voice and sharp sense of humor are attractive to the lonely Carson, and Carson finds reasons to call the hotline again and again. But on Christmas Eve, Carson’s call is less playful and more panicked with the big meal looming. Carson is just looking for advice, but Tom has a surprise in store that might lead to much more.

Dividers

Review: Carson has been in Chicago for less than a month, and the loneliness of his existence is starting to overwhelm him. Too new in his job, he doesn’t have the option of vacation time to go home to California for the holiday.

“It said a lot about Carson’s current state of mind that he’d named the turkey currently taking up a good three-quarter of the real estate in his refrigerator. Sure, he’d be eating it. But that didn’t mean he shouldn’t name it. Especially since it was doing such a great service for him, being his sole companion for Christmas dinner. At the rate it was defrosting – which was interminably slow – it would be coming as a guest and not the meal, which was all the more reason to name it.”

Carson is in such a state because of his turkey that he calls the turkey hotline number he found in the grocery store, and meets Tom – a recent culinary school graduate who is working the hotline for extra cash during the holidays. What follows are delightfully well written and witty vignettes of Carson’s turkey troubles, and Tom’s sage advice peppered with a sharp sense of humor. Bru Baker writes a moving story of a young man navigating his first holiday on his own with uplifting humor and amusing secondary characters. The fact that Carson’s mom set up a Pinterest page for him with turkey boards is refreshingly current and relatable. How the author puts the two men together was ingeniously clever and had me laughing out loud.

I am becoming a huge fan of Bru Baker, she is an excellent writer whether the story is long or short, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

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You can buy Talk Turkey here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Mary Calmes, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Jules

Audio Review: Where You Lead by Mary Calmes – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

Audio Gem

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Where You Lead

Author: Mary Calmes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Narrator: Greg Tremblay

Run Time: 1 hour and 41 minutes

At a Glance: You should definitely add this one to your collection of holiday feel-good romances!

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: ATF agent Peter Lomax isn’t a hearts and flowers kind of guy, but he can be possessive, and it caused problems until Carver Fleming. Carver may be part of the art world, but he gets Peter, loves belonging to the man, and Peter treasures the way Carver understands them together.

Carver loves Peter, but he’s fully aware that six months doth not a commitment make. Carver wants to make the relationship last forever, but he’ll have to leave their life in Chicago to take care of the family he loves. He wants to do it with Peter by his side, but going from the city of Chicago to tiny Colt, Kentucky is a big change.

Carver has only one Christmas wish: Please, oh please, let Peter fall enough in love with Carver’s family to follow Carver home.

Dividers

Review: Listening to this audio was such a treat; I had forgotten how much I loved this little Christmas story. Coming in at under two hours – just 68 pages for the novella – it’s not a huge time investment but packs a lot of punch. To create a good short story, the author must hook the reader almost immediately, and Mary Calmes is a master at this. In Where You Lead the opening sequence is hilarious and is instrumental in getting you invested in the characters.

Pete is your typical “man’s man”. As an ATF agent who isn’t afraid of throwing himself in front of a gun to save a hostage, some might find his pairing with mild-mannered gallery owner Carver Fleming unlikely. Six months into the relationship, however, things definitely seem like they are for real – at least, that’s what Carver is counting on, Pete also feeling this way as they head to his family’s home in rural Kentucky for the holidays.

The story is fabulous and the narration is equally so. Greg Tremblay’s performance is perfect in its simplicity. His voice is so rich and has such a great tone, I could honestly listen to him for hours! He does an incredible job at keeping the voices distinct, and with the dialogue. The whole thing is just so understated and classy and flows so well. I loved it!!! You should definitely add this one to your collection of holiday feel-good romances!

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You can buy Where You Lead here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Audible.com

Audible.com

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