Review Part 3: Celebrate! 2014 Advent Calendar by Various

Review Part 3: Celebrate! 2014 Advent Calendar by Various

Publisher: Dreamspinner
Publish Date: December 1, 2014
Reviewed by: Heller
How I got this book: E-Arc from Publisher

Celebrate“Buone Feste, Felices Fiestas, Frohe Feiertage, Joyeuses Fêtes, Happy Holidays! The end-of-the-year holidays bring celebrations of all kinds, and romance is at an all-time high. Take a trip around the world and enjoy these stories of life, love, and happiness. Your Christmas present to yourself!”

I’ve always loved the Dreamspinner Advent calendar. I enjoy holiday stories a lot so I thought that I’d tackle the complete set this year. The calendar is 31 stories I’ve broken up the review into three parts.

Second Bite of the Cherry by Louise Lyons A

When Daniel Berrisford reluctantly agrees to accompany his best friend Kate to the New Year’s Eve celebrations in London, he doesn’t expect to enjoy himself. Daniel is pleasantly surprised to see his first boyfriend, James Allison, among the merrymakers. The pair haven’t seen each other for four years, but as they talk and midnight approaches, it becomes clear the spark between them is still there. The New Year is a time for new beginnings, and for Daniel and James, it might be the time to give love another chance.

Old boyfriends reuniting. I liked these guys and glad to see that they found each other again. Great chemistry.

Snow and Moose and Finnish Secrets by Reni Kieffer B-

When Jake takes his boyfriend Ian home to celebrate Christmas with his parents in the Finnish woods, Ian, a skeptic by nature who has to deny his preference for guys in front of his own family, is not only worried about the reaction of Jake’s family, but also about the feast itself—and the cold. However, within minutes, Jake’s parents make Ian feel warm, welcome, and at home, and begin to introduce him to their Christmas traditions. The visit goes smoothly until Jake’s ex-girlfriend barges in and drops a bomb that shatters their peace and harmony—a tiny detail Jake failed to mention to his boyfriend. Angry and hurt, Ian struggles to let go of the past and focus on the blessings surrounding him.

I was enjoying this a lot up until the ex showed up. Very discordant for me but I liked the fallout.

A Snowman Made of Sand by J.J. Carroll C-

Last year in England, Australian Ethan Harvey not only met his “perfect” man in Tristan Lewin-Jones, Ethan shared a wonderful Christmas with Tristan’s “perfect” family—an ideal British holiday full of genteel good cheer and all the traditional trimmings.Now Tris and Ethan are living in Sydney, and Tris wants the quintessential Australian beach Christmas, with sun, sand, surf, seafood… and the Harveys. But Ethan didn’t mention the Harveys are politically incorrect, rude, crude, and loud. He worries his family will drive Tris away. Giving Tris the perfect beach Christmas with the imperfect Harveys is going to take a holiday miracle.

The humour didn’t really work for me on this one. I did like that Tris and Ethan were able to hash a few things out and the ending was tremendously sweet.

Stardust by Andrew Grey A-

Duncan is an ocean from home over the holidays and expects to spend them alone. To his pleasant surprise, one of his European coworkers, Georg, befriends him and includes Duncan in the holiday traditions of his homeland: cutting a Christmas tree under starry skies at Georg’s country estate, decorating it at the family’s city home, and shopping at the Christmas market in Munich. Both men are lonely and realize they have much in common. But Georg’s life is in Germany and Duncan’s is in Boston. With the project they’re working on nearing completion, any chance for more than a holiday fling seems as elusive as stardust.

Wonderfully romantic tale. I wasn’t sure how things were going to work out for them with the timeline but it ended so well, I was worried for them.

The Swag Man Delivers by Sean Michael B+

Orpheus “O” Drummond, a recent Ph.D. graduate, is visiting Australia after defending his thesis, and being dumped by his boyfriend. While alone on the beach in Australia was not how he’d originally planned on spending his Christmas, when O runs into Gage, he figures Santa knew exactly what he was doing.Gage is traveling away from his Texan home, trying to “find himself.” When he finds O instead, he doesn’t think things could have worked out better. Together Gage and O celebrate Christmas in the best way they can think of.

This was more just a PWP but I really liked Gage and O. I found them both tremendously likeable and would love to see if they go beyond a holiday romance.

Three Wise Men by Connie Bailey D

College friends Joon, Tae, and Sangsun parted ways after an aborted attempt at a threesome. Ten years later, life has carried them down very different paths, but Joon misses his friends and decides to invite them to his home in South Korea for Christmas. He believes they belong together, but convincing the others to defy tradition and try again will take faith, hope, and a lot of talking—especially since all three of them are still in the closet.

The menage just didn’t work for me.

Tidings of Comfort and Joey Down Under by David Connor Unrated – DNF

Seth Anderson thought he was a finalist in the Hot Jack cologne modeling contest for King’s Department Store, but Sandy King, upon reviewing Seth’s photo and resume, just wanted to jump him like a horny kangaroo. Seth quickly learns there is pain behind Sandy’s bravado and a sweet, lonely man behind the act. A holiday romance blossoms like the flowers on an Australian Christmas Bell. When Seth, used to a family dynamic without boundaries, oversteps by outing Sandy to his estranged grandmother, however, everything changes. Sandy is furious. He breaks things off with Seth and threatens to return to the US. As Christmas approaches, any chance at happily ever after seems as likely as a snowstorm in Sydney. It would take a miracle from above to set things right. Good thing ‘tis the season.

This lost me almost immediately. I’ll have to try it again when I can come at it from a different attitude. I will say that I was like Seth very much but I stalled out with how Sandy was introduced.

The Virgin Miracle by Rob Rosen D-

Two strangers on a plane, one heading to Paris, the other Barcelona, both trying to get to their families in time for the holidays. It’s Christmas Eve, and all they have in common is a connection through London. When flights get delayed and cancelled, that connection goes beyond an airport, a terminal, and a secluded meeting room. And for Lance and Bruce, Christmas morning will hold even more joyous miracles.

PWP that didn’t work for me.

Under a New Star by Leo d’Entremont A

In the 26th Century, mankind has breached the light speed barrier and begun to colonize other planets. They’ve also learned to Design human beings, known as Morphs, for specialized colony missions. Adrian is an Aerial Morph, on his way to colonize the low-gravity planet Eridani VI with his scientist Partner, Michael. In violation of the rules of the Morph Projects, they’ve been lovers for months. Michael cares more about his work than anything, while Adrian doesn’t take anything seriously except Michael. Before they arrive at their new home, they need to curtail their relationship before it destroys their professional Partnership.

The colony ship is scheduled to arrive at their destination on Christmas Eve. Some old holiday traditions persist, but when Adrian and Michael have differing ideas about what’s best for their relationship and their careers, holiday gifts and ideas for new beginnings lead to crossed signals.

Great world building for such a short story with a solid, believable angsty romance. This is another one where I wasn’t sure how things could get resolved and loved the ending.

Wait for Me by T.S. Morgan C+

To fulfill his grandfather’s final request, TJ Barclay travels to Scotland over Christmas to bury his ashes next to his lost love, so they can be together at last. While there, he meets Jamie, the orphaned grandson of the man his grandfather loved sixty years ago, before circumstances tore them apart. Concerned for Jamie, TJ can’t leave Scotland without knowing he’s all right. Neither man expected a love story from the past to ignite a new one in the present.

Double GFY. Achingly sweet. Not too sure if I found the instalove authentic but I only wanted good things for Jamie, he definitely deserved the world.

What Father Christmas Left by Felicitas Ivey A++

Ex-Pat American Jacob Moore is looking forward to hosting his traditional Christmas Eve party with his partner, Errol. They love the quiet night of friends and food at their house in London, and the break before dealing with family, presents, and Boxing Day. The quiet is shattered when Jacob’s younger half sister, Pru, shows up on his doorstep, running away from home for a very good reason. Jacob has stayed in touch with her over the years, even though he’s estranged from their father. But nothing prepared him for this.

Now he has to decide what to do with this unexpected package from Father Christmas.

This was my favourite story of the anthology. I want an extended version of this just because I loved all the characters so very much. Jacob and Errol won my heart. Pru made the right choice. Fabulous end to the anthology.

2 thoughts on “Review Part 3: Celebrate! 2014 Advent Calendar by Various”

  1. Awwww, thank you! This is the first thing I’ve ever had published, so I didn’t know how people would receive it. Thank you for reading and reviewing! (I honestly just wish I’d had more space to develop a few more scenes, but Dreamspinner gave me a word limit for the anthology.)

  2. Just home from holiday! Really enjoyable read for me Leo. I’ll be looking for more of your stories. Even with the word limit you managed to pack quite a lot of details without it seeming like an info drop to me.

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