A MelanieM Review: Away in a Manger by JC Owens

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Two men from vastly different backgrounds; one city, one country. They have loved each other for over fifteen years, but the balance of their relationship has always been skewed, with Nathan desperately attempting to make Malcolm content on the ranch, when his restlessness and creative soul drives him to explore the world outside. After all this time, the differences were beginning to create a divide that seemed inevitable. Sometimes, love was not enough.

Then Malcolm’s nephew goes missing and a storm brings Nathan to his knees…

Everything they have is suddenly on the brink of disaster.

It will take a Christmas miracle to show two men that everything they are, everything they need, is tied up in a love that deserves a second chance.

Away in a Manger by JC Owens is one of those short stories that not only seems like a much larger book but one that you wish would go on to fill a series.  In just 53 pages, J.C. Owens manages to create a world of characters that feel real right  down to the horses and dogs, a ranch that  comes vividly to life, and an established relationship between two men that solidifies and deepens before our eyes.

Oh, and a missing teenager finds his way to a new home.  At Christmas.  And you don’t want to roll your eyes but embrace the spirit, the love that flows from the story and all the “miracles” it contains.

There is a depth and reality to all the characters here, that includes the horses and the dogs that play big parts in this tale.  I want to spend more time with all of them.  This story and these people cry out for a series of books.  I hope the author is listening.  Until then, spread out your holiday reading to just one more story and pick up Away in a Manger by JC Owens.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Kris Jacen.  Just gorgeous and perfect for the story.

Sales Links:  MLR Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 53 pages
Published December 13th 2018 by MLR Press
ASINB07LCLWQ2J

 

An Alisa Review: Best Christmas Ever by Terry O’Reilly

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Bowing to his parents’ homophobic demands, Professor Henry Rodimacher always chose Christmas with his family over spending it with his partner. However, when Jeremy became terminally ill, Henry defied his family and stayed home for Jeremy’s final Christmas.

After Jeremy passes, Henry decides it’s time to mend fences, so despite a raging snowstorm, he starts the long drive home. Before he gets very far, though, he’s alarmed to see a hitchhiker out in the weather, Henry offers the man a ride, and is surprised the hitchhiker is Jimmy Wilks, a former student of his.

The heavy snow eventually forces Henry and Jimmy to leave the highway and take refuge in an abandoned log cabin. As the two hunker down to wait out the storm, they give into their mutual attraction and celebrate a wonderful Christmas together.

Can their newfound love survive once the snow thaws? Will history repeat itself with Henry going back home alone, or will the magic of their best Christmas ever live on into the New Year and beyond?

I really liked the bulk of this story.  It starts with Henry being very shy and uncertain of himself because of his past relationship and family.  Jeremy seems to know what he wants but isn’t quite ready to say it out loud.

I liked how they interacted once they were on the same page and really did have a great little Christmas together, though everything just worked out great from their feelings to the owner of the cabin being fine with everything, not very realistic.  Most of this is told from Henry’s point of view so I feel a little more connected to him and was very glad for him to realize his parents’ restrictions are too much for them to ask.  There was a big flash of doubt for Terry near the end which didn’t seem like him but it was quickly resolved.

The cover art by Written Ink Designs is a nice picture for the story.

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 68 pages

Published: December 15, 2018 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634868334

Edition Language: English

An Alisa Review : Midnight Angel by Kevin Klehr

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Dinner is overcooked. The guests haven’t arrived.

Luke is sitting alone at his dining table on New Year’s Eve. He was hoping to romance Nathan, one of the people he invited for this intimate evening meal.

As midnight draws closer, it seems an angel, who has magically appeared in Luke’s apartment, is the only person to drink champagne and watch the fireworks with.

But this angel has other ideas. He’s about to grant Luke the New Year’s Eve party he thought he wanted.

 

This was a different story and it’s so short I’m afraid to give everything away.  I understood the point of what the angel did but didn’t like the execution and mostly just felt for Luke as he was being blindsided.

 

In the end we get to see Luke find the love he wants just not in the way he had originally hoped.  Unfortunately I didn’t feel a big connection to any of the characters but felt as if I was watching from the sidelines.

I like the cover art by Natasha Snow is cute and one of the standard for holiday shorts this year.

Sales Links: Nine Star Press | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 10,500 words

Published: December 10, 2018 by Nine Star Press

ISBN: 978-1-949909-61-6

Edition Language: English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Calendar Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Kim Fielding has a way with words.  No doubt about it.  And it doesn’t seem to matter if the words are in the contemporary, historical, paranormal, or other style. This short contemporary story she crafted for this year’s holiday season is a fine example of her work. 

Alex is a gifted artist, but he dropped out of college and now does house painting. Surrounded by professionals—from his dentist parents to his siblings who followed in their footsteps—Alex isn’t content with his life but doesn’t know which direction to take to change it.  This year, during his family’s annual Christmas Compromise—a vacation that’s a compromise between his dad’s frugal ways and his mom’s wish for extravagancethey are in Orlando. But not at the famous theme park.  Instead, they are at one that features Poseidon and all things ocean-related, including the gorgeous pirate Alex meets when they exit a ride “through the gift shop.” 

The two hit it off easily and by the end of his vacation, Alex has invited Todd to his family’s rental condo to spend the Christmas holiday and Todd offers a shocking proposal for Alex that might allow him to make more than one of his dreams come true. 

Very definitely one of my favorites of the season, I highly recommend this to lovers of romance.

The cover by Garrett Leigh is done in the style of the Warmest Wishes books and features a pirate in the center of the opening, an amusement park in the background. Bright and colorful, the cover shows the perfect depiction of Todd in his role as a pirate at the park.   

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 34 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050682
Edition Language English
setting Florida (United States)

A Lila Advent Calendar Review: Haste Ye Back by R. Quincy Cameron

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

The situation seems ideal: a month off work and a sweet deal to extend his stay in an unexpected paradise. Needless to say, Aaron is thrilled to snag an extra few days in Scotland after his work conference to soak up the magic of the country.

However, his plans to tourist his way around Edinburgh before his January 1st flight home are thwarted by a strange influx of people into the capital. Add in trains that don’t run on New Year’s, fireworks, first-footing, and running into the same gorgeous stranger as he exits every other shop, and Aaron really should have googled what “Hogmanay” was before he found himself whisked into the whirlwind of Scottish revelry and the impossible draw of that sexy stranger who tastes like scotch and, impossibly, already feels like the beginnings of home.

Haste Ye Back is not quite a full story. It’s the hopes for something more. A seed for a future what-if. It’s lovely, romantic, and a bit too short. It leaves the reader wanting more. An epilogue many decades later or some time traveling to bring Aaron and Connor full circle.

The story is a set of vignettes taking place during Hogmanay – Scottish New Year’s Celebration. They give us a taste of a winter romance or the possibilities of one. Perhaps, this story is more about finding the right person at the right time and having that special moment to remember for a lifetime.

If you want a buttery sweet happy ending, this story may not be for you. If you want to learn more about other countries traditions and get happy feels, then go ahead and enjoy. Aaron and Connor have great chemistry and compensate for the lack of more… of everything.

The cover by Garrett Leigh follows the 2018 Advent Calendar | Warmest Wishes template but doesn’t add anything else about the story.

Sale Link: Amazon | Nook | Dreamspinner

Book Details:
ebook, 31 pages
ISBN: 9781644050668
Published: December 1, 2018, by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Calendar Review: Miracle on Three Kings’ Day by Beth Laycock

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Levi’s been in a funk ever since his father died a year ago in an accident that Levi partially blames himself for.  He lands in Spain to visit his brother over the holidays and learns that his brother, who was visiting Scotland, is stuck there due to a blizzard that’s closed the airports.  Not to worry though, his brother has arranged for his best friend, Alex, to let him into his house and then to show Levi around.

Levi is attracted to Alex but he’s so shy and insecure, and still wallowing in guilt about his father, that he doesn’t want to make the first move. Not my favorite trope, the insecure guy meets hot guy, but the author pulled if off well.  Add to that, the misunderstanding trope, especially when it comes to whether or not the hot guy is gay or bi or married or not, the originality was lacking.  There was, however, one really interesting point and that’s the traditional Spanish holiday, Three Kings Day, and the customs that surround it. That happens to be when Levi gets up his courage to pursue someone he really wants and the story closes on a HFN for the two very nice men. 

The cover by LC Chase shows a handsome young man leaning against a railing and looking out over the ocean during a beautiful sunset. The exact scene is included in the story and that, plus the colors used on the cover, make this one memorable.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 49 pages
Published November 30th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN B07L1LZGML

A Lila Advent Calendar Review: Haste Ye Back by R. Quincy Cameron

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

The situation seems ideal: a month off work and a sweet deal to extend his stay in an unexpected paradise. Needless to say, Aaron is thrilled to snag an extra few days in Scotland after his work conference to soak up the magic of the country.

However, his plans to tourist his way around Edinburgh before his January 1st flight home are thwarted by a strange influx of people into the capital. Add in trains that don’t run on New Year’s, fireworks, first-footing, and running into the same gorgeous stranger as he exits every other shop, and Aaron really should have googled what “Hogmanay” was before he found himself whisked into the whirlwind of Scottish revelry and the impossible draw of that sexy stranger who tastes like scotch and, impossibly, already feels like the beginnings of home.

Haste Ye Back is not quite a full story. It’s the hopes for something more. A seed for a future what-if. It’s lovely, romantic, and a bit too short. It leaves the reader wanting more. An epilogue many decades later or some time traveling to bring Aaron and Connor full circle.

The story is a set of vignettes taking place during Hogmanay – Scottish New Year’s Celebration. They give us a taste of a winter romance or the possibilities of one. Perhaps, this story is more about finding the right person at the right time and having that special moment to remember for a lifetime.

If you want a buttery sweet happy ending, this story may not be for you. If you want to learn more about other countries traditions and get happy feels, then go ahead and enjoy. Aaron and Connor have great chemistry and compensate for the lack of more… of everything.

The cover by Garrett Leigh follows the 2018 Advent Calendar | Warmest Wishes template but doesn’t add anything else about the story.

Sale Link: Amazon | Nook | Dreamspinner

Book Details:
ebook, 31 pages
ISBN: 9781644050668
Published: December 1, 2018, by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

A Stella Advent Calendar Review: Colina de Lavanda by August Li

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

A Story from the Warmest Wishes: Dreamspinner Press 2018 Advent Calendar

Lord protector of whores, thieves, sorcerers, and deviants.

Owning a parcel of land the railroad needs to cross means Edward gets to run the border town around the station as he sees fit. What starts as a place to indulge his varied appetites becomes a haven to society’s castoffs, and if Edward encourages legends about its founder to flourish, well, he’s not so much a liar as a man who wants to protect all the cultures living in peace. Being mayor means folks might ignore his vices, but they also expect him to fix what goes wrong.

When a crushing heat wave and drought threaten not only the town’s diverse holiday celebrations but its very existence, Edward must turn to the one man he’d rather french kiss a timber rattler than face—the icily elegant Cantonese mage Edward walked out on but never stopped loving.

I was over the moon when I saw this new release by one of my favorite authors in this year DSP Advent Calendar. I am a huge fan of August Li, I found all the titles I read so far always so well done, each time I fall in love with the characters and the plots. I am sure I already said it, but the reason why I love the author so much is because August always creates amazing settings and new places to discover, with a magical writing that catches my attention from the first words.  Colina de Lavanda has all these qualities and so much more.

It was so easy to follow Edward throughout his town’s roads, solving problems and trying to finally put roots with Shu, the man who owns his heart. The line binding their souls is so frail and strong at the same time, Edward just needs to be brave and open his home to the beautiful mage.

This short is a second chance at love story, set in a magical town, where everything can happen and sometimes the unthinkable can be real. I was intrigued and curious about the plot, I wasn’t expecting what happened and I was so intensely surprised, Colina de Lavanda was of course a huge winner to me. I read it for a second time two days after the first read, cause I was missing the emotions and astonishment the story gave me.

I feel to recommend it if you’re looking for something different, you won’t be disappointed.

The cover art by L.C. Chase is simple and fitting, I like it.

SALE LINKS  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 57 pages

Published November 30th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

ASIN B07L1HLXKW

Edition Language English

A Chaos Moondrawn Advent Calendar Review: Hero for the Holidays (Spandex and Superpowers #4) by Charles Payseur

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Cody is house sitting for Dr. Devious during the holidays after a disastrous break-up. Devious is the boyfriend of one of Cody’s dearest friends. When superhero Wayward Sun, aka Sonny Skyes crash lands on the island drunk, turns out he just got dumped too. This is just a lot of fun from start to finish. I loved the bartender. Everyone is hooked on this soap opera, so we get a bonus plot too. It’s actually not possible for a short story to pack more of a wallop than this. There is profanity and a brief sex scene. The blurb told me everything I needed to know so if it appeals to you too, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. There are other short stories in this world, but after reading this I’m going to try the novella, Comic Book Romance.

The cover art is by Garrett Leigh and I think it’s perfect for this story with a touch of humor.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 49 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English
Series Spandex and Superpowers #4

A Lila Advent Calendar Review: The Legend of Gentleman John by TJ Nichols

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Banyn, a fae, escorts the souls of children to Magh Meall, but one Christmas, he comes for a lad who isn’t quite dead, and he breaks a rule rather than wait while John fights a battle he’ll ultimately lose. So begins a long-running affair that crosses the border between life and death, the human and fae realms, and even oceans to strange countries with different gods and rules.

John Rourke renounced a religion that had no place for him and returned to the old ways. Convicted of theft, he is sentenced to transportation and suffers brutal punishment—until he escapes to live on his own terms as a bushranger. When vengeance against his tormentor consumes him and threatens his life, John finds he has only one holiday wish—to see his fae lover one last time.

The Legend of Gentleman John is not a traditional Holiday story. It does take place at the end of December and the dates are important to the story, making it relevant to the season.

I did enjoy both main characters, John and Banyn. They were unique and complemented each other paths.  Following the timeline takes a couple of pages, but it’s easy to spot the changes in time and the need for them. 

There’s a lot of world-built for such a short story. It’s interesting to see how John grows and how Banyn tries not to interfere with his life. I wanted a chance to see more of the times they were together, happy, before the end of the story. 

Which brings me to a heart-melting ending. I wish everyone that lived before us had a chance to redeem themselves and be loved & remember as John did. 

The cover by Brooke Albrecht follows the 2018 Advent Calendar | Warmest Wishes template. The picture within could be John’s.

Sale Link: Amazon | Nook | Dreamspinner

Book Details:
ebook, 40 pages
ISBN: 9781644050644
Published: December 1, 2018, by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English