A MelanieM Review: An Assassin’s Holiday (Sleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar) by Dirk Greyson

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5       ★★★★★

An Assassin's HolidayBrick Colton has been hired to kill Santa Claus—or at least the kindhearted accountant playing Santa for the kids in an orphanage. Brick grew up in an orphanage himself, but that isn’t the only thing bothering him about the contract on Robin Marvington’s life. The details don’t add up, and it’s looking more and more like someone has set Robin up. As Brick investigates, Robin brings some much-needed cheer into his life, the light in Robin’s soul reaching something in Brick’s dark one. But all of that will end if they can’t find the person who wants Robin dead.

An Assassin’s Holiday by Dirk Greyson was an unexpected holiday treat, that present you weren’t expecting to be yours that you saw under the tree that turned out to have your name on it. A Christmas morning surprise! I didn’t expect a story with so much hope and heart from a story with a gun on the cover but that’s exactly what Dirk Greyson delivered.

Told from Brick Colton’s pov, we get the cold hired killer and his next  target, the accountant Robin Marvington.  But as Brick moves in on the kill, following this prey throughout the day everything changes…for Brick.  His past emerges to start breaking the ice and walls around him as he sees that Robin is not what he expected. From place to place, memories vie with the present and Robin. By page 12, I was pulling at the box of tissues.

Greyson’s descriptions will grab at your heart.  The author makes you see these people, feel their emotions, understand some of what they must be going through.  I found this story moving, surprisingly so and loved it.

What made it even better for me is that there are no miraculous changes in personality.  Brick Colton remains the man he is, although changes in his future have been made.  I won’t spoil the story for you.  Let’s just say in a month full of wonderful Advent stories, this one stands out as especially moving and heartwarming, even with that cover and title.  It is also one of the longer titles at 54 pages.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by L.C. Chase was a  little startling for a Advent story, works as a eye catching cover certainly.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 54 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634769389
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

 

 

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Advent Calendar package “Sleigh Ride”

Review: Christmas Wish (a Romanorum world story) by Shayne Carmichael & Mychael Black

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

All I Want Christmas WishIt has been ten years since Elian was forced to leave his soulmate, mortal Ryan Nixon.  Elian was a angel, a grigori who is a watcher angel who teaches human certain life lessons.  They are not supposed to get involved with humans and Elian broke all their rules when he fell in love with Ryan and became his lover.  Forced to separate from Ryan, Elian has now completed his punishment and returned to Earth to find Ryan.

But the man has greatly changed.  The man Elian left was brash, intelligent and ambitious.  The Ryan Elian found was homeless, gaunt, and on the verge of dying.  Both men have now paid for their mistakes.  Ryan has lost everything his ambition and greed initially won him.  Elian lost ten years in isolation, banished from Earth to pay for breaking the rules.  Now the angel has found his lover once more.  Is it too late for their love to succeed?  Or will their christmas wish make a miracle happen so they can find a way back to each other?

Shayne Carmichael and Mychael Black’s Romanorum stories are among my favorites so I was delighted to see this Torquere Holiday Sip that ventured back into that universe and brought back a major character, Cian, albeit in a minor role.  The authors gifts of characterization and description bring the plight of Ryan Nixon powerfully to life.  This is Elian’s first sighting of Ryan after ten years apart and it is a heartbreaking one:

Elian spotted a lone figure on a wooden bench, partially hidden by a tattered coat. Elian’s heart broke all over again. Ryan had indeed learned about the dangers of greed and avarice, and the lesson had taken everything — everything — away from him, leaving him a broken, destitute man.

Threadbare gloves barely covered the hands that held the coat closed against the bite of the winter wind. Though he was only thirty-two, time had etched lines in the once- youthful face, and a sprinkling of gray dusted the black hair.

Huddled on the bench, he appeared to pay no attention to the few who braved the cold on their own business. A half-eaten sandwich lay forgotten in its plastic wrapping as Ryan stared off in the distance at a grove of trees.

Elian crouched in front of him, meeting Ryan’s empty gaze. He reached out and smoothed a lock of dark hair back from green eyes that once held a spark of life. Now they just seemed… lost.

The man Elian is confronted with is someone who has lost all hope and seems ready to die, one of many found on any winter street in any city or town.  An added layer to Ryan’s despair is the fact that he is to blame for his downfall, that his avarice and overwhelming ambition that made him rich also ruined him and Ryan has had ten years to realize that.

Carmichael and Black make Ryan believable in his self-loathing and despair.  He has gone beyond bitterness into an emotional place of isolation and emptiness that gives this portrait of homelessness a feel of authenticity.  Elian’s character, an angel who defied Heaven’s laws to be with his lover, is harder to grasp, probably because he is more of a two note persona, goodness and light, to feel entirely credible.  And their love story and reconnection, while emotionally engaging, felt too rushed to be believable, especially after all that has occurred during their ten-year separation.

These authors have made their angel characters multidimensional in the past so I think the issue with Elian is that the story length doesn’t give the authors enough space to imbue Elian with the depth of character he needs to feel real.  In fact, I think that shortness hurts this story in almost every way.  For those readers unfamiliar with the Romanorum universe, the lack of backstory will leave many of them confused about the plot.  Especially when Cian appears to offer his apologies to Elian.  Most people will wonder exactly what and who Cian is referring to (or exactly who Cian is and why he is important) when offering his explanation for his actions.  Unless you have read all the previous books or at least The Prince’s Angel, you will be lost during this section of the story.

I did really like this story but I had the background to do so.  I absolutely recommend this series and would want any new reader to start at the beginning with The Prince’s Angel to get a better understanding of the universe and the huge cast of characters to be found there, including angels and vampires.  Used as a part of the whole, then I can absolutely recommend Christmas Wish to all.

Cover artist is not listed as I suspect this is a blanket cover used for many of Torquere Holiday Sip stories.

Books in the Romanorum series:

The Prince’s Angel (Legends of the Romanorum, #1)
And the Two Shall Become One (Legends of the Romanorum, #2)
Forever May Not Be Long Enough (Legends of the Romanorum, #3)
Christmas Wish (Legends of the Romanorum, #4)

Book Details:

ebook, 26 pages
Published December 4th 2013 by Torquere Press

Review: Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Christmas Serendipity coverIts December 23rd and things aren’t going well for David as the days head into Christsmas.  Only days before David had just been dumped by his philandering boyfriend, and now he has just been fired from his job at the pub.  Only his friends, Tony and Cathy save him from a lonely and despairing Christmas when they invite him to spend the holidays in the flat they share in a small town in England. Unbeknownst to David, he will not be the only guest invited.

Handyman Christian decided that now he had a boyfriend it was a good time to come out to his parents and bring the new boyfriend home for the holidays.  Unfortunately for Christian his parents weren’t overjoyed about the news that he was bringing home a significant other that was male and that Christian was gay, so they disinvited him to their Christmas.  Then Christian’s new boyfriend promptly dumped him saying he couldn’t take the drama.  Alone and unwelcome in his family home, Christian has no where to go until his friend Cathy invites him to share in the holidays with her flatmate and their friend, David.

As the good food is cooked and the beer flows, a connection is made between David and Christian that offers a chance of becoming something deeper and quite wonderful.  But their painful pasts lurk just outside the door, waiting to enter and ruin the tentative start on romance and love.  Can David and Christian find the strength to move into the future and leave their past behind or will they lose the chance at love this special Christmas has offered them both?

As we head into the holidays, another lovely way to add to the warmth of the season is the pleasure of reading stories set in this season of celebration and love.  Christmas Serendipity is just that delightful story that will warm your heart and leave a smile on your face.  I am unfamiliar with Liam Livings but based on this story alone, I will certainly be seeking out more of his stories in the future.

One of the most frequent issues I have with holiday stories is the saccharine quality that can overpower the best of them, leaving the romance and characters almost too sweet to be palatable.  But here nestled in a flat in a small village in England, the four characters of this story, David, Christian, Tony and Cathy, never fall into that trap.  Instead I found them to be engaging, funny, and very, very human.  It didn’t matter whether they were trying to organize Christmas dinner or locate that last tree to be hauled up into the flat, this group of friends  were people I enjoyed  spending time with, foibles and all.

At forty-five pages, Christmas Serendipity is just that, a serendipitous holiday short that offers a chance at love and family to four people, especially David and Christian who need it the most.  I would have loved a little more of Christian’s back story as well as David’s rocky relationship history.  Yes, Tony’s character ventures into cliche, but it’s a delightful cliche and I adored him as much as I did David and Christian.  And yes, there was that scramble to bed and sex, albeit a sofabed, but Livings explained that away nicely via drink and desperation of the holidays, a stressful event that has caused more than just a couple of out of character behaviors from people.  So I can say I definitely can recommend Christmas Serendipity as a story to put on your holiday reading list.  Grab this up and a hot toddy or two and enjoy the warmth of the  holiday season!

Book Details:

Expected publication: December 8th 2013 by JMS Books

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.

 

Review of A Great Miracle Happened by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 4.75 stars

A Great Miracle HappenedJude Bloch is sitting at his usual table at the  coffee shop in Chicago, far away from his family in LA.  He has done his shopping for Hannukah, mailed his presents and is now free to work on his dissertation but is having little progress.  Until the door opens up and the wind blows in handsome chef Mac Appel to share his table in the crowded shop.  A casual conversation slides into a one-night stand that turns into a series of meetings each man starts to anticipate and treasure.  At the end of eight days, a miraculous change has occurred in Jude’s holiday outlook and love has found it’s way into his heart.

I am still thinking about this story days later, amazed at how the story affected me by the end of Jude and Mac’s tale.  When Kim Fielding’s story opens upon a grouchy Jude sitting by his lonesome at a table, I was not prepared for what a charming gem of a story this turned out to be.  I loved Jude Bloch, and it’s from his POV that the story is told, so we get a very clear vision or so we think of Jude and his feelings of the holidays and relationships.  Mac Appel is so full of life and joy that he pulls the reader in at the same time he is having the same effect on Jude.  He quickly endeared himself to me as well.

But Fielding is such a gifted writer that she crafts a story that slowly peals back the layers Jude has built around himself by allowing  Mac to do the skillful filleting of Jude’s barriers, the perfect occupation for a chef.    And little by little, we start to see Jude as Mac does, a person who needs people but has been so disappointed by them, especially his family.  As Mac surreptitiously starts courting Jude, we see the lonely doctoral student start to reconnect with all around him.  By the time the story has come to its conclusion, it is humming with joy and the promise of a wonderful future for them both.

I can’t recommend this story enough.  Heartwarming, gentle, a true gem of this season and every  year after.

Review of Inspiration by Henrietta Clark

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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.

Review of Eight Days by Cardeno C

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Rating: 5 stars

Eight Days (Evergreen)Maccabe Fried and Josh Segal have virtually grownup together, curtesy of their parents who are the closest of friends.  They have spent their vacations together, celebrated the Jewish holidays together and even attended the same schools.  And through the ages, one thing never changed, they were always the best of friends even though they had nothing in common.  Maccabe was obsessed over baseball, sure in his knowledge of himself that one day he would play in the major leagues and become one of the best players ever.  Josh, on the other hand, had absolutely no interest in sports.  Josh loved his legos, and books, and the snow globes that Maccabe bought him every year for Hanukkah.  But somewhere as both boys aged into their teenage years, things changed.  Maccabe started noticing Josh in a way he usually noticed girls to his total amazement.  And Josh? Well, it turned out that Josh had always had a crush on Maccabe.

A revelation turns into a stolen kiss which morphs into a hidden love affair that lasts several years.  Hidden because Maccabe is still obsessed over having a career in baseball, and everything else comes second, including Josh.  As Maccabe climbs from college baseball and into the minor league, things remain the same, not even their parents know they are a couple. And Josh decides he is tired of hiding their relationship. One night Josh explodes, yelling at Maccabe that either Maccabe tells everyone that he is gay and they are a couple or it is over.  Maccabe hesitates, Josh is devastated and runs away before Maccabe can stop him.

But Fate is not through with either of them, and it is the season of Miracles.  And it all starts one night at Hannukkah.

Eight Days is that most wondrous of holiday stories that combines laughter and angst in equal measure and the final product is a story I will return to year after year.  While not Jewish, I have always enjoyed the few Jewish stories of Hannukkuh that appeared at this time of year, usually the Bellski series from Astrid Amara.  But Cardeno C has given us a classic tale of two families and their sons, Josh and Maccabe, and the traditions that bind us together.  I will let you know right off the bat, that my daughter knew a Maccabe all through elementary and middle school.  Baseball obsessed, he devoted all his time to the sport and went on to play minor league ball and I can see him in Maccabe so clearly.  Cardeno  C understands adolescence and teenagers.  The author grasps that what can come across as self absorbed is sometimes just a focus so strong that it can obliterate everything else on the outskirts, even people who love you.  When you are that young and that centered on one thing, you can come across as a bit dense, and self centered just as Maccabe does, but that is the beauty of his character.  He is absolutely realistic in every way.  I felt I knew him intimately because he was a realistic kid.   The same with Josh.  Young, more orientated inward towards puzzles,school and chess. Just take a quick mental trip back to a class of yours and you will find that a “Josh” pops into your head almost immediately.  C Cardeno gets every facet of their lives perfectly, right down to their very distinct voices she creates for each of them. Perfect characterizations in perfectly realized situations, how I adore this story.

And how I loved the adult Maccabe, so self assured that he almost comes across as arrogant, Maccabe has matured into the man he was meant to be and the one Josh needs so badly.  Sigh.  And finally we get the ending they both deserve and the one we have been waiting for.  I love Eight Days and am putting on my Advent list of stories I reread every holiday season.

Available at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and All Romance.