Warmest Wishes Advent 2018: Week 5

It's Week 5 of the Warmest Wishes Advent Stories! This week we're featuring stories from Renae Kaye, Kim Katil, Crystel Greene, Elizabeth Noble, Bru Baker and Jana Denardo!

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

Slow Summer Heat by Renae Kaye

Geoffrey Saxon is in his forties, a bit plump, a lot fuzzy, and rather boring in bed—and thanks to a very public breakup, everyone in his street knows it. However, what they don’t know is that Geoffrey sometimes watches his hot young neighbor, Vaughn, in the pool. Vaughn has invited Geoffrey to join his pool parties, but Geoffrey knows it’s only pity.

As if things can’t get worse, Geoffrey’s air conditioner breaks during a heat wave in Western Australia—and just before Christmas. In search of some relief, he camps out in his backyard, where he also has a prime view of Vaughn swimming… naked. When Geoffrey’s injured falling from his spying post, Vaughn comes to his rescue and Geoffrey doesn’t think he can be more horrified.

But he could be in for a sweet holiday surprise. Is he ready to take the dive?
Ann - 4.5 Hearts

This story does slow burn just right, like, exactly, perfectly right. And when slow burn is done right, it can be hotter than the porniest of porn. Geoffrey gets that and his awkwardness, sincerity and honesty make this story. Slow Summer Heat is a purely character driven story, which works really well for the shorties because the characters can be more fully fleshed out and the balance of banter and activity let me get to know Geoffrey and Vaughn. Well, Geoffrey especially. It was nice to read a story with a more mature MC and watch his ego get stroked by someone who he felt was out of his league, but who ended up being a perfect match for him. The setup made it easy to see why Geoffrey was attracted to Vaughn, but reading about the evolution of Vaughn’s attraction to Geoffrey and Geoffrey’s realization that he deserved the affection was a treat.

Season to Shimmer by Kim Katil

One morning close to the holidays, Nolan wakes up to two surprises: a distress call from his younger brother and a beautiful man in his bed. Nolan, an art gallery owner, has always been discreet about his sexuality, but when his baby brother plans to come out at the annual family gala, Nolan wants to have his back—and that means showing up with a man of his own on his arm. Nolan knows just the man for the job.

Skylar, who owns a karate studio in St. Augustine, can’t get his one-night stand out of his mind. When he runs into Nolan at his gallery he is more than happy to volunteer his services as arm candy. Out-and-proud himself with his striking blue/green hair, Skylar is all in. Their adventure means a fancy salon, family drama, lots of sex, a ninja hippo, and palm trees lit up in a very suggestive way. By the end of it, what started as a hookup might become much more.

Ann - 2.5 Hearts

I loved the idea of this one and the beginning was a seriously hot setup. But then a lot of noise happened with every other character and took away from the two MC’s and that bummed me out. The messages were well received but were delivered in the guise of telenovela drama, which if you like a bit of OTT, then you will love this. I myself appreciate subtlety a bit more, so while this story wasn’t so much for me, I can see the appeal. I liked Nolan and Skylar together, I just didn’t get a real sense of them as a couple so it was harder to buy into the HEA than it should have been.

R *A Reader Obsessed - 3 Hearts

When a pending family holiday party pushes Nolan to come out to support his younger gay brother, it also pushes Nolan to take a chance on finding some romantic love himself. Who better to be his co conspirator and quasi-fake boyfriend than the gorgeous hookup currently occupying his bed? Surely, Nolan can find some “incentive” to get Skylar to be his date.

For me, this was a bit rough around the edges in execution and dialogue. There was a lot going on here that kinda left me spinning. However, I really enjoyed the brotherly vibes and for those who need plenty of smexy, this shortie does not shirk on the goodness. The dynamic between Nolan and Skylar was great and though things moved super fast, having Christmas just around the corner was good enough for me and apparently, good enough for these two to push them in the right direction! Cheers!
Santa on the Beach by Crystel Greene

The sexy Santa and the virgin dad....

Single dad Mario, twenty-one, has finally won shared custody of his five-year-old son, Sammy. They’re spending Christmas at a Tenerife resort to celebrate. The children’s swimming instructor, Josie, is sexy and fun, and Mario can’t stop dreaming about him. But Mario has no clue how to talk to a hot guy.

With his suntan, Speedos, and rippling abs, Josie seems to be the typical jock. He’s super sweet too, and everyone loves him. But he only has eyes for the fire-eyed little dad who looks like his son’s older brother and won’t stop policing the swimming class.

Sammy would like to be a king in the hotel’s nativity play. But he’s too afraid to go anywhere without his dad.
Mario would like a holiday romance with Josie, or even a little more, but between building his tech company and trying to do his part as Sammy’s father he has missed out on a lot and is too inexperienced to know where to begin.

Luckily Santa might have just the thing for everyone on his list...

Ann - 4.5 Hearts

Santa on the Beach was so much more than I expected and I loved Mario and his story. The author managed to fit SO much nuance into a short story and it was seriously impressive. The story was told from Mario’s perspective and it was a take on young fatherhood that I had never read before. I don’t usually go for stories with kids in them and it’s only because I don’t give them a fair shake. It’s no easy feat to write a story with a believable little kid, but Crystel Greene did it and the realistic difficulties Mario had with his son Sammy were in turn heart-waming and heart-wrenching, but in the end, realistic.

Reading Mario’s perspective and the stress he felt about measuring up as an extremely young father gave me a lot of respect for his character. At the same time, his crush on Josie gave him some hard won focus on himself for a change and while he fought it pretty adorkably hard, Josie appreciated Mario for how he should be appreciated.

The depth of this story along with the lovable characters and excellent banter made me search out more of this author’s stories as soon as I finished.

Twenty-Nine Hours to Eternity by Elizabeth Noble

Being gay and pagan can make for a lonely holiday season, as Ian knows well. He’s used to celebrating alone. The last place he expects to meet a like-minded guy is at LAX during a twenty-nine-hour layover.

Ian’s never felt so comfortable or compatible with another man, even if there is an air of mystery to Race.

Race is no stranger to holiday isolation, and he decides they should seize the opportunity they’ve been given and observe the Saturnalia the way it was meant to be. A grand celebration ensues, where every moment is special and every meal a feast. The ancient traditions take on new meaning as the men find meaning in each other. But each of them has a destiny and for their paths to continue together, it’ll take a kind of magic that hasn’t been seen in centuries.

Ann - 3 Hearts

This story was truly unique and while it didn’t have a lot of world building to be able to attach to, it was still bittersweetly intriguing. The hints of the paranormal throughout are subtle at first, but make more sense as the story evolves. The blurb makes it sound bigger than what it is, the story itself is not that dramatic, but the level of detail I got worked for the length of the story. I liked Ian and Race together very much and it was obvious from their connection they were meant to be together. There was only one way for that to be a thing, hence the bittersweet, but I still wasn’t too sad, and that says a lot for how the author set it up and the amount of detail provided. It wasn’t an expected type of holiday story, but it still had the core feels that made it memorable.

R *A Reader Obsessed - 3 Hearts

This was odd but weirdly enjoyable but odd.

Ian has a long layover waiting to service his next flight. However will he wile away the next 29 hours? Luckily, he meets Race, a stranger who he finds compelling and charming, and what ensues over the next day is them getting to know each other fabulously and celebrating the holiday through their shared pagan beliefs.

What Ian doesn’t realize is that the future brings an interesting development, and Race has apparently been waiting for this event and Ian for a long long time…

Obviously, this has a bit of paranormal/fantasy whimsy thrown in. Mix it with a little fate and you’ve got an interesting original set up that brings a twist on Ian and Race’s HEA!

Holidays Are Where Your Heart Is by Bru Baker

Jared’s been all over the world as a traveling manny with Holiday Helpers, and the itch to put down roots is starting to eclipse his wanderlust—especially since his current family is a handful.

After culinary school, Wes did some wandering of his own, exploring Central America before settling as a resort chef in his mother’s homeland of Costa Rica, a place he loves and where he plans to stay. If he’s learned one thing, it’s to be wary of flings with vacationers. Still, he can’t stand to watch two little Swiss kids lose their belief in Saint Nicholas, so he’ll lend a hand to the manny assisting the family. It won’t be easy to recreate a traditional European Christmas in a tropical paradise.

Between a snowball fight on a sunny beach and sledding down an active volcano, Jared and Wes discover some renewed holiday magic of their own. Can they make it last a lifetime?

Ann - 3.5 Hearts

Jared is feeling like he’s at the end of his traveling manny career. He’s dedicated to the education of kids and is anxious to try a new way to reach them. His latest charges have seemingly absentee parents so he has a big job on his hands to make these kids feel like they aren’t missing the Christmas they know while on a tropical beach. He gets help from the chef/surf teacher on site and of course, the two of them hit it off and it was pretty smooth and angst free. It made it easy to appreciate them as a couple and the near perfection of their relationship was all kinds of Hallmark. It wasn’t too saccharine sweet though, Jared and Wes had just enough snark to keep it real-ish, while still being holiday perfect. I totally bought into an HEA for them, so while the perfection may not have been 100% realistic, the author made me want to believe it, and so I did.

Purrfect Holiday by Jana Denardo

Tony Gatti had his life planned: get his veterinarian license and go to work with his dad and uncle. Soon after achieving his goals, he learned the shadows and blurriness in his vision went beyond needing glasses. Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic mutation with no cure. With his sight almost gone, he moves into his grandmother’s St. Augustine, Florida, home with his guide dog, Raven, to start life over. Nonna Concetta thinks she knows the perfect job for him. Her vet is looking for someone to destress the cats at a local rescue.

Javier didn’t plan to hire a cute former veterinarian to fill the role of cat cuddler, but Tony couldn’t be more perfect. Worried his attraction is inappropriate and knowing the holiday season always depresses him, Javier wonders if he should ask Tony out, or if he’d just be spreading the gloom to someone who already has enough of his own. But if he takes the plunge, could it turn out to be the best holiday ever?

Ann - 3.5 Hearts

Well, I’m a sucker for holiday stories. I’m also a sucker for stories with critters. Put the two together and it’s pretty much a recipe made for me. Purrfect Holiday had the makings to be entirely too adorable, but the author managed to bring in some reality to keep it from being that side of too much. Both men had issues outside the vet’s office and those things made their meeting much more important than just two guys being attracted to one another. Tony has a degenerative eye disease that he is learning to live with and Javier has some family that refuses to accept him; totally different heartbreaks, but heartbreaks nonetheless. They each could use a little shoring up and they found it with one another through the pets they’ve dedicated their lives too. It made for a meet-cute that wasn’t too cute, but also wasn’t too heavy either. The author struck a good balance between the reality of their situations and the hope they found with each other.

R *A Reader Obsessed - 3.5 Hearts

Animal lovers watch out! There's all sorts of dog and cat adorable-ness coming your way!

Disabled Tony doesn’t let his impending blindness inhibit him too much. So, when his grandmother finds him a part time job cuddling those in need at her vet’s office, it’s the perfect distraction. Bonus points for Tony, because hot doctor Javier is hot!

The progression between Tony and Javier was appreciatively sweet, realistic, and romantic. Throw in the bestest seeing eye dog, a geektastic meddling grandma, and plenty of food porn (sadly none of the real stuff) and this was quite the enjoyable and cute holiday romance!

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


  1. Thanks for the lovely review for SANTA ON THE BEACH, Ann! Happy New Year!
    <3 Crystel

    1. Thank you Crytsal! Mario had me wrapped around his finger pretty quickly and I loved his inner dialog. I look forward to reading more of your work!