Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, Christmas, Kinky, BDSM, D/s, New Year, Toys, Anthology, Power...moreOriginally posted at Rarely Dusty Books
Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, Christmas, Kinky, BDSM, D/s, New Year, Toys, Anthology, Power Play, Pain, Bondage, Seasonal Gifts
4 out of 5 stars (for the anthology)
3 out of 3 flames ~~~~~
The collection of stories brought together by Sarah Frantz in this hot anthology is a wonderful mix of various holiday themed BDSM tales, that are all inventive, original, hot, surprising and well-matched. They never get boring, because they are all very distinct despite having a lot in common. Probably because the most important thing they have in common is their high quality. It's the first time Riptide brings a holiday collection like this, but I hope it's not the last time! Here's my take on the eight kinky stories:
Tree Topper by Jane Davitt
Blurb: Martin’s new to the scene, and his sub Stan has recently stopped taking him seriously. Their tree has floggers, clamps, and cuffs underneath it, but will they ever be used? Frustrated and confused, Martin knows it will take more than a star to guide him on his way to becoming the Dom Stan needs—but their path to happiness might be shorter than he thinks.
This was a nice opening story for the anthology. It has the right amount of kink with delicious use of wrapping paper and for such a short story it has a well developed story arc with an interesting conflict and a satisfying solution. I liked Martin and Stan together and their frustration was very tangible. It was sweet how they finally opened up to each other and the message came across loud and clear: communication and talking about your feelings is necessary for an equal relationship, no matter if it's a D/s one or not. I thought theirs was an erotic little encounter and I would've liked to have seen more of their sexual chemistry. Anyhow, I believed in their HEA. 3.75 stars
’T was the Night by Ava March
Blurb: Percival Owen yearns for the nights when he can kneel before his lover, even though no self-respecting gentleman willingly submits to another. Michael wants his first Christmas with Percy to be perfect, but is frustrated by Percy’s inability to ask for what he wants. The gift Michael offers Percy—and that Percy offers in return—is the best Percy could ever hope to receive: his will to submit.
Like with everything else I've read from Ava March, I was engrossed in this story from the first page to the last. This author has a special way to tell her stories from within, as if you're inside her characters' heads, which makes you a very close witness of everything that's happening. It's as if you experience the intensity of the character's feelings yourself. Like, in this case, Percy's insecurities and struggling and contradicting feelings about his sexual preferences on the one hand and Michael's love and patience with his lover on the other hand. It's so endearing how Michael is set to help Percy battling his reluctance to express what he wants. The scene they have is incredibly hot, one of the hottest in this entire anthology (and that says a lot!). And on top of that they have an obvious emotional connection which deserves a sweet HEA and we as a reader are left satisfied in that department as well. 4.5 stars
Fireworks by Katie Porter
Blurb: Rachel’s job is taking her to Tokyo, which means leaving behind her lover and submissive, Emma. When she summons Emma for one last hurrah on New Year’s Eve, Emma answers, hoping desperately to be able to break through her ma’am’s emotional barriers and find the spark of love among the glittering fireworks.
This is the only F/F story in this anthology and, aside from perhaps one or two F/F stories in other anthologies, I don't have much experience with reading this genre, so that should be taken into account. And to be honest, so far I haven't found the same excitement yet in reading F/F stories as I have in M/M, and this story is not an exception. Maybe it's the story, maybe it's me, but I'll try to explain why this story couldn't enthuse me very much. Foremost, I didn't love the premise and plot line: Rachel leaving for her job to Tokyo and having one last scene with her submissive lover Emma, all the while convinced that it is best for her and Emma to end things this way. Somehow this made the sex scene they have on New Year's Eve pretty 'angry' and I thought Rachel was mostly cruel (and not in a loving bdsm way) and cold. I also didn't feel that we got much of an explanation for their emotional attachment (with their relationship being long distance), other than the match in kinky sex, for which they hooked up every now and then. That way it was difficult to feel or understand these characters and specifically Rachel's sudden and late change of mind and both their declarations of love at the end. However, I liked the writing style and inventiveness (glitter!) of this author duo and I'll definitely try one of their other titles that aren't F/F in the near future, because it made me curious enough. 2.75 stars
Candy Caning by L.A. Witt
Blurb: Nate is dreading the annual Christmas visit with his family, during which they will ignore or insult his partner and Dominant. Stephen tries hard to take Nate’s mind off the trip with the promise—and threat—of a three-foot-long candy cane. It’s a race to see if Nate’s resolve or the candy cane will shatter first.
With this fabulous Christmas story L.A. Witt proves once more why I'm such a big fan of her writing. It's one of my favorites in this collection. I absolutely adored how Stephen surprised his lover and how he succeeded in taking Nate's mind of the trip home. I can honestly say that I've never thought of candy canes in a sexual way, but wow, I'm sure I can never eat or even look at one again without thinking of this story! It's so freaking hot and adorable and sweet, it just left me all happy and sated. Nate and Stephen make a wonderful couple and I would love to read more about them in a longer story if the author ever decides to write one. 4.75 stars
Submissive Angel by Joey W. Hill
Blurb: After Robert found Ange bleeding in an alley, he employed the man in his vintage toy store as an act of charity. However, this Christmas, the eccentric young dancer will offer his thanks—and himself—to teach a brokenhearted Master how to open himself to love again.
I've enjoyed reading Joey W. Hill's D/s stories prior to this story and I'm in love with her voice. Also, her dominants are far from stereotypes and everything they do to their submissives is wickedly hot. Especially the way the subs get restrained is inventive and the emotional impact is made tangible. It's not different here. Robert and Ange have those elements all going for them. And I enjoyed them very much. However, what keeps me from rating this story higher, is the way their backstory is told and how the story has been paced. I felt as if the flow of the story was interrupted by too much pondering and looking back. Additionally, I didn't really care for the picture made by the manger introduced into the last sex scene. However, apart from these little struggles I was still entertained by this original and beautifully written story. 4 stars
Open Return by Elyan Smith
Blurb: Fifteen years ago, Zach left the small Midwestern town he grew up in, confused and scared and determined to figure out who he was. Now transformed, he’s drawn back by the memory and promise of the dominant couple he left behind. Laura and Scott are still together, and as the year draws to a close, they explore old feelings and new ones as they discover they’ve all been waiting for Zach to come home.
This is not the first transgender story I've read but its still rather a novelty for me. I liked how this is told from the point of view of Zach who left town as Hannah fifteen years ago. We learn about his feelings and thoughts and we see reactions of people through his eyes. This part is well done. Zach is back in town to reunite with Laura and Scott, a dominant couple he knows intimately from his past. It's heartwarming to see that they don't care about his gender change one way or the other. They reminiscence their past as a threesome together and end up discovering each other anew in a sexual way. Unfortunately, when the story finishes we are left with quite some questions, which confuses me about how I feel about this story. I think it packs too many different elements to make it work for me in the end: there's the transgender theme, the reunion with the former lovers (but also with his foster parents), the ménage a trois, de D/s element, the fact that Laura and Scott have children. I'm not even sure if it has a happy ending or not. It probably would've worked better a) in a full-length novel or b) when one or a few of the many elements were left out of this short story. 3 stars
Ring Out the Old and In the New by Alexa Snow
Blurb: Recovering from a mugging on the London Underground, Evan has barely left the house in weeks. His partner and Dom, Russell, finally manages to drag him outside on Christmas Eve, but it’s the surprise that Russell has waiting for him back home that helps Evan get past his trauma and remember what’s important: being on his knees for the man he loves.
Oh, this was a rather heartbreaking little story. Evan is scarred and traumatized due to a mugging during which he got sliced in the face with a knife. His Dom Russell has been very patient with him but now he wants him to go out to see some friends and to celebrate Christmas Eve together. That part of the story alone was heartwarming enough thanks to Russell's caring way, but on top of that Evan also has some serious doubts about his looks and Russell's feelings for him now that he's scarred. And being the loving Dom and lover that Russell is, he has the right answer to those doubts as well. Like most other stories in the anthology this one features an established couple with some temporary problems. It's a well-told and enjoyable story, in which nothing really stands out in a negative way. 3.75 stars
His Very Last Chance by Kim Dare
Blurb: Drew screwed up. So when his master, Kingsley, summons him on New Year’s Eve, he knows he deserves the punishment in store for him. Everything changed for Kingsley when he overheard Drew running his mouth to his friends on Boxing Day. Now, there’s only one way he can possibly ring in the New Year: starting over fresh, either with an ending or a new beginning.
Kim Dare's D/s stories always guarantee to give me a feel-good(-though-kinky) time. Her characters usually don't converse all that much, other than through body language. That's what makes misunderstandings as the one between Drew and Kingsley happen. And I love the way Dare makes her characters work through it all until a solution (and a delicious happy ending) has been reached. What did work very well for me in this story is the alternating point of view. And I liked how the scorching chemistry between them had this emotional layer added as well. As a last contribution in this anthology (also thanks to the fireworks and candles used in this story) it is a fabulous way to ring out the year and to conclude this bundle of kinky and hot stories! 4.25 stars
This was a fabulous anthology with four Christmas themed stories from four great authors. As a collection I would rate it with 5 stars, because each o...moreThis was a fabulous anthology with four Christmas themed stories from four great authors. As a collection I would rate it with 5 stars, because each of the separate stories is worth the buy. Here's my take on each of them.
Mistletoe at Midnight LB Gregg
5 out of 5 stars
This is a perfect holiday story! It has a fabulous love couple, some sort of Christmas miracle, an intriguing narrator's voice, this author's distinctive humor and an engaging plot. Owen is the narrator of the story. He is a vet and he and his dog arrive late for the Christmas get-together of his family at an inn in Vermont. At arrival he discovers that his first love, Caleb, is also staying at the inn. And to make things even more complicated, his mother has invited his last ex-boyfriend, Keith, as well. Through short flashbacks Owen and Caleb's shared history is revealed and it's obvious that they are each other's 'one that got away'. During the first part of the story, also a lot is revealed in the conversations, which are - in combination with Owen's thoughts on them - a delight to read. But so is the 'action' that follows. A constant factor throughout the story remains Owen's ability to make and phrase his observations that never fail to make me snort. A few examples:
“I had a type, and now everyone in the entryway knew it, including me. I was suddenly very glad to be blending in to the wallpaper.”
“His briefs lovingly cupped his crotch. I didn’t even pretend I wasn’t looking because, by God, he wasn’t as shriveled from the aftereffects of hypothermia as one might expect. He was gorgeous.”
“My mother clapped her hands and stood. Today’s holiday sweater was a fully decorated Christmas tree with tiny silver jingle bells and more blinking lights. She must wear a battery pack in her bra.”
Everything comes together nicely in the end and the happy ending is very satisfying. Not merely because of the great and hot smexing, but also due to the sweet exchange of Secret Santa gifts. This is a story that I've read in one breath and that I didn't want to finish so I could enjoy these heroes a bit longer.
Nine Lights over Edinburgh Harper Fox
4.5 out of 5 stars
This author’s writing style is different from most authors’ I know of. It’s elaborate, descriptive - some will call it verbose - and expressive. I think you’ll love it or hate it. I happen to enjoy it once I surrender to it. Harper Fox’s writing has the ability to take me to the places she describes. In this story those are the dark alleys and obscure corners of the streets of Edinburgh. The colorful descriptions of the surroundings emphasize the main character’s gloomy and damaged soul. James is a detective inspector with the Scottish police, divorced since one year from his wife with whom he has a young daughter. He’s doing dangerous undercover work on his own, drinks too much and has to deal with a new, unkind Chief. She is trying to bring him down and five days before Christmas it appears she succeeded. James reluctantly agrees to do what she wants, a security job for the visiting Israeli ambassador. On that job he meets Toby, a Mossad agent to whom he feels instantly attracted. When Toby takes a bullet for him when things go awry their fate is sealed. After that a whole series of suspenseful events happen and Harper Fox makes us feel the drama, the attraction and the hope. I loved the careful way the author portrayed her heroes and their blooming relationship. I loved how she made the hope for better times tangible. And I enjoyed her plotting inventiveness. But there’s one thing I found hard to grasp: that all these events happened in such a short period of time (five days). I’m not talking about instant love per se but more about the suspense elements. Like Toby leaving the hospital after one day after taking a bullet up the shoulder and subsequently skipping a night’s sleep and going into full action to take a kidnapper down. I mean, is he made of steel? Alas, this story needs a little suspension of disbelief I reckon. But other than that, I fully enjoyed this story, which was the least Christmas-spirited of the collection of four from the His for the Holidays anthology.
“From his position on the bench, struggling with his shoelaces, McBride could see parts of his colleagues seldom exposed in cultures that did not include a skirt in their national dress. He repressed a smile. It was enough to put a man off. And that would be grand, wouldn’t it—cure him, straighten him out and send him home to Libby with a hard-on.”
I Heard Him Exclaim Z.A. Maxfield
4.5 out of 5 stars
In I Heard Him Exclaim we’re treated at Christmas in all its glory, with the commercial bells and whistles (and lights) to match. Main character Steve’s family is completely nuts when it comes to Christmas: they decorate their houses outrageously and they live for the festivities. Steve himself used to be equally nuts, and he liked to play the part of Santa, but not this year. He is not in the spirit because he is no longer filling out the Santa suite after a heart operation early that year. He decides to go to Las Vegas to escape the festivities, but on his way there he meets Chandler, who just inherited guardianship of his five-year-old niece, Poppy. The two of them can use Steve’s help after their car broke down and their holiday plans got canceled, so Steve decides to take them home. There he and Chandler work together to give Poppy a wonderful Christmas while they feel more and more attracted to each other. I have to admit that I had a little trouble with getting the image of Steve as an old, wrinkly Santa out of my head after the first descriptions of his physical features. I’m not a big fan of the May-December theme where the age difference between the characters nears the parent-child gap. So, to make this story work for me, I had to make Steve a bit younger and more attractive in my head than the author probably had meant him to be. But apart from that, their love story was easy to enjoy. I loved Chandler and his feelings towards his niece and I found Steve’s observational skills regarding Chandler very engaging and sweet. And their smexy moments were certainly sizzling hot and entertaining in their variety. The author succeeded in conveying that Steve and Chandler are so right for each other, even if they only met a couple of days ago. Overall this was a well-written, enjoyable, festive love story with a touch of seriousness and a lot of smiles in it.
“[…] men came in two different flavors, and one of those flavors could fix cars. The other, the group to which he belonged, were utterly useless without a cup of coffee in one hand and a computer mouse in the other. He looked under the hood of the car and felt like the apes at the beginning.”
Icecapade Josh Lanyon
4.75 out of 5 stars
I think I lost my heart to Noel! He’s one of those characters that I will remember for a long time. And his Robbie is one hell of a sexy opponent. This is such a loveable and memorable couple. And they play their parts wonderfully in an amusing, well-paced plot, which is nevertheless way too modest and short. I’m of the opinion that their relationship could’ve used a couple of (or rather a lot) more pages. I was just about getting settled into the story when it already ended… Icecapade is probably the shortest story in the His for the Holidays anthology which is to my regret. Alas, the story that we did get though, was very satisfying. Noel is a former cat burglar and now a novelist living a quiet life with his horses. Robert Cuffe is the FBI agent who has been on his tail for years and with whom he spent a hot, memorable night nearly eleven years ago. They haven’t seen or spoken each other since then. Until now. Suddenly Robert rings Noel’s doorbell the day before Christmas, allegedly investigating a new series of burglaries even though Noel retired over a decade ago. The men spend some time together, talking about the past, Noel’s morals and more sexy things, meanwhile helping several of Noel’s neighbors out with their problems, like saving a baby llama from a crevice it fell into. As with other books of Josh Lanyon I loved the narrator’s voice, this time in third person and from Noel’s point of view:
“What a day. He still hadn’t showered or shaved. No wonder Robert was keeping him at arm’s distance—and he hadn’t even started fooling around with llamas yet.”
“The cab smelled like llama and wet dog. At least, that’s what Noel hoped it smelled like. Hopefully his lack of grooming wasn’t catching up with him.”
This story had a few of those chuckle moments as well as some pretty sexy ones. Like the opening scene in which the actual sex scene already took place. Although we don’t even witness the actual smexing, I remember this scene as being sexy as hell. Later in the book we are invited into the bedroom at the right moment, thank goodness. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that! This couple’s chemistry is hot, tangible and fabulously described and their developing relationship is unique and unforgettable thanks to the fetching plot it’s wrapped in. ~
With only 0.5 flames out of 3 as the heat level this anthology, Racing Hearts, is not my usual read. It’s way less sexually explicit than a lot of the...moreWith only 0.5 flames out of 3 as the heat level this anthology, Racing Hearts, is not my usual read. It’s way less sexually explicit than a lot of the other books I review. This is more of a sweet and cute kind of romance anthology. From the three authors Vicki Lewis Thompson, Nancy Warren and Dorien Kelly, I’ve read some Blaze novels from the first two before and did enjoy those pretty much. Anyone who has ever read a Blaze knows that in those stories love scenes never take place behind closed doors. Sex scenes are fairly explicit and erotic in Blazes. Not so much in this anthology. Ms. Thompson and Ms. Warren can’t be accused of showing any naked body parts, except for an occasional man titty maybe, but it may have been that the bare chest was part of Ms. Kelly’s story, I’m not sure.
Anyway, this collection of three stories wasn't bad, it was pretty okay. Some parts I did like better than others. It's always difficult to rate an anthology, since the different stories are somewhat divers. These three stories do have a few things in common though. First of all they’re all taking place in the setting of the NASCAR races, in Daytona. And second they have the time of the year in common: Valentine’s Day and the opening week of racing season. But every story is a stand-alone read, they don’t share (sub)characters or anything else. Every author brings her own vibe to the story, and has her own writing style. Therefore I’ll talk about each story separately.
A Calculated Risk by Vicki Lewis Thompson Roni is one of the guys because of her occupation as car chief of a racing team. She has the hots for her crew chief Judd for over a year now. But he doesn’t see her as a woman, she thinks. Only he does so, and thinks she’s attractive, but doesn’t want to date a team member because of the complications a fall out could cause. Besides, Judd is having a conflict with the race car driver of their team, who happens to be Roni’s friend. This conflict is causing a lot of trouble for the team because of the distrust that comes along with it. And Roni tries to mediate. At the same moment as she has decided to dress more feminine and wear make-up to get Judd’s attention. Of course, she was sweet to try to mediate in the conflict and Judd appreciates that a lot. And he starts to notice her kind personality where he first mainly saw her attractiveness and professional skills. What I don’t understand though is how he gets from not willing to date a team member to being okay with it. That's because ‘A Calculated Risk’ is overly well plotted but with little attention for inner conflicts or feelings between H/h. I would have liked to see a bit more of that and I don’t mean a sentence like “Liquid heat poured through her” (p. 100) - only because the guy cups her face in his hands... But the story did give a nice view behind the scenes of a NASCAR team.
An Outside Chance by Nancy Warren Lucy and Sawyer are quite a cute couple. She’s a funny, happy, average looking girl and he’s a young and hot race car driver. They meet because Lucy sucker punches him by accident in the stomach while he’s jogging. She came to Daytona for a blind date that she met at a NASCAR fan website. And the blind date turned out to be a complete loser. Lucy and Sawyer’s unusual meeting leads to a cup of coffee and a tour on the racing tracks. Sawyer discovers that Lucy can make him forget about his nerves for the race because of her well-natured, light-hearted chitchat and personality. And he wants to keep her around. Luckily for them there’s also a physical heat between them – of which we don’t see much, mind you – plus Sawyer’s family really likes Lucy. I totally hoped that he would see that she was the one for him. What almost threw me off was a thought Sawyer had about Lucy being on a blind date with someone she met on the internet: “Maybe she had an older brother. But if so what was the guy thinking letting her go on this crazy stunt?” (p 136-137). I couldn’t believe this old-fashioned way of thinking. Luckily, Sawyer turns out to be pretty okay and his eyes open quickly about Lucy. She had me laughing a few times with him, although one time my laugh wasn’t accompanied by his and had more of a mocking undertone. This was when she thinks their first kiss, a mere brushing of the lips, is exceptional: “she’d never experienced a kiss that left her quite so breathless” (p 171). Sorry, I think that’s ridiculous in 2010. But oddly enough it didn’t make me enjoy this story less.
This Time Around by Dorien Kelly I didn’t know this author’s work like that from the others, but Ms. Kelly’s story turned out to be pretty enjoying. It’s the least old-fashioned of the three, the heroine is the race car driver here and the guy is travelling all over the world for her. Chris wants to see Megan again after they met on the island where he lives and runs a successful celebrity restaurant, and where they spent a few hot weeks together before she left him because of her career. In order to be with her again Chris has not only to hope that she wants to see him, but also has to face up to his stepbrothers and father who turned out to be Megan’s boss. The family complications were worked out very nicely, first they caused some troubles for the couple and in the end everything is peaches again. Imo the father is turning a little quickly from a really big jerk to a peace loving father, but alas he’s not that important. Chris and Megan are and the two of them have nice little conversations, cute loving moments and Chris has an adorable bonding thing going on with Megan’s twin brother.
Overall, this is a sweet collection and if you like to read about NASCAR drivers and mechanics this is certainly a nice anthology. If you like your romance a little spicier or emotional and your coupling more worked out and insightful, these stories might not do it for you.
Rating: 2.5 - 3 stars out of 5. Heat level 0.5 flames out of 3.(less)