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

An Alisa Advent Calendar Review: Purrfect Holiday by Jana Denardo

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Tony Gatti had his life planned: get his veterinarian license and go to work with his dad and uncle. Soon after achieving his goals, he learned the shadows and blurriness in his vision went beyond needing glasses. Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic mutation with no cure. With his sight almost gone, he moves into his grandmother’s St. Augustine, Florida, home with his guide dog, Raven, to start life over. Nonna Concetta thinks she knows the perfect job for him. Her vet is looking for someone to destress the cats at a local rescue.

Javier didn’t plan to hire a cute former veterinarian to fill the role of cat cuddler, but Tony couldn’t be more perfect. Worried his attraction is inappropriate and knowing the holiday season always depresses him, Javier wonders if he should ask Tony out, or if he’d just be spreading the gloom to someone who already has enough of his own. But if he takes the plunge, could it turn out to be the best holiday ever?

Ohh, this was so sweet.  Tony and Javier are absolutely perfect for each other.  I was glad that Tony was able to find a way to help animals with his blindness and it brings him into Javier’s life.  Concetta was hilarious and I love how supportive she is of Tony.  Even better was Tony and Concetta give Javier the family he needed at Christmas.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  It’s got that wonderful dog and cat on the cover.  Need I say more? Guy is cute too.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  |  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 46 pages

Published: December 26, 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Advent Calendar Review: Holidays Are Where Your Heart Is by Bru Baker

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

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

Jared’s been all over the world as a traveling manny with Holiday Helpers, and the itch to put down roots is starting to eclipse his wanderlust—especially since his current family is a handful.

After culinary school, Wes did some wandering of his own, exploring Central America before settling as a resort chef in his mother’s homeland of Costa Rica, a place he loves and where he plans to stay. If he’s learned one thing, it’s to be wary of flings with vacationers. Still, he can’t stand to watch two little Swiss kids lose their belief in Saint Nicholas, so he’ll lend a hand to the manny assisting the family. It won’t be easy to recreate a traditional European Christmas in a tropical paradise.

Between a snowball fight on a sunny beach and sledding down an active volcano, Jared and Wes discover some renewed holiday magic of their own. Can they make it last a lifetime?

Holidays Are Where Your Heart Is by Bru Baker is a layered contemporary romance that left me with very mixed feelings.  On one hand I thought the character of the manny, Jared, Wes, the instructor, and the children, well done and often heartbreaking in many respects.  I loved how Jared paid close attention to his charges, their feelings, and inventively came up with ways to make them feel safe, valued, and loved enough that Santa Claus or their version of it would find them, even at a resort in Costa Rica far away from their home (and the staff there that had the children’s interests at heart).

Bru Baker did a great job with Costa Rica…mostly.  She has the children safely behind large gates at the resort, because there’s a huge disparity in economics there.  Resorts versus the shacks with galvanized tin roofs, which are mentioned (and high crime which is not). I loved the section with the volcano sledding, including the safety measures and the dangers which were included. For the most part the kids stayed safely behind the security gates to be imaginatively entertained by Jared, Wes, and others there with warmth and affection.

Which brings me to the parents, blithely vacationing away on the other side of the island, who left me (and the staff) wanting to smack them upside the head most of the time. This was “reared by manny” at its most emotionally removed and Bru Baker  makes its impact clear on these very realistic children, the staff who care for them, and yes, the readers. That the children will continue to be raised by parents who care little whether they have a wonderful or meaningful Christmas makes this a bittersweet story for me.  It left it tarnished in a way because while the joy and beauty of what Jared and Wes managed to accomplish for these young children is heartwarming, their future remains unchanged in the hands of self centered parents.  A true sour note at the end as I came to love these kids even more than the main characters and my heart broke for them.

Not the happiest of holiday readings to be sure and probably not what the author intended.

I’m sure she wanted us to focus on the romance, which is quite sweet and lovely and undermined by the storythread of what Jared and Wes did for the kids and how it all turned out.  The snow and that entire scene was my favorite by far.  Perfection.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  Not a fan of this cover.  Could be about any story with two men and a family, not just this one.  Nothing says Costa Rica, or  Christmas or distinguishes it enough to raise it above a simple beach cover.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 42 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English setting Costa Rica

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