Review of Peace in the Valley by Jana Denardo


Rating: 4.5 stars

DSP Evergreen Cover for 2012John and Anthony have a tough time making time for each other, especially at this time of the year.  Not only do both men work in emergency services, John as a EMT and Anthony as a nurse, but they also are members of the local Search and Rescue outfit.  But their roles in Search and Rescue make them one unique couple with John as the S&R handler for his “dog” Sir Barksalot who just happens to be Anthony, a wolf shifter. The holidays always bring crazy demands on their time, from people lost on the slopes to a full ER.  But they have been lovers for a long time and know how special it is to make time for each other in their special valley.

I loved this short story written for Dreamspinner’s Evergreen Advent Month.  Jana Denardo captures beautifully the portrait of a couple who have been together long enough that they mesh in that special way only committed partners do.  That one partner happens to be a wolf shifter and Native American adds spice to the relationship but never takes the focus off the love John and Anthony have for each other.  There are some very cute scenes in which  John interacts with his rescue “dog” during training and Anthony’s comments about his love for liver treats.  We also get to see them as an established couple at Christmastime with John’s large Italian family who clearly see Anthony as they would any of their children’s spouses, a very nice touch.

Peace in the Valley gives us tender moments in the lives of John and Anthony, the drama of a rescue and some hot sex too, all nicely wrapped up in 39 pages.  Another don’t miss for the holiday season.  Lovely.

Review of Inspiration by Henrietta Clark


Rating: 5 stars

Inspiration-MEDNolan’s mother is having open heart surgery and it is scheduled to happen over the holidays which means Nolan is going to Chicago for Christmas and leaving his lover, Benji, behind in Scotland working on his novel.  Definitely not an ideal situation for anyone but what is Nolan to do? Benji hates Chicago, swears Scotland is his muse and the next  part of his book is due to the editors. Benji knows he’s being a “wanker” and doesn’t want  Nolan to go but realizes that this year Nolan will spend the holidays in the States and Benji will spend them alone.

But before leaving, Nolan prepares an advent calendar to get Benji through the long 3 months without him, and maybe help Nolan get through it too  in a very unique way.  As Benji starts to find each advent surprise Nolan has left him, he starts to learn more about himself and the man he let leave for the States alone to face his mother’s traumatic surgery by himself.  Benji may just learn that his source of inspiration resides not in a place, but in a person he loves more than he realizes.

Run, run right now and go get this book.  I have no idea who Henrietta Clark is but I now adore her and will be looking for anything else she writes.  Her characters grump and grumble, are selfish, and charming and so totally real that they  scampered off the page and into my heart from the first paragraph of this wonderful story.  Benji is a grumpy, large old (albeit goodlooking) codger who lives in Scotland, the heart of his muse he thinks.  Benji is very much set in his ways, his thought processes following the habits laid down by his body.  It is remarkable that he let  Nolan in past his defenses to begin with but Nolan’s assault on Mount Benji was thorough and well planned.  I only wish that Henrietta Clark had given us a little more of Nolan’s determined courtship of Benji, it must have been a hoot.  But could I imagine it from the small glimpses she gave us?  Why yes I could and I loved what I saw.

Nolan is a shear delight.  Totally American, he is slight where Benji is large, humorous and outgoing where Benji withdraws like a hermit crab into his shell.  Nolan sees the best about everyone and every situation, and he is exactly what Benji needs and wants, even if the man doesn’t realize it at first.  And little by little, as each advent gift shows Benji just how well Nolan knows his irascible lover, Benji also discovers that Nolan has been his real muse all along and spending the holidays without his love is becoming increasingly unbearable.  Yes, I have seen this plot before, but with her rich descriptions and wonderful characterizations, including Nolan’s mother, Clark makes this storyline sing again and just in time to deliver that much needed holiday cheer and joy that I look for in a story at this time of year.  I am sure Santa will be adding Henrietta Clark to his “nice” list for giving us such a wonderful story.