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.

The Perfect Christmas by Gayle Cranfield


The Perfect Christmas by Gayle Cranfield
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (30 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Gabrielle Sullivan is in a panic to finish her shopping on Christmas Eve when she literally bumps into an old friend from university, Justin Law. She’s knocked to the ground, bruising her ankle. The two friends decide to catch up on the ten years since graduation over coffee.

Too naive to admit they had a strong attraction in the past, they spend the night together awakening a spark neither realized was dormant.

Will they walk away from each other in the morning, or will they have The Perfect Christmas?

After working some nightmarish hours Gabrielle finds herself doing her family’s Christmas shopping at the very last minute on Christmas Eve. Rushing to catch her train home, Gaby bumps literally into an old friend from university – Justin. Having missed her train, Gabrielle agrees to have coffee with Justin and the two begin to reconnect. Can this be the perfect Christmas for them both?

This is a lovely, but super short, story. The plotline is quite predictable, but I found that I didn’t mind too much as both Justin and Gabrielle’s characters were quite interesting. Add Gabrielle’s slightly crazy sister and all the hustle and bustle of Christmas madness and I generally found this to be a fun, lighthearted Christmas story.

There were only two short sex scenes – but I found them very sexy and steamily written. I couldn’t help but feel that with a little more ruthless editing there could have been more room left for a deeper exploration – emotionally or sexually – between Justin and Gabrielle. There was quite a bit of story spent with Gabrielle analyzing her current client and work situation, as well as her sleazy ex-boss and details around that. Had any of that linked in to the bigger story between Gabrielle and Justin I could understand the time and words spent on it, but I didn’t feel like that really lead anywhere. I feel this could easily have been cut down to a few sentences of explanation and left quite a bit of room for the relationship between Gaby and Justin to have been given more details. I didn’t feel Gaby and Justin were short-changed, but I would have far preferred to read more on the two of them together – rather than a lot of details about Gaby’s work and ex boss when it didn’t seem to really lead anywhere much.

That said, I loved the happy ending, I greatly enjoyed the characters in this story and overall this felt to me like a good, enjoyable Christmas short story. Fast moving and sweetly sexy, this has great characters and is a story that I feel should leave readers feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Santa’s Reject by Lily Vega


Santa’s Reject by Lily Vega
Yule Tied
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (55 pages)
Other: M/F, BDSM
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Banished from the North Pole for bad behavior, Beryl is shipped off to Fairyville. A scratch from Cupid’s arrow infuses her with Christmas spirit and saddles her with a mad crush on her new boss, Killian — a.k.a. the Tooth Fairy.

Killian despises love and the entire notion of Yuletide celebrations. The last thing he needs is a beautiful Elf spreading holiday cheer and trying to drag him into the sack. After all, Beryl’s love could sour like rotten eggnog once she discovers his secret.

Banishment doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

There were so many creative touches in this tale. Everything from the names of certain characters to the economic value of the teeth that Killian collected had clearly been thought out carefully. I grinned every time the protagonist drew my attention to yet another funny pop culture reference that had been tucked away in a description or conversation These little surprises made it so much fun to read.

The dialogue was awkward. Both of the main characters often said things they should have expressed through their body language or jumped right into doing instead. This was especially noticeable during their most intimate moments. Those exchanges pulled me out of what was otherwise an entertaining and enjoyable story. If not for this problem, I would have had no problem selecting a much higher rating as I really liked everything else about it.

Killian and Beryl were perfect for each other. I loved watching them spend time together because of how good both of them were at flirting with their body language. They knew exactly which buttons to push to get each other revved up and ready for action. My favorite scenes were the ones where they danced around their attraction for each other for this reason. It was so much fun to see them gradually move closer and closer to revealing their true desires, and I couldn’t wait to see how things would pan out between them.

I’d recommend Santa’s Reject to anyone who is in the mood for some witty erotica.

Oops by Anne Kane


Oops by Anne Kane
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (37 pgs)
Other: M/F, Forced Seduction
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Stephanie, Jackie and Caroline. The three women have been friends for years, and they’ve built themselves a nice bed and breakfast /ranch operation. But with less than a fortnight to Christmas, a ruthless banker has swindled them out of their beloved home. What will they do?

Well, kidnapping him and holding him hostage until he decides to do the right thing sounds like a good plan. Unfortunately, it all goes hilariously wrong when they discover they’ve kidnapped the wrong man. Bondage, obedience classes and more are needed to make sure there’s a Merry Christmas this year!

Caroline, Steph and Jackie had been swindled out of their ranch. Determined to get their property back they hatch the crazy plan to kidnap the jerk who stole it from them and force him to give it back. Only instead of Mr James Smithers, they end up kidnapping Mr Jebediah Smithers. And all too soon Jackie finds their crazy plan starting to unravel. How can they get their ranch and livelihoods back?

This short story starts off in a lighthearted, fun manner that really had me giggling. I had a bit of a wobble reading it near the middle – when the three ladies still didn’t truly believe they’d kidnapped the wrong man and tied him to the bed and Jackie starts touching him intimately. While the author wrote the story clearly showing they’d all end up on the same page and even hinted that Jebediah could escape his restraints should he choose to – it all just shaded just a little too close to a “forced seduction” type of scene for me to actually enjoy it. Readers who dislike kidnap/forced intimacy stories or find them to be a trigger should steer clear of this story. That said, even though Jackie didn’t seem to believe they’d made a mistake she and Jebediah sure managed to get hot and heavy pretty quickly – and both appeared to have a glorious time doing so.

Both Caroline and Steph watched the sexiness between Jackie and Jebediah, though neither of the other women joined in or even seemed to participate apart from watching. So personally I wouldn’t consider this a menage or group sex thing as such – but other readers might feel differently. The sex was hotly written and especially as the sex scene progressed it was clear both Jackie and Jebediah got more and more invested in each other as they became more intimate.

While the author made it clear to the readers that they shouldn’t feel even a speck of sympathy for James Smithers, I also couldn’t help but feel bad at the depths the women sank to in the effort of getting their ranch back. While I genuinely understood how desperate they were, I still felt their actions reflected a bit poorly on them and the strength of their characters. Obviously this short story was all meant in good fun, but I could understand if some readers are a lot more invested in the relationship flourishing between Jackie and Jebediah and a little less taken by the plot and lengths the three friends go to, to get their ranch back in their hands.

A very different and interesting type of Christmas short story, this is certainly a new plot twist that I’ve never read before. Fresh and unique, it certainly made me think and start a few discuss with other reading friends.

Gift Of A Lifetime by Ana Raine


Gift Of A Lifetime by Ana Raine
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday (Christmas)
Length: Short Story (35 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play, Toys
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ryo’s job at the Crooked Paintbrush is a way to make some money doing what he loves while meeting new people. But when Logan walks into Ryo’s painting class, he realizes there are some things that can only be described as fate.

More than just a handsome face, Logan proves to be exactly the kind of Master Ryo has been waiting for. The kind of man who will test his limits while providing some much needed love and safety.

Ryo hosts painting classes for singles looking for like-minded people. Even though he’s looking for a Master of his own, he generally enjoys the classes and watching other people find happiness. Logan was the most handsome man Ryo had ever met, and when Logan asks him out for dinner, Ryo feels like all his Christmas’ have come at once. Can Logan be everything he needs?

I enjoyed this hot and sexy short story. I found Ryo and Logan to be super hot together, and both liking exactly the same thing – kinky sex. I didn’t mind that Ryo and Logan got quite intimate fairly quickly after meeting – in such a short story they needed to move fast – but I really enjoyed how the author let them actually talk and get to know each other a little bit first. I was a little uncertain why neither Ryo nor Logan had met someone into kink earlier – the author made it seem like they both wanted something very deep and dark and unheard of with other men, and I just didn’t find that too believable. While they certainly both enjoyed BDSM and playing with toys, I didn’t find their kink outrageous or particularly dark. So I never really bought into the fact neither man had met someone previously who could give them what they wanted. This small bit of unrealistic plotting didn’t lesson my enjoyment of the story, however.

I enjoyed both men’s characters – Ryo was an eager and curious submissive, Logan a strong and caring Dominant. While I liked how compatible the two men were, I did find it a little unusual toward the end, reading some of the play-talk between Ryo and Logan. Personally, I prefer it when a Master builds his pet up and strengthens them. While I liked Logan’s tenderness and attachment to Ryo, Ryo seemed to need someone to use him and take over completely, and while it was very well written and is sure to appeal to many readers, I discovered it just isn’t really my thing. The care and love between the two men though is a wonderful thing to watch as is their hot, spicy sex.

For slightly kinky, very short Christmas story this was a good read and one I enjoyed.

Regifted by BJ McCall


Regifted by BJ McCall
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (42 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Fern has no idea the Christmas gift given to her on Christmas Eve is a regift. The perfume smells divine and unbeknownst to Fern it has an added benefit. The scent is packed with pheromones that attract werewolves.

Pace is spending the holiday weekend in the city, a lonely Christmas away from his pack. A major power outage plunges the city into darkness. Pace has a choice: spend Christmas alone or invite his new neighbor with the alluring scent for a candlelight drink…

Fern is the new girl at her work and so she’s left to close the office on Christmas Eve and then reopen it the following Monday. After Fern gives out small goodies to all her co-workers, her boss, Alison is the only one to reciprocate. Fern is thrilled, until she finds the bottle of perfume is a regift. What neither Alison nor Fern know is that the scent is actually a Mating Scent. When Fern bumps into a homesick werewolf, her Christmas plans are suddenly going to be a whole lot more intimate than she expected.

I found this to be a sweet and steamy Christmas short story. I loved how Fern and Pace got to know each other a little – chatting about their homes and upbringing, connecting emotionally – before jumping into bed with each other. I also loved the twist on the regifted pheromone perfume bottle capturing Pace’s attention and drawing him to Fern. It all just fit together so well and really appealed to me as a reader. I loved this story.

I was thrilled when – after having sex – the relationship continued to build between Fern and Pace. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them spend Christmas together, explore the city and really get to know each other. It made the romance feel so much stronger between them and also made the entire situation a lot more believable. I found the whole story realistic and fun, sexy and hot. I will happily read more stories both by this author and set in this paranormal world.

I found this to be an excellent short story, with interesting and fun characters and a solid, realistic plot. A great Christmas tale and one I will happily reread many times to come.

Alex’s Law by Jayce Ellis


Alex’s Law by Jayce Ellis
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Holiday
Length: Short Story (59 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, Masturbation
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Alex Corrigan is in love with his boss, Judge Lawson Daniels, and thinks those feelings are returned. That assumption is sorely tested two days before the court holiday party they’re organizing together, when the venue calls and cancels, followed by a snafu with the caterer. Alex could handle that, but after an intimate dinner followed by a decidedly unromantic e-mail, he’s left wondering about the future of his employment as well as his relationship with the debonair older man.

Law can’t wait to see his clerk again. But Alex is cold and distant in the light of day, and Law doesn’t understand. The party looms in the background, but Law’s excitement is turning to dread. On top of that, someone is sabotaging them, trying to get Alex fired and drive Law off the bench. If there’s any chance for a happy holiday for Alex and Law, they’ll have to find out who.

A workplace romance? Who says it can’t happen…

I haven’t read anything by Jayce Ellis, but I’m glad I remedied that. This book rocked. I loved the characters and the build-up. The author knew how to make the characters dance around each other and seem realistic. I read the author’s bio and see she’s a lawyer. This was why the courtroom portions of the book were so detailed and interesting. I felt like I was right there with Alex and Law.

These two characters were so funny in the way they couldn’t quite figure out how to say what they wanted. I rooted for them all the way. Ms. Ellis wrote with a good knowledge of law, which helped make the story better and deeper. I could feel the passion between the characters and wanted to see them find their happy ending.

If you want a book with a touch of suspense, a little mystery and lots of heat, then this might be the book for you.