Holiday Reads (Valentine’s, Christmas, etc.)

These stories are all holiday-themed. Enjoy! I know I did.

VALENTINE’S DAY:

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A TALE OF TWO RINGS by Beth Carpenter

Contemporary romance, novella

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This is a cute little story about Alden and Mindy. At one time, they were engaged to each other, but Alden broke it off two years ago because he didn’t want her subjected to his family. He left town and has been dealing with his toxic family and the family business. Now he’s back, conned by his grandmother into taking part in the bachelor auction raising money for the local library. Though Mindy really doesn’t want to bid, she can’t let the town vamp win Alden, so she does. Things go back and forth between the two with regrets on both sides.

What I liked: The characters and the town. Even though this is a short book, there were enough details to settle you into the story. The conflict and attraction between Alden and Mindy is well-done. And the issues Alden has with his family are realistic. I also loved the ring part of the story. Beautifully done.

What I didn’t like: very little. It’s a nice Valentine’s Day story.

Recommendation: For a short, sweet, Valentine’s Day story with a HEA that satisfies, give this one a try.

Thanks to the author for providing this ARC free.

Vicky 1/25/2020

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A PLACE TO HANG HER HEART by Liz Flaherty

Contemporary romance, novella

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This is a sweet romance about Rob and Christy. They were once married, but things didn’t work out. Now divorced, Christy moved from Indiana to Christmas Town, Maine where she’s making a new life for herself. When Rob shows up, Christy can’t deny she still has feelings for him, but can they get past their “pasts” and be a couple once more even though they’ve both changed?

What I liked: I loved this story. It is sweet and poignant and has a HEA that satisfies. I loved Rob’s mother and how she helps bring the two together. I loved how both characters grew and changed through the story to become stronger characters.

What I didn’t like: The only thing I had an issue with was confusion over the timeline. It seemed like everything happened over the course of a couple days, but I discovered later that it was actually several months. This isn’t really clear, which led to the confusion.

Recommendation: For a sweet story with a HEA, pick this one up. I really liked it, even with the timeline confusion.

Thanks to the author for providing this ARC free.

Vicky 1/25/2020

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CHRISTMAS:

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RED SNOWFLAKES by Kristal Dawn Harris

Paranormal Romance (Vampires), Christmas, Novella

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Blurb: Forensic photographer, Dena Williams, has spent her life trained to see what others cannot. Vampire, Dimitri Kovac, has waited every Christmas for a miracle that does not come. In the Oregon wilderness, during a snowstorm, these two destined souls collide. Dena’s only hope of survival rests in a vampire with the heart of a poet. Dimitri only has five days to win a skeptical woman’s heart. As the Christmas tree lights burn brightly and the snow continues to fall, will Dena succumb to a vampire’s charms? With so little time, can Dimitri win her love?

Review: Wow. Hot, emotional, reminiscent of “Beauty and the Beast” but with a hunky vampire. In this case Gaston is played by a serial killer and, though we aren’t there, he does get his in the end.

What I liked: The beautiful red snowflakes that Dmitri shapes from glass – it’s so touching that Dena wants to hang them all on their tree. The opening of the story is very strong—and very CSI. So be forewarned—it’s a murder scene and she’s photographing it. I loved the imagery the author gives us—it’s beautiful. I loved that Dmitri’s best friend is a pastor of a church. Plus, Dmitri isn’t your run-of-the-mill vampire.

What I didn’t like: Very little. This is a steamy hot vampire romance that ties into Christmas. Okay, I’d have liked for it to be a little longer (it’s a novella), but seriously, that’s it.

Recommendation: If you like hot, hunky vampires who set your blood to pounding, this novella is definitely for you.

Thanks to the author for providing this story in exchange for an honest review

Vicky 12/21/19

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Sweet and Sassy Holiday

Like most boxed sets or anthologies, there were books in here that I absolutely loved (Mischievous Christmas Angel) and others that were okay, but didn’t draw me in. Still, that being said, I definitely recommend this set. The stories are really good and all have a HEA that satisfies. Buy the set, sit back with your favorite beverage, and enjoy.

The list of stories includes:

Mischievous Christmas Angel, Mimi Barbour, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author: He couldn’t cope with life or love without the help of his special angel.

My Girl, Jacquie Biggar, USA Today bestselling author: Sometimes, the right decision isn’t the easiest one to make.

Two Hearts’ Christmas Promise: Tamara Ferguson, USA Today bestselling author: Can an Air Force pilot convince his fiancée that beauty is only skin deep, when her news assignment turns deadly?

Carnations & Hot Toddy Kisses, Stacy Eaton, USA Today bestselling author: Is it destiny or fate that brings the past and present together?

Burning for the Nanny, Suzanne Jenkins, USA Today bestselling author: When Firefighter Leon Saint gets a surprise visit from a one night stand, a beautiful neighbor with a reputation comes to the rescue.

Because You Said So, Dani Haviland, USA Today bestselling author: Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Holiday Love, Natalie Ann, USA Today bestselling author: Can the magic of the holiday make these coworkers realize they are finally meant to be together?

Once Upon A Christmas, Denise Devine, USA Today bestselling author: When old friends reunite, will a new enemy keep them apart?

The Right Kiss, Mona Risk, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author: What’s a girl to do when she dreams about another man’s kiss in her fiancé’s arms?

Her Christmas Secret, Alicia Street, USA Today bestselling author: Lila courts a cold-hearted investor for her handmade toys, but finds herself instead drawn to a handsome maintenance man. With her sister’s family on the line, a distracting romance is the last thing she needs.

Wright Man/Wrong Groom, Patrice Wilton, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author: When an old love shows up for the wedding, Nadine has to make that final choice.

Vicky 12/21/19

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CHRISTMAS ONCE AGAIN by D.K. Deters

Holiday Romance

4****

Blurb: She’s dead broke. And eviction looms. On Christmas Eve antique consultant Madison Knight takes a phone call from local rancher Zach Murdock. Through a mix-up at an estate sale, Madison’s company purchased his grandmother’s beloved painting. He offers double the money for its return. Madison risks her job to track down the artwork, but success falls short when she’s stuck in a blizzard. Stranded, she seeks help from a frontier family. Are they living off the grid, or did she somehow travel through time? Zach’s the only person who knows her plan. He also knows a secret about his gran’s painting. It’s up to him to rescue Madison, but maybe he’s not cut out to be a hero.

Review: This was a short (novella length) holiday story with a time-travel twist that was intriguing. All the major characters were connected through the time travel—which was handled by a mysterious painting. Though it is technically a Christmas story, there’s very little of the usual trappings of a holiday story beyond it taking place on Christmas Eve. It’s a sweet romance that has a satisfying ending.

What I liked: The time travel aspect was a fun twist to a sweet holiday romance. And the way the author tied Madison, Zach, and his grandmother together is done well. Having Madison go out in bad weather to try to right a wrong shows that she has integrity (if not good sense!) and she gets stranded in the blizzard—but not in her time. The twist with the name of the little boy she meets is wonderful.

What I didn’t like: It was very short so that didn’t leave much room for details. I’d have liked a little more description or depth, but that’s a minor thing. There were also a couple very minor editorial typos.

Recommendation: For a quick, sweet holiday romance read with a time travel twist, pick this one up. It’s fun, easy to read and has a HEA ending that satisfies.

Thanks to the author for providing this free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/11/19

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SCROOGE OF LOON LAKE by Carrie Nichols
Holiday Romance
5*****

Desmond “Des” Gallagher is a glass artist living in a small town in Vermont. He does amazing work with stained or blown glass. So amazing that his work catches the eye of Natalie Pierce who goes on the hunt for the recluse in order to convince him to donate some of his work to the horse therapy place she’s trying to save. She and her son, Sam, find the curmudgeon on a remote farm where he has his studio. Through a series of incidents, they manage to pull him out of his solitude and join the community.

What I liked: everything. Sam is mute from an accident; Natalie is a widow; Des is a wounded warrior whose girlfriend dropped him when he got hurt. What’s not to like? I especially loved the kitten, Shadow. Especially when she interrupts an intense moment between Des and Natalie. So cute. And I really liked the end!

What I didn’t like: If anything at all, the proposal seemed a little rushed, but I still liked it.

Recommendation: Read this book! It’s so sweet and a perfect Christmas read.

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NUTCRACKER SWEET by Lynn Crandall

Holiday Romanic Novella

3***

Noel doesn’t feel like celebrating Christmas this year. Not quite a year ago, her dear sister Reggie died in a horrific fire and Reggie was the one who made Christmas special. Now, her parents are living in France and she barely sees her younger brother and sister. But as a social worker, she swallows her sadness and puts on a happy—and helpful—face. Unfortunately, one of her clients has issues of his own and doesn’t like that she hasn’t made his life easy.

Jonah Grant is a firefighter who is haunted by the death of the woman he couldn’t save. He’s not even sure he wants to remain a firefighter, but it’s family tradition and his father won’t hear anything different. He meets Noel and the two bond over their sadness. By working together, they discover they have a connection that goes beyond tragedy and help bring together Noel’s brother and sister with her so the healing can begin.

What I liked: Noel’s empathy and the connection between her and her siblings is nice. I loved the dog, Carpe Diem (Carp). I liked Jonah’s brother and his attempt to help his brother.

What I didn’t like: there were a lot of minor editing glitches (like consistency in how Noel/Noël’s name was spelled), and other editorial issues that broke the story for me. I didn’t like Jonah’s father—his lack of compassion was off-putting. The same with Noel’s parents. Yes, they’re grieving, but pushing away their three remaining children seems odd. I also didn’t care for the sub-plot with Simon and how it was handled in the end. He was a drunkard who kidnapped her and he gets away with it. Finally, there were enough subplots here that this could have easily be a full-length novel. That way, the threads could have been more fully developed and more depth given to the story.

Recommendation: This is a sweet Christmas-themed romance with a satisfying ending. I just wish the editing would have been better. If you can ignore the editorial glitches, I’d say read it. It’s a cute story.

Thanks to the author for providing this story in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/8/19

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SANTA’S LAST GIFT by Sandine Thomas

LGBTQ romance

4****

Blurb: The greatest gift might be what they already have.

After years away building his career, event planner Sebastian Chesnut returns to his small hometown of Fir Falls to reconnect with his mother, sister, and young nieces before his job takes him to London. He doesn’t expect to find his high school boyfriend, Matty, has become a virtual member of Seb’s family. Back then, Matty only offered a casual relationship, but Seb fell hard, and history is soon repeating itself. Seb’s afraid to hope for a second chance, no matter how much they’ve grown and despite the family they share. Instead, he focuses on creating a last perfect holiday, which won’t be easy with his sister’s ex planning to take the girls over Christmas. Seb and Matty might not know what to do about their feelings for each other, but one thing’s for sure—it won’t be Christmas without the kids. Can these star-crossed lovers pull off a holiday miracle?

Review: Can you say “Hallmark” story that’s gay? This was a sweet romance between two men who had been hot for each other in high school but lost touch over the years. Sebastian (Seb) has become a successful event planner in New York and has lived there for five years, taking on extra jobs and money that he can send to his mom and divorced sister back in their small town. He skypes with them and his nieces when he can, but he’s busy making sure they’re taken care of. At least, that’s what he tells himself. He goes back for a Christmas vacation and to break the news to them that he’s moving to London. But things don’t go as planned when he walks into his home and finds his old heartthrob Matt there, acting as if he was the son/brother/uncle that Seb was supposed to be. Seb is jealous until he realizes that Matt has been what Seb can’t—and that he still has feelings for Matt.

What I liked: The reaction of the little girls—Seb’s nieces—to Seb in the flesh. Seeing someone on a small phone and seeing them in person are two different things and the author does a good job of showing their reluctance to warm up to the stranger. I liked the play between Seb and Matt—part memory, part new feelings, and all mixed up. I liked that the story is all about family—the drama, the love, the connections and the distance. It’s about give and take.

What I didn’t like: The nastiness between Stephanie (sister of Seb) and her ex. Yes, it happens. But in retrospect, it all worked out in the end. I was also a little confused as to why Matt was so entwined with Seb’s family. Yes, they’re friends, but it just seemed a little much to me. Maybe that’s me.

Recommendation: For a sweet holiday romance with a satisfying ending, pick this one up. It’s got realistic characters, great small town descriptions, some angst, some sex, lots of family stuff, and more. Recommended.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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RIDING THE HAMMER by Cassie Decker

LGBTQ short romance

4****

Eddie is a long-haul trucker who is driving through snowy Iowa. He’s feeling lonely because he’s going to miss Christmas with his sister and her family this year so he gets on the CB to see who’s around. To his surprise, a voice from the past—Colton—the man who taught him how to drive the big rig, and who stole his heart. There’s an accident in front of Eddie and when he stops to help, Colton shows up and they renew their connection, but only for one day.

What I liked: that Eddie is knitting a scarf and it turns out to be for Colton. I loved that Eddie and Colton worked together in the accident rather than working on their connection. I loved that they reconnected and it felt serious instead of just a one-time thing.

What I didn’t like: that it ended with possibilities instead of more. However, I will say that it worked for the story and really couldn’t have been done any other way.

Recommendation: a nice story with possibilities. True-to-life about life on the road.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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THE SANTA PROJECT by Elinor Gray

LGBTQ short romance

3***

Adam Martinez works at the Craft Emporium and usually takes extra hours during the holidays so others can have time off—not because he has the holiday spirit. He hates the holiday and it’s his birthday to boot. David Okoye is an elementary teacher who is determined to help Adam find his holiday spirit.

What I liked: the things David does to help Adam find his spirit. The “Santa Project” description and how it helps others. The emotions that go with someone who has a birthday on or around a holiday and how their birthday gets lost in the shuffle. It’s real. It happens.

What I didn’t like: The multiple hot sex scenes that took up more than half the story. I don’t mind the scenes, but this was a short story and it seemed that those scenes were more integral to the story than the romance. It was just kind of off-putting for me.

Recommendation: I’m not sure about this one. It’s a good story and has a really good message about helping others, but it just didn’t wow me. You may love it.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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SANTA’S LITTLE LIBRARY by Jana Denardo

LGBTQ short romance

4****

Caleb and Quinn are newlyweds celebrating their first Christmas together. Caleb is stressing out over finding the perfect gift for Quinn. He’s a surgical nurse who does woodworking on the side and when the doctor he works with suggests he build a bookshelf for Quinn, Caleb jumps on the idea. When a favorite oak tree comes down in a storm, he knows exactly what he’ll do for his man.

What I liked: The blending of Norwegian and Native American cultures in the story. I even looked up some of the foods mentioned. Nicely done. I loved the gifts Caleb ended up creating—a beautiful conclusion that works well.

What I didn’t like: very little. It was a nicely done story.

Recommendation: Yes, read this one. J

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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SETTING FOR EIGHT, DINNER FOR TWO by B.G. Thomas

LGBTQ short romance

5*****

Charlie Brooks is 49 and works as an assistant to Gay Adventura, booking agent to the stars. He is still recovering from a bad breakup and is afraid of opening up again, especially to someone as young (30ish) and adorable as Tory Phillips, a ceramic artist. But nobody says “no” to Gay and she’s friends with both men.

What I liked: Everything. This is such a sweet story. Charlie is perfectly shy but willing to give Tory a chance. I liked the “classes” that Tory holds and having Charlie make his own napkin rings so they’re not so expensive. I liked that the dinner party for eight ended up being for two (thus the title). I loved the “aww” factor in the story.

What I didn’t like: nothing. It’s a sweet story.

Recommendation: Yes, read this. It’s sweet with a cute meeting, aww factors, and a satisfying ending.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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SILVER AND SOLSTICE by TJ Nichols

LGBTQ paranormal short romance

5*****

Calvin is a thief, and a tufted cat shapeshifter. He’s also uncollared which is almost illegal in his city. But he lives with Rafe who is an elf princeling and a silversmith. If Calvin allowed Rafe to collar him, he’d be safe, but, though he loves Rafe, he doesn’t want to give up that bit of freedom. Unfortunately, Rafe’s father doesn’t approve of their connection. Rafe has to go against his father in order to save Calvin, but will Calvin do what he fears in order to stay with Rafe?

What I liked: the world building in this short story was amazing. It usually takes a lot more to build a paranormal world, but the author did this with a deft hand and did it well. I liked the characters—their emotions and conflicts come through very well. I loved the twist at the end! Had me smiling. Nicely done.

What I didn’t like: nothing.

Recommendation: A definite yes. This is a strong story with depth of character and well-done world building and a twist at the end that satisfies.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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A STITCH IN TIME by Asta Idonea

LGBTQ short romance

4****

When Connor’s friend signs him up for a crochet class, he doesn’t expect to run into someone who ties his stomach up in knots. Hunky Finn thinks Connor is at the center for the boxing classes and Connor doesn’t tell him differently because he doesn’t want to come off as unmanly. But when Finn finds out, everything gets tangled, until the knitting/crochet teacher Angela steps in to show both men what they’re missing…

What I liked: the ending. It was the best part of the entire story and made the story. I liked Connor’s attempts to crochet. And Finn’s cadre of friends who snub Connor when he messes things up. That’s good support. I also loved Angela’s interference.

What I didn’t like: very little. At first, I didn’t like the stereotype of little old grannies doing all the crochet, but the author debunked that right away so, forgiven.

Recommendation: Yes, read this. It’s a sweet story with a good ending that satisfies.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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A SWANTS SOIRÉE by EJ Russell

LGBTQ short romance

5*****

Shy software engineer Brent hates office enrichment activities. At 6’8”, he doesn’t like to stand out, but it’s kind of obvious. But hiding in his cubicle isn’t an option, especially when the head of the company holds an ugly sweater contest where it has to be transformed into “pants”, he’s in way over his head. Enter Jonathan, a costumer for local theater. The two bond over Brent’s ineptitude with scissors and thread and Brent learns that joining in isn’t so bad after all.

What I liked: Everything. I loved this story. Poor Brent is a genius when it comes to coding, but so totally lost with crafts and sewing. He’s so conscious of his size and trying not to be noticed. I loved the idea of the “swants” and how Jonathan transforms the ugly sweater into something else. But the best part was the ugly sweater and where the decoration ends up. I laughed so hard. I also loved that “normal” sized Jonathan has his own issues with size. But both men manage to meet in the middle.

What I didn’t like: nothing.

Recommendation: For a sweet fun story with a satisfying ending, this is a definite read me story.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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SWEET ANTICIPATION by Andrew Grey

LGBTQ short romance

4****

Greg’s pregnant sister is having issues with her pregnancy and has been confined to bed rest. Unfortunately, she’s supposed to be in charge of her best friend’s bachelorette party in two weeks. She gives the job to Greg, who is clueless and totally inept with food and decorations. But his sister’s lists are detailed so he goes to work. Unfortunately, the bakery his sister chose is closed so he has to find someone else. The baker he finally finds is run by the one who got away—Rhys. They bond over baking and creating party favors and, with a few rough spots along the way, manage to pull off the party.

What I liked: Okay, the party “bread” was hilarious! Especially since it wasn’t what Greg’s sister told him to do (but it was on the list). The way Rhys gets Greg to start believing in himself is sweet. The surprise of the baby girl is also sweet.

What I didn’t like: I was a little concerned at the end when the sister shows up at the party only a couple days after having a C-section. That didn’t seem realistic to me. That was the only thing that gave me a twinge.

Recommendation: yes, read this one. It’s sweet and fun with a satisfying (and funny) ending.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/5/19

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CROCHET MY HEART by Carol Pedroso

LGBTQ+ short romance

5*****

Tristan is a self-employed accountant who has volunteered to man a stall at a charity event to raise money to help rehab an old building into a gathering place for LGBTQ+ teens who have been kicked out of their homes. All he has to do is fill his booth with crocheted Christmas items in six weeks. There’s only one problem—he doesn’t know how to crochet. He used to watch his grandmother do it and figured it couldn’t be that hard—right? Help comes in the form of Charlie who teaches crochet and knitting. When Tristan’s sister aims Tristan toward the class, he has no clue what kinds of knots he was going to get tangled in.

What I liked: I want Charlie to teach me how to crochet and knit! His class sounds like so much fun. And what he does for Tristan in the end is amazing and shows what true love and friendship is all about. I loved Tristan’s exaggerated tale about telling off a client. And Ivy—the senior member of the class—is a hoot.

What I didn’t like: Nothing.

Recommendation: I loved this story and am going to be looking for more from this author. The mix of serious and funny, the growth of love between the two main characters…it all works to give you a satisfying ending and belief in the true spirit of Christmas.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/21/19

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CHRISTMAS GHOSTS by Jean Moffatt

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Steve Browning and his brother Pete are clearing out their mom’s home after her death. It hit them both hard and they’re having trouble coping with the loss, especially at Christmas. When delivering boxes of clothing to be used for costumes to a run-down theater, Steve runs into his old—and first—love Troy and Troy’s twin sister Camille. Troy has issues of his own since he was hurt in a military accident. Together, they help heal the hurts and find what’s old can be new again.

What I liked: My favorite line from the story: “You can be strong without being cruel, and you can be sad without being broken.” I love that line. I also like that Troy and Cam’s family reaches out to include Steve and Pete in their Christmas celebrations.

What I didn’t like: Very little. It’s a nice story…but note that it does contain a hot bedroom scene. It’s nicely done but needs to be mentioned.

Recommendation: For a short read, there’s a lot of emotion in this. It can be a bit of a downer, but it ends well and makes you smile. I would recommend it for those looking for a quick read with some heat.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/21/19

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CARPENTER’S PRINCE by Jayce Ellis

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Sean Edwards is a carpenter who is helping his nephew’s dance company with sets for their upcoming performance of The Nutcracker. What he doesn’t expect to find is the amazing danseur, Keni Jackson, who draws him like no one else ever has. Together, the two figure out the music and steps to a dance all their own. Note: there are some really hot bedroom scenes in this story.

What I liked: The correct technical ballet terms the author uses. The love Sean has for his nephew and how he helps the fatherless boy. I liked the attraction between Sean and Keni.

What I didn’t like: not much. The story is well done with conflict and passion and emotions coming through well.

Recommendation: if you’re looking for a quick, short, hot read with a satisfying ending, this one is for you.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/21/19

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ELF TO MYSELF by Emy Calirel

LGBTQ+ short romance

5*****

Alabastair is an elf who has been banished from the North Pole. He ends up in Chicago in a hobby shop where he runs into Wilhelm. Wilhelm is a builder, but he has no clue how to do a small craft project for his eight-year-old niece, as demanded by his sister. He gets help from a cute man who turns Wilhelm’s “bah-humbug” Christmas into one filled with joy.

What I liked: Everything. This is a sweet, funny story with a HEA that satisfies. Wilhelm wants nothing to do with Christmas, but Al is determined that will change. And it does. And we learn a lot about Santa and the North Pole—it’s definitely not your standard elf place. Al is adorable and the ending… a definite “aww” factor.

What I didn’t like: nothing.

Recommendation: A definite recommend for a short, quick read that will satisfy even the worst Scrooge.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/21/19

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GET LIT by Kim Fielding

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Uri Kessler is divorced, Jewish, and a klutz. So much a klutz that while trying to make candles for his menorah, he burns down his condo. His handsome neighbor, Oscar Cortez, takes him in for a night but Uri doesn’t want to be a burden so he moves into a hotel. But he can’t forget Oscar so when Oscar invites Uri for dinner, he buys him a Christmas gift. When he gets there, he discovers that Oscar has created a special Hanukkah first night celebration just for him. Maybe burning down his condo wasn’t so bad after all.

What I liked: The sweetness between the two men and the way they try to take each other’s celebrations into consideration. The Santa with unicorns is so sweet and funny. And poor Uri’s klutziness comes through perfectly.

What I didn’t like: Nothing really other than it was just a little slow for me. It was a good story overall.

Recommendation: a cute story that shows that the two religions can work together if the participants want it to. Recommended.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/23/19

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FOR JOY by Crystel Greene

LGBTQ+ short romance

3***

Chad is big. While this wasn’t a problem when he played baseball, it is when he moves in with sweet little Joaquin “Joy” Acosta. But Joy was there for him when Chad came out to his parents and they basically kicked him out. Joy is a hairdresser who likes things that are handmade so to thank the much smaller man who has crept into his heart, Chad tries to knit him gloves for his sore hands. The knitting is a complete failure, but the thought isn’t as Joy admits his feelings for Chad. Between overly protective friends and Chad’s lack of self-confidence, it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll get together, but they do and there are more surprises in store for the pair.

What I liked: Chad’s feelings of inadequacy came across clearly, as well as his fear of coming out to his family. Then not connecting with his sister or best friend because of this fear—the emotions in this story really came across well. I also loved the “Frosty the Snowman” playing. It was cute.

What I didn’t like: I didn’t care for Franky, especially when he showed up at the garage and confronted Chad. It just didn’t come across well to me.

Recommendation: This is a sweet story (Note: contains hot sex) about two very different men who find love in their differences. For that reason, I’d say read it.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/23/19

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FLOUR, EGGS, SUGAR, AND MAGIC by Daniel de Lorne

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Will Brand volunteers at a center for LGBTQ teens and for the special dinner that night, he’s baking three kinds of cookies—and imbuing them with magic spells. Unfortunately, thanks to a phone call from his ex, he loses his concentration. He doesn’t realize it until he catches his roommate Lucas has eaten one of each and the healthy trainer ends up cursed. But removing the curse isn’t easy. Still, Will tries his best even if everything, including nature, is against him.

What I liked: Will’s desperation to try to reverse what he did and his remorse. Plus, the ending when he realizes that magic isn’t the answer to everything.

What I didn’t like: Lucas having been and ex of Will’s ex. That just didn’t work well for me, but it did set up the serious issue they have to overcome in order to come together as a couple.

Recommendation: This is a cute, sweet story with a magical twist and a satisfying ending. Would definitely recommend it.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/23/19

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FINDING YULETIDE by L.A. Merrill

LGBTQ+ short romance

5*****

Lee Eldridge is a seventy-year-old, highly-successful New York banker. But he’s alone. And tired of being alone. After making an appearance at the company holiday party, he disappears into his office to work, which is where his assistant finds him. She gives him a Christmas present of a vintage cookbook to add to his collection. He can’t cook, but he loves collecting the old cookbooks. Only in this one, he finds a recipe that takes him back fifty years to Viet Nam and the military cook who saved his life. Over the years, he’s tried to find “Yuletide Karol” but never knew his real name. However, the recipe in the book has his name and Karol only lives less than ninety miles away. He decides to drive to the town and his assistant goes with him. When they get there, they find an old farmhouse full of Wiccan’s getting ready to celebrate a handfasting. They are drawn into the celebration and in the kitchen, Lee finds Yuletide. When he confesses who he is, he doesn’t get the reaction he was hoping for. Instead, Yule breaks down and starts to cry. But when Lee tries to leave, the group of Wiccans have other ideas. The two older men discover that they can make new memories.

What I liked: that it’s not a standard 20/30 something character base. The main characters are in their 70s – and that’s beautiful. It’s also neat that the author brought in a Wiccan celebration. I also loved Yule’s reaction. It’s completely expected but very realistic. I liked Lee’s decision to go out of his comfort zone and find his lost chance at love. And his assistant’s insistence on joining him.

What I didn’t like: very little. I thought it was a sweet, interesting story about an older couple who have a history.

Recommendation: Definitely read this one. It’s cute, sweet, poignant, and has a satisfying ending that leaves you smiling.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/23/19

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FAIRY SHOP by Tara Lain

LGBTQ+ short romance

5*****

Nate Hawthorne is a divorced father of five-year-old Delphine. He got custody of her when his ex joined up with a violent man who was big and tattooed. Because of this, Delphine is afraid of any man who’s big. Unfortunately, the one man who draws Nate’s interest is Asher Dane, a huge man with tattoos. When Delly shows her terror at Asher, the two men end their relationship before it begins. Help comes in the form of a store that sells unique toys including unicorns, fairies, and magic wands. The “Fairy Master” turns Delli’s terror into acceptance and Nate and Asher can see where things lead.

What I liked: Delphine’s indecision in choosing a wand that is made just for her. It forces them to return again and again to the store where the magic happens. While there not be real magic at work here, the magic of love and caring comes through. Without giving anything away, I loved where the toys came from. I also liked that he and Nate were willing to give up their budding love for the security of Delphine. Also, the tongue-in-cheek “fairy store” is just fun.

What I didn’t like: Nothing really. Though I will note: the fight scene where Delphine’s mother and boyfriend show up and try to take her could be a trigger for some people.

Recommendation: A definite read-me. I loved this story. It was sweet, poignant, and fun.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/23/19

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EVAN VS. THE SHARLOTKA by Chrissy Munder

LGBTQ+ short romance

5*****

Evan Carmichael has a crush on Gavriil Cottan in his office. Gavriil is new and the men strike up a “lunchroom” friendship. Evan is a kind of rumpled IT guy while Gavriil is pristine. Complete opposites—but Evan is a romantic and is determined to do something spectacular to show Gavriil his feelings. It’s almost time for the office party and Evan has been tasked with bringing dessert. So he decides to bake a special apple cake—a sharlotka—from Gavriil’s childhood. The only problem is that he doesn’t know how to bake. But how hard can it be? Right? The first one is a failure. And the second. And third. And so on until he has no time left and has to take in what he finally came up with. All he can do is hope it isn’t a complete failure.

What I liked: Evan’s trials as he tried to learn to bake the apple cake. I had to sit and laugh at the failed attempts. So much laughter—and commiserating as I remembered some of my own first attempts. He’s trying so hard and doesn’t give up.

What I didn’t like: Nothing.

Recommendation – there’s a definite “aww” factor going on in this story. It’s so sweet and cute. A huge recommendation on this one, if only for the nostalgia of my first baking experience. Very well done.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/23/19

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GRAPHICALLY DESIGNED HOLIDAY by Ren Holly

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Eli is a graphic designer, which is not what his aerospace engineer father wanted. But Eli is happy with what he does—and successful. So much so that his best friend, Lincoln, wants him to design his dating profile. Lincoln is a math teacher and his profile is so bland that Eli can understand why nobody has picked him up. Unfortunately, the last thing Eli wants to do is attract someone else to his crush Lincoln, but how can he say no to his best friend? So he creates the best site he possibly can.

What I liked: Eli’s honor in creating an amazing site for his heartthrob. His emotions come across very well. I also loved that he created his own “anonymous” site that was as plain as Lincoln’s first one, and Lincoln knows who it is. Finally, having Eli’s father get over himself and make peace with Eli is beautiful. There was a definite “aww” moment at the end that left me smiling. Oh, and making me solve the math function was fun.

What I didn’t like: Very little. It was a sweet, romantic story with a satisfying ending.

Recommendation: Yes. Read this one!

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/23/19

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GREAT AERODYNAMICIST by A. Nybo

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Donnell is new to Australia from Ireland and in the process of buying the sandwich shop where he works—mostly so he can change the menu. The sandwiches are truly awful, but people do come in. Especially one handsome man who seems a tongue-tied as Donnell. One night, Donnell watches him as he leaves, sandwich in hand, and sees him dump the sandwich in the nearest trash bin then go on to the nearby hospital. Donnell figures he’s visiting someone. On the side, Donnell’s in the process of assembling a steampunk gift for his nephew. Unfortunately, there’s an accident with superglue that requires a trip to the ER—where he gets to meet his crush, Dr. Charlie Beck.

What I liked: I laughed so hard at Donnell’s accident with the glue. What a mess! No, it’s not funny to have something happen in reality with that stuff, but here in fiction? Definitely laughable. There were also a lot of double entendres throughout the story.

What I didn’t like: very little.

Recommendation: a cute, funny story with a satisfying romantic ending.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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HOLE-HEARTED by Sam Burns

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Luce Wright is a pediatrician with a family who expects him to host Christmas at his house. Unfortunately, his ex, Alan, in a drunken spree, drives his car through Luce’s house, leaving a hole in his dining room. Luce calls around, but the week before Christmas, there is nobody who can help him, until his neighbor Mrs. Morse comes to his rescue. Her son—Darren, aka Dare—just happens to be a builder. And extremely handsome. He agrees to help Luce and sparks ignite.

What I liked: Luce and his relationship with his sister Roxy is cute. The attraction between the two handsome men is evident. I also loved the “Star Trek” reference (yes, I caught that).

What I didn’t like: Not much. It was a cute story.

Recommendation: a cute romance with a satisfying ending. Recommended.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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HOLIDAY HOMECOMING by Liv Rancourt

LGBTQ+ short romance

4 ****

Jon Cunningham is a concert pianist who left Seattle for the East Coast but when his father has a stroke and his mother needs help, he comes back. When his mother wants some supplies for a craft, he heads for the nearest store—and sees his old friend Bo. Bo is a first grade teacher who moonlights teaching craft classes at the store. Bo has always had a crush on the handsome pianist and now that they’re both adults, it’s even stronger. The feelings are mutual, but Jon’s life is back in New York. He gets a great opportunity to play for New Year’s Eve and heads back with his mother’s blessing—and asks Bo to join him. But Bo is terrified of flying and just…can’t. Jon realizes belatedly that Bo’s father died in a plane crash. He needs to decide which is more important—his life on the East Coast, or his new-found love.

What I liked: the fun they have creating crafts; the old friendship that grows into love. And the ending. Nicely done.

What I didn’t like: nothing.

Recommendation: a sweet romance with a satisfying ending. Well done.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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LOVE IN 24 FRAMES by C.S. Poe

LGBTQ+ short romance

4****

Declan Groves is 48 years old and a successful CPA in New York. To relax, he’s an amateur stop-action film maker. He’s rented a studio that he shares with an artist and where he can set up his scenes and photograph them at night. The building has a receptionist, Shota W., who has captured Declan’s heart. But there is a strict building policy that the employees can’t date the renters. When the artist makes a play for Shota, he is told no for that reason, but when he sees Declan and Shota together, jealousy strikes and he turns them in. Can Declan save Shota’s job? To do so means giving up his space. But some things are worth sacrifices.

Things I liked: Declan’s shyness about his work. And the way the two men get along. There’s a sweet “aww” factor ending.

What I didn’t like: Though the artist was necessary for the plot (and it worked well), I really didn’t like him much. But he was integral to the story turning out right, so… okay.

Recommendation: A definite yes.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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MAKING HOLIDAYS HAPPY AGAIN by Pat Henshaw

LGBTQ short romance

5*****

Butch is an uneducated blacksmith who helps anyone who needs it. Forced to leave school before he graduated due to family problems, he now owns a blacksmith shop that is famous for art in iron. His best friend is Jimmy, who has a Phd in science, but works with his mother in a herb shop in their small tourist town. Jimmy and Butch are best friends, and Butch is sure that’s all they’ll ever be since he’s not as smart or good as Jimmy. But things are about to change.

What I liked: Although I had some trouble with it at first, the story is told in first person from Butch’s point of view, including his rough grammar. But it is realistic and, after a while, defines the character in ways nothing else could. Also there is a definite “aww” factor in the story.

What I didn’t like: nothing.

Recommendation: A definite yes. Very sweet story with a satisfying ending.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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THE MUSIC BOX by Kassandra Lea

LGBTQ short romance

5****

It’s almost St. Nick’s Day (December 5) and Alvin and Milo are trying to come up with special gifts for each other. Milo is a woodworker who plans a special gift for his lover. Months ago, a strong storm took out a huge tree in their backyard. It was a tree that meant a lot to both of them. Milo has been using the wood from the downed tree for special projects—but he has one more special project to do especially for Alvin.

Things I liked: the sweetness of the story and the special gift Milo makes. There was so much “aww” factor in this story, it was almost too sweet. But “sniff, sniff” at the ending. So nice.

Things I didn’t like: absolutely nothing.

Recommendation: a definite yes. Read this one, and be prepared to sigh in satisfaction at the end.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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NOTES FROM HOME by Dirk Greyson

LGBTQ short romance

5****

Johnny is in a special forces group and is deployed to the desert. While there, every three days, he receives a special letter from his heartthrob Dex back home. But he has no clue how the letters are getting there. There’s no postmarks and just his name on the outside. And his buddies aren’t saying anything. When it’s time for Christmas, Johnny volunteers to stay behind while his friends with families get to go home, but this year, he wishes it was him.

What I liked: Oh my word. This story made me cry! A good cry, but still. It pulled hard at my heartstrings. I won’t say anything else because it will give too much away, but aww gee.

What I didn’t like: absolutely nothing.

Recommendation: Read this story! Definitely! But keep some tissues handy.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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PIECING TOGETHER HIS LIFE by Jon Keys

LGBTQ short romance

4 ****

Colin is a real estate broker who is estranged from his family. When he came out, his snobbish brother and sister pretty much cut him off. When his mother dies, Colin would rather skip the reading of the will, but he has no choice. It’s either all three of them, or nothing. Most of his mother’s estate is divided between charities—no surprise there, but one of the surprises is that she gives a lot of her assets to an LGBTQ center. Colin receives nothing but an unfinished quilt his mother was working on. He tries desperately to find someone to finish it for him and everyone he talks to points him toward a fiber artist named Mason. Mason was the EMT who saved Colin when he was in an accident, but when he sees what the handsome EMT can do with fabric, he knows he’s found the right person.

What I liked: the idea of someone like Colin trying so hard to find a quilter who can finish the piece for him. The ending is sweet and has a definite “aww” factor.

What I didn’t like: Mason’s unease at showing his work gets a little old after a bit, but it helps show his personality so it’s okay.

Recommendation: for a sweet story with a great ending, this is a yes.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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PEACE OFFERING by R.L. Merrill

LGBTQ short romance

4****

Dover Billings sells small wood handcrafts at fairs. Landry Malcolm is a tailor who specializes in corsets and other Victorian era clothing. He’s also very “out there” with loud friends—so unlike the quiet Dover. In the booth next to Dover’s, they cause him constant problems with their noise and exuberance. Still, something draws Dover to the flamboyant Landry—against his will. When Dover hurts his back, Landry creates a special corset for him and a tentative friendship starts up.

What I liked: The way the men are so different, and yet…they draw each other into their circles. The descriptions of the wares they sell and their different artistic talents is nice.

What I didn’t like: very little. I was a little confused by the “windows” – not sure what they were or what was going on there even with the descriptions, but that was such a small part of the story that it wasn’t a huge issue.

Recommendation: a yes. It’s a nice story about two incredibly different men who manage to find love.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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PURLS OF WISDOM by Morgan James

LGBTQ short romance

5*****

Noah Miller is an ex-soldier who knits—and owns a knitting shop. It’s quiet and allows him to create knitted wares for others. One thing he doesn’t do is teach. At all. Until Finley Mason convinces him that Noah has to teach him how to knit in order to make something for a bet in three weeks. He has no clue about needles, yarn, patterns, or anything else. Reluctantly, Noah agrees to teach the cute man he crushes on. But nothing can come of his attraction because the smaller man is straight and married. Or is he?

What I liked: the descriptions of the things needed for knitting. The friendship that develops between the two men over needles and yarn—not something a lot of men do. And Hazel—not saying anything here, but it works. Nicely done. I liked the scarf Finley attempted to make for Noah.

What I didn’t like: nothing.

Recommendation: A Yes. This is a sweet story with a happy ever after that satisfies. And it’s different and fun.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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RAINBOWS IN SEA GLASS by Kim Katil

LGBTQ short romance

4****

Kyle has loved James forever. James is Kyle’s best friend’s older brother. But James is a player—not something Kyle is comfortable with. He’s a one-man person. But James’ family is Kyle’s pseudo-family so there’s no way he can avoid him. When Kyle’s beloved aunt Ollie moves to a bland retirement home, he decides to make her a gift to bring color to her rooms and heads for Cape May Point and the beach house James’ family owns. Kyle practically grew up there and knows he can be alone there. Except James shows up. While helping Kyle gather sea glass and Cape May diamonds on the freezing shore, he tries to show Kyle that they belong together. But Kyle has to wonder if James is still playing.

What I liked: references to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. That was so much fun! And gathering sea glass—I remember doing that along the Jersey and Maryland shores when I was younger. Also, the ending was sweet.

What I didn’t like: this isn’t a dislike so much as a note. I wish the author would have explained what Cape May diamonds were earlier in the story so I didn’t have to look them up. I knew what sea glass was, but had never heard of the “diamonds”.

Recommendation: a definite yes – and then go out and find some sea glass and make a rainbow.

Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/1/19

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