Sunday Funday Christmas: 2016 Advent Calendar - Bah Humbug | Week 6

It's our final week & we've got Brandon Witt, Posy Roberts, S.A. Stovall, Jessica Payseur and Asta Idonea on tap for you!

ICYMI: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5

Dumped by his ex on Christmas Eve two years ago, Oxford Street department store manager Richard Barrett now hates the holidays. Things go from bad to worse when the store's usual Santa is too ill to reprise his role and the firm sends cocky but handsome Blaine Ryder to take his place. The attraction between the two is clear, but Blaine is an incorrigible player who reminds Richard of his ex. His idea of a relationship is a quick roll in the hay, and his advances have Richard running for the hills. It might take some special intervention for both of them to realize they can change enough to have a chance at a holiday romance.

Sara - 3 Hearts

What better way to get over a Christmas Eve break up that broke your heart than to find a hot Santa to straddle and make out with? Right?

This was sweet. Richard isn’t a fan of Christmas after being left on the day two years ago and meets Blaine when he is a stand in for the store’s Santa. Flirting happens, stolen kisses turn into a bit of drama but in the end, all is well and Richard isn’t so grumpy after all.

Find out more about Santa For Hire on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

Other than working the front desk of a gay bathhouse in Denver, Brian McKay is a bit of a recluse. At the best of times, his social life consists of work, role-playing games at a local toyshop, and making YouTube videos with his Teddy Bear hamsters. The arrival of the holidays—with the annoying music, Christmas shopping, and all the reminders of how he disappointed his father—just reinforces his reclusive nature.

When James Olsen, a gorgeous daddy bear who frequents the bathhouse, notices him, Brian is at a loss. He’s not proud of his own bear status or his struggle with weight. The idea that James has interest in him beyond an easy hookup is more than Brian can fathom. But with a little bit of holiday magic, James might help Brian learn to accept Christmas again—and himself.

Fantasy Living - 4.5 Hearts

Another favourite from this anthology. Brandon Witt is a go to author for creativity, and comfort, by producing a complete short story with nothing left out.

Brian is someone who is easy to connect with. He is awkward, geeky, and has body image issues. His crush on James, an older gentleman who frequents the bathhouse where Brian works, is a silent, distant affair, until James catches him outside work, in a toy store, while James is picking out gifts for his grandchildren, and Brian is picking out a new prop for his YouTube videos.

I loved the way this story was woven together. Brian’s issues were not easily put aside, and James seemed to ensure nothing became a roadblock to getting involved with Brian. There was some snark thrown in to help reduce the heaviness of this story, and some fun quirks that made Brian more relatable, and James more endearing.

Told from Brian’s point of view, I really connected with him, and how he felt about James. His expectations were low, and I was pleased that James was quick to announce his intentions before Brian could internalise his assumptions and insecurities.

A sweet Christmas romance, with some sexy times thrown in rounds this out as a great, easy read with depth of character, and a solid plot.

Chelsea - 5 Hearts

That was sooooo adorably sweet! I think I may have melted a little inside after reading that!

Brian is a bear, but what he describes as ‘not the good kind’. He feels he’s too hairy, too fat, too old and on top of that, too geeky. His low self-esteem definitely tugged on the old heart strings.
He smiled. Flirting. He was flirting. High. I had to be high.
I adored him though, but I do have a major soft spot for geeks and at 45 Brian is about as geeky as they come. When he meets James, the ‘good kind’ of bear, he can’t believe his luck that James is actually interested in him.
I could feel the truth of it. James wanted me. I didn’t understand why, but I knew he did. And I knew it was different from how Philip and many others wanted me. It didn’t make me feel dirty or fetishized. I felt wanted.
God it was just all so cute and funny! These two had some amazing kisses and were very sexy together. Honestly I don’t think I’ve read much with two daddy bears, I think I should remedy that immediately! Their general maturity and self-awareness was very refreshing.

Oh and super extra slutty points for Phillip, what a hilarious side-character!

Definitely recommended!

Sara - 5 Hearts

How could I give this any less than 5 hearts? This story stole my heart, wrapped it up in bright Christmas paper and presented it back as a beautiful gift of acceptance.

Brian is a bear of a man who works at a bathhouse. While he enjoys his life of collecting figurines and role playing games with his friends, there has been something missing. That something comes in the form of someone, the handsome bear aka James who comes into the bathhouse and turns Brians head… both of them.

A holiday romance with a man over 40 and one just over 50...can I get an amen for that alone??? *sigh*

I adored this so damn much. I get Brian's reluctance to be truthful about what he does , likes and his body but the fact that he is exactly what James wants and that James lets it be known was all sorts of romantic.

Romance for me has always been about that one person who sees you how no other ever had and realizes that you are perfect, just the way you are. Perfect for them. James and Brian are perfect for each other and that end was so beautiful and sweet it made me cry.

Yup, this is a favorite from this year's calendar and now I want a Spike and Angel of my own or at least to marathon watch their show on YouTube. Oh and how can I forget to mention bathhouse Santa!? I'll never hear jingle bells the same way again.

Find out more about Teddy Bears on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

For years, Ethan and Toby have said they’ll never marry, despite Ethan’s secret wishes. So leaving sunny California for snowy Minnesota to witness his sister’s vow renewal is not how he wants to spend his Christmas Eve. It’s the second time she’ll say “I do” in less than a year, when Ethan saying those words to Toby even once is hopeless.

In the run-up to the ceremony, Toby seems to avoid Ethan, and doubts grow in his absence. Ethan can’t help noticing Toby spends more time with Ethan’s family than with him. Little does Ethan know, Toby has desires of his own. But if Toby doesn’t find a way to reveal them, Ethan could leave for home without him.

Sara - 4 Hearts

This was totes adorable, like an adorable to the Mall and back, Christmas read. You know? I love stories of established couples working their way through issues and this issue for this couple, is marriage.

Both Ethan and Toby have declared that they don’t want or need to get married to show how devoted they are to one another or prove their love. They declare it to anyone who asks but someone is crossing their fingers and lying with their declaration. When the workaholic Ethan is told by his burly boyfriend Toby they are flying back to Ethan’s home town in Minnesota for his sister's vow renewal, we find out that Ethan is jealous of his sister and so wants the big to do with his big man. Sigh. These two were so damn adorable with Ethan being all fancy and digital and Toby being the form of analog with his repurposing and restoring antiques, the complemented each other so well.

Ethan’s family was fun and they mystery of where they all go with Toby was a bit angsty to read because Ethan got the wrong idea, but when he finds out what they were all up to? It was totally worth it.

Find out more about Analog to Digital on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

Federal park ranger Carter Williams dislikes kids almost as much as he dislikes Christmas. He chose his career to escape human contact, not embrace it. And no matter how much his husband Owen tries to sway his opinion, Carter is a grump who would rather ignore the holiday. Owen’s efforts are put on hold, however, when they get a call about six missing foster kids lost in the park.

Christmas Eve takes a turn for the worse when Owen injures himself rescuing the children. Stranded in a snowstorm until dawn, Carter has to keep Owen awake and healthy while simultaneously watching six runaways. What he thinks is a nightmare come to life is actually a beautiful gift in disguise—the kids transform the ranger station into a Christmas wonderland. And before it’s all said and done, they might transform Carter’s heart as well—if he can keep his bah humbug attitude in check.

Sara - 3.5 Hearts

I adored this! I am a sucker for kids in stories and the kids in this were truly magical.

It was nice to get established, romantic and oh so in love couple and park rangers Owen and Carter doing their thing on Christmas Eve only to have it interrupted by a call about missing kids in the park. When things go south on the rescue search, grumpy Carter learns a thing or six about the Christmas spirit and how it can mend old wounds and build futures. This story was all sorts of warm and fuzzy. Carter’s names for the kids were hilarious and I would love to get an update about them all next Christmas.

Jenni Lea - 2.5-3 Hearts

This one was alright. It was a nice, comforting holiday read. So... yeah. I dunno, maybe I was distracted or too busy at the time I read this, but nothing really stood out for me. There wasn't anything really bad about this and I liked it but I wasn't sucked in and I've already forgotten the characters names. The only thing that really stood out for me was how I felt the ending was rushed and I thought that the outcome for the older kids was unfair to them. Other than that it wasn't really that memorable.

Find out more about Ranger Station Haven on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

Wade Turner takes a drunk Jaxxon home after work hoping to get laid. What he gets instead is news that the world as they know it is ending—superbugs are sweeping the nation, leaving high death tolls in their wake, and the president has been assassinated. In this new storm of chaos everyone is referring to as the Apocalypse, Wade decides their chances are better if they stick together.

But when Jaxxon’s ex dies in a hurricane and his daughter goes missing, Wade watches the man he loves slip into despair. Desperate to save his relationship, Wade leaves in the middle of the night on a dangerous journey to save Jaxxon’s daughter—a child he’s not sure is even still alive. If he can put this family back together, maybe there will still be something worth celebrating in the aftermath of the Apocalypse.

Sara - 5 Hearts

Wow. This came out of nowhere and kicked me right in the feels. As my last read of the Advent Calendar and my last read of the 2016 year, this could not have been more perfect.

Told from the POV of Wade, we learn how he and Jaxxon came to be together. A very drunk and melancholy Jaxxon lays a kiss on his bartender and they go home together. From there, Jaxxon continues to be melancholy with small bits of true emotion that he displays to Wade outside and inside the bedroom as the men learn to live in this new world. But Jaxxon is always focused on what's lost in the apocalypse and that's his daughter who went with her mother to Florida.

This story was different than the rest of the calendar, not only with the focus not being Bah Humbuggy about Christmas but more of survival in a new world, reaching for the hope of a new year and trying to find real connection to the person you now share a life with. I really enjoyed the take on the apocalypse and how everything was now run and that the world building in the story was not a carbon copy of every other show etc. that is out there right now This new world was unique.

I was tuned into Wade as he falls for Jaxxon and only wanting the emotional connection Jaxxon cannot seem to give. It was heartbreaking to see him try so much after the news of the hurricane and just watch Jaxxon begin to slip away. When they argue and Wade decides to leave to truly find out is Jaxxon’s daughter is alive, I began to hold my breath through his journey.

I loved that as Wade traveled from Wisconsin to Florida we get more of his relationship with Jaxxon as he reflects on their time together. We get the arguments and the tender moments that bloom up from the loss of normal and we get that Wade is an amazing man who will do anything for Jaxxon. This story really is romantic in a way that was unexpected but it's the unexpected that can be gorgeous. Goodness, this book held my heart in a vice right up until the end. That end? Yeah, it made me cry a few times and all the tears were worth it. So worth it.

As the 31st book and the last read by me in this event, I dare say it was the perfect closure. *raises glass* Here's to a New New Year and the first after the apocalypse. Cheers.

Jenni Lea - 5 Hearts

"What the hell. The world is ending. I don't give a fuck."

Wow, oh wow! This was fantastic! Man, I wish this was a full length novel, I could read this story for days!

I have a huge love for post apocalyptic stories. Stories about survival at the end of the world just crank my chain, you know? Getting to see how survivors continue on and try to make the best of their new world and the different ways they overcome all the obstacles that are thrown their way is fascinating to me. I'm not quite at the prepper stage yet, but I can see it as something I might entertain in the future.

I loved, loved, loved the unique take on living in a post apocalyptic world the author gave us. She portrayed it in such a realistic manner (electricity still works off and on, the internet and cell phones still work sometimes, there is still a form of quasi-government) I could actually believe that this scenario might really happen someday. Kinda troubling if you think about it, but again, fascinating nonetheless.

The writing, oh the writing! I didn't think I could be moved so much by these simple words. The story progressed gradually, the author giving us a look into Wade and Jaxxon's lives through flashbacks as Wade is on the road. We don't learn the why of it right away, instead we're fed bits of it in dribs and drabs. And even though it is a short story, it's packed full of some really amazing feels. Though subtle, the words evoked just how bleak peoples' outlooks are now that their lives have been turned upside down and really expressed each person's reactions to their new lives individually. And even though we were only told the story from Wade's point of view, I was able to really get the feel of Jaxxon as a person and was able to understand why he acted the way he did. I felt as though I got to know both of them thoroughly. How awesome is that?

Gosh, I want more of this story. If not this story, then another one set in this world. I was captivated from beginning to end. I definitely will be checking out this author's other works in the very near future. Brava!

Fantasy Living - 4 Hearts

Wade and Jaxxon are just trying to survive after a superbug, and the assassination of the president causes an apocalypse in the United States. Electricity and cell coverage is sporadic at best, and hunting and growing is the trade required to eat and pay for electricity. Dollar value fluctuates on a daily bases, and traditional jobs are becoming something rare. A few months after the end of the world as they know it, Jaxxon finds out his ex-wife has been killed in a hurricane in Florida, and his daughter is missing. Wade and Jaxxon’s relationship is strained and breaking. After a particularly vicious argument, Wade takes off, unbeknownst to Jaxxon, in search of Jaxxon’s missing daughter. It’s the one thing he feels will help Jaxxon’s will to survive.

This is a traveller story. The world building and narration works really well to create the feel of an apocalyptic atmosphere. I felt heavy with it, and connected with Wade’s predicament. Wade wants Jaxxon’s love, but has realised that Jaxxon’s heart is with his daughter and no one will ever fill that gaping hole. Along the way, the reader gets a glimpse of a broken country. There is a futuristic feel to it with the enhanced police, and the police drones. This I would have preferred expansion on, as I wasn’t quite sure where the technology came from, whether this was something that existed before the apocalypse or if it was created as a result.

The reader gets flashbacks of Wade’s life from the event that led to the breakdown of society, and how he and Jaxxon ended up together. This pushes the story along, so we’re not overly immersed in the drudgery of the journey. We still get glimpses of what life is like in the present, while Wade is on his journey, but a lot of the story is Wade’s recount of how he got to where he was.

The romance is one of circumstance, and the author shows that really well. Told entirely from Wade’s point of view, this story was enjoyable, and creative. The tone of what the holiday season would be like in the first year is completely believable, and something that would need to be rebuilt over time. Tradition is put aside in favour of creating new ways of living, and wasting food or money on grand commercialism, or even religious tradition is severely impacted by the requirements of the new environment.

A satisfying read by a new to me author. Someone who I will be keeping my eye out for in the future.

Find out more about First New Year's After the Apocalypse on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

***Review copies provided by the publisher.***

Have a Unicornian 2017 everyone!

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