A MelanieM Review: Deja Vu by Addison Albright

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Gavin and Matthew just want to get home to enjoy Christmas Eve in their safe, warm apartment. Should they walk or take a cab? But will either option do the trick when Victor, suffering from his holiday blahs, is determined to undermine this happy twosome at every turn?

Years ago, Victor made the unfortunate mistake of coming out to his family on Christmas. Why couldn’t he have picked a random summer day?

Can Victor’s husband Bryan pull him out of his gloomy mood in order to give the popular Gavin and Matthew the merry Christmas they deserve

Deja Vu by Addison Albright is a short holiday tale that employs the format of a story within a story.  Victor is a well-known author and his long term and very happy couple of Gavin and Matthew, characters in his series,  his focus this Christmas Eve.  And not in a good way.  Victor is taking his angst and    pain over losing his family years ago when he came out to them at Christmas for his lover.

The short story alternates between short woeful chapters of what’s happening to Gavin and Matthew vs Victor and his husband in RL.

Albright’s writing is skillfully done.  You actually emphasize with the poor characters meeting their demise over and over due to their author’s, Victor’s, angst. And you adore Victor’s husband, Bryan’s gentle anxiety over their well being and the novel’s ending too.  Within 22 pages Albright creates a loving relationship twice over, both of which you come to care about.

Each couple gets a heartwarming ending, just as you would hope.  Perfect for their holidays and ours.  Short, sweet, and with just that hint of the holiday melancholy that works so well.

If you are looking for a quick holiday read just a bit outside of the normal romances,  definitely recommend this one to all of you.

Cover art is simple but pulls you into an important part of the story.  Well done.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC  |    Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 22 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by JMS Books, LLC
ISBN139781634868167
Edition Language English

Characters Matthew, Gavin, Victor, Bryan

A Stella Review : The Christmas Lights Battle by Skylar M. Cates

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RATING 4,5 out of 5 stars

A Shelby Beach Romance.

For a single dad and his neighbor, the Christmas competition is on!

Julian Moss wants to give his children a happy Christmas. Since his divorce, Julian has no time for a social life; he’s been doing the tiring work of two parents while his cheating ex-husband dodges his responsibilities. If that isn’t stressful enough, he has to deal with his new—and ridiculously good-looking—neighbor and his noisy dogs. Christmas used to be Julian’s favorite holiday, but lately all he sees is the cost. Then Julian’s young son tells him about a Christmas lights competition with a much-needed prize.

Leo Adams is going to be alone for Christmas…again. All he’s ever wanted is to be accepted by his family, but he knows that will never happen. Deciding to focus on his career as a personal trainer, Leo develops a boot camp program on the beach, but he needs publicity. The lights competition offers Leo a way to get some free press, and if it annoys his snooty neighbor Julian—all the better.

The battle is on, and both Julian and Leo want to win. The stakes are high, the reward is great, and the neighbors are in it to win it. There’s nothing like a little competition to make Christmas at Shelby Beach extra merry and bright.

I love Christmas stories, I love romance with children, I love dogs. This new release by Skylar M Cates has all these three elements, plus something I wish I could experience one day, that is spending the Christmas holiday in a hot place. The premises were all there and I knew I was going to enjoy this title, especially because I also know how good the author can write. I wasn’t disappointed at all, everything I imagined I could get from this book was delivered, and so much more.

I easily fell into the reading, the plot and the characters were interesting and I followed them till the end with great delight. Not just Leo and Julian caught my heart, but all the other persons too, the children, Julian’s sister and mum, Leo’s friends. What started as enemies to lovers soon developed in allies to win the light contest and more both Julian and Leo wasn’t expecting, to find the love of their lives.

The plot is simple, nothing too angst, and it is exactly what I wanted on my  Kindle during Christmas time, it’s a sweet story, with some very hot scene and so much happiness to share. The first part was also funny, when the two men were still rivals, and then the moments spent with the kids warmed my heart. I loved this novel a lot. I really hope the author will give us more about these guys.

The cover art by Cate Ashwood is amazing, I adore it, the guys on it, the colors, the font, all perfect.

SALE LINKS  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 212 pages

Published December 5th 2018 by Skylar M. Cates: A Treading Chaos Publication

ASIN B07L5LS5B7

Edition Language English

An Ali Release Day Review: The Boyfriend Cruise (Pride of the Caribbean #1) by Deanna Wadsworth

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Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The Pride of the Caribbean is a cruise ship unlike any other. Paranormals working on board the enchanted ship hide in plain sight, under the benevolent protection of a demigod captain and his fairy husband.

And this is a shipboard romance unlike any other.

Josh Gilbert’s well-meaning family booked a gay-friendly cruise for Christmas in order to find Josh a boyfriend. Hoping to escape the constant parade of bachelors—and the collapsible fishing rod dangling mistletoe his mom keeps in her purse—Josh takes solace in a growing friendship with the ship’s photographer, Nathan. Though Josh is falling for Nathan, he worries it will never be more than a shipboard fling.

Nathan recently became aware of his incubus heritage and has finally learned how to control his demon side. But Josh has awakened more than just the demon’s need for orgasms—Josh has awakened Nathan’s heart. What’s developing between them is the real thing, but can Josh ever accept Nathan’s promiscuous past… and love a sex demon?

Amid lush tropical settings, family hilarity, holiday costume parties, sexy snorkeling adventures, gingerbread martinis, and mythical creatures, will Josh get his Christmas wish and finally find the true love he’s wanted for so long?

This story sounded like a lot of fun and has a pretty unique premise.  Unfortunately the execution wasn’t really for me.  The humor wasn’t my thing.  I found most if it a bit over the top and I found the side characters annoying.  There were also a lot of stereotypes and I know that kind of stuff doesn’t bother a lot of readers but it does me.  Lot’s of things just didn’t set well with me.
The writing overall was technically fine and the plot had some interesting characters.  This is the type of book I most hate reviewing.  The books that I don’t really care for but ones I think many others might enjoy.  These are super hard for me to writes reviews on.  You should check out some other reviews before making a decision.
I liked this cover done by L.C. Chase.  I think it’s perfect for the story.
Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 216 pages
Expected publication: December 25th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050064
Edition Language English
Series Pride of the Caribbean #1

A MelanieM Review: Designer Holiday by Ari McKay

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

It’s never too late for a second chance at love… or is it?

Rayne Sadler left the tiny town of Holiday Pines and his childhood sweetheart, Emilio Rives, to make a name for himself in the world of interior design. For twelve years, he never looked back. Now he has the successful career he wanted, but no one to share his life.

Emilio isn’t happy when Rayne returns to Holiday Pines to renovate the local playhouse. The town wants to stimulate the failing tourist industry, but Emilio has no interest in reviving the ashes of his relationship with Rayne.

Yet shared memories and experiences are powerful things. As the playhouse is restored to its former glory, the friendship between Rayne and Emilio slowly returns as well, and their chemistry is as powerful as ever. Rayne has designs on Emilio’s heart, and he sets out to prove it. Will the magic of Christmas thaw Emilio’s heart, or will it remain as cold as mountain snow?

What a perfect time for a lovers reunited and second chance at love story than at Christmas?  Designer Holiday by Ari McKay is a sweet, contemporary romance that brings two high school sweethearts back together after a long separation.  While one has seemingly moved on, the  other clearly hasn’t emotionally, the pain of the breakup deep even after all these years.

It’s hard since the breakup was as teenagers to imagine why Emilio carries such an enormous burden after all these years but McKay (and a lovely character, Emilio’s mother) go a long way to reasonably explaining such a deeply held grudge towards Rayne.  And Rayne’s take on it all, which honestly seems to normal for a teenage boy.

The way in which the town comes together for the playhouse, the various members of the community, and the place itself has it’s own magic.  I would definitely love to visit there myself would it appear on a map.  The authors have a way of making a walk down the street turn into an intimate stroll that pulls the readers into the scene, glancing here and there about the location while eavesdropping onto the conversation taking place.  It’s real, lovely, and in the moment.

The same goes for the romance.  At first hard and a bit tortured, it becomes a slow path back to trust and love and the way home at Christmas time.  Sweet, heartwarming, and believable.  I loved it.

Want to add a holiday story to your Christmas reading?  Pick up Designer Holiday by Ari McKay.  I recommend it to add sweetness and joy to your holiday reading.

Cover art is suitably Christmassy and bright, I like the models but wish for a little more of the playhouse that drew them both back together.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 132 pages
Published December 8th 2018
ASIN B07L7K5CKM

A Chaos Moondrawn Advent Review: Twenty-Nine Hours to Eternity by Elizabeth Noble

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

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

Being gay and pagan can make for a lonely holiday season, as Ian knows well. He’s used to celebrating alone. The last place he expects to meet a like-minded guy is at LAX during a twenty-nine-hour layover.

Ian’s never felt so comfortable or compatible with another man, even if there is an air of mystery to Race.

Race is no stranger to holiday isolation, and he decides they should seize the opportunity they’ve been given and observe the Saturnalia the way it was meant to be. A grand celebration ensues, where every moment is special and every meal a feast. The ancient traditions take on new meaning as the men find meaning in each other. But each of them has a destiny and for their paths to continue together, it’ll take a kind of magic that hasn’t been seen in centuries.

This short story is about Ian and Race who meet at LAX and decided to celebrate the last day of Saturnalia together. Ian has to work Christmas eve and is about to fly out to Hawaii when disaster strikes. This story is not told in linear time, but through flashbacks. The authors shows them spending the day and evening getting to know one another. This story is explicit. There is a real connection between them, but Race is not who he seems to be. I don’t want to spoil it so you’ll have to read it, but the title should give you a clue.

The cover art is by L.C. Chase. While appropriate to Ian, it’s not very exciting.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 30 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07L1S2QV5

An Alisa Advent Calendar Review: Santa on the Beach by Crystel Greene

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

The sexy Santa and the virgin dad….

 

Single dad Mario, twenty-one, has finally won shared custody of his five-year-old son, Sammy. They’re spending Christmas at a Tenerife resort to celebrate. The children’s swimming instructor, Josie, is sexy and fun, and Mario can’t stop dreaming about him. But Mario has no clue how to talk to a hot guy.

With his suntan, Speedos, and rippling abs, Josie seems to be the typical jock. He’s super sweet too, and everyone loves him. But he only has eyes for the fire-eyed little dad who looks like his son’s older brother and won’t stop policing the swimming class.

Sammy would like to be a king in the hotel’s nativity play. But he’s too afraid to go anywhere without his dad. Mario would like a holiday romance with Josie, or even a little more, but between building his tech company and trying to do his part as Sammy’s father he has missed out on a lot and is too inexperienced to know where to begin.

Luckily Santa might have just the thing for everyone on his list….

This was a cute story.  I felt bad for Mario and the criticism he seems to have dealt with ever since he became a teenage father but was happy that he now was making headway to being independent of those who criticized him the most.  Josie admired his dedication to his son and ends up being able to give Mario just what he wanted to Christmas.  I like the Mario finds someone who will support him and be with him when he gets home from vacation.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 53 pages

Published: December 12, 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

Edition Language: English

A Stella Review : Operation Toy Rescue by Sarah Hadley Brook

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

When Jules Evergreen lands in trouble at the North Pole and gets shipped off to Snow Hope Island for ninety days, he never expects to take up the cause of the forgotten toys waiting for new homes. Falling for his new boss is not on the agenda either, but his heart has other ideas.

Felix Winterson has grown up on Snow Hope Island and now runs the place. He isn’t thrilled when party boy Jules arrives, and Felix tries hard to ignore the man’s charms. He has other problems, anyway. For years he’s tried to get Santa to look at the growing inventory of damaged toys in the warehouse, to no avail.

When Jules comes up with a plan to save the toys, the men find themselves working closely together. As Christmas Eve looms, there’s a lot at stake. Can they save Snow Hope, convince Santa to rescue the toys, and fall in love all at the same time?

Operation Toy Rescue is not the first book I read by this author and I have to say I am always quite happy to read her stories, they’re always simple, cute and light. This new holiday release was really well done. I was able to breath all the Christmas spirit, with all the snow and toys I read about.

I fell into Jules and Felix magical world in a bit, the narration was always engaging and easy to follow. I smiled from the start till the ending, these two young men, and all the Snow Hope Island creek, put me in a good mood. I appreciate their efforts and stubbornness at showing Santa all the defective toys could have a second life and a new destination in another child’s home. The same second life Jules found in the island and into Felix arms. I adored them together, the way they first studied each other, full of attraction and suspicion, and then when they finally saw past appearances, the happy ending was assured.

I feel to recommend Operation Toy Rescue, it was a lovely surprise, it gave me  magic, hope and love, I loved it.

The cover art is cute, well done, but I would have preferred something more magical to truly fit the plot.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | JMS Books

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition

Published December 15th 2018 by JMS Books LLC

ASIN B07L81237Y

Edition Language English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Tutus and Tinsel (Half Moon Bay #2.5) by Rhys Ford

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Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5

Zig Reid-Harris has everything an eleven-year-old girl could ever want: a great home, two fantastic fathers named Deacon Reid and Lang Harris, and all the books she could possible read.

When a school assignment about holiday traditions unexpectedly broadsides her, she discovers burying the past isn’t as easy as it looks, and the stark reality of her life before her adoption sinks in. Ashamed of the bleakness and poverty she came from, Zig struggles with the assignment until an epiphany strikes the whole family—it’s time to start their own traditions.

Zig and her fathers plunge into the insanity of holiday joy, exploring everything the season has to offer and learning how precious family truly is along the way.

The theme of this story, making new family traditions at the holidays, comes about through a fairly typical homework assignment, one I would  imagine needs revisiting in RL schools just as it does here in Tutus and Tinsel (Half Moon Bay #2.5) by Rhys Ford.  Given the complexities these days in what constitutes a modern “family” and how that family is constructed, I would think that (hopefully) teachers at every level are becoming sensitive to handing out a “simple” homework paper on  family’s holiday traditions.

Ford takes our own memories of such an homework papers and perhaps our family traditions and runs it smack up against a small powerhouse of a character called Zig to devastating results.  Zig has no past history of “adorable Christmas traditions” having barely survived her childhood to find her uncle.  Here that lack comes roaring home and it’s up to her fathers to help her find and create new traditions for them all.

This story roils with emotions.  Rhys Ford takes us back into the past, broken shards of parental abuse and neglect that still stab at both Zig and Deacon, and Lang’s there to love and hold both close.  I loved seeing all the other characters as well pull together to try different crafts, “trying on” traditions to make their own  as a family.  This story is excellently written, tightly constructed as I  have come to expect from this author, and flows beautifully, full of emotion and heart.

Tutus and Tinsel explores what it means to be a family again at Christmas and shines a light on how exactly something becomes a family tradition in the first place.  It’s heartwarming, suffused with the holiday  spirit and love.  I found it perfect holiday reading.

It is, however, not a standalone story.  So treat yourself, if you are not already familiar with the series, to the preceding stories.  You will love them!

Cover art:   Reece Notley.  Love the cover because it captures Tig perfectly with her tutu.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner PressAmazon

Book Details:

ebook, 95 pages
Expected publication: December 21st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644051511
Edition Language English
Series Half Moon Bay #2.5

Fish Stick Fridays

Hanging The Stars

Tutus and Tinsel

A MelanieM Advent Calendar Review: Slow Summer Heat by Renae Kaye

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

 

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

Geoffrey Saxon is in his forties, a bit plump, a lot fuzzy, and rather boring in bed—and thanks to a very public breakup, everyone in his street knows it. However, what they don’t know is that Geoffrey sometimes watches his hot young neighbor, Vaughn, in the pool. Vaughn has invited Geoffrey to join his pool parties, but Geoffrey knows it’s only pity.

As if things can’t get worse, Geoffrey’s air conditioner breaks during a heat wave in Western Australia—and just before Christmas. In search of some relief, he camps out in his backyard, where he also has a prime view of Vaughn swimming… naked. When Geoffrey’s injured falling from his spying post, Vaughn comes to his rescue and Geoffrey doesn’t think he can be more horrified.

But he could be in for a sweet holiday surprise. Is he ready to take the dive?

Slow Summer Heat by Renae Kaye is a sweet, heartwarming story about an older man who’s been hurt by his ex and a humiliating breakup to an extent that’s he’s withdrawn from a social life into his house and a lonely existence.  Kaye does this type of character really well.  You can see Geoffrey quite clearly from her vivid descriptions to his dialogs (inner conversations and those with his gorgeous neighbor).

Geoffrey teeters briefly on the edge of a character that could go into the kink or voyeur as he’s convinced he’s so unattractive that no one wants him, so he turns down his neighbor’s invitations.  That leads to spying which leads to other things.  With Kaye, you get a great feel as to who Geoffrey is, his background, family, etc. You understand just how badly this past relationship has affected him and why, including the scene made in the street.

What’s missing is Vaughn’s portion.  At least I mostly felt that way for me.  Geoffrey is our narrator so we see this gorgeous young roofer through his eyes but even with all their conversations Vaughn never feel’s as fully fleshed out a personality as Geoffrey does. That could certainly be due to the shortness of the story.  I  just wished for more of the man Geoffrey was crushing on all this time.

Still Slow Summer Heat is a cute hot holiday romance.  A quick read with a touch of the Australian heat for something different.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  The pool is a major element here so it works for the cover but there should be more to it as well.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 54 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050583
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Calendar Review: Summer Santa by Ward Maia

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Sam struggles with the climate, the job, and the language when he arrives in Brazil after accepting a job transfer.  With the Christmas holidays coming, Sam is looking forward to being alone in his small, boring apartment and that’s about it.  He wishes for more when his sexy coworker James helps him with a computer problem, but Sam’s too backward to ask him out.

A key phrase in the blurb is “significant low self-esteem” as that is the driving force of this story.  His family surprises him with a holiday he won’t soon forget and he bumps into James on the beach and that leads to a night before Christmas Eve that fulfills his dreams.  But Sam is not the driving force behind any of these good things, and his insecurity and inability to articulate what he wants form the crux of the story. 

It’s evident the author is new as the writing style and repetitive words and phrases are quite elementary—he “found himself” once too often for me.  The trope of the cute guy who’s insecure about his looks, his ability to find someone to love him, etc. is overdone and, unfortunately, not one I like at all. 

A key element in the blurb is that Sam is a magazine journalist, and yet that’s not mentioned in the beginning pages of the story and when it finally is stated, it’s only in passing.  Another issue is the language barrier he apparently can’t get past, and yet that, too, is only mentioned in the beginning and seems to disappear. We never learn whether James is also an American or if he’s Brazilian, and if a native, does he speak English fluently? Because Sam sure doesn’t speak anything other than English.  Sam’s family members were a bit OTT as well, especially his aunt and his sister.

Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped, others may not be as bothered by the insecure and lonely MC theme as I am and so may enjoy the story.

The cover by Adrian Nicholas is one of this year’s holiday designs featuring two characters in a portal with the lower edges a standard red with large white snowflakes. The characters represent the two MCs, though Sam is much better-looking than one would think from reading the story, and James looks much more like a player than a nice-guy coworker. 

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner PressAmazon

Book Details:

ebook, 46 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050576
Edition Language  English