...Bookfanatic

 

Happiness is a cup of coffee and a really good book.

I've danced around this one for a while now...

Vespertine - Indra Vaughn, Leta Blake, Michael Ferraiuolo

which totally explains why I'm so ridiculously late to the party, but when the opportunity presented itself to review the audio book and I discovered that Michael Ferraiuolo is the narrator and guess who just happens to be on my top 10 list of narrators...well, really who was I to do anything but say yes please.

 

Ok, so let's start with the elephant in the room...well, actually there's two of them in the room for me and can I just say this room's getting really, really cozy right about now...ok, the first elephant 'catholic priest gone astray' sorry just totally not my thing. Don't get me wrong I'm not a devout Catholic who has some illusion about priest being perfect because it's more like I'm a non-practicing Anglican who knows that...'that dog don't hunt no more'. I think for me it's a case of this is one of those things that happens in real life that, I'd rather not have show up in my fiction and yet here it is and here I am as for elephant #2 let's call a spade a spade because if it's an elephant it's just a teeny tiny little dumbo sized elephant call 'rock star-itis'...that's right I'm not much of a fan of rock star stories, I tend to be really fussy about them...a bit more so than some other sub-genres. It just tends to work out that I either really, really love them or they go horribly wrong for me, so while I do read them they're not usually my subject of choice for reviewing. 

 

But considering that this is a combination of one of my absolute favorite narrators, Michael Ferraiuolo combined with 2 authors who have written one or more books that I'm wildly crazy about I was feeling pretty good about the chances of liking this audio book and while I was pretty damned optimistic about my chances of enjoying this story I have to admit at the end of it even I was surprised by how much I really loved it... truthfully I wanted to simply go back to the beginning and start all over again once I was done. 

 

'Vespertine' drew me in, in ways that only a truly wonderful story can. I loved the characters and not just Jasper and Nicholas...although I did become a devoted fan of them both, but there were a wealth of other characters who added so much color and depth to the story from Jasper and Nicholas's parents to members of Vespertine and the community that Jasper and Nicholas grew up in. Not only did the authors make the events of this book feel grounded in reality but they kept the characters there as well. Nicholas's parents were loving and supportive but at the same time I felt their worries and concern for what was happening in his life and much of the time I was right there with them. Then there was the relationship between Jasper and his mother...far more fragile than that if Nicholas and his parents but every bit as possible and realistic.

 

Jasper and Nicholas grew up together as best friends until they weren't...until that day that friendship became love and then unexpectedly for Nicholas...Jasper left. He followed his calling to the priesthood and Nicholas turned to his own church...that of sex, drugs and rock & roll until years later, after a stint in rehab Nicholas goes home to try and truly put himself back together and find the man who loved the music before the drugs.

 

While we get a lot of background about these two men as the story progresses it's woven into the events of the present and in many instances gives clarity to not just what's happened in the past but what it's effect is on events in the present.

 

'Vespertine' is second chances, starting over, seeking forgiveness, coming home, rediscovering love and very probably a few other things that I've missed. It's a story that leaves you breathless, makes you laugh and cry. it's not about losing faith so much as finding it where you least expect it and yes there's a priest in it but there isn't any preaching.

 

At just over 14 hours I can't say that this is a quick read or listen if you choose the audio version as I did but what I can say is I loved it and it's definitely going at the top of my very, very short list of 'books involving men-of-faith'.

 

Once again with the help of her writing partner Indra Vaughn and the incredible narrations of Michael Ferraiuolo, Ms. Blake has taken things that really don't appeal to me, mixed them all together and made something that I loved...it's definitely magic of the best kind.

 

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An audio book of 'Vespertine' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

You know that friend the one who's just always there when you need them...

Fall Through Spring - Amy Lane

I'm sure we've all met or maybe we are that person..the friend...the quiet, steadfast friend who's there when they're needed. No, they're probably not the person who draws a crowd at parties or comes up with the crazy wild ideas for fun. They may not even get noticed much at events but when everyone else has gone home they're the one who's still there helping you clean up even though they were the one who arrived early to help you set things up for the party to begin with, they're the friend who drives you home after you've had one to many when the gang's out on the town, they make sure you get into your home safely. They're not the star of the party or even your knight in shining armor but they're just like you and I...they're someone who's looking for love...this is Clay Carpenter.

 

Clay's been here since the beginning and I think most of us saw him as Skipper's best friend and we never really gave him a lot of consideration beyond that. He was nice and dependable and really in the history of romance have there ever been two words more solidly connected to the 'kiss of death' when it comes to love than 'nice & dependable' I think not...that is unless your name's 'Dane Hayes'. Dane's done hot, attractive, sexy, exciting, yadda, yadda, yadda...he knows what those words mean or at least he knows what those words mean for him. For Dane they mean 'sh*t's getting real, so it's been nice and I'm outta' here. Dane's bipolar so sometimes his world goes sideways really fast and the only thing he's ever been able to depend on is his family...his parents and his brother Mason. He's accepted this. But Dane's like Clay...they can say what they want but the truth is their hearts want someone to love, someone to call their own.

 

I loved Skipper and Ritchie and Mason and Terry were truly adorable but I felt a connection to Clay and Dane that I just didn't with the others. Clay may be the silent, dependable, steadfast friend but that's not all that he is and Dane sees that... Dane truly sees him. He sees all that's good and honorable about Clay but he also sees his faults and insecurities right along with what makes Clay one incredibly sexy and attractive man in his eyes...he sees Clay the real Clay and Clay does the same for Dane. Their relationship is grounded in a love and appreciation of the whole person flaws and all and as the story unfolds we are shown this on more than one occasion.

 

Most of Clay and Dane's story runs parallel to that of Mason and Terry so there's definite overlap but we've given different perspectives of a lot of events and while some things may have seemed familiar I never found that anything felt repetitive or boring. However, I would have probably liked it more if there'd been a bit of post-getting back-together Mason and Terry shared with us...but truly it wasn't their story so that's me being greedy...again.

 

I loved how Clay and Dane fit together...it was neither seamless, nor effortless but it was real and worked at, so hard by both of these men. It as a happy ending that was very much deserved. I don't know if there's more in store for us from the lives of these men but if there is I'll certainly be happy to find out what comes next.

 

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An ARC of 'Fall Through Spring' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Start to finish this was one hella' good series...

A Chip and A Chair - Cordelia Kingsbridge

For fans of mystery with a side of romance this one definitely meets the criteria and the audio book was for me the perfect medium through which to enjoy this series. Wyatt Baker was the narrator for this series providing an entertaining and suspense filled audio experience.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed following this series on audio and have no doubt in my mind that I will be listening to it again and possibly again and who knows maybe even one more time for good measure

It’s been a while since Jacob and Ryker have seen each other...

Christmas Lights - RJ Scott, V.L. Locey

...and they’re both looking forward to celebrating Christmas with each other and with their friends form Owatonna U. Jacob and his dad have fixed up the cabin that’s on their farm and it’s ready to house his lover and their friends Scott and Hayne along with Benoit and Ethan for their holiday reunion.

 

But it seems that Jacob and Ryker both want the same thing for Christmas…the both want more time with each other and Jacob’s got a plan…it involves one single simple question and he just needs the right answer from Ryker for his plan to be a success.

 

‘Christmas Lights’ was definitely a shining spot in my Christmas reading. I loved getting to spend time with the men from Owatonna U again. Hayne was up to his eyebrows in paints and Scott was right there enjoying spending time with his friends but never really taking his eyes off of the man he loves. Whether it was a game of hockey on the pond or holiday movies Benoit and Ethan were ready to join in and to my fellow Canadian Benoit, I’d just like to say “Yes, Benoit. ‘Die Hard’ is an epic holiday movie.”

 

Sadly, it wasn’t all goodness and light for Jacob. There’s change coming for his family but sometimes in order to get the future we want we need to change the present that we have. Jacob’s responsibilities to his family’s farm remain a constant in his life oftentimes demanding more energy and attention then even he has and taking him away from the warm and loving man who’s finally in his bed again.

 

Jacob’s family like so many people are faced with financial concerns due to a number of issues and in ‘Christmas Lights’ we see not just the holiday fun and sweet moments but a family that could easily be our own or our neighbors struggling to survive in an ever challenging economy.  Leaving them to answer the question…at what point does the struggle to survive become too much? It’s a question that each farmer and small business owner can only answer for themselves. But for Jacob’s family it’s not just a farm…it’s their heritage, but at what cost? It’s a decision that’s going to affect not just Jacob’s parents but Jacob and his future with Ryker, in the end I loved how this was played out and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Jacob and Ryker and what these changes will mean for them as a couple.

 

In the end ‘Christmas Lights’ really does embrace the true meaning of the holidays. It’s about family and friends, it’s about hope and love…but most of all it’s about gifts that come from the heart and not the wallet. Definitely recommended for fans of the Owatonna U stories and these authors.

 

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An ARC of  ‘Christmas Lights’ was graciously provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.

I'm probably starting to sound like a stuck record by now...but...

Model Christmas - Jaime Samms

I seem to keep finding or maybe I'm putting myself into the same situation. Honestly I think it's a bit of both, so I'm going to try and explain  my situation, without being too wordy...

 

It's about the Christmas stories...I love Christmas, so of course it's safe to assume that I love Christmas stories of which I've read a few this year approximately 15 that were specifically labelled as being 'Christmas Stories' and a few more that while they weren't labelled as such, part or most of the story took place during the holiday season. It also seems that my most frequent comment about a lot of them has been "I would have liked more". Thankfully I haven't read many if any that had me saying 'Thank heavens it was short" or my personal favorite "The best thing about this one is that it was short".

 

For me there's a world of difference in those statements the first one "I would have liked more" is meant to imply that I enjoyed the story and I wish the author had made it a bit longer. Not that it was incomplete or lacking in any way just that while sometimes 'less is more' sometimes 'more can be better' and as for 'Thank heavens it was short or the best thing about this one is that it was short'. I think those statements are self-explanatory and we can just move on from them.

 

'Model Christmas' was once again a case of 'I would have liked more' and this time it was more at the beginning and a bit more at the ending because even though I enjoyed the story and I got what was going on and wasn't lost at any point in time for lack of information. I just didn't have enough time to really connect to the characters or their situations. I liked Sebastian and Cody and to be honest I think had there been a bit more story surrounding them both I could have "LIKED" Sebastian and Cody. 

 

Jaime Samms is one of those authors whose stories I always enjoy...still, some more than others but never have I regretted reading any of them. Her book 'Lace' is an absolute favorite of mine and has such a special place in my heart. So while I was hoping to enjoy this story a bit more than I did, I'm also realistic enough not to expect from a story that was just under 40 pages what I got from a story that was just over 100 pages.

 

If not totally unusual, Sebastian and Cody's meeting at the very least contains  some circumstances that could be considered a bit awkward, fortunately these two seem to have the wherewithal to handle whatever life throws their way without adding a lot of unnecessary drama.  Among the unusual is the fact that Sebastian seems to have known so little about the man he left home to be with and then there's he's skeevy landlord and his hulk of a neighbor...can we get a story about him please, Ms Samms. I just feel like he's got a good one to tell us.

 

Even though the relationship between them develops quickly what Sebastian and Cody share isn't a case of love-at-first-sight but more a case of necessity-dictates with a strong leaning towards more to come. 

 

Seb's just looking for somewhere safe to stay for a few days until he can get himself sorted out and living in one of the less desirable parts of town Cody feels like he'd be a whole lot safer with a  roommate. and what starts as two men each with problems that can easily be solved when they help each other effortlessly becomes a sweet and heartwarming story about finding a home in the most unlikely of places and what better time of year to finally find that home than Christmas. 

 

As I said back in the beginning of my review...I wish there was more but since that's not the case than I shall simply wish for the author to give us a follow up story about these to adorable men...if not before, then...there's always next Christmas!

 

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A copy of 'Model Christmas' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

If I told you that bar none this was absolutely the best audio book I've listened to all year, would ya' hear me dear?

Heartsong - By (author) TJ Klune, Kirt Graves
If I said that this was my favorite book in this series...so far...would ya' hear me dear?

I'm not going to do a big long fangirl review for this one...or at least I'm going to try not to.

Originally I was going to wait for 'Brothersong' to be released before tackling this one but when I was scrolling through my audiobook library a few days ago I saw 'Wolfsong' then I saw 'Ravensong' and I knew I had 'Heartsong' and that was all it took. I put on my earbuds and it took my hubby all of 5 minutes to figure out that he'd lost me for as long as it would take...thank heavens the man knows how to cook, I mean really somebody had to feed me.

'Heartsong' was absolutely superb. I've liked Robbie since the beginning and with this book we're given his story and we get to know Kelly better as well and surprisingly while Kelly's always been sort of a neither here nor there character for me...I am now head over heels in love with him. Yep, more than Ox or Joe or Mark or Gordo...I adore Kelly. Until now there really hasn't been a lot of Kelly time in the stories, but here in 'Heartsong' he shines. We see his gentle nature, his strength, the depth of his love and just all that he is.

In spite of the fact that the initial chapters resulted in a bit of confusion for me, by the end of it all things not only made sense, but I'm pretty sure that even if I could have I wouldn't have wanted anything to be done any differently. Robbie and Kelly broke my heart with all that they went through to be together and to find their way back to each other so yes, I cried...at times I cried my freakin' heart out and I laughed...there were times that I laughed so much that bathroom breaks were essential.

As for the narration in this book...I'm not sure what else I can say other than "Once again Kirt Graves has done a superb job of narrating a superb story."

You truly can't read or listen to this book on audio without benefit of 'Wolfsong' and 'Ravensong', I think the one thing that all of these books have in common is the incredible, emotional journey they'll take you on.

I really haven't read a lot of shifter books and the ones that I've read and loved are even fewer and even fewer still are the ones that I've read and/or listened to the audio and known at the end that not only would I do it again, but I will be doing it again, if I had a shelf for these books...the only books on that shelf would be TJ Klune's 'Green Creek' series.

it's the gifts from the heart that are truly priceless...

Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings (2017 Advent Calendar Daily - Stocking Stuffers) - Nell Iris

'Red Gumball Strings and Gumball Rings' is a re-release from 2017's DSP Advent Calendar. Other than a new cover I'm not really sure how much if anything has changed. The story seems to be about the same length as it's previously release.

 

Casey and Ellis may not have much but they know how to make the most of what they have and appreciate it. It hasn't been the greatest year for Casey. He's lost his mom and she was the one person aside from Ellis, that he knew he could count on and who approved of his relationship with Ellis without reservation. 

 

While the author did a super job of giving us a fair bit of Casey and Ellis's background through their memories...especially Casey's. I would have enjoyed it even more if there'd been a bit more story that happened both before and after the holiday...specifically after. I would have loved finding out how things went when Casey started his new job and maybe something more between Ellis and his sister. While her gift to them was sweet, I would have enjoyed seeing more...what can I say when it comes to short stories it's quite often the story of my life I want more. It's also indicative of the fact that I'm liking what I've gotten since I'm saying 'I want more' rather than 'the best thing about this story was that it was short'. 

 

"Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings" is not my first time reading a story by this author and the one thing that I can say about all of her stories is that she creates characters that I would love to have more of.  From Iggy and Wilkin in 'Awakenings and French Songs to the men in 'Of Autumn Leaves and New Beginnings' or 'Promises Me We'll be Ok' and now here in 'Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings', Nell Iris has created characters that are interesting and memorable, leaving the reader wanting more...not because the story's incomplete but because it captures both the attention and the reader's heart.

 

From the Charlie Brown Christmas tree to their heartfelt Christmas gifts to each other. Casey and Ellis's story is a warm and heartfelt reminder for us all what the true blessings of the season and every day of the year should be.

 

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A copy of 'Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings' was graciously provided by the 

The setting for “What Lies Beneath” the first book...

What Lies Beneath - R.J. Scott,  Sean Crisden

in RJ Scott’s ‘Lancaster Falls’ series is of course the small town of Lancaster Falls and as is often the case with small towns it is rife with interesting characters each one having their own secrets leaving the reader to wonder who are you? How much do you really know? And how are you involved? Small towns you’ve gotta’ love ‘em!

 

When Sawyer Wiseman left Lancaster Falls to become a police officer in the big city of Chicago returning home broken and battered wasn’t a part of the plan but we all know life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans and that’s what happened to Sawyer. So now he finds himself back in the town he grew up in working for the Sheriff’s Department with a boss whose actions are often questionable at best telling him to go out to the Dwyer cabin and check on the person who’s taken up residence in it.

 

Sawyer expects to find an elderly recluse not Chris Lassiter a hot young author of horror stories whos struggling with writer’s block who’s more than a little bit interested in the sexy, small town deputy sheriff standing on his doorstep. Now all Chris needs to do is convince Sawyer that what he thinks is a bad idea could actually turn out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to either one of them.

 

Even when Sawyer begins to acknowledge that he’s interested in seeing where things can go between them it becomes a bigger challenge than either man has anticipated with the demands of Sawyer’s job rapidly increasing, as well the pressure on Chris to produce the next bestselling book in his popular horror series is increasing as his time to meet this deadline runs out.

 

Sawyer and Chris both quickly realize that in spite of the fact, that circumstances should be pulling them apart they seem to be turning to each other with increasing frequency.

I was absolutely crazy for this story when I read the e-book…even if I did get left looking over the edge of a cliff. Still when the opportunity was presented to listen to the story on audio I jumped on it especially when I learned that Sean Crisden was the narrator. Mr. Crisden is one of my absolute favorite narrators. I know when I get a book narrated by him that even if I’m not totally enchanted with the story I’m not going to have an issue with the narration no, in fact I can rest assured that even the worst of stories will become tolerable and as was the case here a story that I already knew I loved just became a whole lot better and more enjoyable.

 

While I have by no means read every book written by this author, I can honestly say it’s not from lack of desire or willing to do so…sadly, sometimes real life just doesn’t always let us do things as quickly as we’d like to, but for me this one has a bit more of a darker undertone to it than what we usually see from Ms Scott, but I can also say that for as much as I’ve loved her other books that I’ve read, this is definitely one of my favorites and I honestly can’t wait to continue with this series and learn what’s going to happen next.

 

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An audiobook of  “What Lies Beneath” was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

V.L. Locey has created a holiday story filled with...

The Christmas Oaks - V.L. Locey

 the joy of the holiday season and the promise of new beginnings from second chances with this first book in her new series ‘Laurel Holidays’.

 

When Bryan Graham left Kutter’s Summit to start a new life in Nashville going back was never a consideration for him. But when his grandfather left his hunting cabin and the land it was on to him, Bryan finds that going back is exactly what he has to do. So he develops a plan and it’s a fairly simle one…Bryan’s plan is to take a couple of weeks to spruce the place up, put it on the market and make a quick sale then it’s back to his Nashville life.

 

All that changes when Bryan arrives at the cabin only to be met by a less than friendly but equally grown up and handsome childhood friend in the form of  Parson Greer, whose also consumed by the demons of a war that left him with a lot of bad memories to torment his days and haunt his nights.

 

As Bryan and Parson become reacquainted and their feelings for each other grow, it becomes very clear that it’s going to take more than the good will of the season for these two to make things work. Bryan’s a talent agent for some of Nashville’s brightest stars…unfortunately one of those stars isn’t always making the brightest choices and keeping her in rehab has Bryan popping antacids like Pez candies, Parson’s trying to manage his PTSD on his own and then there’s the issue of Bryan who wants to return to his life in Nashville but he also wants to see what his life could be like with Parson in it.

 

Thankfully while Bryan may not have a Christmas angel on his side what he does have is a sister who wants him to be happy and a PA who genuinely cares about him as a friend and keeps his company on an even keel when he’s not there.

 

While Parson’s PTSD and Bryan’s client’s addiction were both very much a part of the story with neither issue overwhelming the story and turning it into something overly dark and somber that would keep it from being the sweet, holiday romance that if feels like it was intended to be, neither were these issues treated lightly.  

 

I really loved the epilogue it was the star on the top of the tree. While everything wasn’t tied up with a perfect holiday bow it definitely felt like all that was needed for it to happen was a bit of time. “The Christmas Oaks” is a warm holiday story that truly shares the meaning of the season. It’s not about how pretty or how big the bow on the package is or even what’s in the package…it’s about the gifts that are given from one heart to another…gifts of faith, hope and love. Gifts that cost nothing, but often mean everything.

I’d definitely recommend this one for anyone wanting to get into the holiday mood by way of a little reading romance.

 

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An ARC of “The Christmas Oaks” was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I’m very possibly becoming addicted to this author’s stories...

Promises (Single Dads #3) - RJ Scott

It seems whenever I see a story with her name attached, I’m right there with my grabbie, gimmie hands to get a copy to read and I have yet to be disappointed.

 

“Promise” is the third book in Ms Scott’s ‘Single Dads’ series. This is Leo and Jason’s story.  We met Leo for the first time in “Single” book #1 of this series and now that his roommates Sean and Eric have each gotten their HEA, it’s Leo’s turn and who better for a cop to fall for, than an ex-con who seems to have more than a couple of secrets.

 

We met Jason in “Today” book #2, when he saved Eric’s life. When Jason shows up on Leo’s doorstep looking for Eric after his release from prison. Eric’s told him if he ever needed help he could come to him and when Leo sees Jason tired, beaten, ready to drop in his tracks and holding on for all he’s worth to a sweet little girl that he says is his daughter Leo couldn’t imagine someone more in need of help and despite the caution that his instincts are telling him to exercise…Leo’s quickly becomes determined to protect Jason…consequences be damned.

 

I’ve liked Leo from the beginning of this series and with this book we get an even closer look at this character. Leo’s past isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, he’s got demons of his own that are driving him and as he becomes more and more involved with Jason, he’s forced to confront the past that he’s kept diligently locked away.

 

Both men are more than a little bit aware of the attraction they share for each other, and for their own reasons they are equally determined to deny it at first. But as Jason’s secrets come to light, Leo begins to see that Jason isn’t what he seems to be and that his story is more complex than any of them realized.

 

I’ve enjoyed all of the stories in this series and this is probably one of the few times that I can honestly say when it comes to a favorite pairing, at this point in the series, I’m hard pressed to say that I have one.  So far, I’ve found each couple to hold their own unique appeal for me.

 

I loved watching Leo and Jason try to resist the inevitable, these two men just worked the chemistry was right and as if that wasn’t enough there was Daisy…Jason’s adorable 3…going on 4 year old daughter who not only wormed her way into Leo’s heart without even trying but found a spot in mine as well.

 

This story also gave us a bit more of a glimpse into the family that helped to make Leo the man that he is and that was fun. I love stories that have those over the top, in your face, gregarious families and Leo’s family is one that I’d definitely like to see more of.

I had thought maybe since this all started with 3 roommates…Sean, Eric and Leo that this story just might be the end of things but this is not the case and I’m so pleased to know that there are more ‘Single Dads’ to come.

 

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An ARC of “Promises” Single Dads #3 was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

“Hometown Christmas” was my first Christmas story for the 2019 holiday season...and

Hometown Christmas - Garrett Leigh

...it turned out to be a good choice. I freely admit I’m not only a fan of this author, I’m also a fan of Christmas, so to me this sounded like a good combination.

 

Yani Nicolaou has sworn off romance and fled London with a broken heart. He’s all about making a success of his gyro stall at the Christmas Market. There’s no time or room for romance in his life, if he’s lucky he could maybe squeeze in a one night stand every now and then but that’s it…nothing more for him.

 

If you’ve read some of Garrett Leigh’s previous books…specifically ‘Between Ghost’, ‘Soul to Keep’, ‘Misfits’ and ‘Stray’ than you’ve already met Gavin and Yani. Gavin or ‘Wedge’ as he’s called by his brothers in arms appears in ‘Between Ghost’ and in ‘Soul to Keep’. While Yani appeared originally in the ‘Urban Soul’ series. However, if you haven’t read these books you can still comfortably enjoy ‘Hometown Christmas’ it stands on it’s own quite easily.

 

Gavin Richie is still adjusting to his return to civilian life after a 20 year stint in the military and running a homeless shelter..needless to say that’s all he has the time, room or energy for in his life…the end.

 

Lol, silly Yani and Gavin what they don’t realize is that love does what it wants and at Christmas time…love can do anything it wants including breaking down the barriers that two hearts have diligently worked on creating to protect themselves.

 

Yani and Gavin are a sweet and touching example of the fact that when love happens it’s not about the perfect time, the perfect place or perfect people. Love is that wonderful thing that happens when we expect it the least and need it the most. It doesn’t care how a person looks or if they think they’re ready for it…it just happens.

 

Yani has OCD and he’s been hurt but he’s still got such a bright, vibrant and giving personality. Gavin has PTSD and his hands are full with running a homeless shelter but he finds himself drawn to Yani and when Yani’s best friend convinces him to help out in the kitchen of said homeless shelter Gavin is happily surprised to see the attractive man from the coffee shop who he’d been unable to get out of his thoughts standing in the shelter’s kitchen.

 

Without a doubt Garrett Leigh has the ability to create characters that are simply perfect in their imperfections and able to work their way into the readers heart effortlessly. Gavin and Yani’s story is a heartwarming story of two people finding each other and falling in love during what is considered by many to not only be the most wonderful time of the year but also the busiest and most stressful time of the year and yet these two men give of themselves not only to their community but to each other as well.

 

While this story is set at Christmas time and even though the time of year makes for a very nice setting for the story, this is a story that could take place at any time of the year or be read during any time of the year.

 

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A copy of “Hometown Christmas” was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

It's that time of year again...

Homemade for the Holidays - Jenn Moffatt, Kim Katil, Jane Denardo, Emy Calriel, C. S. Poe, Jayce Ellis, cassie decker, Andrew  Grey, Kim Fielding, Lorne Daniel, Robert Burns, Tricia Kristufek

and I'm not talking about tax time. I'm talking about the most wonderful time of the year...Christmas and once again Dreamspinner Press has brought out their  holiday anthology. 

 

This year I got to read and review 5 of these stories for 'My Fiction Nook' and I've reviewed and rated each story individually below...

 

Christmas Ghost by Jenn Moffatt

Rating:  3 stars

 

‘Christmas Ghost’ is a sweet story about second chances at what many like to think of as ‘the most wonderful and magical time of the year’ but for carpenter Steve Browning this year doesn’t hold a lot of magic. He’s faced with losing his mother unexpectedly and in the hopes of making the season better for other he donates her costume jewellery to the local community theater.

 

When he’s met by his friend Camille and her twin brother, Troy. Steve doesn’t hesitate to take the chance to renew his friendship with both of the Baxter twins but it’s Troy who not only captures his attention but his heart.

 

While I liked the premise of this story and the character interactions were good. I really just felt like it needed a bit more to flesh it out and really bring home the connection between the main characters and lock down that holiday feeling. I can honestly say if the author decides to add to this story or provide a follow up…I’m in. So, while this one wasn’t a 5 star read for me it was 3 solid stars with a whole lot of feel good holiday potential.

 

 

Sweet Anticipation by Andrew Grey

Rating:  4 stars

 

‘Sweet Anticipation’ is a second chance story that offers Greg Hansen a chance at love with baker Rhys Denning. Rhys and Greg first met when they dated in college. When things ended abruptly between the two men, neither ever anticipated that they would get a second chance at love until the day Greg knocked on Rhys’s door after his bedridden pregnant sister has charged him with completing the arrangements of her best friend’s bachelorette party.

 

Greg’s at a loss and really has no idea what to do. Thankfully for Greg this is Rhy’s field of expertise and he’s more than willing to step in and help. Especially if it gives him a chance to see if the spark that was ignited between him and Greg in college is still there.

 

I saw Rhys helping Greg as a win for all. Greg gets help with the bachelorette party so his sister would be happy, and Rhys gets to spend time with Greg and the reader gets watch these two incredibly sweet men reconnect and truly fall in love…not mention penis-shaped baguettes! Seriously who wants to miss out on that baking experience, I know I didn’t.

 

‘Sweet Anticipation’ is a story with a bit of everything to offer family, food, humor, sexy men and set during the holiday season…I just needed a bit more time with these men and this one could have easily been 5 shining stars.

 

 

Flour, Eggs, Sugar and Magic Daniel de Lorne

Rating: 2.5 stars

 

Will has the best of intentions when he starts making cookies for the kids at the local shelter after all if anyone deserves an extra dose of luck, love and good health it’s this group of young kids. Sadly, even the best of intentions can go astray and that’s exactly what happens when a phone call from Will’s ex-boyfriends disrupts his baking and when Will’s roommate, the extremely sexy Lucas gobbles up 3 of those cookies Will discovers just how bad things can go.

 

I liked the premise of this one and truthfully if Will’s cookies had brought the intended luck, love and good health that was intended they would have been some hella’ good cookies because the misfortune, bad health and ill will that was visited upon Lucas and Will, at times by virtue of proximity, as they tried to break the spells was pretty epic.

 

While this story didn’t work as well as the authors story that I was fortunate enough to review last year, it was mainly just a matter of the story just needing to be a bit longer. Things were happening a bit to quickly for me to really become engaged in the story. So it really just came down to a case of what was good in concept didn’t quite work when it came down to execution.

 

 

Rainbows in Sea Glass by Kim Katil

Rating:  3.5 stars

 

Kyle’s had a crush on his best friends older brother who also happens to be a big ole player and Kyle doesn’t want to be just another on of many especially where James is concerned so he keeps his feeling very tightly locked down but when James suddenly turns all of his attention on Kyle. Kyle’s goes to Cape May Point seeking to find seaglass and Cape May diamonds for his aunt’s St. Nicholas Day present and if escaping James’s attention is an added bonus all the better…right? Well it would have been if James hadn’t followed him to Cape May Point.

 

I’m a bit of a sucker for stories like this and over all I enjoyed this one. I really loved that a good portion of the story was about Kyle and James spending time alone together at Cape May Point, even though these two men have known each other for years it was good that the reader got to share that time when their relationship went to a different level and I loved that part of the focus of their time together was spent creating a gift for Kyle’s aunt.

 

It’s the gifts that are given from the heart that often have the most meaning and stay with us the longest and whether it’s a gift that’s made or the gift of love ‘Rainbows in Sea Glass’ is about the different ways that the gift of love can be given.

 

 

Love in 24 Frames by C.S. Poe

Rating: 5 stars

 

This story right here…for me this was it…this was the one. I’m admittedly a C.S. Poe fan but please don’t make the mistake of thinking that means any thing is a given when it comes to a story this short because it’s not. I still want to be read a story that’s going to draw me in make me happy, sad, angry, joyous, furious…I don’t want to just read the story I want to feel it and admittedly what a story makes me feel may not be the same as what it makes someone else feel and that’s as it should be.

 

Declan’s an incredibly shy CPA by day and an amateur stop motion filmmaker by evening and when he rents studio space to allow his creative expression more freedom what he doesn’t expect is to meet Shota Watanabe a beautiful man with a kind and gentle spirit that leaves Declan both hopelessly in love and totally tongue-tied.

 

I so love it when a story works for me and this one really worked. For me the feelings between these two men were totally palpable…they were sweet and gently with an intensity that left me breathless and yet, for want of a better word, there was also an underlying innocence that worked so well.

 

If your looking for a story that’s filled with hot, steamy sex than this probably isn’t the story for you but if you want a sweet, gentle story about to lovely mature men falling in love pull up a chair and start reading. I think you may have found it, I know I did.

 

Update...December 15/19


Here I am back with more Christmas stories from DSP’s 2019 Homemade for the Holidays collection. The one thing that all of these stories had in common for me is that they are all written by new to me authors. Overall these stories are filled with a sweet promise of love and something more. So if you’re looking for lots of sex maybe, try some other holiday stories but if it’s something that offers love and the promise of something more than you may want to check these out.


Below is my rating for each story along with a brief review…

 

The Great Aerodynamicist by A. Nybo
Karen’s rating: 3.5 stars
Making a model steamship flying machine shouldn’t have been so hard…or maybe just less embarrassing. Donnell’s almost got his nephew’s Christmas present done when things go sideways… horribly embarrassingly sideways but I think even Donnell will concede that in the end it was all worthwhile.

 

This was one of those stories that while you’re reading it you can’t help but think ‘this could never happen.’ but sad to say, it not only could but probably has and more than once. I enjoyed this sweet and often times amusing foray into the world of freaky mishaps that lead to the unexpected…love.

 

A Nybo has created the kind of holiday story that I enjoy…it’s sweet and entertaining and leaves the reader smiling. My only real complaint is that I would have liked a bit more story after Donnell and Charlie actually got together because everything that came before was just so freakin’ cute and entertaining how could I possibly have wanted it to stop there?

 

Evan Versus the Sharlotka by Chrissy Munder
Karen’s rating: 3.5 stars</i></b>
And the holiday sweetness continues…in more ways than one. Tech support Evan Carmichael has developed a crush on Programming supervisor Gavrill Cottan and opportunity knocks in the form of the holiday office potluck lucheon Evan decides that it’s time to make his move and he’s up to the challenge…I mean how hard could it possibly be for someone who doesn’t cook much less bake to make an apple sharlotka…Gavrill’s favorite dessert. It’s only 6 ingredients…he’s got this right?

 

I was so enchanted by Evan’s determination and I have to admit as someone who’s a fairly competent cook and has been known to bake a yummy treat from time to time. I more than appreciated Evan’s culinary endeavors…ok, I might have laughed a little but in the end I was cheering for him and in my heart I just knew that Gavrill wouldn’t be able to resist someone who was willing to go to such lengths to win his heart…I know I wouldn’t have been able to.

 

This one’s another sweet holiday winner that again while the story was complete it still left me wanting more Evan and Gavrill.

 

A Peace Offering by R.L. Merrill
Karen’s rating: 4 stars
While the previous two stories were very enjoyable for me Dover and Landry were the absolute winners of this round of holiday stories and no, it’s not really a competition. This one just ended up being my favorite story from these 3 stories.

 

Dover’s been selling his handcrafted wares at the Dickens Fair in San Francisco for over twenty years and he’s definitely got a stronger affinity for Ebenezer than some of Dickens’s other characters and he’s not had a problem with that until now…until Landry the open and friendly soul who makes corsets and lands in the booth next to Dover.

 

Landry thinks Dover’s beautiful and Dover doesn’t possibly see what someone like Landry would see in him so it’s up to Landry to show Dover that what he sees is a world of opportunity for them both…a chance for a little holiday magic to bring these two together…but it may take a Christmas or two.

 

I simply loved this one. Watching Landry break through the barriers that Dover’s built around his heart was at times cute and humorous and at other times it was equally sad and frustrating as Landry’s efforts were thwarted by insecurities…Dover’s and miscommunication…Landry’s and Dover’s.

 

While this one was considerably longer than the previous two…I’m greedy and I still would have liked a bit more time with Dover and Landry but all in all the story was complete and I very much enjoyed it.

 

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Copies of stories from ‘Homemade for the Holidays’ were graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

This one was totally delightful...

Rainbow Place - Jay Northcote, Hamish Long

I ended up absolutely loving this story. For me everything was well balanced. There was conflict and tension but not to much...but just enough to keep the interest in the story going. 

 

When Seb Radcliffe moved to a seaside town in Cornwall he never realized how much he was going to miss the sense of LGBTQ community that he had in a larger city and it's this sense of loss and a timely suggestion from a friend that prompts him to open not just a cafe/bar but an LGBTQ friendly cafe/bar that prompts him to undertake a project that not all of the community will welcome with open minds, much less open arms.

 

Jason Dunn's business definitely needs the infusion of cash that doing the renovations for Seb's venture would bring but what he's not sure of is can he handle working so closely with an out and proud man that he's so strongly attracted to without stepping out the closet that he's built for himself.

 

The whole relationship dynamic between Seb and Jason held a more realistic feeling than I've encountered in other stories, at times. Seb and Jason's interactions and how they both struggled with Jason's choice to stay in the closet and what that meant for each of them, if they decided to pursue a relationship beyond their business interactions overall just worked.  

 

And then there was the collection of secondary characters...seriously a whole rugby team worth, and then some, not to mention some amazing women!!!! I know I'm a fan of the m/m stories but that doesn't mean I'm not a fan of awesome women. I personally happen to know a few...as in many!!! So when I get the chance to read a story where not all the women are an embarrassment to the gender, I'm all for that added bonus.

 

Last but not least there's the ending...while I'm not normally a fan of 'the grand gesture' since I find that more often than not, it tends to detract from the story and on occasion has actually spoiled the story for me...so, here's where I would like to tip my hat to the author because for me 'the grand gesture' that Jason made at the end of the story nailed it. It simply worked and worked well. It wasn't anything that I would have expected and somehow it felt like a genuine and sincere thing for him to do. I guess when you make an epically big screw-up, you can get away with an over the top apology.

 

Oops...sorry just one last little detail. I held out for the audio version and it was narrated by Hamish Long a new to me narrator and from the looks of things the narrator of choice for this series...which can I just say 'makes me happy'. I very much enjoyed the narration and I know that it only made the story that much better for me. I admit it I love a British/Welsh/Irish/Scottish (in other words I love all of those wonderful UK accents) and the characters are much more vivid when I'm listening to a British character speak with a British voice rather than the Canadian voice that my linguistically challenged brain gives to everyone.

 

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An audio book of "Rainbow Place" was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

"Look daddy...teacher says everytime a bell rings..."

Angels Sing - Eli Easton

Now if you've seen 'It's a Wonderful Life' than you know what the ending for that sentence is and if you haven't...seriously what are you waiting for? ok, if you haven't figured it out already this is absolutely my favorite holiday movie and this book is not that movie but...

 

Eli Easton's "Angels Sing" is set in 'Bedford Falls' and features Jamie Bailey (George Bailey) Mai Bailey (I know we want to say Mary Bailey here, but I'm going with Zuzu Bailey and if you've seen the movie, I think you'll agree with me on this), Uncle Billy (well this was a no brainer Uncle Billy Bailey...now say that one 3 times really fast), Stanton Potter (ok, I got nothing on this one), Amelia Potter (Mr. Potter...otherwise known as 'the bad person). So yes, this story shares some similarities with the  classic 1946 holiday movie. But it's also very much it's own story.

 

While there are similarities in terms of character names and the story's setting there are also numerous differences the biggest one being no angels and by this I'm not talking about adorable little kiddles...I'm talking 'NO Angels' as in no Clarence trying to earn his wings, no Savings & Loans, no Bert & Ernie (that's right folks even the creators of Sesame Street were inspired by this classic movie), no seeing what life would have been like if you'd never been born for anyone... because...no angels. While the the plot in the movie and this story are similar in that they are very holiday themed and there is a happy ending...come on now, it's a Christmas story you can't tell me you didn't expect a happy ending, what happens in the story is very different from the 1946 movie which obviously inspired this book and as far as I'm concerned what better inspiration could one have. 

 

I know there are a lot of wonderful holiday stories out there but 'It's a Wonderful Life' is for me at the top of that list. So to have an author that I like as much as Ms Easton pay tribute to my favorite holiday movie with a story as sweet this one just makes me happy.

 

While there were some very snow melting moments between Jamie and Stanton, what really won me over on this one was just the magic of the season that was instilled in the story and the fact that the author paid tribute to but didn't try to emulate a holiday classic that I'm sure is near and dear to more than just my heart.

 

I'm fairly certain that I'll be adding this one to my holiday traditions the only question for me is...will there be an audio version because if there is... sign me up please, Clarence!

 

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An ARC of "Angels Sing" was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

This felt more like a crash course than a class...

Master Class - Rachel Haimowitz, Andrew Navarro

At just over 2 hours 'Master Class' has a lot of story packed into it...unfortunately for me it felt like just a bit too much and didn't work as well as it would have, if there'd been a bit more story.

 

Nicky Avery is the darling of Broadway at night but during the day he's a one bad hook-up after another as he looks for something...but not even he knows what it is. 

 

Devon Turner thinks he knows what Nicky's looking for and while he wants to be the one to fill that need, he's determined that Nicky learns who's going to be the master in their relationship...and unlike his past experiences it's not going to be Nicky. Devon doesn't put up with 'topping from the bottom' so if Nicky wants what Devon has to offer and he's fairly certain he does, he'll need to up his game.

 

Master Class isn't my first time with a BDSM story but I have to admit it's the first time I've read one where the play between the Master and sub at times feels like it's bordering on abuse and also includes humiliation...no judgement here, ok? It's a thing for some people and that's totally cool, I'm just saying it's not my thing, not that it's good or it's bad...it's just not my thing and that's cool because different strokes for different folks, right? So while, I admit I'm not a fan of these two things and had there been something in the blurb that hinted at one or both of these things being in the story, I very probably would have taken a pass on this one and that's only because I would have known that giving it a glowing review wasn't going to happen...it's why I don't read SciFi or Horror or Historical Romance...they're just not my thing.

 

However, having said all that quite honestly because of the brevity of the story I decided to give it a go anyways and while there was a couple of things that I didn't like there were other aspects of the story that worked for me. Like the fact that in spite of the fact that the play between Nicky and Devon at times felt abusive and the issue of humiliation, Devon's treatment of Nicky also held an underlying expression of care and concern that spoke to Devon's true feelings towards Nicky.

 

Andrew Navarro is both a new to me narrator and it seems a new to audiobooks narrator as well and I definitely enjoyed this first foray into the medium by this narrator and look forward to hearing what comes next for him and while the book was only a 3 star listen for me. The narration was definitely stronger and I'd have to put that at a solid 4 stars.

 

'Master Class' for me spoke more to the s/m part of BDSM than stories that I've read previously and had the story been a bit longer with a bit stronger relationship development I may have come away feeling differently than I did about the overall story. So ironically it was the shortness of the story that convinced me to read it while also being one the reasons that I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped to.

 

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An audiobook of "Master Class" was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I've been looking forward to...

Whisper - Shaun Grindell, Garrett Leigh

hearing this series on audio and finally I've found the time to indulge and once again Garrett Leigh has given me some wonderful stories to indulge my imagination with. I loved this story Dylan and Angelo were such a good match for each other and Shaun Grindell's narration only made the story that much better and I'm off to the next book.

Currently reading

Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey