His for the Holidays anthology from Carina Press
Pre-order and other information here.
Source: Net Galley eARC
Release date: December 6, 2010
Josh Lanyon is the anchor author of this anthology, followed by Z.A. Maxfield and LB Gregg, who are established authors, plus relative new-comer Harper Fox. Each story is available individually, or bundled as the anthology.
Spicing Up the Season
Hope brightens a bleak Edinburgh December. A man gets a second chance with his high school crush. A decade-long game of cat and mouse comes to a passionate conclusion. And Santa Claus drives a red muscle car. Heat up your holidays with this collection of four festive tales from some of the top talent in the male/male genre.
The cover art is generic but also accurate: the guys kissing on the cover signal gay romance, and the snow flakes are a signal for the winter settings.
Mistletoe at Midnight by LB Gregg
Owen McKenzie has traveled to Vermont to spend an old-fashioned Christmas with his family when he finds himself staying at the same inn as his first love. Owen is disconcerted to realize he’s still attracted to Caleb Black but refuses to pursue him. Caleb left him once, and Owen’s not going down that road again.
Caleb is ready for a second chance when Owen and gets it when fate and the matchmaking McKenzies conspire to strand the two men in a rustic cabin during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. Can Caleb convince Owen to rekindle their romance so they can stop spending their holidays apart?
What did I think? I think this blurb is not very accurate. Owen has moved to Vermont, is not just visiting for the holiday; readers have no idea what Caleb wants since we don’t get his POV; the stranding was due to weather not the family; etc. Beyond that, I found the extended separation to be a little silly in the age of facebook and google to find long lost friends and lovers.
Having said that, I really enjoyed Owen’s interactions with his family and the secondary characters, and the story worked well within its format constraints. (B)
Nine Lights Over Edinburgh by Harper Fox
Detective Inspector James McBride is riding high on the belief that he’s about to bust a human-trafficking ring. But just five days before Christmas, his unorthodox methods catch up with him and his world comes crashing down.
McBride tries to concentrate on his new day job as security for the visiting Israeli ambassador. He even starts to feel a renewed sense of self-worth when the leader of the Israeli team, the aristocratic Tobias Leitner, takes a bullet for him in the lien of duty. But he can’t forget the trafficking case, especially when his investigations result in the kidnapping of his own daughter! McBride has no one to turn to for help – no one, except Toby.
Can these two very different men work together to bring about a holiday miracle – and heal one another’s heart in the process?
What did I think? I think Harper Fox loves to pour on the angst, which is not my favorite seasoning for romance. Human trafficking, alcoholism, grief, loss of lover, loss of family, closeted homosexuality, all of them are wedged into this short story. I wanted to like the story, which is well-written, but it just felt over-wrought to me. So much time was spent on the outside conflict and on showing how damaged McBride and Toby are that I didn’t really trust their rapid HEA/HFN. (C)
I Heard Him Exclaim by Z.A. Maxfield
Who likes a skinny Santa?
Steve Adam’s heart hasn’t been in the Christmas spriti ever since doctors put a stent in it and order him to clean up his act. No longer filling out his Santa suit or allowed to make merry, he’s forgoing the holidays this year and heading to Vegas to indulge in the few vices left to him: gambling and anonymous sex.
His road trip takes a detour when he encounters Chandler Tracy, who’s just inherited guardianship of his five-year-old niece. Overwhelmed, Chandler’s on his way to deliver Poppy to his parents. But fate has other plans and, after car trouble, Chandler and Poppy accept a ride home with Steve. Though the heat between the two men is obvious, they put it on simmer while they band together to make Poppy’s Christmas as perfect as possible.
Steve soon comes to believe that while Chandler is the right person to look after Poppy, someone needs to look after Chandler. Fortunately, Steve knows just the man for the job.
What did I think? My perspective of Santa is now permanently skewed: forget the jolly old man, he’s now a burly bear who’s got an eye out for twinkish elves. No, really, I enjoyed this story – it is a fairy tale in the Calgon-take-me-away sense. Chandler’s at the end of his rope, suddenly a parent and unprepared to be so, broken down on the way to Christmas with his parents, when his Santa/savior arrives on the scene. Steve is very much a Prince Charming in a Santa suit: he fixes the car temporarily and then gives them a ride when the fix doesn’t hold; he invites them into his home and his family; he’s basically perfect, with a perfect extended family who welcome Chandler and Poppy into the fold without question or hesitation. The holiday theme is integrated into the story pretty well, too; I loved the family obsession and decoration detail. (B)
Icecapade by Josh Lanyon
On the eve of the new millennium, diamond thief Noel Snow seduced FBI special agent Robert Cuffe, then fled into the dawn. Now a successful novelist, Noel uses his capers as fodder for his books, and has modeled his hero’s nemesis (and potential love interest) on Cuffe. Though he leaves Robert a drunken phone message every New Year’s Eve, Noel hasn’t seen or heard from him in a decade.
So he’s thrilled when his former lover shows up at his upstate farm one Christmas Eve. Elation quickly turns to alarm when Robert acuses Novel of being responsible for a recent rash of diamond heists. Robert is all business and as cold as ice: it seems his only interest in Noel is to put him behind bars.
Innocent of the crimes, and still as attracted as ever to the oh-so-serious lawman, Noel plans a second seduction — providing he can stay out of jail long enough!
What did I think? Josh Lanyon is the author I’m most familiar with in this anthology, and as a general rule, I enjoy his style. This story is an INYIM (TM to KristieJ) story: it did not work for me for reasons unrelated to the writing quality or style. Thieves as romance heroes are a very hard sell, and Lanyon didn’t close the sale for me. The unrepentant ex-thief narrator whined about the unintended consequences of his actions, which got old. A cast of secondary characters assured me that the narrator really was reformed and a nice guy despite his chosen profession, and Lanyon chose to have him suffer from a physical injury that was probably intended to garner more sympathy. Eh, no, especially when the narrator excuses himself since he was never violent and hadn’t carried a weapon when he was out and about burgling people but apparently not harming or victimizing them. Potential suspect and cop relationships are a staple in genre romance, but this one just didn’t work for me. (DNF)
Overall, I enjoyed the anthology. Two of the stories worked extremely well for me, while the other two were less successful because of my tastes as a reader and through no fault of the authors.
Edited for typos.