Rating: 5 stars out of 5
The holidays are times of reflection, celebration, and coming home to those you love and who love you back. It’s a time to reconnect with who you are and who you hope to be. And sometimes, if you are lucky, this is also a season of miracles, of love found and a home discovered. From New York City, to the winter isolation of the Maine woods, to the quaint, small town charm of Idaho, the men in these stories have different holiday desires. They’re looking for familiarity or fresh starts, but they have one thing in common—their happily ever afters might be waiting in the last places they think to look.
This season I have three top anthologies, all holiday collections. One Holiday Ever After is among them, primarily because of the excellence in stories and heart from Tere Michaels, Elle Brownlee and Elizah J. Davis. Before One Holiday Ever After, I was really familiar with only Tere Michaels, but after the wonderful stories from Elle Brownlee and Elizah J. Davis, I have searching out to find more stories by these authors. Did I have favorites among the three stories? Certainly but only by the smallest of margins. Here is the story synopsis and my shortened reviews:
Holiday Roommates by Tere Michaels
As an out of work actor Nate Brandywine needs an emergency roommate for the month of December. During a humiliating gig as a Christmas elf at a NYC department store, he meets Sean Callahan, his producer and a man struggling under the weight of a past-due loan. Sean’s desperate for a place to stay in the city for a few weeks. A month of sharing a workplace and an apartment with someone you can’t stop flirting with? Maybe the holidays won’t be so terrible after all.
I love Tere Michaels and this short story just highlights why. The characters of Nate and Sean are so believable and vulnerable that the reader will take them into their heart. The secondary characters are as wonderful as the primary ones and the story’s plot is a realistic one that will pull you in immediately. A great way to start a must have anthology.
Holiday Sanctuary by Elle Brownlee
Chris Declan is trekking through the wintry wonderland of rural Maine, searching for inspiration and himself, when he’s lost in a hug snow storm. The surprise blizzard that finds him seeking refuge in Paul Bak’s secluded cabin. Paul Bak’s secluded cabin is a prime spot to research and watch birds, a perfect place for an isolated Ornithology researcher. As the snow cuts them off from all around them, making the best of being snowed in together soon becomes a comfortable friendship with fireside chats, a quaint holiday celebration, and more. But despite their growing closeness, there’s one thing they avoid—what will happen when the snow clears and the holidays end.
Elle Brownlee had me at the name of Paul’s cat, Myn. It’s short for…well, I will let Paul explain it:
“It’s for Moamyn.” Paul steered the conversation away from, well, wherever else it might have gone. But he couldn’t stop wondering after that last comment. “A long time ago in a land far away, the aforenamed and possibly apocryphal Arabian who wrote a definitive treatise on falconry.”
Be still my heart. An ornithologist’s love story, complete with references to the subtle glory of the grasshopper sparrow. I adored everything about this story, from the slow exploration of Paul’s comfy cabin, full of hidden objects full of clues to Paul’s character and passion for his profession to the wry humor and intellect that is Chris. It’s slow, wonderful, and makes an impact on the reader that they won’t be fully aware of until the end.
Holiday Homecoming by Elizah J. Davis
Gavin Anderson never thought making it as a writer in LA would be easy, but when his latest project falls through, he gives up on Hollywood and heads to Bonabri, Idaho in hopes that the peace and quiet of his childhood home will help him figure out his next move. Instead he finds Eric Nichols, his parents’ cute and charming housesitter who is there to experience the small town Christmas festivities. Gavin’s plans for quiet reflection are no match for Eric’s holiday cheer, and he soon finds himself swept up in the spirit of the season. Gavin thought his life had hit a dead end, but in coming home he finds what might be a new beginning.
Here is a story full of the 3 H’s – hope, holiday, and heartwarming. I finished this story and just kept on smiling as I remembered scenes and dialog from Elizah J. Davis’ Holiday Homecoming. Adorableness, thy name is Eric Nichols, a man in search of love and home who finds it unexpectedly when he housesits for his best friend’s neighbors in the quaint small town of Bonabri, Idaho. The town of Bonabri may not actually exist outside these pages but how I wish it did! It comes to life in all its Chrismassy, nosy glory and I loved it. I feel the same way about the disillusioned Gavin returning home after failing in Los Angeles and his slow “return” to the human being he always was underneath. Much like the other two stories, I wish the author had made this a full length book. Not because this feels incomplete in any way, it doesn’t. But because I hated to say goodbye to the characters and town once they had hold of me. It’s a fantastic story and a great way to finish out this must have holiday anthology.
I would read this One Holiday Ever After at any time of the year. Still in the holiday season and spirit? Perfection. Missing the holidays because it is (fill in the blank season)? This anthology will pull you in and make you remember why you love the holidays so. It’s one of the top story collections of the year and one you won’t want to miss. I am so glad I didn’t and you will be too. A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2014 books!
Cover Artist: Angsty G. Love the cover, it works perfectly for the collection and spirit of the stories found within.
book, 280 pages
Published December 19th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632165783 (ISBN13: 9781632165787)