Make a Wish by ED Parr


Make a Wish by ED Parr
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (36 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and Nick Kringle is making deliveries on the main street of the city when a car breaks down at the intersection. He rushes to help him and comes face to face with the most delicious man he’s ever seen.

Amid the seasonal crowds and inclement weather, Dylan West gets out of his stalled car and tries to push it to the side of the road. Dylan’s down on his luck, but his hero Nick believes in magic and decides to throw a little Dylan’s way.

Can wishes come true? You bet—especially if Nick Kringle has anything to do with it.

A sweet read for a chilly evening.

I’m a sucker for Christmasy stories. This one hit the spot. The writing flowed well and the characters were interesting. For a quick read, it satisfied.

Dylan’s had a rough time. He’s getting over being shot and he’s having a hard time finding a job. Like super hard time. No matter what he does, he can’t seem to get ahead. I could relate to him. I’ve had those days and what seems like week-long moments of nothing going quite right. There were times I thought he got a little too far into his depression, but if that was the author’s purpose then kudos. There were just times I thought Dylan was almost too…he wasn’t even willing to see the bright side. Then there was Nick. Talk about the opposite of Dylan. Positive and willing to help. I liked him and his can do attitude. When the two got together, things heated up. The thing was, the circumstances were a little odd, but I could go with it.

If you’re looking for a short read for the lunch hour or a quiet night, then this might be the book for you.

Fire and Midnight by Sandra Renee Appet


Fire and Midnight by Sandra Renee Appet
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (212 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

He could be her best worst decision…

With a glass of wine in hand, Jane Keegan’s finger is poised to delete the account her pushy BFF created for her on “The Cowboys” escort service website. Sure, she’s lonely, but not desperate. Then an image of sky-blue eyes and warm, tanned muscles jumps off the screen. And she finds herself hitting the “Book Now” button.

After all, why not? She’s a free, divorced woman on business in San Antonio. There’s nothing to lose…except her nerve. Especially when Mr. Tall Dark And Incredibly Sexy meets her at a River Walk bar—and his only-for-you smile turns her insides into a quivering mass of second thoughts.

Ryan Zeigler is enduring one last escort assignment only as a favor before hanging up his Cowboys hat to run his own restaurant. Yet there’s something about the pretty New Yorker’s vulnerable grin and I’ve-got-baggage eyes that halts his usual dating M.O. in its tracks.

When Ryan sweetens the deal—no strings, no payment expected—Jane the good girl takes the bold step of letting her vixen out to play. But when it’s time to go home, her heart is at a crossroads. Is Ryan the real deal? Or is she letting yet another man take her heart for a ride?

Meddling best friends get their partners in crime into the most embarrassing and enjoyable situations. Copious glasses of wine, a pushy friend, and more than a bit of loneliness after her divorce, get Jane to try a Cowboy escort. Of course, she gets more than she bargained for from this unusual date and wraps up the year during the holiday season with more than one surprise!

Ryan Zeigler is hot, mature, a successful businessman, and one of the most caring, family-loving men to come across many women’s path. With his Spanish background, he offers a charming mix of San Antonio to Jane’s palette, and her activities. The chemistry between him and Jane is sparking with electricity…and self-doubt. The sex scenes leave that doubt in the dirt 99% of the time to produce consensual, empowering scenes that feel intimate and personal rather than run of the mill. This partnership is made to last and its shown through each intentional, confidence-building move that Ryan makes.

Jane, on the whole, is a woman who has seen better days in her personal life and her personal approach to life. She needs revitalising and to be shown how to enjoy life again. I love that Ryan is the man to electrify her into the woman she should be, but I hate that very often alcohol is behind her decisions. Often, she is very passive in the face of a fork in the road, and this smacks both of a lack of confidence, and of an old-fashioned approach to relationships.

Of course, family and Jane’s pesky self-doubt as the older, divorced woman, puts a spanner in the works for the couple, which they must overcome long-distance. A tricky obstacle. This was where the book was lacking for me. The magical date scenes, the beauty of place and atmosphere in the getting-to-meet-you scenes were wonderful, truly immersive. The obstacles the couple must overcome are more run of the mill – predictable – and take a long time. The book could have been a good third shorter and still covered the ground it aimed to, while making the plot much more succinct and enjoyable. For me, the book wandered too much after the first major obstacle and became more of a tick the boxes approach to traditional romance: marriage, kids, family life, working life, and the white picket fence. I suspect much of my reluctance here is due to my experiences and age. I’m not an almost thirty woman looking to settle down and I’m not looking for that traditional passive, inexperienced female and super-experienced male sex king, relationship. That’s not my ideal and doesn’t chime with my values.

For many others, Fire and Midnight will tick the boxes of their dream man and their dream life. Certainly, the locations of San Antonio and its River Walk are almost Venice-like in the beauty of the picture which is painted, and the loving relationship which is begun under its roofs. This place and lifestyle is what I fell in love with, and I’m sure many other readers will swoon at the chance to experience the lifestyle painted in the rivers, gondolas and eateries, all with splashes of Spanish charm.

Ribbons And Bows by Marteeka Karland


Ribbons And Bows by Marteeka Karland
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (52 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Samson Redding has everything he could want — everything money can buy. But for all that, he’s alone. He’s been pursuing the lovely Jerrica in an online relationship, and he’s ready to take it to the next level, but she’s not ready.

Samson’s thought of the perfect way to change her mind. He convinces Jerrica to meet in person — at a BDSM club he knows she’ll love, once she wraps her mind around it.

It may take more than ribbons and bows to tie his woman to his side, but Samson’s up for the challenge. The rest? That’s up to Jerrica.

Samson somehow let his sister talk him into dressing up as Santa Clause for poverty-stricken children. What his sister didn’t know was her attempt – yet again – to set him up fell directly into his plans for Jerrica. Samson and Jerrica had been emailing online for a while now and Samson is more than ready to take steps to the next level. Will Jerrica be on board with that?

This is a fun, Christmassy short story. I found Samson a bit arrogant to start with – having done extensive background research on Jerrica before they’d really met and just assuming he knew what was best for her. It also rubbed me a bit wrong how Samson needed to control pretty much every aspect of the day and evening when he and Jerrica met. From manipulating the situation with his sister “meeting” Jerrica all the way through to the “coincidence” of their date at the BDSM club Samson was literally in control of pretty much every aspect. I found it a little creepy and hugely control-freakish, not really sexy or masterful as I expect it was meant to come across. Aside from this and a few other – far smaller – niggles I really enjoyed how much lead-up there was to both Jerrica’s and Samson’s characters. It was a pleasure to read a very short story where the hero and heroine didn’t just meet, fall in insta-lust and hop right into bed. Readers who enjoy a much slower pace to their steamy stories should find this one suits them well.

While there was a bit of kink shown in the BDSM club, I found it interesting that it was other people (strangers) participating and neither Samson nor Jerrica indulged. I was of two minds about the lack of strong kink in the sex with Samson and Jerrica. On the one hand Jerrica was a complete BDSM novice and had only hinted at her curiosity and interest to Samson – so a part of me understood why they only dipped their toes into the kinkier side of sex. On the other hand I feel the storyline (and the erotic-ness of the sex) could have been really strengthened by some stronger elementrs. For a BDSM story I really felt Samson and Jerrica only dabbled in the shallows of their kink – it would have been a real pleasure, and made the sexy side of the story stronger to my mind, had Samson led Jerrica deeper into the world of BDSM sexually. I feel this was a huge missed opportunity by the author and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed neither of them really went there. Jerrica and Samson weren’t straight vanilla, but considering how far – and explicit – erotic stories have come in recent years I couldn’t help but feel readers looking for a kinky, strongly sexual story might be disappointed with this.

I thought the premise of the story was excellent and I really enjoyed the author’s story-telling voice. I’d happily read more by this author and would even enjoy reading a sequel or story that explored what happened next between Jerrica and Samson. A fun short story.

Candy Caned by Kiernan Kelly


Candy Caned by Kiernan Kelly
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (37 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

For Elves, life at the North Pole is busy but satisfying. Daniel is no exception. He finds great pride in his work as a toy train painter. As the holidays approach, however, the pressures of doing his job push him to the edge. When Santa adds to Daniel’s already overburdened workload by ordering him to plan the annual Workshop Holiday Party, Daniel feels a panic attack coming on and turns to his partner Stephen for help.

Stephen, a Dom who knows Daniel better than anyone else, understands exactly what Daniel needs. In Stephen’s playroom, he blisters Daniel’s ass and balms his soul with the help of a bright, cheery, holiday candy cane.

Now better able to deal with the pressures of the holidays, Daniel plans a party to end all parties for all the Elves at the Workshop. One in which every Elf, including Santa, will be able to get off and let off a little sexy steam.

Christmas time is crazy for the elves, and Daniel hated the hectic stress of it all. His mood only fell further when Santa put him in charge of the annual holiday bash. When Daniel’s lover, Stephen, discovers how stressed Daniel is, he knows exactly the cure to help relieve Daniel’s tension. A good session in their playroom together and they can both enjoy a very Merry Christmas.

This sizzling short story is delightful. I loved both the steamy kink between Stephen and Daniel, but also really enjoyed how well the Dom clearly knew his lover. The familiarity, chemistry and connection between Stephen and Daniel meant I didn’t mind at all when they got intimate very quickly into the story – it was clear they were in a committed and loving relationship, and this made their kinky sex even more delightful to me. I also really enjoyed how the sex – hot as it was – wasn’t the only aspect to the story. I thought it excellent how the author hadn’t just added Daniel organizing the Christmas party as a token or throw-away plot. This got properly followed-through on and I thought it was a hoot. While completely unlike any other North Pole party I’ve heard or read about – the author managed to convince me it was not only suitable, but a heck of a lot of fun to boot.

Definitely not for the faint of heart, get a delicious cocktail or glass of bubbly, turn off your phone, sit back and enjoy this naughty tale. With something that I feel will appeal to everyone this is a fun, frantic and deliciously wicked Christmas story.

My Traveling Man by Dee Dee Lane


My Traveling Man by Dee Dee Lane
Slip in Time Series

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Alice Hanstrom prefers books to people, facts over feelings, and in her world, “adventure” is just a word in the dictionary. That is until the night she braves shadowed hallways of the Cowboy and Western Museum in pursuit of a long​-lost diary. Her search of an antique covered wagon halts abruptly when the museum slips Alice back in time.

Thomas Bristol is an experienced wagon master. On a daily basis he deals with cholera, exhausted oxen, and river rapids on the treacherous journey to Oregon Territory. But he’s completely flummoxed when a mysterious woman appears in Big Blue River.

On the trail, Alice and Thomas strive to balance his love of roaming adventure and her desire for predictable orderliness. As the wagon train reaches Independence Rock, the sparks between them catch fire. But can such different people become equal partners in love…and can their love survive the slip in time?

Alice, is an academic who is studying for her PhD. Her research takes place in the Cowboy and Western Museum and concerns the American west, in particular the wagon trains that travelled west in the mid-1800s. When an accident causes a slip through time, Alice finds a new life in a wagon train. She also finds Thomas Bristol who becomes the love of her life.

I loved this book. Alice’s thoughts on what was happening around her and her thoughts on her research coming to life were fascinating. Her interpretation of the Fourth of July celebrations were quite unique, considering the year she was from and the year she was now living in. One thing I found strange was that no one questioned where she’d come from. You’d think the wagon master or the family she travelled with would at least ask, but I don’t remember that at all.

All through the story, and the heated love scenes, the question hovered – would she return to her own time and if she did would that be the end of any love between her and Thomas? I won’t spoil the story by revealing the ending, but I will say it’s a unique and clever way of finishing the tale.

Harper’s Place by Sheryl Winters


Harper’s Place by Sheryl Winters
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Harper Grey is fed up with over-bearing men.

Her father wants to sell the family hamburger joint to her brother because a woman could never make it successful.

Harper knows she has the same flair for business as her mother, and sexy Navy SEAL Patrick O’Brien dares her to prove it to the world.

When duty calls and Patrick must leave her side, will Harper be strong enough to make her dream a reality?

This book may be short, but it’s a lovely romance story with a touch of humor. Harper wants to take over the family burger business but her brother has talked her father into closing the place instead. An old high school friend Patrick comes into the burger joint and encourages her to follow her dream. All too soon he returns to his regiment overseas, but leaves behind the promise that he will be free of the forces in a few months.

I loved how this story did not force romance onto the reader. The main story was about Harper fighting for the right to have her own business despite her family’s opposition. Patrick believes in her and provides the support she needs, not only regarding the business but also on a personal level. Even from a distance Patrick shows his love and this makes for a very soft, sweet, but touching romance.

I like the way he often surprises her and drags her back when she’s ready to give up. Great story with lots of human interest and love.

Falling for Santa Claus by CJ Anthony


Falling for Santa Claus by CJ Anthony
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When Jack Frost’s aunt dies and leaves him her house in the tiny town of Great Falls, Jack seizes the opportunity to escape the rat race of Chicago for the quaint village he loved as a child. On his first night he’s welcomed by a baseball bat and a trespassing warning from Nick St. James—longtime Great Falls resident and infamous curmudgeon.

Jack wants to give Nick the benefit of the doubt—he can’t deny his attraction to the big man—but after several run-ins with Nick’s grumpiness and closed-off heart, he’s ready to give up. Only after discovering the secret Nick’s been covering up for years does he vow to break through Nick’s walls to find the loving man hiding behind them.

Satisfying for a chilly afternoon.

I’m all for a sweet story with a happy ending. Falling for Santa Claus delivers.

The writing was spot-on and snagged me from the beginning. I liked the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them. It was cute and sweet seeing these two characters come together. The town biddies are a treat, too. They help make the story memorable. Who doesn’t know a few individuals where are a tad too pushy and nosy? That relatable quality of the characters was great.

If I have one quibble, it’s the way Jack conducted himself. He tended to be hot and cold toward Nick. I understood exactly why he’d pull back, but the push-pull (while believable) was a tiny bit irksome. I wanted him to just decide what he wanted already.

Still, it’s a sweet story and a good holiday tale. The final result is satisfying and worth it. If you want a short read for over the lunch hour on a cold afternoon, then this is the book for you.

Eccentric Symmetries by Nancy Springer


Eccentric Symmetries by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (148 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Eccentric Symmetries, 20 fantasy short stories spanning the forty-year career of author Nancy Springer, showcases tales ranging from the quirky to the transcendent. Including mythic tales of long ago and far away such as award-winner “The Boy Who Plaited Manes,” this collection also contains wry, sometimes humorous contemporary fantasy stories such as “Rumple What?” and “Snow Spawn,” plus mystic magical realism in which cabbage roses grow down from the ceiling (“Mariposa”) and hard-edged future fantasy stories such as “We Don’t Know Why,” a tale of failing “angels.” Like our lives, the stories in Eccentric Symmetries are mostly off-kilter, even laughable, but sometimes achieve a luminous moment of perfect balance, an epiphany. In this carefully selected collection, every fantasy reader should find something to love.

Magic can be found everywhere you could possible imagine.

In “Who’s Gonna Rock Us Home?” Jephed Shue was dreading the idea of being assigned to work for the government for his entire adult life so much that he ran away from home. I was fascinated by the idea of a society choosing occupations for every young person and couldn’t wait to see what his life would be like after he refused to accept his assignment. The more I read about Jephed’s adventures, the more I wanted to know. He has such a stubborn personality that I was never sure how he would respond to the next challenge that crossed his path.

While I enjoyed how all of them began, some of these tales ended so abruptly that I didn’t feel satisfied by how everything was wrapped up. “Gilly the Goose Girl” was a good example of it. The storyline followed a princess named Gillianna who decided to switch places with her maid in order to avoid being married to someone she’d never met before. I was fascinated by this impulsive decision, but it would have been nice to see more time spent on wrapping up the ending. The final scene explained what happened to her, but it didn’t go into hardly any detail about it. I would have preferred to see those events play out in real time instead of condensed into a single paragraph.

One of my favorite stories in this collection was “You Are Such a One.” The main character in it was a middle-aged woman who found her life boring and repetitive. One day she discovered her dream house while out on a drive and struck up a friendship with the caretaker of that place. He told her something that she never would have guessed in a million years. What I liked the most about the plot was how careful it was when it came to which clues it gave the audience about what was happening. Telling too much about it would have spoiled the ending, so I was happy that the narrator was so cautious about that. I surprisingly didn’t figure out the twist ahead of time, although it made perfect sense once everything was revealed.

Eccentric Symmetries should be read by anyone who is in the mood for fairy tales that are set in all kinds of unusual places.

Better to Give by K.K. Weil


Better to Give by K.K. Weil
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (106 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

For most people, the holidays are a time of warmth, happiness and celebration. But to Jenna Samuels, they mean only one thing. Mounting debt. A single mother, Jenna struggles to make ends meet and to her, it’s a season of excess and distress.

James Garrison is in over his head, too. His ex-wife said he wasn’t equipped to take care of his twins, and now that he’s got joint custody, he fears she was right. They’re wild, spoiled, and always fighting. When they knock Jenna’s daughter into the “Gifting Tree,”—a part of their town’s charity collection—the parents are immediately attracted to each other. But James has had his fill of cold women and Jenna won’t make the mistake of falling for another man who disappears when life gets too heavy.

As their paths cross, James and Jenna must decide whether first impressions are accurate, or if sometimes, people are not what you assume at all.

Our past experiences should not always shape our future outlook.

Jenna has had her share of men that run off and James has had his share of women that are manipulative and have their own agenda. But, when both of these parents meet, the sparks fly. But the sparks flying are not only in love interest but also in temper when James’s twins knock Jenna’s daughter into the Giving Tree.

K.K. Weil tells this fun, romantic story from both the perspective of Jenna as well as from the perspective of James. The reader is able to climb into the head and the mindset of both in order to fully understand what is happening. The author pays special attention to the past experiences of both characters with their previous failed relationships while keeping a true honesty that not everything is perfect between the two characters.

Misunderstandings threaten the budding relationship and add on top of that the mixture of children from previous relationships. Then, financial woes and ex-spouse intrusion creates a mix that is ripe for discord. K.K. Weil handles these situations elegantly, keeping the story moving and the conflict believable. The tension that arises between both characters is relatable to the readers and is one in which engrosses the overall plot. The interaction and bond between the children is believable and fun.

This was a fun story of love and overcoming initial complications in a relationship. K.K. Weil does a great job at keeping the Giving Tree at the heart of the story from beginning to end, which ties in the title Better to Give. Overall the story was heartwarming and gives the reader a separate and distinct view of the world of love.

If you are looking for a fun romantic story with love at the center, then be sure not to miss Better to Give!

Visions of Sugarplum by Sara Jay


Visions of Sugarplum by Sara Jay
Yule Tied
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (35 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ice fairy Sugarplum has wanted Santa’s only Cyclops in employ, Heath, for years. She knows he returns her interest, but why won’t he give in to his feelings for her? With a little nudge from her best friend, Ice Queen Erika, she is bound and determined to get what she wants this Christmas.

Heath has secrets that he knows would damage his chances with the curvaceous fairy. He would much rather protect both their hearts than risk something that could hurt them both forever. Will he take a chance once Sugarplum brings him a pretty Christmas present that he can’t resist?

How do you tell the difference between a crush and something that’s much deeper than that?

This story was quite the tease. Every time I thought that Sugarplum and Heath might finally do something about their feelings about each other, something got in their way. The more they were delayed, though, the more impatient I became to see them finally fall into each other’s arms and beds. The sexual tension between them was exquisite. As much as I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, I really liked living in the moment as they swerved past one interruption after the next.

There was a little too much time spent on the subplots. As fascinated as I was by the politics of living and working at the North Pole, I would have preferred to spend some of those scenes focused on what was happening with the main characters. With this being said, it’s a minor criticism of a book that I otherwise really enjoyed reading.

Sugarplum was exactly what I’d think a fairy would be like. She was cheerful, sweet, kind, and also fiercely persistent when she set her mind to accomplishing something. There was also a slightly mischievous side to her personality that didn’t show itself right away. I liked her as soon as I met her and sure hoped that she’d find her happy ending.

Visions of Sugarplum made me smile. If you’re in the mood for a saucy Christmas tale, I’d strongly recommend jumping into this one.