Warmest Wishes Advent 2018: Week 2

It's Week 2 of the Warmest Wishes Advent Stories! This week we're featuring stories from Emjay Haze, Blue Jones, Daniel de Lorne, A.D. Ellis and Scudder James Jr.!

ICYMI: Week 1

Warren's Peace by Emjay Haze

The holidays are a time for second chances.

Warren Blessing lost his wife (two years ago), and his kids decide he’s been alone too long. They send him on a holiday singles cruise so he can meet someone new.

On the flight from Chicago to Miami, he sits next to an attractive man, but when the flight’s over, he doesn’t think he’ll see him again.

Fletcher Hammond is a professional mystery shopper for vacation destinations and travel. After a split from his unfaithful fiancĂ©, he’s embarking on a singles cruise. He meets a lovely gentleman on the flight, whose conversation and cocktails help Fletcher through his fear of takeoffs, but he doesn’t expect to see him again.

As if by fate, a meeting in the ship’s dining room renews their mutual attraction. But can they build a relationship with distance and baggage working against them? Or will they part ways when they return to port?

R *A Reader Obsessed - 3 Hearts

Who can resist a second chance at love especially on a luxurious singles cruise no less?

Despite understandable doubts and fears on both Warren and Fletcher's parts, this was easy and simple, if not just a tad too fast in progression and a bit awkward in execution.

Still enjoyable because of course, Warren and Fletcher find their well deserved happiness with each other, having at their disposal excellent food and entertainment, room service and spa treatments, along with endless fun time in the hot tub that further spurs their growing feelings!

If only everyone could fall in love under such ministrations! Lucky bastards!!

Fantasy Living - 3 Hearts

Set on a cruise ship from Boxing Day to New Years Day, the flow of this story started off rocky for me, but eventually the writing smoothed out and the story flowed well. I enjoyed the plot line, and the relationship development. Warren and Fletcher had great chemistry and the vacation fling was beautiful. This was sweet and sexy, and I enjoyed most of the story.


I’m disappointed to have to lower my rating due to bi-erasure. It’s not cool, and I get frustrated with this being added to a perfectly good storyline. It was completely unnecessary to even mention Warren’s sexuality. It added nothing to the story, and left a sour taste in my mouth. It doesn’t make a same-sex relationship more valid . So yeah….it upset me and took me out of a very lovely story.

I know this will be a memorable story, for both the good and the bad parts. *sigh*. Some readers don’t care, but I absolutely do.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy. This has not influenced my opinion

Ann - 3 Hearts

This was a very cute and fluffy story with more mature characters, which frankly, is a nice change. The lack of any kind of conflict will keep the story from being too memorable for me, but reading it was still a Hallmark type holiday hug. Everyone was incredibly pleasant and Warren’s kids (adult level kids) were pretty invested in his love life (especially his daughter) which seemed a smidge weird, but whatever, everyone was happy and good for them. There was some opportunity for a little drama when Warren told his children that he’d met a man on the single’s cruise.. The revelation was glossed over, which is ideal obviously, but probably not super realistic. But I don’t come to a Christmas story for realism necessarily and Warren and Fletcher know how to take advantage of a high end cruise and a hot tub.

Sara - 2.5 Hearts

Boo. This one didn’t give me the warm fuzzy feeling of a holiday romance. I did like that Warren decided to explore the side of his bisexuality that he’d been missing being married to a woman for 20 years. He adored and loved his late wife and mother of his children but he admittedly missed the physical company of a man never feeling “sexually satisfied” by his wife. The meet cute with Fletcher was just that and the second meet cute was much more flirty. Things moved fast but I never got a good grasp on either man. I think all the details of the lavish cruise outweighed everything else and I got bored trying to find the romance. I did like what Fletcher did for a living and how understanding and accepting Warren’s kids were of him being with a man.

Trapped in the Valley of the Kings by Blue Jones

Rival archaeologists Will and Jude slept together a year ago, on the night of the Summer Solstice at a dig in Stonehenge. But they were both wearing masks, so Jude has no idea it was Will he slept with, and Will’s been harboring a powerful, one-sided crush ever since.

Now they’re in Egypt, competing to find the lost tomb of Queen Nefertiti. Jude falls through a crack in the cave floor, and when Will reluctantly climbs down to help him, they find themselves in Nefertiti’s tomb, surrounded by archaeological treasures—where they must spend Christmas stranded by a sandstorm.

Will a few sultry hours stripped almost bare from the heat and sharing a bottle of whiskey sort out who should get credit for the discovery—and the real reason for the tension between them?

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4 Hearts

The things I'm most upset about this story is 1) it’s too short, 2) where’s my damn epilogue, and 3) why hasn’t this author written more?

This has an enemies to lovers vibe, a touch of hurt comfort, and plausible twisty feels to go with some smexy smex. Throw in a grumpy bear (no, not the animal), a bit of an age gap, and two men literally trapped by circumstance that forces them to confront their feelings and make some confessions all against the backdrop of a hot night in Egypt on Christmas Eve.

Highly enjoyable. I will be on the lookout for more form this author!

Ann - 3.5 Hearts

This was a fun and unique frenemies to lovers story. The mystery identity, that wasn’t so mysterious, added a twist I appreciated. I loved Will’s appreciation of Jude even though the unrequited love portion of his feelings led to fussiness. His fussiness wasn’t mean spirited though and it led to some amusing banter between he and Jude. Will was pretty clueless when Jude was flirting with him and while it was obvious to me how Jude felt, Will was a dumb bunny. Not that I could blame him, but it did make him all the more adorable and their coming together all the more sweet.It ends rather abruptly, but the HFN is pretty solid. I would love to read where they end up for Easter.

Fantasy Living - 3.5 Hearts

This was quick and dirty, literally. Lots of sand… and sweat.

Will and Jude had great chemistry and even though Will didn’t quite get the byplay, Jude was adorable and witty.

Something fun and different, I enjoyed the setting to this story. It left me feeling warm and fuzzy and hopeful for the next adventure between these two competitors in archeology.

I could read an entire novel based on these two and their healthy competition for world changing digs.

a review copy was provided or an honest opinion

Sara - 3.5 Hearts

This was super sweet and sexy. I liked both Will and Jude though Will could be a bit clueless when adorable Jude is flirting with him. The twist on unrequited love from a masked one night stand has these two at an advantage though Will thinks it’s only one sided. I smiled non-stop while reading this and really enjoyed how they spend their holidays and hope that everyone spent together from here on out, is as sexy and breathtaking as Christmas was. Oh and… whose tomb where they really in??

The Faller by Daniel de Lorne

Being caught with another man sends Charlie Young fleeing his family to the forests of southwestern Australia to scrape together steamer-passage to the big smoke of London. But life as a timber faller isn't easy and it’s made worse when the men he works with are brash, bigoted, and often brutal. All except Jack Tapper, who’s the kind of gentle giant that sets Charlie’s heart racing.

While the other men head into town for Christmas, it’s just Charlie and Jack and acres of forest. But trees tell no tales and a few days alone is the perfect opportunity to indulge a burgeoning passion. When the men return and find things not as they once were, Charlie and Jack have to make the hard decisions about whether to stay where they are or run for their lives.

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4.5 Hearts

This short holiday historical packs a punch!

Charlie is scared, exhausted, and losing hope he’ll ever make enough money to escape his past.

It doesn't help that his coworkers put him on edge with neither a kind word or a helping hand. When left alone with the intimidating Jack over the holidays, Charlie just tries to keep his head down and off the guy’s radar. Thing is, Jack’s already noticed him.

Simply, a full of feels, angsty story with a large dose of hurt comfort going both ways and a gentle giant whom I absolutely adored. These two sweetly connect, and their newfound happiness is a hard fought, harrowing journey but a joy to witness! Read.

Ann - 3.5 Hearts

I was really anxious to read The Faller and appreciated the MC’s equally just a few pages in. While the story is from Charlie’s POV, Jack is the type of strong, silent character that always intrigues me. There’s understandable conflict and stress in this short story and I felt a little strung out while I was reading it. There’s just as much action and danger as there is love and romance and the author did a good job of balancing the two, but I did want a little bit more fuzzy love being that this was a Christmas story. I think the rather abrupt ending and HFN left me feeling that way. It’s probably way more realistic how it did end though, but I wanted, at the least, a plan for them so that I could picture it in my head. Which shows me that I was invested in their happiness which says a lot for Charlie and Jack.

Sara - 5 Hearts

Not sure if I can review this without rambling but I will try.

I loved this. I adore historicals and this is set in forests of 1912 Australia. I don’t know much about being a timber faller but my hopeless romantic heart knows a fantastic love story and this is it.

Charlie is doing what he can after being disowned by his family when they catch him kissing another boy. All he wants to do is earn enough money for a passage to London but timber falling is hard on Charlie and he struggles with the work. He also struggles with trying not to ogle the quiet giant and expert faller that is Jack Tapper. Jack, whose presence in the small camp occupies space and all of Charlie's fantasies but 1912 isn’t a time to be open about one's sexuality and with Charlie's history, he stays quiet. That is until the rest of the camp leave for the Christmas holiday and Charlie decides to stay behind to earn a bit more money, but Charlie isn’t as alone as he thought he would be.

[...] he was happy. The world outside could have ended, and he wouldn’t care.

This was so freaking good. It’s among my favorites from this years Advent stories and I fell hard and fast for Charlie and Jack. Jack, he slayed me with his yearning for Charlie and how much he will do to protect them. The gentle giant has a bit of roughness in him when it comes to getting physical with Charlie and I just adored the hell out of everything Jack Tapper is. Charlie is amazing himself, feeling like coward for being where he is when in fact Charlie is beyond brave he makes decisions that give the story enough angst and a beautiful pay off.

Some may think this ends on an HFN and not an HEA but for me, I know these two are enjoying their happily ever after living in a cabin they built with their own two hands, running their own camp that turns into a profitable business they later hand down to men such as themselves as they share cups of tea and read poetry that bruises to one another until death parts them. Yeah, Charlie and Jack totally have an HEA.

Holiday Island by A.D. Ellis

No peacocks were harmed in the making of this story.

Rafa’s nautical skills are less than stellar. He’d rather be a full-time artist, but he has a duty to the family business and a fear of standing up to his father and brother.

Carpenter Lucas is determined to rebuild his business after a lover’s betrayal nearly destroyed it. But he runs into a snag when he misses the last boat to the job site.

Rafa offers to take him, but Rafa isn’t much of a sailor.

When they end up on the wrong island, fears for survival gradually give way to an appreciation of the beauty around them—and each other. Rafa insists a holiday miracle will save them, and he teases Lucas for being a Scrooge.

In the end, Rafa’s miracle might come from the last place he expects: inside himself.

Ann - 2 Hearts

The idea of Holiday Island was a blurby dream but the execution was a little lacking for me overall. Rafa and Lucas had a serious case of insta love and that was the least problematic thing. I get the lust and the hope for a future, especially in a holiday short story. Both these guys needed an injection of romance in their lives and they were sappy as hell once they got together. It was really quite sweet and I liked them together very much even though that level of sweet isn’t really my thing.. But. But. When they started talking about starting businesses together and including the island they were on as part of it, my business brain couldn’t help but stomp the brakes hard. Boys, you know nothing about one another. Lucas, did you not learn from your last business venture?? Not to say that it’s going to happen again, but damn son, tread lightly. Also, you do not own this island, you can not do what you are planning, that’s just reality so I’m sorry, but I have zero confidence in either of your business acumens. Which doesn’t bode well for your futures and it made me not buy into any longevity here. Rant, complete. As for Rafa’s father and brother, that was some extreme BS and added a level of conflict that was OTT and unnecessary. It left me with a sour taste at the end and that was unfortunate.

Sara - 1.5 Hearts

Ugh. I hate to do this to a Christmas story but...ugh. There was zero connection for me to either Lucas or Rafa let alone the two men together. The writing was abrupt and the dialogue was so choppy that it was really hard to get into the story. I am a sucker for insta-love but this was even faster than that. Don’t get me started on Rafa’s family drama and then the possibilities of these two going into business on an island they don’t own with Lucas' past and just... nope. Sadly this didn’t work for me.

Boca Dreams by Scudder James Jr.

You can’t correct the past.

Or can you?

Stephen’s not proud of who he was back in boarding school—spoiled and a player. Now, at the holiday reunion ten years later, he has a chance to show his former classmates who he really is: out and proud, devoted to helping others, and partnered with Victor.

Stephen understands why Victor, who grew up in a poor and abusive household, hates the rich kids at the reunion, but his attitude is ruining everything. Luckily Stephen bumps into Aaron, a former grunge rocker who has also changed. Stephen never forgot their one steamy night together.

With the help of three very unusual personifications of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, can Stephen revisit his mistakes and find the happiness that’s eluded him?

Ann - 3 Hearts

Victor, you are a dick and I hate you. There, got that out of the way. I would have given this story another heart easily if it weren’t for Victor’s existence and if the time spent on him could have gone to the relationship development between Stephen and Aaron. Stephen could have gone to the fete after a breakup with Victor, leaving Victor to be an unfortunate footnote. In order for Stephen and Aaron to work (and I really wanted them to work) Victor had to be a caricature-type villain which really only made me question Stephen’s life choices. Basically I liked Aaron a lot and would have loved more page time with his character, and then he and Stephen together. I loved how they thought of one another after their one night “together”, even after all the years apart and I loved wallowing in their reconnection. Removing the bitter BS of Victor would have given me more wallowing time, and I would have appreciated that muchly.

Sara - Broken Heart

There isn’t anything I can find good about this book. Honestly. I don’t know what the author was going for but a fluffy Christmas read this was not. This was a messed up story with one rude and arrogant messed up Victor who should have been left off the page entirely or just briefly mentioned as Stephen’s ex-boyfriend or even the dude he was taking a break from. OMG! Why was Victor even included?

Had this been a reunion story of second chances and “what if’s” between Stephen and Aaron some 10 years later I could have bought it, even dealt with creepy assed Tony. But this? It was all sorts of nope for me.

Review copies were provided by the publisher in exchange for honest opinions.

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