Baby, it's cold outside! Beat the chill with Winter Warmers—a seasonal anthology.
Mulled wine. Butterscotch kisses. Hideous sweaters. Candy at the beach, or a trip to a sex shop in Amsterdam. And the man of your dreams, wrapped around you... Winter warmers come in many shapes and sizes, from the tongue-in-cheek to the hot-as-hell. Enjoy a quintet of heart-warming tales of men loving men from Clare London, Chrissy Munder, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper that are guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
One thing's for sure—it's going to be a red-hot Christmas!
Lucky Dip by Clare London Andy Jackson always knew that class 2C’s help in preparing for the annual Christmas Fair would be a mixed blessing. Then he’s paired up on the Lucky Dip with Greg, the man who dumped him but now can’t keep away, the pupils are either lecturing him on his lovelife or losing bladder control, and no one’s fixed the broken handle on the storage room. It may all be one whoopee cushion too far for him.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder Matthew Morrison is determined to conquer his fear of heights and achieve a winning outcome. At least, that’s what the best-selling, self-help book he’s listening to promises. Being stuck on a three-story tower in the middle of a snowstorm wasn’t part of the plan. With no St. Bernard in sight, it’s Cute Ticket Guy Adam to the rescue, and an outcome Matthew never anticipated.
Wintertide by Lou Harper May meets December when Jem and Oscar chance on each other at the Santa Monica Pier, only weeks before Christmas. The two men are separated by age, social status, and their taste in candy, yet if they are both naughty and nice, they might just find holiday cheer together.
When in Amsterdam... by Josephine Myles Brandon is on his first visit to new boyfriend Jos’s home country, just in time for their Sinterklaas celebrations. But an unexpected detour into a sex shop leads Brandon to new discoveries about himself, and a whole new dynamic to their relationship. The weather may be cold and damp, but Brandon and Jos soon heat things up!
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow What’s the best gift a young man could get for Christmas? Mohawked saxophonist Liam wouldn’t have picked the hideous collection of knitwear he’s presented with by his mum and his aunties. He’d rather have the gorgeous older man he sees every day while busking at King’s Cross. But with a little Christmas magic in the air, maybe those garish garments are just the thing for attracting a silver fox…
Chrissy Munder writes light and sometimes erotic contemporary LGBTQ+ romance filled with everyday people and extraordinary passion to transport readers into their personal world of love, laughter, and desire
She is an avid reader, a wanderer of Michigan’s wilderness, and, while not in any particular order, a lover of lists, legally blind, and a certified crazy cat lady. There are those who might tell you she started writing as a way to justify her office supply addiction, but shhhhh! don’t listen to them.
After too many jobs in too many states she’s eagerly awaiting her chance to become a full-time Lake Michigan beachcomber. Until then, she’s excited to share her love of romance, laughter, and happy-ever-afters.
I'll read and rate as I go.. May contain some spoilers! ;) A very good collection of winter/holiday stories.
Clare London's Lucky Dip 3.5* Cute story about second chances and unusual circumstances! I think I would have liked it a bit better, if I had a little bit of the 'before' but it's sweet.
Chrissy Munder Butterscotch Kisses 3.5* I liked this one a lot, but after getting invested in Matthew's success in climbing to the top, I think I deserved to reap the rewards with him and see him make it!
Lou Harper Wintertide 4.5* Melancholy, but also so sweet and hopeful! My favorite so far, but as usual, greedy me wanted a few more pages just to enjoy Gem and Oscar...if this were turned into a novella I would snap it up right away!
Josephine Myles 3* A kinky ( slightly D/s) but still sweet story, it also had multi cultural and multi racial which I like and don't see enough of in stories!
J.L Merrow A Bag of Chips, a Pint of Beer and Thou 3.75* Very British and very funny story about Liam, who is a sax playing young man living with his two witch aunts and mother! He's been lusting after an older guy he sees everyday while playing his sax...
Lucky Dip by Clare London One Star Call me a bitch if you want, but I would never have taken back a man that dumped me the way Greg did to Andy. I can see making a mistake and being scared, I can see somebody not knowing what they have because it’s new to them, I can even see trying to break it off because you are afraid your partner is going to get hurt. I understand these things, and if you see the signs of any of these coming to pass please make sure you drop that bomb in the appropriate place. Greg did the unacceptable, yes he says he was scared, but being a complete tool and telling Andy that it’s over, “let’s just be friends” at the start of a school event. Yeah that is just classy, and to make matters worse you have been going out for a while so you know how much of a klutz Andy is. So now you have an upset man that is not the most graceful at a school event full of people, I bet you can see what is coming. If you think just please kill me now embarrassment you guessed right. Now, I can hold a grudge like the best of them, and with this much trauma due to a man being a selfish asshole and thinking only of himself I really don’t think there would be a chance in hell in me taking him back.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder Two Stars This was a cute story about a man trying to conquer his fear of heights, and meeting the man of his dreams while doing so. There isn’t much to say about this story, its pretty white bread. The main character gets a crush, meets his crush, and then they share their first kiss. Nothing exciting here folks, though I did like Cute Ticket Guy slash Adams hats, they were a bit of spice to the story
Wintertide by Lou Harper One Star (minus) This story creeped me the fuck out, I am not one for age gaps, but like most things there are exceptions to the rule. This was so very much not one of them. The story starts out with the main character Jem leaving his apartment and going to the beach. On the docks he sees an older man, as in twenty to twenty five years older than him tossing something into the ocean. So he goes up strikes up a conversation then ends up going home with him to have sex then fall asleep. Jem wakes up in a few hours to snoop around the house, and sees Oscars dead partners stuff and thinks that he is just a hook up while he is out of town and takes off. When Oscar wakes up and finds Jem gone he decides he needs to find Jem and take care of him. When they were talking earlier Jem told Oscar that he works in a Thai food restaurant, and when he finally finds Jem he confesses he has been to six so far. Yeah, that is not too creepy for words, no really? So they go out to eat, and end up going back to Oscar’s place where in the moments before sleep Oscar sees his dead lover who approves of Jem, and that Oscar should take care of him. I want to add now that Jem is twenty years old, living on his own in Hollywood working as a dishwasher. Oscar is a successful ghost writer with a condo on the beach, and over twice Jem’s age! There is no balance; I believe Jem will always feel less than Oscar, and these feelings will lead to either resentment in Jem or Oscar having complete control over Jem because Jem feels like he owes Oscar. This was not a romance; it was a story about a man finding a pet on the streets and taking it home to take care of it. So.Not.Sexy.
When in Amsterdam… by Josephine Myles One Star I don’t have much to say about this one, its bondage and I don’t find that sexy.
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow Two Stars Here is the exception to the rule I was talking about earlier, Liam is a twenty three year old musician, who wears his hair in a Mohawk, and has a penchant for leather, offensive shirts, and older men. Liam finds himself attracted to an older man he sees nightly while out busking, but just can’t find a way to find out if the “Silver Fox” is interested in him. I will not give away the method of madness that is their starting point, but when they finally get to their meet and greet there is balance. Yes Neil feels a little intimidated by Liam’s wardrobe, but he is a business man, and it would make sense. So this story was cute, but still a Winter Spring romance and I really just don’t care for them.
So all in all this collection was a fail for me, I am glad I didn’t pay money for it.
A nice little anthology to get you in a festive mood.
All stories were nicely written, however my two personal favourites were; 1) Wintertide by Lou Harper a very bittersweet story written with a great deal of empathy and feeling; 2) A Pint of Beer, A Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow just loved the subtle and very British humour to this one.
So make sure you get the tinsel out and have a glass of mulled wine ready while reading and you'll be all set for the Yuletide.
Winter Warmers is an anthology of 5 short stories about the holiday season with an obvious British flair. This collection is exactly what I wanted to get me in the mood for the upcoming Holidays and it’s short, sweet, and to the point. Each story is obviously different with their own tone and mood. I like the variety offered and each author is clearly talented. The stories are also short and often sweet, just a glimpse into the lives of these men and that’s enough for me. I never got bored with any particular story but neither did I want them to continue. I’m good with the stories offered and happy enough to move on. For only a few bucks this is one of the better holiday collections and worth the money.
The anthology starts off with Clare London’s Lucky Dip. This is a very cute and funny story about a primary school teacher who decides whether to give an ex-boyfriend a second chance. Here the backdrop of the story is the setup for an annual holiday party with some seriously adorable and funny kid antics. In fact these secondary characters as well as the non stop details about wands, glitter, wine, and so on actually took over the story. I was more interested in the party/fair than the couple getting together. The two men are cute and offer some good tension but I think the actual setup steals the show and made the story worthwhile.
Next up is Chrissy Munder’s Butterscotch Kisses, a decidedly different tone where a young man struggles to get over his fear of heights in the dead of winter. Munder is an excellent author and that comes across here very well. The vivid cold is depicted beautifully and contrasted with the warmth from the cute ticket guy Adam. Matthew’s bleak thoughts are nicely woven into the story and his fear of heights is portrayed accurately. Overall this is a great little story that offers a colder feel but warms up at the end pretty nicely. It’s more sweet than anything but that typifies the collection as a whole so don’t go into this story or any of them wanting tons of explicit sex.
Wintertide by Lou Harper is about an older man moving on after the death of his long time companion. I liked this story quite a bit and it’s my favorite of the collection. The two men don’t really match and the age difference is definitely too much but I could easily see why they were attracted and how they fit together. The last scene especially is incredible. I don’t necessarily believe the couple will last given their differences, most especially Jem’s age and lack of direction, but I want to believe they will make it. The writing is lovely and the story is heartwarming even as it touches on a dark subject.
The final two offerings are When in Amsterdam... by Josephine Myles and A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow. I liked these stories about the same and they have a very similar feel to them. They’re both cute, fun, and unexpected. Myles story deals with a couple that gets a little kinky while visiting family during the holidays – don’t worry all the kink takes place at a hotel when family is not present otherwise that’d be way too kinky. The couple is adorable and very eye catching with their differences. The story offers a lot of great details and a builds the connection between the men to a nice crescendo.
Following on its heels is the witch filled story by Merrow. It has many classic humorous touches fans can expect from Merrow while giving a nice setup to how the two men meet. It’s entertaining and fun to read, making the pages fly by easily. The writing is crisp, uncluttered and always filled with interesting details. The secondary characters, all women, are wonderful and I almost wanted more of them. The main couple doesn’t fall instantly in love but there’s a nice chemistry and potential that should satisfy most romantics.
Overall this collection of stories is well written and interesting to read. None of them are my favorites from the various authors but they hit all the right notes and should satisfy and entertain readers. The variety of characters and situations keeps the anthology interesting while each story has a sweet ending. I’d recommend this one for holiday themed readers.
Lucky Dip by Clare London: 4 stars (Funny and cute. The children are adorable)
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder: 4 stars (I loved the MC having dyslexia and a fear of heights finding love with a guy going back to college as an older student having made mistakes prior. Both self-conscious, both vulnerable, both finding acceptance from each other.)
Wintertide by Lou Harper: 5+++ stars. (I LOVED THIS STORY!!!)
When In Amsterdam by Josephine Myles: 1 star (Overly ornate and purple prose porn, vanilla-ish guy striving to be a Dom for his lover doesn't work for me. If you're Alpha it's inherent. Racist issues by which I was offended.)
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by J.L. Merrow: 5 stars. (Bloody hilarious! And I loved the vulnerability in Neil.)
I don't usually read anthologies, but this makes me up for trying another :-)
I am so happy I read this book, even though anthologies are my least fave to read. Well I have no complaints, I loved this book every freaking story had me grinning, and getting feelings in my heart. A perfect Christmas read, about the joys of the holiday. It could have been all ‘happy love is all we need’ but each story had a little something more. Every story has a uniqueness that stand on its own. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.
Lucky Dip by Clare London We find Andrew Jackson a teacher preparing for the school’s annual Christmas party. The stress is high and the kids are rowdy but he can’t disappoint them. When he is paired with his ex-boyfriend Gregg who dumped him a few weeks before. Andrew is feeling like things can’t get any worse. When both men get locked in a storage closet they both have to face the feelings they still have for each other, and Gregg has some grovelling to do.
This story was super cute. I loved the kids and Andrew is this clumsy and sweet man. Greg seems like a go-getter, all suave and charming. I really liked the theme of this one, lovers finding their way back to each other over the holidays. It’s definitely the tamest story when it comes to sex, but what it lacks in hot sure makes it up in cute.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder Mathew Morrison is the shy guy, not as outgoing as he wants to be. He is determined over the holidays to get over his fear of heights. He feels that he can make the climb to the top of the hill and kick fear in its butt he will finally get the confidence he lacks. A series of attempts prove unsuccessful, but the 'cute ticket guy' surely lifts his spirits. Mathew decides to try his fear conquering on one of the coldest and its cute ticket guy to the rescue.
I enjoyed Mathew. He is such an endearing character, he will so definitely capture you heart. I wanted him to have everything he wanted. His determination might even have given him a chance at love. This story was super sweet.
Wintertide by Lou Harper Two men have a meeting at a Santa Monica Pier just weeks before Christmas. Jem a young man finding his way in the world, and Oscar the older man slowly making his way from losing his partner of many years. Their meeting leads to a night of hot sex, and a little misunderstanding on Jem’s part that might keep them apart. This novella stood out to me, it has a small paranormal aspect to it but nothing that is too unbelievable. I loved that Oscar’s POV was included, it made the characters richer and in the end, you wanted them to both find happiness and love with each other. This story made me sad and happy at the same.
When In Amsterdam by Josephine Myles I am seriously jonesing for this one. I loved this sexy little Christmas kink story. Brandon is visiting Amsterdam with his new boyfriend Jos for their Sinterklass celebration. It’s a new and budding relationship but you can tell that both men feel strongly for each other. There is the shyness from Brandon who feels that he might not be able to offer what Jos needs sexually, but he blows that out the water.
It is…. I can’t even find the words, but it’s my absolute favourite in the entire anthology. I loved the diversity with which you always find in Josephine’s writing. I love the interracial love, just makes the story so much more. I am just in love with this one, an awesmazing job.
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips and Thou by J.L Merrow Last but certainly not least is my second fave short in the anthology. It’s quirky and its fun and I love the witches. Liam is the only man in a house full of women, making it by playing the sax at King’s Cross-station. There is a man who always captures his interest, but can never find the opportunity to make a move. When his mom and Aunt’s give him some crazy Christmas gifts, Liam might actually land the man he has had his eye on.
This was super cute and funny, with a mix of sexy. I loved all the quirky characters and the playful dialogue, definitely a winner by J.L Merrow. It was a joy to read.
Overall, this anthology was super awesome. There is a story in here for every reader. Each one offers its own unique writing style and though the theme here is all about Christmas, none of the stories can be compared to each other. It’s the erotic, meets the sweet and in comes the sexy. This one caused a whole lot of pants losing, and I am still at this moment searching for them. It will warm your heart and have you burning in other places. Fantastic!
Another unimpressive anthology. One of these days, maybe I'll learn my lesson. Maybe.
Lucky Dip by Clare London
I couldn't connect to the writing style on this one, nor did the characters particularly interest me. It was doomed from the moment it introduced a plethora of obnoxious, bratty children in a school setting - one of which pees on everything for funsies... but I also had no interest in the relationship.
For a second chance story to work, I need to feel as if the characters belong together and the wrongdoer deserves forgiveness. In this case, he doesn't and his reasons for being apologetic are completely selfish.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder
This is, on the surface, a story about a man overcoming his fear of heights and meeting his new beau in the process. I enjoyed the writing style and felt the author had a great handle on portraying anxiety, but I was more invested in the sibling rivalry between the main character and his twin than the relationship. It's cute, but with very little meaningful substance and some confusingly unprofessional behaviour tacked onto the end of an otherwise decent-quality story.
I believe this one could have benefited from an editor. If Matthew's audiobook is on his mp3 player, then why does it have a physical case as if a CD? And if the main story is about overcoming fear, why does it derail at the end into sexual content without divulging whether Maythew actually accomplishes his goal? An editor posing these questions could have made this a wonderful, sweet story. As is, it's merely okay.
Wintertide by Lou Harper
I skipped this one because it annoyed me with the first paragraph, confused me with poor writing, and lost me entirely when the main character continued to act lowkey racist.
In the opening paragraph, the main character goes on a rant about how he hates Mariachi music because it makes him think of "cartoon mice hopped up on meth" and "Speedy Gonzales: The Lost Years." He then goes on to worry he might be racist for that... and dismiss it because he's half-Polish and also hates polka music. As if disliking a type of music and relating it to cartoon racial stereotypes are remotely the same thing!
After that, we get insta-lust, creepy behaviour, and the love interest throwing peppermint toffee off a pier with no regard for the damage it might do to any fish or birds who might consume it. No, thanks. Couple those things with subpar writing which makes it difficult to tell who's speaking, and I started questioning whether I should bother reading this one.
Then the main character who already had that unsavoury opener tells his new love interest: "most of the people living there are Mexicans, and a few gringos like me" and I realized that yeah this dude is probably a bit of a racist. I'd be lying to say that I feel it's impossible to have a complex character who is likeable despite things like this, or who can be redeemed with some growth. (Logan Echolls of Veronica Mars comes to mind.) The trouble is, I didn't come here to deal with this kind of thing or read a story about borderline unlikable characters with redeeming qualities. I came here for warm, fuzzy, winter fluff because the book promised stories "guaranteed" to make me smile.
When I want fluff, I want fluff, and this one reached 'three strikes, you're out' territory rather quickly.
When in Amsterdam... by Josephine Miles
Okay, so. Right back to being annoyed by topics which don't belong in fluffy romance and certainly don't make me smile.
When I go into an anthology named Winter Warmers which is intended to contain fluffy winter romances, I don't expect to be slapped in the face with an interracial couple fighting over how the Dutch pieten (a type of elf-like lore) are portrayed similarly to golliwogs (blackface dolls) and have potentially racist undertones to their lore (I'd say it depends partially on Dutch culture, of which I know nothing, but it does seem rather questionable from an American perspective). Nor am I willing to accept when such a heavy topic is abruptly shoved aside for a comedic "knocked into a display at a sex toy shop" scene which turns into sexual tension and derails into a kinky story. Sorry, but I'm gonna need you to not go there with a couple, or a character, if you intend to immediately shove it aside as if it's just a discussion about the weather! And maybe don't go there at all in a collection of what's supposed to be smile-inducing stories.
I tried to give this one a shot, but I ran out of patience when one half of the couple (Jos) herded the other (Brandon) into a changing room full of leather BDSM gear. Brandon started fretting over how he was in over his head and worried Jos brought him there for kinky things he didn't know how to do; I rolled my eyes and tapped through the pages to the next story. I'm just really not into "anxious first bondage" scenarios because the awkward uncertainty makes me question the consent. And also, it's pretty messed up to spring something like that on a partner - let alone one you've only had a couple months - without prior discussion.
So, nope. Didn't finish this one, either. Fyi: another one-star review over on Amazon reveals that apparently the "moral" of this one is that once Brandon overcomes his anxiety he embraces the pieten and decides they're not racist after all, despite his strong uncomfortable feelings in the beginning. I don't have to explain how messed up that is, right?
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow
This is yet another story in desperate need of factual editing. Specifically: if you morally oppose someone feeding their cat a vegan diet, that's fine and I agree because cats are obligate carnivores. However, don't secretly give that person's cat milk because cow milk is not good for the cat's digestive system and does nothing for their nutritional needs. And, yes, that's a part of the story - albeit a very small bit of exposition.
It also includes a bit which explains the main character's father was 19 and mother 32 when he was conceived during a night where "father was, cliché of clichés, the milkman, who popped in for a Christmas sherry and barely escaped with his (very) young life" and also the father is embarrassed of the son's existence. I'm sorry, but that's a little too date rapey for my fluff, thanks. Not smiling during that!
But I kept going because this one's the final story and I'm a little more forgiving of backstory... Until I reached the main character's mother and aunts talking about how they want to pair him up with someone before they die so he won't be lonely. I'm sorry, but no. Okay, just, no. Fluff should not involve talk of loved ones dying. When I go into fluff, I'm supposed to feel safe from those kind of things which make the holiday season exceptionally sucky for me irl.
Also? It's just plain a jerkwad thing to say to your own kid. Maybe don't instill a deep anxiety into their mind that they'll be incapable of living solo and absolutely must have a permanent partner before you keel over. But I have a lot of personal biases about the topic, so I know I'm not reasonable.
I did DNF though because by this point I was having no fun at all and the 'feel good fluff' was not delivering for the purpose I chose it.
One mediocre tale, one bad tale, and three I didn't like enough to finish. I'd say that's an automatic one-star rating from me. I'm highly disappointed in how little smiling and going "awww, so cuuute" I did, and therefore consider this collection a failure.
If you are looking for a heartwarming, nicely uplifting and positive read, these five short stories fit the bill. Each of them contributes to the whole in their own way, but taken together, they make a wonderfully ‘warming’ whole. This collection just ‘worked’ for me.
Lucky Dip by Clare London is a very sweet story about Andy, a primary school teacher, and Greg, his banker ex-boyfriend. I love exes making up again, especially when the reason for their separation was basically a misunderstanding. The way fate ‘arranged’ for these two to have the opportunity to talk it all out and reconsider was funny. A gentle story that made me smile.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder is a super-cute story with a lot of truth about overcoming your fears added as a bonus. Matthew is deadly afraid of heights and just as determined to overcome this fear. Like so many people with a perceived ‘flaw’ he believes his inability to cope is the reason he’s still alone. Luckily Adam takes it all in stride and his support, of course, makes all the difference. A funny story with lots of self-deprecating jokes that made me laugh.
Wintertide by Lou Harper is also warm and uplifting, and while Jem finds love for the first time, Oscar has obviously got a little more to deal with. I liked how we gradually find out about his background and why he is a little hesitant. This is an emotional story which gives hope to all those who have lost a lover.
When in Amsterdam… by Josephine Myles is a great story about two lovers experimenting with their kinkier side. I loved how Brandon, sexually more dominant, was the one who was hesitant about taking it further. Jos, the ‘bottom’ in the relationship was far more experienced and knew exactly what he wanted. The way he gets Brandon to try out something different and acknowledge that they may be able to deepen their relationship in a new way, was simply wonderful. A very hot story with loving partners who discover a new aspect of their sex life.
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by J.L. Merrow is a fun story about Liam, who grew up with witches but doesn’t expect much from men. When he meets Neil that changes, even though their first date is somewhat unorthodox. Or maybe because of it? A fun story with a slight supernatural touch which made me smile.
This anthology was very hit and miss for me. My favorite story was "A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou" by JL Merrow. It made me laugh out loud, and the Dr. Who references made me happy (although poor Christopher Eccleston gets no love). "Butterscotch Kisses" by Chrissy Munder was also cute. The other three stories felt either unfinished, or unsatisfying, or just plain poorly written.
Lucky Dip by Clare London 1 star
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder 3 stars
Wintertide by Lou Harper 1 star
When in Amsterdam... by Josephine Myles 2 stars
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow 3.5 stars
This m/m romance holiday collection is perfectly titled - these are heartwarming, cozy tales that will help you find your holiday spirit as you curl up on your couch with your ebook reader. (Yes, they are also sexy tales. I know you were wondering!) ;)
Winter Warmers was a really delightful anthology that warms the heart and engages the holiday spirit. While these short stories are all contemporary, they also cover different couples of different backgrounds in different circumstances. The holiday season is the underlying theme, of course, but it's such a versatile collection that there's going to be something here for every M/M romance lover.
Lucky Dip by Clare London This short story was cute with a touch of angst. The tropes used here - breaking up, grovelling, reconciling - are some of my favorites and as such I definitely enjoyed this one. Tommy's silly bladder is really funny to read about and Amy is just too perceptive for her own good. I liked how the kids were portrayed. The "Christmas Fair" setting is fascinating and lively and provides a perfect backdrop to the romance. The setting manages to capture the whole feel of a young Christmas without making it too sappy or too childish. The sex is scorching hot and I like how by the end of the story, the main characters have agreed to try things out again. No rushing here. Four stars.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder Matt's story was probably the warmest in the anthology, despite Matt staying out in the cold for too long. He's a character that you can't help but root for as he slowly tries to overcome his fear of heights. His insecurity brought about by his dyslexia as well as staying in his brother's shadow are understandable but not overplayed. Adam and his quirky hats were a treat! (Also, was that a Pikachu hat or am I just imagining things?) The main characters aren't smart and perfect and I love that about them. There was a nice touch of humor and it was really sweet. No sex at all, but I didn't even notice because the chemistry and the fondness between Adam and Matt really show. Four stars.
Wintertide by Lou Harper Definitely my favorite of the whole anthology. This particular story has more of a melancholic and mellow feel to it - brought by the author's writing style as well the sad event it touches upon in the book. It's a May-December romance and while I didn't get a real sense of what Jem's age is, I do believe that there's at least twenty years between him and Oscar. May-December romances aren't usually my thing but the author makes it so endearing. The writing style is lovely and sensual; there's the pesky switches between the first person and third person points-of-view - it seems to be getting more and more popular these days - but I didn't mind because the names of the characters were given before each scene started. Therefore, I wasn't confused and didn't spend any time trying to figure out whose head I was in. The pages flew and I was sad to see it end. Five stars.
When in Amsterdam... by Josephine Myles This one was the kinky offering in this anthology. Fear not, though, because while there's enough to keep the kinky reader satisfied, those who are apprehensive about reading these things can be assured that it isn't too intense. I'm not much of a kink person but I wasn't bothered by it. I loved how this story featured a multicultural couple that defied stereotypes. The references to Dutch culture were interesting and weren't given in an info dump. Four stars.
A Pint of Beer, A Bag of Chips, and Thou by J.L. Merrow This was a quirky and funny read that I enjoyed very much. It's another May-December romance but the gap is a bit smaller than in Wintertide. Our narrator, Liam, is pretty confident in himself - how else can you explain his willingness to wear those Christmas gifts? - without being too arrogant. He's a well-rounded character with really unusual interests, like the saxophone and old music. The secondary characters helped bring the book to life with their charming and funny ways. And the light-hearted portrayal of religion is a nice and different touch. Five stars.
Overall, this anthology is definitely not to be missed, especially if you're in need of a nice and sweet read. My only complaint is that the stories were too short, and I hated it when a story ended just as I was beginning to get invested in the characters. I'm looking forward to any future releases by Pink Squirrel Press.
Lucky Dip by Clare London Andy and Greg: Teacher and pupil'S uncle hook up again, after Greg broke up with Andy because he was afraid. This felt like a scene from a longer novel, was nice and humorous.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder Matthew and Cute Ticket Guy: A sweet little story with good development. Matthew tries to conquer his fear of hights and meets Cute Ticket Guy on his daily trips.
Wintertide by Lou Harper Story of Jem, young and vulnerable and Oscar, old and rich, who had lost his life partner of 25 years some time ago. I found this story strange: the age gap too big and the whole "I only want to take care of him" style is not really romantic imho, but rather creepy. Good relationships are between equals, and this kind of storyline is why I stopped reading M-f.
When in Amsterdam... by Josephine Myles Brandon, an ordinary guy, and Jos, his Dutch boyfrien, a sub, visit a sex shop in Amsterdam. Hot sex ensues. Nice little story, and even some relationship develpment.
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow This one I liked best - it had a real storyline and depicted the getting to know each other part between Liam and an attractive older man he sees every day while playing sax at King’s Cross.
I bought this for J.L. Merrow's story and was not disappointed. Another wonderful, witty gem from her. There's a trio of witches, a mohawk-wearing sax-playing street performer, and the silver fox he fantasizes about--and lots of silliness.
Some favorite quotes "The wind was blowing in from Siberia so hard I could smell the Vodka and the borscht."
"I'd explain who I was talking about, but you've been paying attention, haven't you? You know I mean my silver fox. Him with the strokeable hair, the bright eyes, the broad shoulders, the stubble just waiting to burn my skin when he kissed me, the powerful frame to weight me down as he fucked me-- Ahhhh... Would you pass me that box of tissues? Thanks."
"Neil. That's my name, not an order."
Har-dee-har. Okay, going to just chuckle to myself softly here. Thanks to J.L. for another hot little snicker-fest.
I've written a little flashfic epilogue to my story in the anthology, A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Crisps and Thou, about mohawked saxophonist Liam and his silver fox, Neil. It's set a year later, and is available as a free read here: http://jl-merrow.livejournal.com/1162...
5 Stars for Merrow story it was the stand out read in an all round great anthology! The humour and easy read of everything by Merrow is to the max in this story; just loved Liam and his witches and his silver fox! I want more.
Winter Warmers is a holiday anthology by five great authors. Each one is short story length making for a solid novel-sized book. I really enjoyed the anthology and would definitely recommend it. The stories have a nice range from sweet and fun to hot and sexy. Below I have a summary and some thoughts on each of the stories.
Title: Lucky Dip Author: Clare London
The story opens with school teacher Andy Jackson helping to get ready for the school Christmas Fair. It is a bit chaotic and Andy is more than a little clumsy and he is even more stressed with the arrival of Greg Canbury who has come to set up the Lucky Dip booth. Greg is an uncle of one of the students and he and Andy used to date until Greg broke up with him on the school Quiz Night. Andy is shocked when Greg tells him how much he regrets the breakup and how sorry he is and that he wants to get back together. Another clumsy fall by Andy leads to the men getting stuck overnight in the storage closet. Forced together and aided by copious amounts of mulled wine stored in the closet, the men talk through what happened between them. Greg admits to being scared about the strong feelings he had for Andy and apologizes for how he reacted. When Andy sees how sorry Greg is, he is able to forgive him and the men take advantage of their seclusion to get together once again before they are rescued.
I think London does a nice job of giving us a sense of the men and their personalities in such a short story. I felt like I got to know them well, especially Andy with all his anxieties and clumsiness. My only issue with the story was I had a hard time following along in the beginning. Short stories by nature require you to sort of jump in to the middle of things, but I found myself a little lost for a while with all the kids introduced and the bustle happening with the fair. I had a little trouble keeping track of the characters and getting a handle on what was going on. Once the guys moved to being alone together things flowed more smoothly for me and I really enjoyed watching the lovers get reunited with the help of a little liquid courage. This was a sweet story and I was glad to see the guys make it back together.
Title: Butterscotch Kisses Author: Chrissy Munder
We first meet Matthew Morrison, gloved hands clutching firmly to the railing of the steps to the town toboggan run, determined to face his fear of heights. His recent date dumped him when Matthew was unable to climb the stairs and, with the aid of a self-help manual, Matthew is now determined to face his fears and make his way to the top. Well, that doesn't go so well, at least the first time. So he is back for more every night, each time making his way a bit further to the top. He is anxious and a bit humiliated as kids pass him by on their way to the top, but his spirits are improved by Cute Ticket Guy who greets him each night wearing a different funny animal hat. In addition to his fear of heights, Matthew has got some other issues with confidence, especially when he feels compared to his more outgoing identical twin Eric.
One night while continuing his efforts to make it to the top, Matthew gets caught in a freak storm. He is lost in his fear near the top of the steps and doesn't even realize the increasingly bad weather or how cold he has become. Cute Ticket Guy comes to close down the ride and help Matthew down, sheltering him in his ticket booth and warming him up with hot chocolate and butterscotch schnapps (a Butterscotch Kiss, sounds so yummy!). Cute Ticket Guy turns out to be named Adam and the two men hit if off, talking and flirting and a little kissing, with the promise of more to come.
This was such a sweet story, I really loved it. Matthew is adorable and his inner commentary was so funny. I loved that little bit of dorkiness mixed in with a real desire to overcome his fears and face his challenges. The story had a light tone and lots of humor. My favorite part was the exchange between Matthew and Eric as they talk about his jerky date. “Like that tool would have lasted longer than three weeks anyway.” With his usual eerie synchronicity Eric once again voiced Matthew’s thoughts as he waved the remote. “Did you guys even have anything in common?”
“Other than we both thought he was pretty and liked my cock in his mouth? Not much.” Matthew smirked, giving in to the humor of the situation. Damn Eric, anyway, for refusing to let Matthew wallow in a perfectly good bad mood. This story was a lot of fun with a great tone, sweet characters, and great sexual tension.
Title: Wintertide Author: Lou Harper
Jem Kowalski is wandering around the Santa Monica pier one cold day when an older man catches his attention. Something about this guy just draws Jem in, and he follows him along the pier, watching him throw something into the water. Jem finally decides to talk to the guy, and after a quick chat and a shared kiss, accepts the man's invitation to come over. Although it seems a bit fast, Jem figures it is not much different than going home with a guy at a club, just different surroundings. The men have sex and settle in for the night, but Jem takes to wandering around the apartment. When he sees signs of another man in the house, he assumes the worst and takes off.
When Oscar Westfield wakes up, he is sad to see that Jem has gone. We switch to his POV and learn that the pictures and other items belong to Charlie, his partner of 20 years who died five years before. Oscar finds himself really drawn to the much younger Jem, who reminds him of Charlie when they first met - sort of wild and untamed and needing care and love. He can't get Jem out of his mind and is determined to find him in hopes of starting a real relationship. I won't say more other than Jem is very happy to see him!
I really liked this story and the dynamic between the two men. Jem is quite a bit younger and a bit wild and impulsive. He is just what Oscar needs to snap him out of the mourning he has been in since Charlie's death. I liked the alternating POV as it gives the reader the perspective of both men as the plot unfolds. Harper does a nice job of taking the story from the quick hookup into something more lasting and meaningful in just a short story.
Title: When in Amsterdam Author: Josephine Myles
Brandan has come to Amsterdam with Jos, his boyfriend of two months to spend Sinterklass with Jos' family. On the way to the hotel the guys are caught in a sudden downpour and the first place Brandon ducks into to get dry turns out to be a sex shop. Brandon is a bit freaked out. Although not inexperienced, his background is pretty vanilla and he knows Jos has been into more kink with past boyfriends. He worries about what Jos really wants and whether he can meet that need.
After borrowing a dressing room to change into dry clothes, Brandon sees a leather harness that catches his attention in the back room. When Jos offers to model it for him, Brandon finds himself filled with both fear and desire. Seeing Jos strapped into that harness makes Brandon crazy, and he realizes that maybe he can do this after all. The men take off for the hotel where Brandon explores his Dom side and realizes it may not be as buried as he thought.
Wow, this story was hot! Watching Brandon come alive as he realizes how much the dom/sub dynamic really turns him on was incredible. And I really loved the sort of role reversal between them. Often in books I have found that when one partner is new to BDSM it seems to be the sub who is the one being taught. So I thought it was a nice twist to follow Brandon as he learned what it means to be in control and how to use it for both his own pleasure and that of his partner. This story was very romantic and unbelievably sexy. Definitely my favorite of the anthology.
Title: A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou Author: J.L. Merrow
Liam is an out of work musician, playing for money at the King's Cross station and living with his mom and two aunts (who just happen to be witches). He has been watching one particular commuter day after day, a gorgeous older man with silver hair who seems to be avoiding eye contact. His mother and aunts want him to find love, and cook up a little something to make that happen.
The first day one aunt gives him a hideous bright purple knit hat that looks like a tea cosy when sitting on top of his mohawked head. Liam knows better than to refuse to wear it and catches quite a bit of attention, including that of his handsome stranger. The next day he ends up with an incredibly long knitted "Dr. Who" scarf courtesy of his other aunt, drawing even more attention. By day three he is a complete spectacle, adding a hideous, multicolored sweater to the outfit. But this is finally enough to give his handsome stranger the courage to approach him and ask him out (turns out his name is Neil). The men hit it off, sharing drinks and dinner and then attending midnight mass together. Although they must go their separate ways that night, it is clear that there is more to come for Liam and Neil.
I really enjoyed this story, especially Liam and his somewhat kooky family. The tone is very light and humorous, especially Liam's narration which is casual and fun. I love the total acceptance he has for the craziness of his family and the love and devotion between them all is clear. I found the story clever, creative, and a lot of fun.
Lucky Dip: cute, but this is the story that didn't catch me in this anthology. Maybe I would've liked it more if I were British? Probably not -- it's sort of adorable but somehow I just didn't connect with the MCs completely. 3.75 stars
Butterscoth Kisses: poor Matthew! It's a good thing he'd already broken up with his ex by the time the story starts, cause that guy was a douchecanoe! Great ending! 4.5 stars
Wintertide: I love how Jem's parts are told in third person and Oscar's are in first person. Both of these guys are beautifully drawn, and I especially love how each one describes the other. Jem's descriptions of Oscar deal with his physical being, but Oscar, the writer, uses great imagery to show Jem's core traits. And I love the two glimpses we have of Charlie. Gorgeous! 5 stars
When in Amsterdam...: Hella hot but with a sweet ending. I love how Brandon is willing to step out of his comfort zone for Jos, but the way Jos is so easygoing is equally lovely. 5 stars
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou: absolute perfection! I adore all four women in Liam's life, and they've certainly resided him right -- he knows all the very best sax riffs and snarky sexy lines. I snickered through most of this story and just spent the past 20 minutes looking up YouTube clips of the songs he played while busking. Brilliant! 5 stars
Winter Warmers is filled with great stories that albeit short, pack a lot of punch. They are set around Christmas time rather than proper Christmas stories, although they don’t really have that as a common theme. They were all very different and as far as I could see the only thing they shared was the fact that the main characters were all a bit lonely, slightly awkward, and insecure. And by the end of their respective stories they all in a way overcome their issues, or at least take the first steps in order to do so. Some of them ended rather abruptly and felt almost too short, but they were completely satisfying. I think they all get their ending, some of them more like a promise of a happy ending than a proper happy ending, but that’s a good thing, it made them believable.
The first novella is Lucky Dip by Clare London. Andy is a school teacher preparing for the school's Christmas fair with his students, when he’s forced to share his space with Gregg, the guy who dump him months ago but now wants him back. Will Andy be able to forgive and forget?
This story was a lot of fun, Andy was clumsy, Gregg was charming and the kids were hilarious. The whole time I was reading it I kept smiling and overall it was a happy read. The whole story takes place during one day and wouldn’t mind revisiting these characters to see how they are doing.
The second story is Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder. Matthew is shy and insecure, his boyfriend left him because he was afraid of heights and now he listens to self-help tapes and tries to overcome his fear by going to the park and trying to climb the never-ending steps of the local toboggan. He does this every day and in the meantime ogles the cute guy selling the tickets and tries to muster the confidence to ask him out.
Butterscotch Kisses was all about Matthew, he was likeable and I was rooting for him from page one. This was another fun read and I had a great time just listening to his thoughts and watching him try to climb those steps. He was a bit neurotic and very insecure but he was also persevering and just plain adorable.
The third story is Wintertide by Lou Harper. Jem is feeling lonely when he sees an older guy throwing something at the sea. Curious he approaches him and that’s how he ends up having a one night stand with Oscar, and maybe giving each other the comfort and companionship they so desperately need.
This was the most different story of the bunch mostly because the tone wasn’t as light and the characters were dealing with deeper issues, but it wasn’t depressing at all. It was about two very different guys finding something they either thought was lost forever or didn’t know they could have. You should know that there’s a change in the narration from third person POV (when Jem narrates) to first person POV (when Oscar narrates). It caught me off guard and I had to do a double take, but I didn’t mind about it once I got used to it.
Next we have When in Amsterdam… by Josephine Myles. Brandon is in Amsterdam to spend a local holiday known as Sinterklaas with his boyfriend Jos. Seeking refuge from the rain they enter a sex shop and what they find there makes Brandon conquer his fears in order to give Jos something he wants, strengthening their relationship in the process.
This was the most erotic tale but it had a lot of heart. It was kinky but also very romantic. By the time the sex comes we already know the characters and how much they care for each other, and by the time the sex ends we have no doubt that they are in love. If you feel like stepping out of your comfort zone and reading something with some light elements of BDSM then When in Amsterdam… is the perfect story for you.
And last we have A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by J.L. Merrow. Liam lives with his crazy mom and crazier aunts, plays the sax at King’s Cross, wears leather pants, has a Mohawk and is in lust with an Anderson Cooper lookalike. Oh! And did I mention that his mom and aunts are witches? Well, not all of them, one is an Anglican priest… Every day he hopes the hot guy with the iron grey hair will notice him and maybe ask him out. Well, it’s Christmas so everything is possible.
This novella deserves a 5 just because of the dialogue alone, the inner dialogue was fantastic and the sexy banter between the leads was outstanding. The secondary characters were just as great and the whole thing was a joy to read. If you’re familiar with Ms. Merrow’s work you will see some of her usual elements here: unique characters that at first glance seem mismatched but that are perfect for each other, a lovely setting and an overall magical feel.
I can’t compare the stories because they are all very different and it wouldn’t be fair. I think there’s a bit for every taste, and so the best I can do is say that there's a lot of diversity and great quality in this book. If I had to do a mini review I would say something like this: Clare London’s Lucky Dip was fun, Chrissy Munder’s Butterscotch Kisses was sweet, Lou Harper’s Wintertide was touching, Josephine Myles’ When In Amsterdam… was daring, and J.L. Merrow’s A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou was charming. I liked every single one of these novellas and I want to read more by every single one of these authors.
I thoroughly recommend this book to fans of romance in general and of m/m in particular. You get five entertaining stories by five fantastic and talented authors.
Source: we received an e-ARC of the book from the authors for review purposes.
I loved all the stories in this anthology. But then look at the authors and you know it’s going to be good. Choosing JL Merrow’s contribution to close it out was perfect. Not only did she have me rolling with Liam’s personality, the visual of his outfit will definitely tip you over. I can’t praise this book enough.
Poor Andy Jackson—if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, all over him. This poor klutz trips over himself and the small children working on the festival displays. Not only is he a hazard to himself and others, it makes him feel like a fool in front of Greg Canbury, the debonair uncle of one of the students, and Andy's former lover. They'd broken up once before, breaking Andy's heart, and now, he's got to work an entire carnival in close proximity to the man. Sometimes, what goes wrong is really what goes right—one last disaster gives Greg a chance to talk with him.
This was a really cute story, although the non-stop accidents began to get a tiny bit wearing, particularly when they involved a toddler who had no business being there that I could see. However, this story of second chances is so charming that I left off wanting to swat the toddler's mother to say, "Awwww" for Greg and Andy instead. Out of the mouths of babes...
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder
Matthew's trying to conquer his fear of heights, as step one of his road to more self confidence in general, a goal that costs him ten bucks, some fear, and an adrenaline hangover every night he tries to ascend a toboggan run. Cute Ticket Guy, with his massive collection of strange hats, isn't too clear on what this project is – no one likes toboggan runs this much, but when he has to rescue Matthew, a lot becomes clear.
I really felt for Matthew, who is feeling the effects of more than one bad boyfriend to go with an already debilitating phobia. He's trying so hard to cure himself of this, so that maybe he can tackle the other issues in his life. Cute Ticket Guy turns out to be Adam, who is a nice guy with a small streak of wickedness, which I really liked. This story ends on a beginning; they've really only just met, but it's a nice warm beginning.
Wintertide by Lou Harper
Jem and Oscar have so little in common that they use different POVs: Jem's is third person, Oscar tells his story in first person. The effect is a little ragged. Older, bereaved Oscar is looking for another chance at love; Jem's young and casting around. There isn't really anything to bring these two together other than Oscar's desire to take care of Jem and that they are both alone. A third party kibitzing on Oscar's end says some wise things and doesn't question Oscar's choice, though I did. The story is low-key, as befits Oscar's emotional state.
When in Amsterdam by Josesphine Myles
Joesphine Myles has become an autobuy for me, and I would want to read this collection if I knew nothing about it other than she has a story in it. Once again, she combines a bit of fish out of water, sly humor, and sexual heat. The reason for Brandon and Jos to be in the sex shop seemed a tad thin, but hey, they are there, and one thing does lead to another. Brandon had to expand his horizons just a bit, and Jos is willing to adjust his desires to what Brandon can handle. It's not the sex alone where they compromise, it's traditions and expectations, and both men are willing to give a bit. Loved this one.
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow
This story starts off with a shocking remark, and only gets sillier. Liam, raised by witches, has the kind of good humor to accept his aunts' gifts in the spirit in which they were intended, and if their knitting looks like an explosion in a head shop, he's still game to wear it. And it's pretty good bait:
This time, though, he was frankly staring. Well, I couldn't blame him, now could I? He'd probably never seen a busker with a teapot on his head before.
Enough crazed knitting later, Liam does get his date with Neil, and a truly unconventional first date it is. Neil's assessment still has me laughing. Another ending on a beginning, and I hope Neil's got the fortitude to go the distance, because I want to read about it!
As with any anthology, some stories are stronger than others, but the quality here is high overall, and the last two stories alone are reason enough to buy the book. As a lovely bonus, the formatting is pretty, with snowflakes as scene breaks. Best of all, my copy had internal anchors for good interior navigation, which makes revisiting my favorites one at a time much simpler; I do not know why this feature is not more widespread in PDF files. This is the first project from Pink Squirrel Press, and they are doing a lot of things right. 4.25
This anthology is so nice and romantic that is really difficult to say if I like a story more than the other, they are really very good.
Lucky Dip by Clare London: A light and very romantic story about a primary school teacher and his former boyfriend who wants a second chance. Andy is so cute and tender that I was wondering how Greg could have ever thought to let him go, and truth be told, I would have not bought his reasons so easily like Andy does, but you know, when you are in love nothing else really matters. There is no drama in this Christmas story, and even if sex happens, it’s behind closed door (pun intended), so the major focus of the story is the romanticism, and a love story that is sure to have an happily ever after of the type that warms your heart.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder: Matthew has been dumped by his boyfriend, but that is not really what is upsetting him, but more the fact he has a fear for heights. And so he is going over and over back to the same place where the break-up happened, but after the first time he has one reason more to go: the cute ticket guy, Adam, and his funny hats and warm smiles. Now Matthew’s target has changed from trying to overcome his fear to conquering Adam. Again a sweet and romantic story, no sex at all, just some very tender kisses.
Wintertide by Lou Harper: more with a bittersweet feeling than the previous two, Wintertide is probably my favourite. It’s about Oscar, an handsome 40 pushing 50 years old man who has recently lost his 25 years long-time partner, Charlie. There is no regrets in Oscar, he knew he loved Charlie as much as it was possible, and Charlie loved him back, so Oscar’s sadness is right, but not incurable. And so when he meets Jem, young man with a stray attitude, Oscar brings him home, to cherish and love him, something Jem is not used to. Oscar and Jem are average people, not model striking beauty, not sun-tanned wealthy businessmen, but their love is sweet and romantic, one of the nicest novellas I read in recent time.
When in Amsterdam by Josephine Myles: Interesting multicultural love story, between Brandon, Englishman, and Jos, from Amsterdam. Jos is bringing Brandon to meet his family in Amsterdam for the Sinterklaas, a local festivity, and Brandon is surprised to find out that instead of elves helping Santa Klaus, there are the Pietens, black-little men. To Brandon’s sense of justice it seems a little insensitive to use something deriving from slavery as children fairy tale and also turning it into a tourist souvenir, but actually there are more important things on Brandon’s mind right now, like trying to understand if he is able to being the dominant lover Jos needs, not an easy thing for him to be, Brandon being so kind and sensitive every time and in all occasion.
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow: a funny May/December story about Liam, a twenty-something guy who has the hots for the silver fox he sees everyday while he is playing the saxophone in the London Tube. Even if Liam has a wonderful life, a loving mom and two wonderful aunts living with them, plus another one who is in a lesbian relationship, it’s clear that his interest in older men it’s due to the fact he didn’t have a fatherly figure in his life. Liam’s father is more than 10 years younger than his mother, and has now a new family and doesn’t care much for his first son, probably since he didn’t want him from the beginning. But as I said, Liam is not bitter about that, and when he meets Neil, it’s love at first sight, a love that will grew strongly until the Christmas Eve night when he will have finally the chance to meet him.
Sheesh, I read and reviewed this in DEcmeber on my blog. Why didn't I put this here. Sorry.
This is going to be an abbreviated look at each story saying what I liked about it.
Lucky Dip – Clare London: A story of a grade school teacher who is forced to work with his ex (the uncle of a student) to prepare for the Christmas carnival. They manage to get locked in a storage closet for the night, complete with bottles of wine and mince pies where the ex gets a chance to explain his behaviour. I really liked that while it all worked out over the night, Andy didn’t give in easily to a second chance. He made him grovel and seriously was ready to move on. I get frustrated when one guy just say “gee sorry” and the other goes “okay”. Nooooo. Groveling is good. Lots of fun descriptions of the kids preparing for the fair with a good dose of humour.
Butterscotch Kisses - Chrissy Munder: A man dumped by his bf because of his fear of heights and refusal to go on the toboggan run, is determined to conquer his fear, if it means showing up every day and paying to climb a little more each day. Flirting with the ticket sales guy with the funky hats is just a bonus. When he’s rescued by hat boy, they finally get a chance to talk. It was a very cute story and I felt for Matthew who suffered from dyslexia as well and felt that he couldn’t live up to the “perfection” that was his twin brother, but was determined to beat this one thing. The hats were amusing.
Wintertide - Lou Harper: Escaping noisy neighbours, Jem sees a sexy older guy on the pier. They flirt and end up at sexy guys place, although later after waking Jem sees pics of another guy and figures he’s with a cheater, but Oscar tracks him down and explains it his lover who died and they decide to try dating. This story had one of my hot buttons, BIG age gap. Oscar was 45+ and Jem was not yet 21. Long term viability? I find it hard to buy into that. If I look at in a “for a period of time that works for them” maybe. I just tried not to think about the numbers much. Well written and I’m sure others won’t mind the gap at all.
When in Amsterdam – Josephine Myles: An interracial couple head to Amsterdam to spend Christmas with Jos’ parents. Brandon is first freaked out by all the pieten he sees in the store windows (little black elves who help Santa) and he’s also feeling self-conscious about the fact that Jos is into BDSM and he’s very vanilla. However taking shelter in a sex store from the rain, maybe he’s not quite as vanilla as he thought and could give Jos what he needs. This was more sexy and intense and a while not angsty or serious, not so light as the others. Seeing vanilla Brandon explore his Dom side was very interesting and hot.
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips and Thou – JL Merrow: Liam, who lives with his mum and two aunts who are witches, spends his evenings playing his saxophone in the metro to earn cash. Everyday he sees an older man but they never talk. His family is eager to get him mated off but end up knitting him a variety of odd items they insist on wearing. A hat that covers his mohawk, a long Dr. Who scarf and a god awful cardigan. Each item seems to bring him closer to meeting his crush, the cardigan being the last piece of the puzzle. I snickered many times reading this. The hat that looked like he had a tea cozy on his head and the references to Dr. Who were very funny. Even though there was another big age difference, maybe because they only spent the evening together I didn’t feel the same squick factor. *shrug* Who knows with me.