Dreamspinner Press Advent Story Roundup

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The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock by Amy Rae Durreson

Rating: 4.25 stars

DSP: After lonely divorcé Isaac leaves his job as a banker to work as a conservationist on a country river, he gives up on finding the love he always wanted. Then he meets flirty jeweler Ryan and assumes Ryan’s out of his league, but Ryan’s just as lonely as Isaac. Ryan also has the housemates from hell, and when he storms out of the riotous Christmas party they forgot to warn him about, he soon finds himself lost in the snow.

Ryan passes out in front of the lock cottage where Isaac lives, and once Isaac brings him in from the cold, they finally have a chance to get to know each other. But when their insecurities get in the way, it’s up to the ghost of Mistletoe Lock to ensure they give love a chance

I really enjoyed this unusual tale by a new author for me, Amy Rae Durreson.  It starts off with the haunting (literally) death of a young mother in the lock and then forwards to the present where a young British man is leaving his shoppe for the evening after having helped his last customer, a rough looking man looking for a present for his mother.  It is Christmas eve and the party at his house sends him off on a path down the river and a meeting with a ghost and his destiny.  Durrenson has a lovely way with descriptions and her settings come alive with the cold beauty of the locks and river on a moonlighted  Christmas Eve.  Whether it is the Aga warmed old lock cottage or the vivid descriptions of the men themselves, her vision of her story is so clear that it conveys itself to the reader with the same ease and clarity. I loved both Ryan and Isaac, and found the ghost  Emily haunting in her pain. Christmas ghosts abound through literature, the season always bringing with it the joys of family and friends as well as our losses. Durreson has added so very nicely to that tradition. I look forward to other stories from this talented writier.

Traditions from the Heart by Bru Baker

Rating: 4 stars

DSP: When Aaron finds out Ben is missing out on some important Christmas traditions to be with him, he starts thinking of ways to give Ben new ways to observe the holiday. Can a homemade bear, a friend-made video, and a sock-eating goat become the traditions that keep Ben and Aaron together?

I adored this story.  It has everything I look for as a Holiday story.  It is warmhearted, sappy, contains family, love and Christmas traditions that I can relate to all rolled into one sexy and fun holiday tale.  Baker has a terrific way with the characters and the part about the stuffed cat was fun and kept me smiling.  It was lighthearted but still contained enough of the season’s melancholy memories that it rang true there as well.  Like I said, I loved this one and you shouldn’t pass it by.

Bless Us Everyone by Gina A. Rodgers

Rating: 3.5 stars

DSP Blurb: Edan has spent the past five years hiding in his home, living with the ghosts of his Christmases past and unable to allow for the possibility of a future. So when his vibrant and sexy neighbor, Tim, barges into his life with a stepladder and a plate of cookies, Edan finds himself living for the present. But can he let go of his bah humbug ways and accept this second chance as the gift it is?

Cute story about a man whose past has made him isolate himself inside his house for years until a new neighbor draws him out, and into a relationship.  Nice characterizations combined with heart and warmth.  A lovely story for the holidays.

Lucky by Ana Bosch

Rating: 3.25 stars

DSP:  Ever since Martel Heller rolled his first dreadlock, his love life has been blessed. For seven years he’s had the luxury of cherry-picking the hottest men available. But when the dress code at his new job forces him to hack off his lucky locks, his good fortune comes to an end.

To make matters worse, if Martel shows up at the company Christmas party alone, his creepy coworker Phil will know he’s single. As a last resort, Martel enlists his best friend, Felix, a fashion photographer, to hook him up with a model. Then plans fall through, and Martel ends up stuck at the Christmas party with the last person he expects—but as the hours pass, he wonders if he’s finally learned what it means to be lucky.

I actually came close to giving this story 4 stars but in the end the main character was such an unrepentant jerk right up to the last pages that I remained more frustrated than affectionate towards Martel.  I liked the concept that Martel felt his luck resided in his dreads and that once they were cut off due to an employee dress code, his luck was lost.  Now I do wonder about any company being able to enforce a “dread free zone”, especially as dreads can be pulled back and secured or kept “neat: in so many other ways.  Really the AACP or ACLU would have been all over this here in our area. But ok, even given that, there are other things about Martel that just leaves the reader cold.  When you make your main character a jerk and tell the story from his pov, then there should be some redeeming characteristics that allow the reader to understand or make concessions for his, in this case Martel’s, behavior.

I never felt we got that.  Instead we come to love Felix, Martel’s best friend who he treats poorly in so many ways.  Read this for Felix and for the ending, otherwise, I would recommend you skip this altogether.

On The Rocks by Ari McKay

Rating: 3.5  to 3. 25 stars

DSP:

For years, Mal has given Aidan a little piece of the world for special occasions in the form of unique rocks and fossils—until the year he gives Aidan a piece of the moon instead. Aidan has treasured every gift: in a world of impersonal relationships, they’re the one reminder he has that somebody out there cares about him for who he really is. Then through a twist of fate, their relationship goes beyond personal and into intimate, leaving Aidan shocked and set to run the other way. Despite his feelings for Mal, past experiences have convinced Aidan that he’s a failure at relationships, and he’s afraid to trust his heart. It just might take a Christmas miracle for Aidan to find the courage to love.

I actually liked this more than I think it deserved.  I think that perhaps it is due to the fact that when Aidan finally realizes what he has lost, he goes into therapy to try and fix himself first before trying to establish a relationship.  That realistic touch alone elevated this story for me.  I liked Mal and Aiden, although Aiden had to grow on me because of his self centered personality.  But with the concept of rocks as gifts which totally appealed to someone who has always picked up stones everywhere I go, to the idea of someone getting help to solve serious issues.  Well, kudos to  McKay for handling these elements of the story so well.

Bianca’s Plan by B.G. Thomas

Rating: 3 stars

DSP:  Bianca worries that her daddy, Gavin, is lonely and decides he needs a boyfriend for Christmas. So she enlists her father’s best friend, the straight and unattached Curtis. Gavin has a Christmas wish, too, and Curtis setting him up on disastrous dates isn’t part of it! Meanwhile, Curtis finds life becoming complicated as he tries to please Bianca, make Gavin happy, and fend off his own unexpected mixed feelings. Will anyone’s wish come true?

I thought this was a very cute story.  I have to admit that a story plot line that has a daughter or son setting their father up for a romance has always appealed to me.  And Thomas has one wonderful character in the mischievous and plotting little girl, Bianca.  She is absolutely adorable and believable as a 10 year old little girl who sees so clearly what is right before her Dad, that Curtis is perfect for them both.  Bianca wants two dads and a husband for her father and proceeds to get what she wants.  All the characters within the story have some depth to them, although I would wish for a little more realism.  But one sentence tanked this story for me.  When virgin Curtis (virgin to gay sex that is) and Gavin finally realize they love each other, they jump into bed to have sex (no problem here) but then they decide not to use either protectuion, no condoms, or lube. Why?  Because as Gavin tells Curtis, they don’t need that stuff.

“Not this time,” Gav told him. “Nothing fake. It has to all be real.”

So condoms and lube make have sex be less real?   Uh, does STD’s and pain make it more memorable?  Hmmm, maybe it does at that but not in the way I think the author intended.  That sound you hear?  The rating falling through the floor.  3 stars because I liked Bianca.

The Roommate by Teegan Loy

Rating: 3 stars

DSP: Ryan’s finally home after a long week of hiding in a hotel while his boyfriend’s parents visited. He isn’t happy that Jordan hasn’t told his parents he’s gay but believes Jordan when he promises to come out. When Jordan’s family ends up on their doorstep after a winter storm shuts down the airport, Jordan introduces Ryan as his roommate, leaving Ryan horrified and hurt. Jordan’s little sister notices and tells Ryan she’s going to ask Santa to make him happy… but does Ryan’s Christmas wish have any hope of coming true?

Teegan Loy has written a love story for the holidays both cute and frustrating.  Loy’s characterizations are so good that you fall in love with Ryan immediately.  And the fact that Ryan endears himself to the reader from the start (really that cooking scene is hilarious) that when his live in boyfriend hurts him by pretending to his family who has helped him move in Ryan’s apartment, then the story looses its joy and momentum.  Hard to root for somone’s love affair when you have a main character not as fully fleshed out as the other who is coming across as a jerk.  The author never gives us enough backstory for Jordan’s fear of exposure to make any sense, especially after meeting his family.  All we see is a man who continues to reject his loving partner who has gone out of his way to make things easy for his love and gets kicked repeatedly for his efforts.

Yes, there is a happy ending but I am not sure I ever believed it.  Loved Ryan though.

Soups and Diners by Alex Whitehall

Rating: 3 stars

DSP: Two days before Christmas, just after his best friend’s wedding, Max is in a diner when he’s joined by Stan, another wedding guest. Getting to know each other ensues with some awkwardness, teasing, and fun conversation. They seem to hit it off, but Stan has reservations, wondering if Max is too good to be true, and Max has a history of bad boyfriend choices. Will meeting each other be a Christmas miracle—or a prettily wrapped present that’s really an empty box.

Nice story.  But to be honest, I forgot about it as soon as I was finished.  Nice people, nice story, nice ending.  Nothing memorable about any part of this tale so I would give this a pass on that rationale alone.

Old Flames by Davi Rodriquez

Rating: 2.5 stars

DSP Blurb:

There’s something to be said for old flames. NYPD Sgt. AJ Cooper seems to think so. His ex, Brad Meyers, dumped him to work on getting a starring role in a Broadway show, leaving AJ confused and betrayed. Five months later, while patrolling Times Square, AJ sees a giant advertisement for Brad’s show and misses what they had… and then he sees Brad.

AJ grouchily agrees to meet Brad in Central Park the next evening, but he doesn’t realize what he’s in for. AJ might regain everything he lost five months before—or he might lose it all over again.

I thought this story had real potential.  I liked NYPD Sft. AJ Cooper as he seemed like a fairly realistic New York Cop right until his ex showed up and the story fell apart.  There is not much to the  character of Brad Meyers, no layering or depth to explain Cooper’s feeling for him.  There is also no real explanation as to why AJ was dumped after a long term relationship.  So why are we expected to believe that a smart cop would take this guy back?  We don’t believe it, and there is no passion, no credible love between the two to overcome such a wildly unlikely turn of events.  No amount of elf dust would let someone suspend their belief for this one.

The Perils and Pleasures of a White Christmas by Emily Moreton

Rating 2.5 stars

DSP:  Despite the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, FBI Agent Drake and his Army officer partner Tim keep their relationship under wraps for the sake of Tim’s career. Though they’d rather be open about their relationship, the sex and friendship make up for having to hide. Then holiday stress kicks in with a triple whammy of bad luck and they’ll have to focus on each other to find the cheer in the holiday furor, even if that means coming out.

Actually, this reads as a snippet from a much longer story and has very little to do with the blurb above.  Basically it is an afternoon/night in the relationship of Drake and Tim where the power goes out and they spend it in bed having sex.  That’s it.  No angst, no questions about their jobs or  closeted status, nothing.  Just two men who love each other staying warm under the blankets when the power goes out in their building.  It as though the author (who I love btw) has said “here is a bit from a book I am writing, what do you think?”.  And the answer is well it’s a lovely part, like the couple.  Where is the rest of it?.  So that’s what you should do, wait for the rest of it.  There is just not enough here to warrant reading it.

 

6 thoughts on “Dreamspinner Press Advent Story Roundup

  1. The only one of those I read was Traditions from the Heart and I really enjoyed it to. Heck, they had a pet goat that lived in the house. LOL I would have liked to see more of him. 🙂 I also liked how the beginning had you thinking one thing and then it was something completely different.

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  2. That was a terrific little story, and do you know the house I lived in at college had a pet goat that used to make its way into the kitchen? Hysterical, yet another reason I connected with this story.

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  3. Oh, and Tam? I just posted Part II of my Dreamspinner Press Advent roundup with all my recommendations. Let me know what you think of those,will you?

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  4. Tam, guess what, something must have happened and it never posted. it is now, thanks to you! Mwah! Check it out.

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