A Stella Review: Two Ruined Christmas Eves by Chris McHart

Standard

RATING 3,25 out of 5 stars

two-ruined-christmas-evesIt’s Christmas Eve, and folk music star Jonas is on his way to the most important gig of his career, the Volksmusik Stadl. Well, he would be if heavy snowfall hadn’t stopped him on the highway.
Fritz has to accompany his grandparents to the biggest folk music event in southern Germany, the worst punishment for a metal fan, especially on Christmas Eve.
When these two men meet at the concert after-party, sparks fly. Will this Christmas Eve be something special after all?

Two Ruined Christmas Eves was the first story I read by Chris McHart and I have to say I was pleasurable surprised. I love Christmas books, shorts as this one (just 31 pages) or longer ones.  The blurb tells you pretty much everything apart that this short was really cute, it was simple and light especially in the way Jonas and Fritz liked each other at first sight and acted on their attraction with no drama and an easiness hard to find around. And this made the book no less real than others. Of course I would have liked a little more development in the MCs relationship but  being so short it was an okay read. And what I love the most was the epilogue, the author did great with it, showing me the couple one Christmas later. Overall a pretty satisfing reading.

The cover art by Chris McHart is very nice and it fits the short perfectly.

Sales Links

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

6f71e-all2bromance2bbutton

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 31 pages

Published November 30th 2015 by Rawmance Publishing

ASIN B018R38KQW

Edition Language English

Review: Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings

Standard

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

Review: Blue River by Theo Fenraven

Standard

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Blue River cover DSPPhotographic artist Ethan Mars is hanging out with friends at a house in Topanga Canyon.  When Doug recounts a story about a local porthole that allows people to go back in time, Ethan and his friend Randy decide to hike around on the trails to see if they can find it.  For Ethan the day is more about taking pictures than finding something out of science fiction, then the fog appears before them.  One misstep and Ethan tumbles through the fog and into 1863, albeit still Southern California.

Quinn Parker and his sister Hes own a farm in Blue River and when Ethan Mars stumbles out of the fog, neither is surprised as he is the second stranger from the future to find them in a year.  But unlike the previous time traveler, Ethan Mars is gay and represents everything Quinn Parker wants and has been keeping hidden.

While waiting for the portal to open again, Quinn and Ethan fall into a friendship and then a love affair doomed by time.  Or is it? When the  fog reappears, there is a choice to be made?  Who will stay and who will go?

Blue River is a terrific little romance stuffed full of elements that add texture and depth, giving it the feel of a much larger story.  Ethan Mars is a renown photographic artist who has made the sale of a lifetime and is celebrating with friends in Topanga Canyon, a place known for its artists, quirky atmosphere and gorgeous views.  When a friend wants to hike a little used trail in the canyon, they use the excuse of trying to find a time portal as the reason for their venture into the wild.  The descriptions of the canyon and the oddly floating bit of fog is a great way to start Ethan’s unexpected adventure into the past.

We’d been walking for half an hour when he stopped and held up a hand. “Ethan.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing, and about twenty feet in front of us, under the spreading branches of a copper beech, I saw semitransparent wisps of white flowing together and pulling apart a few feet above the ground. “That’s called fog, Randy.”

“Why is it only in that one spot, then? There’s no water nearby, and the temperature seems fairly constant.”

“We don’t know it’s only in that one spot. Never assume, man.” I brushed past him, heading for the mist.

“Wait!” he yelped, grabbing my arm. “Together, just in case, you know….” “

In case the fog decides to swallow me whole?” Chuckling, I kept walking, dragging him along. “Didn’t they make a cheesy movie about that?” Even close up, it looked like fog. Thin, wispy, and I could see through it to the woods behind.

I stuck a hand in the stuff, waggling it around and making faces at him as I intoned, “Bwahahahahaha….”

He rolled his eyes. “Asshole. I’m getting hungry. Let’s drop by Doug’s place, see what he has in the fridge.” “Yeah, okay.” So much for seeking Shangri-La.

Well, as we all know, the story doesn’t stops there.  Because, as Fenraven knows,  where is the fun in that? But the real surprises start in 1863 and the reality of pioneer life.  Fenraven does a great job in presenting the time period minus the “romantic candlelight” glow that seems to creep into some of the other historic romances I have read.  No, here is 1863 authentically presented with the warts of the time period to go along with the things that have been lost with progress.  So we get, or actually Nathan gets to eat food free of chemicals and genetic manipulation.  In 1863, a tomato or apple explodes on his taste buds, their flavor so sensational that Nathan mourns their loss in his time.  But Fenraven is also quick to include the lack of bathing because as Hes tells Ethan, “its not healthy”.  No bathing, no thoughts of  hygiene, no washing hands, …..so yeah, a closed in cabin is not a happy place to be after a week’s time.  Clothes get rank as does unwashed hair and soon Nathan is pining for 2013 and his shower at home.

And you don’t blame him a bit.

The author is good at vividly describing life in Blue River and 1863, both the pros and the cons.   Fenraven is also quick to note the dangers of open homosexuality in a time period where it is considered a sin and often punished by death.  Quinn Parker is a sexual innocent.  A young man engaged to be married to a woman who helped his family when they needed it.  Responsibility, obligations and society’s expectations have forced Quinn into asking her to marry him and now , with Ethan before him, he feels trapped. The more Ethan describes his open life in the future, the more regretful and conflicted Quinn becomes.  Then Ethan starts his seduction of Quinn, and his true nature surfaces, no longer to be denied.  If ever there was a genie in the bottle, its Quinn’s sexuality.  And Quinn despairs of ever being able to pass as “normal” again once Ethan shows him just how good it feels. Slowly the affection between the men turns into love, one with no apparent future to each man’s despair.

Another aspect of this story that Fenraven doesn’t gloss over is the fact that Ethan could never survive in 1863.  He is ill prepared by his upbringing, his attitudes, and his personality.   He has a hard time hiding who he is from Hes, a judgmental and wary 16 year old, he would never be able to pull it off in front of a more discerning audience. Nathan just can’t hide who he is.  It is one of the reasons Quinn loves him and it is the reason that they will part.

There are a few things that bothered me.  At one point Nathan is missing his family at home (this story takes place during the holidays) but then thinks that he has a family here in 1863 too.  Uh, no he doesn’t.  Hes dislikes him intensely and distrusts him as well.  The only one happy to have him there is Quinn, so I am not sure what family Fenraven is talking about.  Hes is a believable but dislikable character, smug, sure of her universe and disapproving of any that might prove a threat to her happiness, definitely a tad on the puritan side. So yes, she seems real.  The author did a great job making her somewhat stinky flesh and blood but don’t expect me to like her.

And yes, there is a happy ending but in my mind, I can never just leave it there (where I should).  Instead I start thinking about the future, and the romance in this story dims for a second.  But its the holidays, at least in this story.  Time for a suspension in belief in all things real and to hope for all things happy and in love.  I think I will leave the review right there.  At the end, just where all stories about time travel and holiday miracles should.

Cover art by Maria Fanning.  Just a lovely cover, perfect for the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 13th 2011)
ISBN 1627981659 (ISBN13: 9781627981651)
edition language English
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com