A Touch of Mistletoe

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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

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Beloved Healer by Bonnie Dee

*Note – I generally try to avoid spoilers when writing reviews, but this one is chock full of them.  There were some things that bothered me that couldn’t be discussed without a full synopsis.  So, read at your own risk.

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Grade: C
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Published: 7/28/14
Reviewed by Anne
185 pages

I just read Beloved Healer by Bonnie Dee.  I’ve read books by her before and liked them.  They’ve always been on subjects that are just a bit off the beaten path, but I like that.

In Beloved Healer, Mason has healing powers, but they, and people’s demands on him exhaust him, so he takes a break, hiding out in a small town, working as a dishwasher at a local diner.

Ava works there, too.  She’s got and alcoholic drug addicted and probably depressed mother.  and she’s got a 12 year old brother (12 years younger than her) who she’s been raising since her mom fell off the wagon when her dad died, back when her brother was 2.  Are you still with me? Because there’s one more thing.  Ava’s brother has muscular dystrophy.  He walks with crutches and he’s doing ok, but it’s a downward slide for him.

So, Ava and Mason start to date.  Then there’s an accident at work and it comes out that Mason is a healer when he helps a co-worker.  That starts the rumor mill and people start showing up asking Mason for help.  He has a hard time saying no.  Ava hears about Mason’s healing ability, but she takes it in stride.  She decides not to ask him to help her brother, because she sees that everyone wants a piece of him and that he’s really tired.  Eventually they do talk about her brother though, and Mason explains that some things are just too big and can’t be healed.  This is especially true with things that start at the gene level, like her brother’s MD.

Mason goes on to explain that his mother died of cancer when he was in his late teens.  His two older sisters were both very angry with him that he couldn’t help his mom.  After she died he ran away from home and has been drifting ever since.  Ava encourages him to reach out to his sisters.  He does and they make peace.

Meanwhile, the people of the small town keep asking for healing and Mason is feeling trapped, like it’s time to move on.  So he explains to Ava why he has to go and they break up amicably.  Ava really wants to ask him to stay because she loves him, but it feels really selfish to her.

On the way out of town, he stops by a revival healer tent show where he used to work and gets conned into working just a few more shows.  Ava’s brother has an acute illness, and on the way to the urgent care center she decides to pull into the revival instead.  (And at this point I’m mentally screaming “What in the hell are you doing????”)  Mason is exhausted but goes ahead and heals her brother’s developing pneumonia anyway.  Then he decides, what the heck, he’ll try to heal the MD because he loves Ava so much he wants to do this for her.  He does his healing mojo until he passes out, and he thinks to himself that he may have died.

But, Ava and Mason have some sort of woo-woo connection they hadn’t realized was there, and she brings Mason back by willing energy into him.

So, that’s pretty much the story.  It’s the epilogue that I really have issue with (other than the idiot-ness of taking her brother to be healed by Mason when he’d already told her he couldn’t do it.)  So here’s the epilogue.  Mason is getting along with his sisters.  Ava’s brother is totally cured.  Ava’s mom is in rehab.  Mason no longer has healing abilities.  Apparently the deal with her brother just got rid of them.

And here’s my issue.  And it’s totally personal, and it’s because of where I’m at in life right now.  Why did everything have to be so perfect?  I wanted to see a story where the kid brother was still suffering/dying slowly, and life went on and the hero helped the heroine cope.  Despite the book being about a healer, I wanted them to have to work with the reality of NOT being able to heal everything.  I guess I’m kind of offended that they took the easy out on the healing.

And the situation with Ava’s mom was messy, but it just magically resolves itself.  Not only is she in rehab, it’s happening out of town, so they don’t even have to deal with her, other than phone calls.

And Mason losing his healing powers… throughout the story I thought he needed to learn some boundaries.  Get to the point that he could say no to people once in a while.  But no.  He just loses the powers.

And Ava needed to learn to stand up for herself and ask for what she needed.  But she never really did.  And all her issues were solved magically anyway.

So, all in all, the magical, easy way out, happy endings annoyed the heck out of me and ruined what could have been a good story.

How about you?  Have you ever read a book where the ending ruined the whole thing?

 

Duende by E.E. Ottoman

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Grade: B-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Fantasy, m/m,
Series: Mechanical Universe #2
Published: 9/10/14
Reviewed by Anne
37 pages

Badri is the male lead in the city’s ballet company.  Aime is a famous opera singer.  They secretly each like the other.  On his birthday, Aime goes to see Badri dance, and then goes backstage to introduce himself.  Amidst all the other fans, Aime is very embarrassed and leaves quickly after meeting Badri.  However, that small act is enough to get Badri interested in Aime.

This is a very short story and it was very enjoyable.  I see that it’s part of the “Mechanical Universe” series, but it had a very historical feeling to it.  That was fine with me – a historical may as well be a fantasy when I read it.  I enjoyed seeing these men slowly but surely get to know each other.

Unfortunately, I found the cast of secondary characters confusing.  I would have enjoyed it more if it had concentrated fully on Aime and Badri.  It may be that reading the series in order would have made this one much more enjoyable.  It did leave me interested in checking out the first book in the series, though.