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If I Must

If I Must - Amy Lane 4.5/5.0
Wonderful feel good holiday story.

Stuff My Stocking: M/M Romance Stories that are Nice and… Naughty

Stuff My Stocking: M/M Romance Stories that are Nice and… Naughty - SJD Peterson, M.J. O'Shea,  Brian Jackson,  Kari Gregg,  Kim Dare,  A.J. Llewellyn,  Serena Yates,  Eve Ocotillo,  Jessica Freely,  Heinrich Xin,  William  Cooper,  Wren Boudreau,  Deanna Wadsworth,  Selah March,  Sarah Madison,  Stephani Hecht,  Amy Lane,  Angela Ben Overall this anthology is a 4.5. Some of the stories were so much fun and I loved them, others not as much - this is just a personal preference. This anthology covers everything from contemporary to a bit of science fiction, fantasy and BDSM, all with a Christmas theme. Wonderful addition to my holiday reading this year.

Xavier's Xmas

Xavier's Xmas - Amber Kell 3.5/4.0

Very quick, holiday story. Sometimes you do not realize what you have (or want) until it is gone. Sweet story of two men that are housemates that feel more but never cross that line until one moves out. It is very short and there is not a lot of time to get in depth with the characters but it is still a cute, feel good holiday read.

Christmas Kitsch

Christmas Kitsch - Amy Lane I had been saving this book for when I could really sit and enjoy a longer holiday read. That sit and enjoy moment did not come and I ended up reading in stolen moments and that ended up a funny story itself, but only Amy Lane knows that one.

This is a beautiful heartwarming story. I loved Rusty from the first moment on page. He is so much more than he gives himself credit for. His parents are a piece of work and never treat him like a son as much as grooming someone for their own social status. It was sad. There is just so much wonderful about this book. Oliver and Rusty are perfect for one another. The contrast between their families and life experiences and how it affects how they see things was well done. The relationship with Rusty and his sister Nicole is sweet and I liked her feisty personality. Their relationship with Estrella, their nanny / housekeeper seems to be the only things that has given them any semblance of a family in their lives and although she may not understand or approve of Rusty's choices, she loves him just the same. I loved Olivers dad - he is awesome- and extended family too. I thought Rex was an interesting addition to the cast. He was, as described by Rusty, - larger than life. He was more complex than he appeared and I like the way he and Rusty ended up becoming friends - more than that really - chosen family.

I can always count on Amy Lane for a lovely thought provoking story that may bring me to tears but I know I will get my happy ending. I loved the last chapters that gave us a glimpse of the future for Rusty and Oliver. I would love to see a sequel to this book (please) There are so many characters that I would love to see explored further.

Santa Wishes

Santa Wishes - Amber Kell Interesting little Christmas fantasy story about a man who makes a Christmas wish to Santa on a bet and ends up waking up with a super model that fits the description that he gave Santa. It is very short and the characters take the events very well considering how they ended up where they did and who they were with. I was not able to become invested in the characters in the length of the story. The three brothers were humorous and though brief, I enjoyed their characters.

A Small Miracle Happened

A Small Miracle Happened - Mari Donne I loved this book. need more? OK. I can understand that.

You know how some books just resonate with you? A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne is one of those for me. It is a beautiful story of two men from different backgrounds and faiths that happen to meet because of a package delivered to the wrong address. The story that follows is one that really captured my heart.

Dan has just moved to a small town where there is not a Jewish community and he does not know very many people other than his co-workers. Hanukkah is early this year, coinciding with Thanksgiving and he is feeling homesick. When his grandmother sends him a package, it ends up delivered to the wrong address. The neighbor who receives the package is his hunky neighbor with the rainbow flag for a curtain in his window – the one that just caught him watching him as he was driving past on his way home. Christian (Chris), the neighbor, brings the package over. When Dan shows Chris what is in the package, a Menorah and other items for the Hanukkah celebration sent by his grandmother, Chris is truly interested and Dan explains the meaning of the celebration and lets Chris light the first candle. This is the beginning of eight days of them learning about one another.

I loved the way this story presents these two men. They are just normal guys. But each one sees something special in the other as they get to know one another. There are no inflated egos, no debilitating angst, they are not polar opposites. They do have very different backgrounds religiously. Chris comes from a family that does not accept his being gay because of their religious beliefs. Dan does not have that problem in his family, although he has an uncle who wishes Dan were a bit more devout in his religious beliefs. They are observant and communicate with one another. This was really sweet and kept me involved in their story. I also enjoyed the friends and family that play such an important role in their lives. I also admit there is cooking and food is an important theme running through the book and I love this.

This book packed so much into a short story. I thought it was well balanced and the characters felt real to me. It only encompasses eight days (plus a lovely epilogue) and put a huge smile on my face when I finished it. I can't ask for more from a holiday read.

Making His List

Making His List - Devon Rhodes I am having so much fun exploring new authors this year and finding these holiday stories that I missed from previous years. Making His List is one these.

Cory has his sister and her daughter Bailey living with him. His sister has problems with drugs and alcohol and she is incredibly irresponsible. Cory wants to give Bailey a stable home environment, not the constant moving from man to man that she has experienced with her mother. The problem is, Cory has been seeing Ken casually for several months. He tells Ken in no uncertain terms that he is not to stay over and not to be involved with his family. Ken accepts this until one night when Cory's niece is very sick and Ken ends up helping out.

I adored Ken's character. I am not sure what he saw in Cory exactly. Cory was pretty much a callous jerk for the most part - towards Ken at least. I enjoyed watching the story evolve, even if there were times I wanted to thunk Cory - hard. There are definitely communication problems! Bailey is a wonderful character and my heart went out to her.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful addition to my holiday reading. Recommended. :-)

Snow Globe

Snow Globe - L.E.  Franks 3.5/5.0

Feathers From the Sky

Feathers From the Sky - Posy Roberts Calvin and Philip have been together for over three years and still Calvin has not told his family that they are more than roommates. They know Calvin is bisexual but have never seen him in a relationship with a man. While he realizes his family is very accepting, he worries they will be disappointed because he is not going to have children and he hears every time they get together what a great dad he would be and he does not have the heart to tell them, until now.

He has decided to share this with them, no more hiding but when he goes home for Christmas, his parents share some news that shakes Calvin up to the point he once again sets it aside, until Philip arrives (another thing Calvin forgets to mention to his parents)to spend the rest of the holiday with Calvin and his family. What happens next is a fun look into family dynamics, expectations, love and acceptance.

I enjoyed this story. I thought Philip was a wonderful character. He is insightful, charming and knows Calvin so well. In turn,Calvin sees beauty in Philip,in ways that Philip finds embarrassing. (you have to read the story - it is just very sweet and romantic)They compliment one another.

Another wonderful holiday book to add to my collection. :-)

Gingerbread Palace (Delectable)

Gingerbread Palace (Delectable) - EM Lynley I love food centric books. It is just a 'thing' with me. I also love holiday stories and Gingerbread Palace was a success on both counts. Alex Bancroft is the owner of Bancroft's Buns. We enter the story in the midst of a fire at the bakery with Alex and his staff being taken out of the bakery when Alex realizes a dog he is watching is still in the building. Instead of listening to hunky firefighter, Kevin Flints warning to not enter the building, Alex runs in anyway, both endangering himself and Kevin. This makes for a poor first impression of Alex on Kevin and it does nothing for Alex that Kevin calls him an idiot. Yet, we still see an attraction there, one Kevin is harshly trying to avoid and one that brings back some painful memories for Alex.

The author gives us details as we progress through the book about both men and their backgrounds and what drives them to behave the way they do. I have to admit I thought Kevin was a real jerk for most of the book but I realized why as we went along. I enjoyed watching this relationship develop and it was fun having so much of the story center around a gingerbread project that is being donated to a charity to help foster children.

This is a great addition to my holiday line up.

As a bonus - the author gets accolades for adding recipes that relate to the story at the end of the book. I enjoyed the story regardless of the recipes but it was a very sweet treat. (yes, groan at the pun if you have too)

I look forward to exploring more of this authors work.

Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour - Astrid Amara 4.5/5.0

As you may have picked up from some of my other reviews, I love food centric books. Sweet and Sour was a fun book, filled with all sorts of delightful food descriptions and interesting characters.
Miles and Itai are trying their relationship for a second time. Itai has fidelity issues but has promised to be faithful this time and also become a partner for miles in his deli, once he has finished the product launch for his new application he designed with his ex - Travis. Hmmm sounds like a recipe for disaster.

while Miles is seeing their relationship crumble, his main assistant goes on maternity leave. He is also trying to appease disgruntled older patrons who do not want any changes in the deli while still trying to expand the deli into something more. On top of all this he has a catering job that really requires way more help than he has. In walks Nic Delbene - a detective that asks if he can work undercover as they have a tip of a potential drug bust going down in the deli. The only upside to all of this is that Nic comes from a family that owned an Italian deli and can truly help out. It does not hurt that Nic is charming and good looking too.

The story takes us through the demise of Miles and Itai's relationship as well as developing what could be a perfect match with Miles and Nic. The food is definitely central to the story and the undercover job and its resolution is short. This scene contained the only line that made me think less of Miles, mostly because he had been so adamant about this aspect of Itai's personality and explained it more than once in the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and it was fun seeing Miles and Nic's relationship develop.

Long the Mile

Long the Mile - Ally Blue 3.5/5.0

This was an interesting story. it is not a light and fun holiday story, even though it does have an HEA. The story focuses on Judah, a man that is just released from prison after serving time for insider trading. He has lost everything but a little bit of saving and soon that is gone. No one wants to hire someone with a criminal record. Yet he is arrogant at first and not a very endearing character.

Toby is homeless. He had been the manager for an upscale boutique hotel until the economy collapsed. When he lost his job, he could not find another and ended up on the street. He spends most of his time at a shelter run by a somewhat unorthodox priest and is getting to the point where he believes this may be all his life has to offer.

Early in the story, Toby runs into Judah on the street. Judah is not yet homeless and is rude to him. At this point, Judah is still holding his arrogance as a shield, afraid of seeing what he may yet become. Later when forced out on the streets himself, he is rescued from a brutal mugging by Toby. The men end up becoming friends and eventually lovers. Both are still trying to make more of their lives and when one of them gets a chance to work again, it creates an unbalance in the relationship.

As much as this was a bit sad, I think it showed how we see ourselves, how we put values on our self worth and how we feel we need to be seen by others. Judah is not a very likeable character a lot of the times as he has been poor, then successful, then lost it all. There is bitterness, and heartbreak. Toby is not perfect, he feels these things, just to a lesser degree as he has been dealing with being homeless for a much longer period of time. The story is short so the relationship stages move quickly. Even so, I enjoyed the story. Though we may not ever have to experience this situation, it can happen and it is not always easy to get back on ones feet.

Overall, a thought provoking story.

Sock it to Me, Santa!

Sock it to Me, Santa! - Madison  Parker Ryan is gay, no one else knows it and he hopes to keep it that way until college. His advisory teacher is determined to get everyone to know one another and for Christmas they are to draw names for a Secret Santa exchange. The one person in class that Ryan fears he will draw is Jamie Peterson. Jamie is gay and out. Drawing his name would be a social disaster, so of course that who he draws. The gift is supposed to be made by the person giving the gift, not bought and they have to make three gifts - one for each week up to Christmas break.

Ryan's at a loss and when his mom enlists him to help her with her sock monkey craft class, he is less than thrilled. His sock monkey is a bit of a disaster and ends up being a hoobajoob. (You have to read the story to find out what that is) After a rocky start, Ryan starts seeing Jamie in a new light. I loved Jamie's braveness. He is determined to be himself, no matter what. I was frustrated with Ryan at first, but it is hard to be brave and put yourself out there. Ryan is afraid and needs to come to terms with how he feels about Jamie, himself and what really matters to him,and is it worth the risks.

This is a cute young adult Christmas story that deals with some serious subject matter but in a way that was still light and sweet. Yet, it gave me something to ponder - why was I so annoyed with Ryan - at first anyway - how would it be to live like either Jamie (out) or Ryan(closet),especially at that age.

This is my first Madison Parker story and I look forward to reading more of her books.

A Prairie Dog's Love Song

A Prairie Dog's Love Song - Eli Easton A Prairie Dog's Love Song is a sweet Cowboy Christmas story from Eli Easton. Ms Easton has become one of my favorite authors this past year. To see the full review please click the link below:

http://liveyourlifebuythebook.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/a-prairie-dogs-love-song/

Christmas Goes Analog

Christmas Goes Analog - Kate Lowell Shawn is a systems administrator , bored with his job until in walks Rob Forbes, new software designer. It is instant attraction for both men. After six months of dating, Shawn is ready to take the next step but Rob gets a call from his Mom with news that dashes Rob's hope for a real Christmas with his family - one that includes introducing Shawn to his family. Rob has had a tough life since his father was in an accident when he was a teenager. He has had to work hard to get where he is and scrimps and saves to send money to help out his mom and sister. Shawn has had a relatively easy life compared to Rob and wants to help out but is not sure how with out making Rob feel indebted.

I loved the way Shawn came up with a plan for Giving Rob what he needed for Christmas. I adored the techy,geeky aspects of the characters. Their pet names and little flirtatious comments were fun and fit them perfectly. This my not be for everyone but it had me smiling quite a few times while reading the book.

There is a lot of sex and sweet romance in the story. The surprise was beautiful. I would have enjoyed seeing how things turn out for them and Robs family. Other than that,I thought it was a nice addition to my holiday reading.

How I Met Your Father

How I Met Your Father - L.B. Gregg 4.5/5.0

How I Met Your Father is a fun holiday romp set in sunny Puerto Rico. Justin Hayes is on his way to his best friend’s wedding. The flight is turbulent but the gorgeous man seated next to him holds his hand to help calm him. This has mixed results as it may have calmed his fear about the flight but increased his anxiety about the feelings this man aroused. Jack Bassinger is on his way to his daughter’s wedding when a handsome young man next to him looks in need of some calming reassurance during a turbulent flight. When the flight lands, there is a hasty escape through the terminal that ends with a quick encounter in the bathroom. Afterwards, both men part thinking they will never see one another again. Could they be more wrong! They meet again at the bachelor party as the best man and father of the bride. Talk about awkward, but the attraction between these two is hot and they are drawn towards one another regardless of the consequences.

To complicate this, Justin and his friend Chuck, the groom, are part of a former boy band. For years, they have tried dodged the spotlight and Justin has kept himself in the closet to protect his friends. All the members show up for Chuck’s wedding and this attraction Justin has to Chuck’s future father in law sets the scene for some funny situations and witty banter between the guys. There are some serious moments but for the most part, it is fun. Jack and Justin have an intense but playful chemistry going on that made for some very sexy scenes.

The epilogue gave me the ending I had expected but I would have loved to see the development of the relationship during that year. I liked the May/December concept, even though the age difference was not that big, and the whole, best man, father of the bride, stepfather, and grandfather theme was very humorous.