Sunday Funday Christmas: 2017 Advent Calendar | Stocking Stuffers - Week 4

This week's Stocking Stuffers include gems from Deanna Wadsworth, C.M. Taylor, Jessica Payseur, Kasper Quill & Chrissy Munder

ICYMI: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

Welcome Home, Soldier by Deanna Wadsworth

Clay and Daniel fell in love as enlisted men during Desert Shield, but Don’t Ask Don’t Tell meant they had to keep it secret. After Clay’s convoy was ambushed, PTSD changed him, and their relationship ended in a horrible fight on Christmas Eve.

Twenty-five years later, they’ve reconnected on Facebook, and Clay finds out Daniel will be alone on Christmas Eve. Impulsively, he sets out for Daniel’s hometown of Gilead, Ohio—where Daniel is now the mayor—to surprise him with a visit. But a blizzard strikes and Clay wrecks his car. All hope of seeing Daniel is lost—until a mysterious old man named Nick offers Clay a ride.

The weight of past wounds and the scars of war might make their reunion awkward, but Clay is willing to take the risk to win back his lost love. Despite a lifetime of disappointing holidays, Clay hopes that this soldier is finally coming home for Christmas.

Ann - 4 Hearts

I love second chance romance stories and Welcome Home Soldier is the definition in Christmas form. It’s the story of two men who fall in love for the first time at the wrong time. They are in the military during the DADT era and their entire relationship is hidden away taking advantage of stolen moments at every opportunity. I was so impressed with how the author had these two mature characters communicate when they meet again, with thanks to impulse and a kindly white bearded truck driver. Clay and Daniel went through an ugly breakup, and given the environment they lived in and their experiences, it’s no wonder. They weren’t able to be what the other needed at that point in their young lives, they needed to fight their demons and accept themselves before they could be together in a way that would last. Reading a story with actual communication can be so refreshing and it made me believe in an HEA for these guys.

Trading Tridents by C.M. Taylor

DecemberCon 2017. John Perlan, aka YouTuber “SmileyNibor,” has come to the con for one reason and one reason only: to see his idol, actor Derek Kitow. And since Derek has announced he’ll be dressed as the original Aquaman, Perlan decides to come as the Aquaman reboot. It helps that he already has the beard and the bod to make a convincing Momoaman.

But when Derek Kitow makes his entrance, he recognizes Perlan from his tiny YouTube channel and wants him onstage! Has Kitow been following him online? Could SmileyNibor’s hero also be a fan? And what exactly does Kitow have in mind by inviting Perlan to meet him after the panel?

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3 Hearts

I’ve got to say that the fangirl in me really liked many a thing in this shortie, but for full disclosure I was a bit surprised by the bdsm elements that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Per the blurb, John is stoked to be attending the DecemberCon because his movie star crush Derek, will be there. In response to Derek announcing he’ll be dressed up as classic Aquaman, John thinks his Jason Momoa physique is the perfect counterpart to display the new movie version. He doesn’t expect Derek to already know who he is, and John is quite shocked when he realizes the actor wants a more personal meet and greet. *wink*

What ensues is a hot kinky interlude, as well as some comic book lore theorization. This was… unexpected but sexy. Overall, I enjoyed it despite my preconceived geeky notions of what this was going to be.

Ann - 3 Hearts

While this story really has nothing to do with the winter holidays except for the time of year, it’s still pretty darn cute. The author worked some great geeky humor into John, the Aquaman fanboy. His love for star Derek Kitow is something pretty much everyone can relate to and his story is the ultimate fantasy come to life for anyone who has ever had a ridiculous crush on the unattainable. I would have liked some holiday aspect in there just because that’s what I came to the DSP Advent party for, but that being said, I would like to read more by this author as I really like the writing style and the charm the author has.

All Creatures Great and Small by Kasper Quill

Growing up an orphan meant Charlie never celebrated Christmas. He’s committed to making sure his newly adopted cat, Max, doesn’t miss out like he did. Unfortunately, he discovers that giving Max the perfect Christmas might be easier said than done—and not without risk.

Charlie’s landlord, successful and wealthy real estate developer Aemon Scotfield, is charmed by the gorgeous redhead and his shameless alley cat. He finds himself compelled to help orchestrate a memorable celebration for Max—and Charlie—despite the mishaps that seem to just keep coming. As difficult as it will be to pull off the perfect holiday, the real challenge might be walking away when it’s over.

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 2.5 Hearts

Um… this was cute with plenty of animal/pet shenanigans but for me personally, there was very little character, relationship, or romantic development as things went from point A to B with hardly an explanation.

However, one gets the gist of some hurt comfort as Aemon indulges Charlie who’s never had a true Christmas that he can remember. The spirit of the holidays still permeates this throughout, ultimately leaving one feeling warm and fuzzy in all the right ways.

Annika - 3 Hearts

A sweet and fun read. And if you are an animal fan, this is the book for you.

I didn't like the insta-love part of the story. I never really felt that there was a connection between Charlie (not Charles) and Aemon. Their relationship came out of the blue to me. As did the changes with Charlie. At the beginning he was so set in his ways he didn't even try new things to eat. And after nearly running Max over he changes at the spot. Sorry, I didn't buy that. If this would've been a longer novel, over a longer time sure I can see it, but not how it stands now.

Charlie was adorkable, trying so hard, yet never having a clue. One of my favourite moments was when he "watered" the tree.

Ann - 4.5 Hearts

The Christmas Spirit is alive and well in All Creatures Great and Small. I will squee for days over this story. For days I tell you! It’s freakin’ adorable with just enough snarky humor to keep it from being toooo sweet. Charlie is the most amazing little shitshow you’ll ever meet. He was orphaned at a young age and bounced around foster homes until he aged out. He’s put himself through school and landed himself a good job in IT. He’s never really done Christmas since his parents passed and when he adopts a shitshow of an alley cat, Max, his dream is to give Max the Christmas Charlie himself never had.

“Max deserved a tree. After all, it was our first Christmas as a family.”

Now Max is a cat, so by nature he really gives zero fucks, but Charlie is so excited to have his own little family now he goes all out. Poor Charlie has no clue what he’s really doing, but he tries so very hard and thankfully he gets a meet cute with his very posh landlord who is smitten with the awesomeness that is Charlie and who knows a thing or two about Christmas. The two of them have a real connection that was quick but it was too delicious to bitch about such things because I loved every little nugget the author tossed my way. Bonus points for wonderful secondary characters, knowing Charlie had a support system like he had warmed my cockles. I hope the author writes more soon, I need more Charlie and Aemon type characters in my life.

Sara - 5 Hearts

A ginger who rescues all the unwanted animals? Um… *looks in the mirror then at rescue dogs in my lap* This book was perfect for me.

I loved Charlie though is back story hurt my heat. I love his outlook on life and how he live his life as an adult. This book is funny and it made me smile more than a few times. I am not going to get into the plot of it because the blurb tells you what you need to know and this is short enough to read on ones lunch break but OMG this was adorable.

When Charlie crashes his bike because of a mangled cat what does he do? Why, what anyone else do and take it home. But when Charlie is helped by a gorgeous McHottie who Charlie thinks of as an angel turns out to be a sacred Amen of his own and this story stole my heart. The level of animals in this is outstanding and I want a Jackie of my own. Why do I imagine her voice like Jackée Harry?

Aemon and Charlie are so sweet and earnest. I love opposites attracting and Aemon sure did have some good lines for such a short story. He’s caught up in the magic of Charlie and wants to give Charlie a wonderful Christmas just as Charlie wants to give Max, the cat one.

With so many laugh out loud moments and a few major swoony ones too makes this is a perfect holiday read. I hope the author continues writing because I am intrigued and want more.

Wreck the Halls by Jessica Payseur

Business has been good at Paul’s Café in Madison, Wisconsin—until a few months before Christmas. When Nick opens Nick’s Restaurant next door, Paul watches his customers leave for cheaper food and an owner who smiles more. With his livelihood at stake, Paul lashes out, trying to drive away Nick’s customers, but Nick won’t go easy, and escalating sabotage threatens to ruin the holidays for both of them.

Paul thinks all he wants for Christmas is to see Nick’s Restaurant go under, but the more he tries to drive Nick away, the less he’s sure he wants him to go. Nick is everything Paul secretly craves, but by the time he realizes Nick is all he really wants for the holidays, he might have ruined any chance for them to get together. And there might not be a present in the world that can fix that.

Ann - 2 Hearts

I do love me a chef story and I do love me an MC who can be on the grumpy side, and while I got my chefs (well, restaurant owners) the grump was too much for me. Paul wasn’t happy that a restaurant opened right next door his actions were over the top. He was pissed for 90% of the story and that was the only thing I knew about him. He had no depth beyond his anger. I actually liked Nick at the beginning but he kept one upping the vindictive shenanigans and I just couldn’t get with his getting off on making Paul mad so I lost my love for him pretty quickly. If they had had even a few moments of connection here and there I might have been able to believe the ending, but holy cats these guys went from visceral hatred (at least from Paul) to comingling forever so fast I had literary whiplash. If I’m to believe in an HEA for these two, I would have to see a lot of couples therapy in their future.

The Last Gift by Chrissy Munder

College student Nick Reed works late shift at a convenience store and dreams of graduation, a job he can be proud of, and finding the man of his dreams.

But the man of his dreams is about to find him.

A change in his lab hours forces Nick to swap shifts with a coworker. But no one prepared Nick for Mr. 5:25—Aaron Hampton—a beefy blond who’s Nick’s perfect guy, but professionally and socially out of Nick's reach. Soon Aaron becomes the highlight of Nick's workday, and when the overly focused lawyer needs Nick's help with holiday gifts, Nick is eager to spend time with Aaron.

They become friends, share book recommendations, and are surprised to find themselves at the same charity run. But is that all? When Aaron learns Nick is heading back to his old shift, will he find the courage to ask for one last, very special gift?

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3 Hearts

Nick is seriously crushing on one of the early morning customers where he works, and he can hardly concentrate on anything else. Despite what initially looks like them being completely incompatible, it’s quickly made clear that he and Aaron are able to connect on many other levels.

However, the clock is a ticking, and though it’s the worst time in Nick’s life to even contemplate a relationship, he can’t help but hope. What he doesn’t realize is that his and Aaron’s magical meeting time might not have been solely left to chance.

This is low angst, with a kiss at the end - a feel good story showing how the holidays can be just the needed impetus to find and grab onto love.

Ann - 4 Hearts

I absolutely love Chrissy Munder’s stories, especially her holiday offerings. The Last Gift was as adorable as I expected and she really packed a lot of connection into a short story. The concentration stayed on the two MC’s and I liked them both so much, so the focused page time was much appreciated.Aaron may have been the more established of the two in his professional life, but Nick was able to hold his own despite his age and lack of experience. The story is told from Nick’s perspective and while he may have not have seen all the signs (or thought they were too good to be true) the author did a great job of showing Aaron’s interest to the reader so they story stays angst free which is perfect for the holidays. The ending is just delicious and I swooned in Aaron’s direction pretty hard along with Nick.

Chelsea - 4 Hearts

Oh I liked that. I liked that alot. All the fluffy sweetest a short Christmas story needs!
Nick has developed a crush on one of his customers at the convenience store he works at. His crush, Aaron, is probably the sweetest guy ever! I adored this pairing, Nick was funny and came across as a rather normal college student while Aaron was totally adorable!

They had a nice steady development from infatuation to friendship then something more hopeful and of course this ended in the best way, with a kiss.

So cute!

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

Merry Christmas from the Unicorn Mafia!

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