Warmest Wishes Advent 2018: Week 6

It's the final week of the Warmest Wishes Advent Stories! We've had a lot of fun this year and hope you have too. This week we're featuring stories from T.J. Nichols, Charles Payseur, Quincy Cameron, Beth Laycock and Kim Fielding!

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

The Legend of Gentleman John by TJ Nichols

Banyn, a fae, escorts the souls of children to Magh Meall, but one Christmas, he comes for a lad who isn’t quite dead, and he breaks a rule rather than wait while John fights a battle he’ll ultimately lose. So begins a long-running affair that crosses the border between life and death, the human and fae realms, and even oceans to strange countries with different gods and rules.

John Rourke renounced a religion that had no place for him and returned to the old ways. Convicted of theft, he is sentenced to transportation and suffers brutal punishment—until he escapes to live on his own terms as a bushranger. When vengeance against his tormentor consumes him and threatens his life, John finds he has only one holiday wish—to see his fae lover one last time.

Ann - 4.5 Hearts

The Legend of Gentleman John is a bleak and harsh story on the surface, but the depth the author achieved in this short tale is really amazing. The non-linear story telling reveals John’s backstory in pieces that paint a picture that is hard to read and even harder to realize the truth that is John’s life and its representation of trans life in history. It’s heartbreaking and the paranormal element turned The Legend of Gentleman John into a fairytale of the highest caliber.

True fairytales often start as horror stories and what John lived through qualifies as horrific in my estimate and the appearances of Banyn throughout his life offered that little light that kept John going. The glimpses back in time that tell John’s story and his interactions with Banyn were bittersweet and their conversations were poetic.

The inevitable ending that John met was also a sweet release and I absolutely loved how the author ended this story. It’s truly worth a read and a reread.

Hero for the Holidays by Charles Payseur

A Spandex and Superpowers Story

Cody travels from Metro City to the Caribbean island lair of Dr. Devious to look after the place while the supervillain is in space for the holidays… and maybe to mend his broken heart. With Christmas fast approaching, Cody is desperate to avoid reminders of his recent disastrous breakup, and a few weeks of sun and relaxation sound perfect—until a drunk (but very cute) superhero crashes the party by literally crashing onto the beach.

And that’s just the start of Cody’s problems—angry shark-men, mysterious lava creatures, and a malfunctioning AI all make his holiday getaway anything but relaxing. Amid the chaos of his adventures in lair-sitting, though, Cody might find just what he needs—a new chance at love.

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4 Hearts

My favorite of this series!

Poor Cody. He just wants to forget his cheating ex for the holiday, and he’s ready to settle in on Dr. Devious’s (from How the Supervillain Stole Christmas) tropical island, expecting his job of nefarious lair sitting to be a piece of cake. What could possibly go wrong?

Um… try a flashy superhero crashing on the beach ready to kick some villain ass and carrying his own set of woeful baggage.

As per the blurb, throw in an off the rails and unhelpful artificial intelligence, a group of shark men who are up to no good, and a mysterious lava man obsessed with a werewolf soap opera. Cody and Sonny definitely get way more than the bargained for!

Again, I enjoyed this world Payseur has created and expanded upon. This was funny, entertaining, and sexy, and I look forward to more!

Ann - 4 Hearts

Ok, this was a total kick and completely different than any of the other offerings in this years Advent Calendar. Superhero stories can easily veer off into ridiculous cheesiness, but when done right, the cheese is superhero level superfun and that’s exactly what Hero for the Holidays was.

There is a lot going on and a lot to learn to make the story work, but the author presented all of the descriptions and backstories organically and made the different arcs easy to follow so I could stay focused on the charms of the characters and their ridiculously entertaining scenes.

Since this is part of a series, I’m going to go snatch up 1 through 3, this is an addictive holiday treat.

Haste Ye Back by R. Quincy Cameron

The situation seems ideal: a month off work and a sweet deal to extend his stay in an unexpected paradise. Needless to say, Aaron is thrilled to snag an extra few days in Scotland after his work conference to soak up the magic of the country.

However, his plans to tourist his way around Edinburgh before his January 1st flight home are thwarted by a strange influx of people into the capital. Add in trains that don't run on New Year's, fireworks, first-footing, and running into the same gorgeous stranger as he exits every other shop, and Aaron really should have googled what “Hogmanay” was before he found himself whisked into the whirlwind of Scottish revelry and the impossible draw of that sexy stranger who tastes like scotch and, impossibly, already feels like the beginnings of home.

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 2 Hearts

Perhaps the spirit of the holidays and the prospect of a new year was thought to be enough to lend a seemingly happy conclusion, but it was not enough.

Too short a short, this finds Aaron in the midst of the chaotic Scottish holiday Hogmanay and figuratively and literally, he’s lost. Good thing he runs into Connor a few times where the connection is lightning quick and thoughts of love even quicker.

The writing didn’t quite capture me like I wanted it to. This barely touched on all I need in a romance, and I was left wanting despite the hopeful ending.

Ann - 3 Hearts

The setting and celebrations were a treat to read in Haste Ye Back. The author did a really good job of putting the reader into the setting and the descriptions took me to Hogmanay with the MC’s. Being a holiday junkie, I appreciate reading about the celebrations that take place in other countries and cultures.

Haste Ye Back had likable characters and a meet-cute I could totally buy into for a holiday story. It was charming and realistic and Aaron’s inner dialog was spot on for someone in his situation and personality. The charm continued on to the bar where Aaron and his handsome stranger, Connor spent time with some cocktail fueled banter and eye boning.

I was fully onboard with everything that was going on, but the insta love took a fast track, even for insta love, and I felt a little left in the dust with the romance. I’m fine with insta lust and where that can lead, but I do enjoy some buildup that was missing here. The ending left the reader with a hopeful HFN, which I did believe, but considering the insta love, I did expect more at the end.

This would make a great full length story to be able to explore a fully developed relationship between Aaron and Connor.

Miracle on Three Kings’ Day by Beth Laycock

Levi’s family knows he needs to find a way out of his funk and be a part of the world again. His brother, Jesse, invites Levi to join him in sunny Spain for the holidays, but a delay at the airport finds Levi at Jesse’s home while his brother is stranded in Scotland. Luckily Alejandro—Alex—is on hand with a key, a friendly smile, and a willingness to keep Levi company. He might even manage to draw Levi out of his shell for some mutual flirting.

Levi surprises himself when he accepts an invitation to spend New Year’s Eve with Alex at Alex’s cafĂ©, but is he ready for more when it means jumping back into life feetfirst? Besides, with an ocean between them and Alex hiding a part of his life that Levi isn’t sure he can handle, they’ll need their own Three Kings’ Day miracle to stay together.

Ann - 4 Hearts

The author managed to pack a lot of story into 44 pages and the balance she struck worked really well for every branch of Miracle on Three King’s Day. It also made me want to book a trip to Spain and stay in Alex’s brothers place.

The author also managed to make miscommunication work in this short, probably because it was more assumption than miscommunication, but the short life of the confusion was perfect for me, it gave Levi and Alex a little conflict and the push that Levi needed. Levi’s insecurities were relatable rather than grating (as insecurities can sometimes be) so he was a flawed character, but in a realistic way.

Alex was a dream and I fell for him just as much as Levi did. He was exactly what Levi needed and vice versa. There’s a promise of more for them and I would have loved to read it. An epilogue would have been awesome, as the ending was a smidge abrupt considering the buildup. But there was enough foundation for me to believe in Levi and Alex together for the long haul.

Exit Through the Gift Shop by Kim Fielding

Alex’s traditional family Christmas Compromise means spending the holiday at a second-rate theme park, Poseidon’s Planet, but Alex doesn’t mind. He enjoys the rides and the company of his family, and it’s a good break from his going-nowhere existence back in Indiana. Then he meets a certain sexy employee in a pirate costume, and Alex’s vacation gets even better. But thrill rides last only a short time, and sooner or later everyone has to return to real life. Alex long ago gave up on marrying a handsome prince—will he have to give up on his pirate as well?

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4 Hearts

Seriously sweet and heartwarming!

Alex is on his annual Christmas trip with his family and of course, he never expects to find the promise of love while enjoying oceanic themed amusement park rides. However, when mutual attraction sparks between him and employee Rory, these two connect in a really genuine way.

This might not seem like there's much to this little story, but it really delivered on the sentiment and all the good familial and romantic feels! A total advent win!

Ann - 4 Hearts

Kim Fielding is really gifted at giving short and adorable holiday interludes and Exit Through the Gift Shop is especially so. Alex’s family tradition is a fun change from the usual holiday shenanigans and the family dynamic is sweet with just enough snark to keep them realistically likable. I’m a Die Hard Disneyland Fiend (notice the Caps) so I get Alex’s love for all things amusement park related.

His run ins with Rory are adorkably adorable and I liked reading the two of them together. As Christmas gets close and Alex spends time with Rory solo, the story got its depth as Rory told his life tale and I fell for him just as hard as Alex did. Christmas day was oozing with holiday charm and I lapped up every word.

Sure, the HEA was entirely too convenient and easy, but honestly, by the time the end came around I really didn’t care about reality, I was too onboard with their HEA to be bothered with the nonsense that is realism in my Christmas stories.

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

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