Sunday Funday Christmas: 2017 Advent Calendar | Stocking Stuffers - Week 1

It's that time of year again when the gingerbread wafts through the house, hideous sweaters are donned, you can falalalala all the days of the month away marinating in mulled wine or caroling Jingle Bells and fill your front lawn with Christmas dragons just because. What's a holiday season without a dragon anyway? Lame, that's what.

So no matter which category you fall into, we've got you covered. If nothing else we aim to entertain. So grab your wassail and let us be your guide to all things Christmas over the next SIX weeks!!!!

Dear Ruth by Kim Fielding

Dear Ruth,
I’m not in the mood for Christmas. After a romantic relationship went up in flames, I returned to my hometown in rural Kansas. Then my mother passed away. I’m really busy with my job as fire marshal—and now with my mother’s advice column, which I reluctantly took over. There’s a sexy newcomer down the street, a guy with a young daughter and an unfortunate disregard for fire safety. He seems to want to be friends, but that creates problems that may be too hot for me to handle. The last things I need right now are flammable holiday decorations and too much holiday food. How am I supposed to give good advice to others when I can’t seem to get my own life straight?
—Bah Humbug in Bailey Springs

Sara - 5 Hearts

Oh this warmed my heart so damn much and I LOVED IT!

I loved Bryce. I loved how he loved his mother and how much he misses her. I loved how he reluctantly took over her Dear Ruth column and did such a fabulous job at it. I love that he’s a runner. I love his crush on his neighbor and how awkward both he and Noah are at times. I love that 99% of Bryce’s thoughts are on fire safety. I loved Noah and his daughter Harper, she’s an amazing young girl. I LOVED LOVED LOVED how Bryce thought about Noah’s body. I loved that Bryce is slow to realize that Noah is interested and I love how Noah goes about all of it. That end was perfect and that epilogue made me tear up with pure joy.

Yup. I loved this one! *swoon*

Ann - 3.5 Hearts

Kim Fielding has a recipe for holiday story gold with Dear Ruth. A charming small town, a deputy fire chief who loves his mother, a handsome neighbor with a cute daughter and a two way crush that can only end in love because it just has to. I love when two dudes are crushing on each other and pretty much everyone can see it but them. Especially when it isn’t too drawn out and one of them finally makes “the move”. Bryce has been unlucky in love, so he’s not sure he’s a great fit for taking over his mother’s advice column, Dear Ruth, after her sudden passing. Turns out he’s very good at it, but also crap at taking his own advice. Good thing Noah, the hot neighbor, isn’t crap at taking good advice, and an HEA is inevitable. I loved how each thought the other was his ideal but couldn’t see it in themselves. It made the mutual attraction realization that much more charming and downright adorable. The epilogue was perfect and totally believable for the new family and I loved it.

Annika - 3.5 Hearts

This was a very sweet start on this year’s calendar and everything you need to get you into the Christmas spirit. I loved how Fielding created such depth to the story with such few words. It drew you in, you felt like you were a part of the town, gossiping with the rest of them.

I loved Harper, she was great fun and I wouldn't mind to read more about her and her fireman obsession (some start young) ;)

Cupcake - 4 Hearts

You have one of those authors that every time you read something by them you feel a sense of relief that someone (ANYONE!) else shares your perceptions of the world? Maybe even makes you feel validated somehow? That's how Kim Fielding's writes make me feel.

This story wasn't overly Santa jizzy but it was poignant. It also hit that "making your own family" sweet spot of mine and I loved how it was formatted with each chapter having a Dear Ruth letter at the beginning. As a regular reader of Dear Prudie the advice column angle drew me in and I found myself increasingly invested in Bryce and Noah's tale and wondering if either would take the sage advice.

If you like a quaint and charming holiday story set in a small town "Dear Ruth" is just the right level of sweetness.

O Hell, All Ye Shoppers by Louisa Masters

Ethan Hall plans to fill Saturday, December 23, with junk food and bad TV, a day just for him amid the holiday chaos… until his baby sister calls and begs him to go collect a present for her. At the biggest shopping center in Australia. On the busiest shopping day of the year. Hell no. Right?

Ethan’s soft heart gets the best of him. He battles through the parking lot, and in the main shopping concourse, he’s trampled, elbowed, and bombarded with terrible holiday music. Then he enters hell itself, a specialty store aimed at women… where he meets Ty. They bond in a sea of estrogen and manic shoppers, fighting together to attain freedom, only to find they’re not quite ready go their separate ways.

Ann - 3.5 Hearts

This was an adorable Australian meet-cute with a couple of very likable MCs. While it was a very low key story, not a drop of angst to be found, the writing is very clean and the banter Ethan and Ty shared showed their connection well. The story wasn’t over engineered and what transpired in their first few days together worked perfectly for a short story. It’s all about the excitement and butterflies when meeting a new potential love and for us “new love” junkies, it’s sweetly ideal. The story is very low steam, the sexy times are implied and believable and it made sense for the length of the story itself. The focus stayed on the thrill of a new Christmas romance, exactly where the strength of Ethan and Ty’s tale belonged. I’m also going to look for more from this author, I like her humor and the way her words flow very much and am anxious to read more.

Sara - 3.5 Hearts

This was super cute. When Ethan Hall has to go to the mall only two before Christmas to pick up a gift his little sister has bought for their older sister, he is grumpy. When he gets to the mall he is grumpier and then he walks into a boutique full of girly things and he is beside himself. While trying to retrieve the package for his sister, he meets the only other male in the store, Ty, and they instantly bond. They bond and they fancy each other and after surviving the mall, they decide to have a well-earned drink together that ends up lasting a full four hours of getting to know one another.

Not only do Ethan and Ty get to know one another but they find out they have a connection through their family that pushes them even closer together.

“It’s gotta be fate, right? I don’t believe in that, but this is a level of coincidence that defies reason.”

This has a decent level of insta-like do it and I dig that vibe especially in a Christmas romance. I liked that this was a “you find what you are looking for when you least expect it” and that both men are on board with the possibility of a relationship with the support of their family.

The Peppermint Schnapps Predicament by Clare London

Frankie Faraday is a promising young salesperson at Mason’s Emporium. Bill Mason is his boss, the son of the store’s founder, and the object of Frankie’s long-suffering, deeply devoted crush. Bill is steady and sober; Frankie is frivolous and flaky. Or so they seem to each other, until the night of the annual inventory, when they’re trapped together in the Seasonal Gifts storeroom, with nothing but candy and peppermint schnapps to sustain them until they’re rescued. And then the real truths—and something definitely more intimate—emerge!

Sara - 4 Hearts

Sticky sweet and totally intoxicating this was! I loved it. I am a fan of the opposites attract trope and love it when they opposites get each so wrong. I liked that we got both Frankie and Bill’s POV do know exactly what they were thinking about one another and the entire situation. Frankie with his honest crush and Bill pretending he didn’t “see” Frankie when really, he’s all Bill saw. The conversations between the men were meaningful, emotional and so very romantic. The sexy parts were damn sexy and even comedic because come one, they're stuck in an inventory storeroom so it’s bound to be silly. That end was so cute and I just really adored the hell or heaven out of this story.

Ann - 3 Hearts

Opposites attract done right is what this is. Frankie has been crushing on his hunky boss since he began working at the retail store that Bill Mason’s family owns. They are opposites in every way on the surface, but the best opposites attract stories make their differences complementary and that’s exactly what Frankie and Bill have going on spades. Each is more than the other expected (much more than just their attractive wrappings) and that’s my only niggle with this story. I wanted to explore their differences and appreciation for their discoveries more. It was a lot to fit into a short story and while I never felt shortchanged in any way, a bit more depth would have been much appreciated.

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3.5 Hearts

There’s more than meets the eye and be careful what you wish for…

Despite Frankie's crush on his hot boss, the last thing he wants is to be locked in the storage closet with the intimidating Bill Mason. When nervous, Frankie can’t keep his mouth shut nor his energy tamped, and he just knows he’s going to end up looking a fool.

Bill is a lot peeved to be trapped, let alone forced to endure Frankie’s polar opposite personality. However, Frankie’s quite ingenious when it comes to their situation, and Bill quickly realizes there’s more to his outgoing flamboyant employee.

This had good banter with a nice progression between uptight Bill and flighty Frankie. Forced quarters bring about the best and the worst as they battle claustrophobia, hunger, and the dark, not to mention a growing attraction that neither can hide. Bill and Frankie can’t help but eventually reveal their foibles and vulnerabilities amidst a nice smexy interlude.

Overall a good mix of fun, humor, and a bit of feels. This was easy breezy enjoyable holiday fare.

Annika - 3.5 Hearts

When I started reading this book I flashed back to when I was a teen and read Harlequin books. This has the same feel to it. You know what I mean, two people secretly pining for each other, neither believing the other is interested. And before they know it they are trapped together in a small room with no way out. It's light hearted, sweet and fun - just like Frankie. Guilty pleasure I'm all yours.

Cupcake - 3.5 Hearts

This is my second experience with Clare London and I find her sassy and maybe a little be snarky writing style very appealing. Her voice permeates her characters in their witty and sharp dialogue.

Frankie and Bill Mason are two such characters and their banter while trapped in the storage room with only crispy Santas, peppermint schnapps and UST to sustain them (for, like, three hours) put a smile on my face. Frankie is femme and swishy to Bill Mason's Magic Mike beefcakedom and I do heart me a size difference. I also heart it when unexpected things happen with said size difference during the sexy times. A LOT. I also chuckled the Frankie always refers to Bill by both his given and surname.

If you're in need of a pick me up this comedic Santa jizz story is just the ticket!

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers by Brandon Witt

Fifty-six-year-old Samuel Phillips is all alone on his small farm in the Ozarks, with nothing but a menagerie of chickens, pheasants, turkeys, and other birds as company—which is just the way he likes it. In fact, if Samuel had his way, he’d tear down his neighbor’s house so his solitude could be absolute. One day Faloola, his favorite turkey, escapes, forcing Samuel to make the trek next door. When Raymond Webber—sixty-seven—answers the door as naked as the day he was born, Samuel doesn’t know whether he’s more annoyed… or attracted. The two men are opposites in every way—Samuel is serious, while Raymond believes in free love and herbal relaxation. The weeks leading up to Christmas are rocky to say the least, but some holiday spirit might help them get past their differences….

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3.5 Hearts

To be honest, the reason why I picked this was because of the main characters’s ages. Though I love me a hot alpha virile man in his prime every day of the week and twice on Sundays, it’s not necessarily a bad thing when one character is described as Kevin Costner’s doppelgänger and the other I imagined as a mature Paul Newman. Hence, my interest was piqued and I wanted to see how Witt played this out.

Loner Samuel is very set in his ways. He just wants to live his life on his farm with no interruptions or complications and that’s what Raymond is when he moves into the house next door. Raymond is all sorts of disconcerting and infuriating, but Samuel can’t help but be charmed against his will and he’s a lot upset that his structured life is tilted on its axis. How dare Raymond make him want for more!

Overall, I quite enjoyed this and appreciate Witt stepping outside my repertoire of romance requirements and expectations. Perhaps as a bonus, for readers who have read Witt’s Then the Stars Fall, Travis makes an appearance and you get an update on him, Wesley, and kids. This was a heartwarming tale of never ever being too old to find love and happiness again, and one should always take the opportunity when it arises.

Ann - 4.5 Hearts

Every year, Brandon Witt’s contribution to the DSP Advent Calendar is one of my top faves. Hope Is The Thing With Feathers continues the tradition. He always has a unique take on Christmas romance, whether it be a traditional tale or an unexpected fantasy, his storytelling is amazing. It was really refreshing to read a story with a couple of mature MCs finding their HEA, even if it was by unconventional methods. Oh Faloola, we heatedly knew ye. The struggle Samuel goes through during the tale is in turn heartbreaking and heartwarming. As I got to know him it was obvious he was a romantic at heart and thinking how much of that pure spirit was wasted because of small mindedness killed me. If anyone deserved a chance to be his true self, it’s Samuel and it takes the free spirit that is Raymond to let Samuel finally be Samuel and let himself have the happiness he deserved.

Sara - 4.5 Hearts

Witt is a master at the Christmas stories as I have fallen head over heels for each one I’ve read. This one though, it was beautiful in only the way he can deliver a story and this time around, we ain’t got no spring chickens for our couple.

I adored this. Truly. I loved that we got men later in their years - 56 and 67 to be exact - and that while they have settled in a way of life, romance and desire aren’t dead. I don’t know why that is a stigma of aging? That you lose desire for intimacy and sex? Oh well. Raymond and Samuel prove that it doesn’t die, you just need that one person do make you feel again.

“Have you heard of the three loves theory?”

The explanation of the three loves theory was different than what I had heard but I like it better. I first heard of the three loves in reference to Jackie Kennedy and that you marry first for love, second for money and third for companionship. I find it much more romantic and less mechanical do think of three loves for three different stages of your life. It’s a wonderful thought that you can experience love and loss but never give up hope of finding it again.

Samuel is one grumpy old man and Raymond is free as a bird with his magic brownies but these two complement each other well. Sure, they meet under a terrible instance of misunderstanding of turkeys but they to take time to see the situation clearly and from the other’s perspective.

Other than about a handful of sentences around 32% that had me rolling my eyes and quieting my vegan activist self… I loved this. Not gonna lie, my heart melted around 82% because Raymond is kinda amazing and Samuel deserves someone who can be so thoughtful and endearing.

A story titled as one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems and a story that echoes the meaning of the poem well, would have to be full of emotions and this lived up to my expectations.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
~ Emily Dickinson

Chelsea - 4 Hearts

Gah what a perfect way to start the jizzmas stories! Although this was more Christmas than Jizzmas as there wasn't a lot of jizzing going on (jizzing is the weirdest word).

In this story we have Samuel and Raymond 56 and 67 respectively. That alone had me wanting to read this! How often do we get to read stories about men that age! Samuel is used to and is happy with his lonely existence until the new neighbor moves in and makes an… impactful impression. Samuel suddenly has to come to terms with the fact that maybe he's not as happy on his own as he thought and just maybe he wants Raymond to help with that.

This story was soooo freaking cute and actually very funny! I loved Samuel's inner-monologue. This story had a beautiful calm, snow filled feel to it. Only downside is...skimmed over sex scene which... boo! But this story was so beautiful I can't give it less than 4 hearts! Definitely one to grab for this Christmas.

Salvaging Claus Day by J. Alan Veerkamp

For three years, Filo has reveled in silence and solitude as the sole occupant of a space station, where he maintains the communication satellite.

Everything changes with the appearance of Luz Espina’s lifepod. Filo shares many interests with the flirtatious Luz, though Filo’s isolation has strained his communication skills. Still, Luz pushes all his buttons… and reminds him of the last man he was attracted to—an attraction that ended in disaster because the man was straight. When Luz learns Filo has never celebrated a holiday, he vows to cobble together a Claus Day celebration for them to share. But is it merely a friendly gesture… or something more?

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4 Hearts

Space, smex, and the holidays? Sign me up!

Filo has been the sole occupant of a communications station on the edge of space for 3 long years. He opted for the isolation in a bid to escape the chaotic crowded life on the colony and though he’s a little lonely, he wouldn’t trade it for anything. When he gets a distress signal from a stranger, he's surprisingly grateful for the company. Luz is uber friendly flirty, seemingly sending a bunch of mixed signals. However, Filo's not going to overstep his boundaries. He's simply going to enjoy the company despite the at times awkward camaraderie.

Blending a bit of sci-fi with romance is just my cup of tea. Add a beast of a gentle giant in Filo trying to be a good friend and a gentleman despite his lustful feelings is even better. Lucky for him Luz takes a chance at using Christmas to make a move. This had some very nice ust, and when things finally spark between these two?! Cheers!

Sara - 4 Hearts

My late father used to say he could live on the moon, alone and be fine. I never understood how he could say that until I got older and now I feel the same. I am an introvert who prefers the solitude of my own company though I to love my family and dogs. So with this, I got why Filo would prefer to live in space rather than the congested life that was becoming Galanor-6.

You feel how isolated and yet how organized Filo’s life is among the stars. It was evident that his 6 years weren’t wasted as he enjoyed what he was doing and the silence space gave him but you also feel the loneliness mixed with his reserved sense of strength. You see, Filo started out with three other crew members that dwindled down to just him for three years and now, Luz Espina is the new kid and he is filling all sorts of fantasies for Filo.

“Living alone was nice, but having a guest for the last three months was a new experience.

I wasn’t expecting this Sci-fi holiday story do hit me in the feels as hard as it did and yet, ouch. With Luz now with Filo and Filo now enjoying the site of Luz around, the men begin to talk about how Filo ended up at the station and his lack of celebrating Claus Day. Let me just say, Luz is amazing and I adored his confession and what it leads to. Filo breaks my heart and his decision at the end of the story leaves me wondering but sliding do the side of hope. Yeah, this was different but that’s always good in my book.

Ann - 4 Hearts

I was ready for a dose of holiday sci-fi and Salvaging Claus Day delivered. It starts a little slowly, but that tone does the perfect job of setting up Filo’s character. His life was lonely and his environment devoid of human contact. The beginning showed me that really well while giving me glimpses of his history organically as it related to his current situation. I understood why he was on the space station and why he was OK with being there. It was quietly sad, much like his life and doesn’t that sound depressing? It wasn’t though, Filo is pretty matter of fact and accepting of his life. He’s not unhappy per se, he’s just OK and he’s all right with being just OK. Enter Luz Espina and all that is opposing to Filo’s routine. Luz added some much needed distraction (even if Filo didn’t necessarily agree) and Filo is understandably wary of Luz’s intentions. Luz is the perfect foil to Filo’s steady, quiet strength and Luz sees Filo for who he is and he just wants to make Filo happy. And get into his spacepants. Luz means light, and Luz does a bangup job of giving Filo the Claus Day celebration and environment he never had as well as an offer for much, much more. It was really very sweet to see Filo get the happy he deserved. There was a bit of suspense that stressed me out towards the end when Filo had to make a decision about his company’s assigned mental health meds. There was a big ol’ fat WHAT IF? hanging there for a paragraph or two, but Filo is smarter than he gives himself credit for, he knew to accept what he had been gifted and embrace the love that unexpectedly came his way.

ARCs were provided by the publisher in exchange for honest reviews.

Is it just me or did the holidays get a whole lot better all the sudden? 

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