Review: DSP Advent: Homemade for the Holidays Week 3

Choosing the right gift for that special someone can be the most daunting part of the holidays. In a sea of mass-produced items, why buy when you can DIY? The end-of-the-year festivities are the best time for crafts, whether they’re made from yarn, paper, flour, or even code. And with some love and luck, these special presents might inspire a romance that lasts an evening… or a lifetime. Nothing makes the season merry and bright like a gift handmade from the heart, and to bring smiles to the faces of the ones they care about, these guys are willing to get creative.

Week 3 is here!

Hole-Hearted by Sam Burns

Pediatrician Luce Wright’s bad breakup gets worse when his drunk ex drives a car through his house a week before Christmas. His whole family is coming over in just a few days, and he can’t have a hole with a tarp over it in the middle of his dining room. Fortunately his neighbor’s son is moving back into town, and he owns a construction company. Can Luce and his homemade cookies persuade Darren to mend the hole in the house… and maybe the one in Luce’s heart too?

Ann - 2.5 Hearts

Well, that escalated quickly. Hole-Hearted is an extra short story so the romance/lust approached light speed to make it be a thing in 20 pages. I honestly thought I got to know Luce (and his family’s dynamic) pretty well in the page time given, so I was pretty happy in the ‘getting to know the MC’ department. Darren was more of a shell of a character, he didn’t get much beyond a basic description and history.

Luce’s ex causes major damage to Sam’s house right before Christmas and it’s super handy dandy that his neighbors son has returned home and has his own construction company. Soooo, he’s giving Luce an idea of time for repairs, etc., comments are made about how the neighbor wants to fix them up and wham, bam, thank you Darren, the two are dry humping in the damaged dining room. It kind of felt like a little too much gay convenience, as in, your both gay, so you should obviously date. 

There was a very optimistic HFN, but I didn’t get enough chemistry to base that on anything solid. Both characters and their respective families were happy though, so yay for home repairs and neighborly convenience!

A Holiday Homecoming by Liv Rancourt

Ten years ago Jon’s passion for the piano took him across the country to New York, where a demanding concert career consumed his life and left him no time to look back. His father’s stroke is the only thing that brings him home to Seattle. The sickroom makes for a dreary holiday until Jon runs into Bo, whose inner light can make anything sparkle.

Bo loves the holidays: the food, the crafts, the glitter! A fling with an old school friend—who grew up to be his celebrity crush—makes a good thing better. The season turns sour, though, when Jon is offered a gig he can’t refuse. He wants Bo to share the moment, but Bo doesn’t fly. Anywhere. Ever. 

Is this goodbye, or will a handmade ornament bring Jon home to Bo?

Ann - 4 Hearts

I liked this one. It’s a little darker and a little bittersweet, but Bo makes everything better and he was the necessary light in A Holiday Homecoming.

Jon is at a bit of a forced crossroads with his family and career. He’s come home to help his mom care for his father who recently suffered a stroke. They aren’t the closest of famiies and reading about their lives before and after was actually kind of sad. Jon and his dad have some undefined animosity between them that was alluded to and witnessed, but not really explored. So, I felt like something was missing a bit there.

Now, Bo, Bo is a force to be reckoned with. Bo and Jon were friends in middle school and Bo still lives in the town they grew up in. He’s close with his family, makes friends almost before he even meets them and he and Jon have some chemistry between them that needs exploring. They were too young to know what they were feeling back in the day, but now they know they want/need each other.

Jon is there temporarily though and it’s pretty easy for circumstances to convince him to rethink his future. Which I really appreciated. A lot of times a character will dig their heels in for “reasons” without giving the sappy stuff a chance to change their mind. Jon finally decides to give himself a full opportunity at life and it’s amazing what a compromise or two can do.

I completely bought into a HEA for these two, it’s kind of necessary.

Love in 24 Frames by C.S. Poe

Declan Groves is a CPA in New York City. His adult life is dictated by routine and borderline monotony. The need to express himself, in ways his career and crippling shyness have never allowed, leads Declan to becoming an amateur stop-motion filmmaker.

The one problem is that Declan is also in love with the Wandering Artist Studios receptionist Shota Watanabe. Shota has always had a smile and engaging comment ready for Declan, but even if it is more than casual politeness, Declan hasn’t been able to get out more than a tongue-tied sentence at a time. And a man like Shota surely has no intention of waiting forever.

So when an unexpected change to Declan’s daily schedule throws the two together outside of the studio, it might be the catalyst needed to explore what’s unspoken between them. But if they’re to have a future, Declan needs to find a way to tell Shota how he truly feels.

 R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4 Holiday Hearts

I’ve read every single one of Poe’s advent stories, and I’ve yet not been disappointed. This was a total win!

Understated and sweet, this starts with Declan - older, so so shy, and unable to make a move on his secret crush Shota.

Cue some awkwardness and a back and forth slow burn that ended with a really wonderful HEA for these two - and just in time for the holidays!

Poe definitely has that rare talent for shorts. This is one advent that will warm you up and keep you cozy through the cold wintery days, leaving you wanting more but not at all dissatisfied!

Ann - 4.5 Hearts

Love in 24 Frames is absolutely adorable was exactly what I expected from C.S. Poe. I read her advent tales faithfully every year and she has a real gift for writing short stories.

Declan is incredibly shy and his shyness is holding him back from his dream man who works at the studio that Declan rents to work on his stop motion animation project. Shota is charming and is subtley giving off interest vibes in Declan’s direction, but Declan is clueless and there’s no way he would believe that someone as incredibly lovely as Shota would be interested in him.

But, literally no one is as charming as a smitten Declan and through circumstances the two end up spending time together and Declan starts some actively wooing Shota and oh my, what an ideal wooing it was. Declan is quiet and sincere and Shota was perfect for him. Shota appreciated every little thing and everything about it made me happy.

I would have loved to dive into Shota’s life a little bit and to see a little redemption for him in the form of a Noah takedown, but all that would have derailed this from being a short story. The journey Declan and Shota took was such a treat and this one will be going on my Christmas reread list.

Making the Holidays Happy Again by Pat Henshaw

Blacksmith Butch has secretly loved his best friend, science nerd Jimmy, since grade school. Now their shops in Old Town Seven Winds, California, are only doors from each other.

They’re about to turn thirty, and Butch refuses to wait another day to make a decision: propose to Jimmy and start the family he’s always wanted or forget his dream to avoid risking their friendship. Why can’t the choice be as easy as creating decorative ironwork in his forge?

 R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3 Hearts

Another easy going advent that features a gentle giant and a friends to lovers trope.

As per the blurb, Butch and Jimmy have been friends for forever, and Butch has finally resigned himself that things will never progress further than that and hence, he needs to just move on and make some long term plans without his BFF.

Beware that this is all in Butch’s voice, and the author made it a point over and over how not educated he is. Admittedly, Butch’s low self esteem bummed me out, and I didn’t want that to be the main thing holding him back. Not surprisingly, he and Jimmy do get their happy ending, though I would’ve appreciated Jimmy’s POV to better understand his actions and feelings.

Regardless, I always give a lot of leeway with holiday reads and in the end, Butch and Jimmy’s happiness is what counts!

Ann - 2.5 Hearts

This friends to lovers story had a great setup and the little town sounded so quaint and I just wanted to pack up and visit.

The story is told through Butch’s POV and I liked him very much. It was mentioned repeatedly that Butch had not graduated high school he referred to himself as dumb entirely too often. It made me sad for him, because he was a successful businessman and an accomplished artist, he is obviously intelligent. His poor grammar made him seem like more of a caricature and wasn’t necessary and became slightly distracting.

I didn’t get much of a feel for Jimmy. He didn’t get a ton of page time and the time he and Butch were together was spent bickering. I was told they were BFFs forever, but I didn’t get a solid feel for what I was being told. I did get a good gist of Butch’s relationship with pretty much everyone else and he was a solid guy and good friend.

Jimmy went from 0 to 60 at the end and while it was what everyone wanted, especially Butch it came a bit out of the blue and that’s where a bit of Jimmy’s POV would have been helpful.

The Music Box by Kassandra Lea

It’s the eve of Alvin’s favorite holiday—the little-known St. Nick’s Day. His devoted boyfriend, woodworker Milo, has been planning for months to make it a day neither of them will forget, and their peaceful annual nighttime walk will pale in comparison to what Milo has secreted away in the basement.

Ann - 4 Hearts

The Music Box is a refreshingly sweet story about an established couple and there just aren’t enough of those around. We’re dropped into a moment with Alvin and Milo and these two are really good with moments. The author did a great job of showing the relationship between the two through great dialog and references to their past and wishes for their future.

Milo has a special surprise hidden away for Alvin for St. Nick’s Day. St. Nick’s Day is their own special day where they have a some sweet homespun traditions and the two of them are incredibly sweet together. Like really, really sweet. Really sweet.

The story of the tree and Milo’s gift for Alvin are so very thoughrful and something every established couple wishes they could have in their lives, probably not super realistic, but I don’t read for realism, I want the thoughtful sugar and Milo and Alvin delivered.

Notes from Home by Dirk Greyson

While deployed on a covert mercenary assignment, Johnny doesn’t have much in the way of holiday cheer. But the mysterious notes from Dex that somehow appear in his bunk—reminding him of the gifts, cookies, celebrations, and most of all, love, waiting for him back in Wisconsin—help him get through the long, hot days. Will they be enough to keep his spirits up when the rest of his unit goes home to their families and he’s left alone?

Ann - 4 Hearts

This short and sweet little nugget really delivered a lot of feels for being only 22 pages long. All the more impressive considering the two MC’s aren’t even together for the bulk of the story.

Johnny is on assignment and receives love letters from home from Dex on the regular and those letters get him through the hot and lonely days and nights. The author does a really solid job of showing how much these two love one another through Dex’s letters and handmade Christmas tchotchkes, as well as through Johnny’s inner musings. The fact that they won’t be able to be together for the holidays is heartbreaking, but something that they both accept as part of Johnny’s job for the greater good.

 The ending is a perfect coming home moment and my heart grew three sizes just reading it.

**copies of the Advent stories were provided for honest reviews**

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