A Touch of Mistletoe

Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Mild Kink
Genre: Contemporary , paranormal, m/m
Published: 12/17/14
Reviewed by Anne
141 ebook pages

Overall this was a great anthology!  The standout stories for me were those by Talya Andor and Megan Derr.  Andor’s The Christmas Spirit is set in Japan and makes the most of the setting in a way that is fascinating to read about without begin overwhelming.  The romance between Ash and Yuki was sweet, too!  Two Parts Mistletoe by Megan Derr also had a great world with potions and and generic old-fashioned setting.  It was interesting to read a story set in a world where a m/m relationship is a normal thing.  The chemistry (ha!) between the main characters was great, too.

Also very good were the stories by Pendragon and Ottoman.  Pendragon’s was the only contemporary and I thought Warren’s blindness was well handled.  Ottoman’s sex scene was super-hot and it dealt with some things I hadn’t read before.  One of the characters, M.C. is transgender and in the process of adjusting her social identity to match her internal identity.  I thought it was well done and had good world building, too.

Here for You by J.K Pendragon(m/m, contemporary)
Warren is blind and recovering from his wife’s death.  At a holiday party he finds himself under the mistletoe with a mutual and male friend.  He’s always considered himself heterosexual, but now his new friend has him wondering.

The relationship between Warren and Kyung moved pretty quickly, I thought.  They each have their own issues to deal with besides, Warren’s surprise bisexuality, which turns out not to be a big deal.  It was just the right amount to put in a short story, though.  Once in a while I felt like the story was a bit jumpy, but overall it worked well.
Grade: B

The Christmas Spirit by Talya Andor (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
Ash is a black Southern American man living and working in Japan.  He specializes in paranormal investigations.  When he’s asked to look into a disturbance involving a figure skating star he’s immediately attracted, but thinks it could never work out.

There was so much I enjoyed about this story!  I wasn’t very familiar with Japanese culture, but I felt like I learned some by reading this story, and I never felt like I was wading through a travel guide to get that understanding.  The world building was good, too.  The reality of what it was like to be a friend of a psychic was interesting!  One of those “I’ve never thought about this before, but I bet that’s exactly what it’s like” moments.  I also appreciated how their relationship progressed slowly.  I’ll definitely be looking for more by Talya Andor!
Grade: A

A Beautiful Thing by A.F. Henley (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
This one had a promising start, but then a little fairy guy showed up and I was just done.  I have a thing again romance where there’s a guardian angel type character.  I know better than to read them.  I may have missed out on something good, but the odds of it working for me are very low, so I moved on to the next story.
Grade: DNF

Ad Meliora by E.E. Ottoman (f/trans, sci-fi/fantasy)
An-An and M.C. are out on a job Christmas eve.  M.C. needs to investigate and possibly exorcize something that’s murdered multiple people.  At they same time they’re dealing with some relationship issues, including how M.C. is transitioning away from a female identity.

The storyline about a transitioning person was about as foreign to me as the fantasy world building in this story.  It was very well done, but very new to me.  M.C. wants to be referred to as “they and their” instead of “she and hers” or “he and his.”  This was so new for me to read, and it really kept pulling me out of the story.  I think that’s just because I wasn’t used to it.  It was an interesting story, though, both for the paranormal side of things and the sexual side of things.
Grade: B+

Two Parts Mistletoe by Megan Derr (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
Kingston is a potionmaker.  He’s surprised to see Hux, his routine and anonymous hookup come into his shop.  The timing is right – he’d been working up the nerve to ask Hux if he wanted a relationship, but first they need to deal with the problem that brought Hux to his shop.

I enjoyed this story from start to finish.  It had a historical London feel to it, if historical London had men looking for husbands and magical potions.  It was probably a bit simplistic when it came to handling the crime that was committed, but I was excited enough about Kingston and Hux that it didn’t bother me.  I’ll definitely be looking for more from Megan Derr, too!
Grade: A

Sleigh Ride by Heidi Cullinan

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Mild
Genre: Contemporary , m/m, BDSM
Series: Minnesota Christmas #2
Published: 11/11/14
Reviewed by Anne
191 pages

Arthur and Gabriel are very different and, despite being single gay men in a small town, they have no interest in each other.  In fact, they each pretty much hate the idea of the other.  That doesn’t stop Arthur’s mom, Corrina from matchmaking, though, and when she gets the idea that Arthur and Gabriel should be together?  Well, she’ll pretty much steamroll over anyone who thinks otherwise, including Arthur and Gabriel.  So, considering Corrina, it’s understandable that even before they’ve met, Arthur has been drafted to play Santa and Gabriel to play Santa’s elf.

Cullinan does such a great job with this book!  The opening scenes where Arthur and Gabriel are meeting each other and mentally categorizing everything they dislike about the other are very believable. Gabriel is a librarian with a passion for small town libraries. Arthur hates libraries.  In fact, he can’t even stand the “nasty book smell” inside the library!  This hit me like a punch to the gut, because I swear that smell brings my blood pressure down and puts a smile on my face every time I walk through my library’s doors! It was easy to see why Gabriel and Arthur had no time for each other, even without meeting.  However, the more time they spend together, the more they realize how much there is to like about each other.  It was such a sweet story to watch unfold!

There is some BDSM in this book and it’s extremely well done and hot!  I’ve got to think that writing Consensual Non-consensual role-playing is challenging, but Cullinan does it very well.  There’s also some really nice emotional development through the sex scenes as the story progresses.  You see their commitment to each other and trust and understanding grow through these scenes.  I enjoy that.

Another aspect of the story that made my heart happy was the storyline addressing Arthur’s nephew (and all little boys’) right to want to play with a doll.  I also soaked up every word devoted to a librarian’s roll in a community and how seriously Gabriel took that responsibility.  The way that Arthur respected Gabriel’s work, despite his personal dislike of libraries made me fall in love with him a little!

Honestly, it’s hard to think of something I didn’t enjoy about the book.

I think this story would stand on its own just fine, but I enjoyed seeing the story of Arthur and Paul’s friendship and how things worked out between them.  So, I probably got more out of this book for having read Let It Snow before this story.

I really enjoyed this well written story!  It’s got a lot of what I love – it’s a Christmas story, it’s characters who initially dislike each other growing to care, and it’s main conflict is internal rather than external.  I’d highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys m/m romance, but it’s a must read if you like holiday stories, too!  How about you?   Do you have a favorite m/m holiday romance to recommend?

Shattered Bonds by Lynda Aicher

Grade: A-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Mild Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Wicked Play #7
Published: 9/1514
Reviewed by Kate

Noah is one of the owners of the Den, a BDSM club, but he’s been out of the scene for 4 years now, since the tragic death of his last sub.  But when he meets Liv, the sister of one of the other owners, he starts to feel tempted to give in to desires he separated himself from years ago.  When an accident happens, the Den finds itself shaken to its core.  Noah and Liv grow closer while trying to hold the club together.

This is really a telling of 2 tales.  The first being the story of Noah and Liv.  The second being the culmination of the last 6 books.  Lynda Aicher does a fabulous job of weaving the two stories together.  Giving us enough of our favorite characters without cheating us of Noah and Liv’s relationship.  Because the characters from the other 6 books play such a huge part in this one, I think you would have a hard time reading this one as a stand alone.

The characters is this one, *insert happy, contented sigh here* blew me away.  Noah is so conflicted and hurting.  At times his pain almost made me cry.  Liv is such a caring and giving person, yet she realizes that she can’t “fix” Noah.  I loved that they supported each other, rather than fixing each other.

A note for fans of the BDSM in the first books of this series:  This one is extremely low on the kink scale for this series, comparatively.  If you’re looking for whips and chains and crosses and pain, you won’t find it in this one.  Just some very mild restraints (hands only) during sex and oral. But the lack of kink doesn’t detract from the story one bit.

If you liked the first books in this series, this is a must read.  If you haven’t given this series a try, you need to start at the beginning.  It’s well worth the time and investment if you like BDSM.  The Wicked Play series is one of my favorite series and Lynda Aicher has become one of my favorite BDSM authors.

Lynda Aicher managed to write the last book in the series with a much lower kink level.  Have you run across any other series that have successfully done this?  Can you enjoy a tamer book after reading hotter books earlier in the series?