Sunday, 30 December 2012

Red Hot Holiday Anthology, Various

Three Christmas shorts, one M/M and two M/F from three different authors.

- Review by Cindi

Wish List by K.A. Mitchell (M/M)

Red Hot Holiday
Due to a love/hate relationship that I have with this author's work, I went into this one hesitantly.  Unfortunately I was unable to finish this story.  I made it until the middle of chapter 7 before I realized that there would be no finishing it for me..  Granted, I should have read through until I completed the 10 chapters but I just couldn't.  I tried.  There are a couple of things that if they are introduced in the books I read are considered game-over for me.  While one of the characters did not actually act on this in the part of the story I read, he might as well have.  He took the first step. Once that happened, that ended it for me.  Even if he had no intention of going through with it (as I've read in other reviews), he put himself out there for it to happen.  There was no coming back for me after that.  

This started out well.  Jonah is in the middle of packing for a trip with his live-in boyfriend, Evan, to visit Evan's family for the holidays.  While looking for tape in a desk drawer, Jonah stumbles on something that he is not meant to find and it freaks him out.  Instead of asking Evan about it, he allows it to consume him until it gets to the point where there were problems in the relationship.  The two men go to Evan's parents house with Jonah still acting strangely toward Evan.  Jonah writes a list of things he wants sexually that Evan is not meant to see and then leaves it where Evan finds it because Jonah is careless.

The entire story:  Evan is a former Dom but Jonah is not aware of this because their sex life does not consist of any type of BDSM and Evan has chosen to keep that part of himself secret from Jonah.  Jonah is secretly fantasizing about the BDSM lifestyle but he is too scared to mention it to Evan.  Instead of having a discussion with his partner to see if he would be up for it, he takes steps to experience it with others behind Evan's back.

Here's my issue (other than the part where Jonah did something really, REALLY stupid that made me stop reading).... Jonah and Evan have been in an exclusive relationship for 2 years.  In those two years did they never communicate?  Ever?  They've lived together for 14 months and they never discussed things that were bothering them?  Evan never once tried to do something different in bed?  It states very clearly (several times just in the part that I read) that he is a former Dom but yet for two years he is all vanilla in bed with Jonah and that Jonah is not aware of his former BDSM lifestyle?  I don't buy it.

The story is silly.  The characters are lame.  The relationship is a joke.  I could not force myself to finish it.

I Need You For Christmas by Leah Braemel (M/F)

Ryan is an artist.  Meg is a Mountie.  They have spent several years having a long-distance relationship, only seeing each other every several months or so.  Instead of the distance waning the relationship, it allowed it to grow stronger with each loving each other more as the time went on.  

Meg comes to visit Ryan during Christmas with the surprise that she has resigned her position and accepted one closer to him so that they can finally be together full time.  What Meg doesn't know is that Ryan has also resigned his position as an instructor at the local college so that he can move in with her.  He will still do his art but he will do it wherever she is.  Each plans to surprise the other on Christmas morning.

This was a good story with the exception of a few secondary characters.  Meg and Ryan's relationship is solid and the love they feel for each other shines through.  They are each willing to give up their own dreams so that they can finally be together.  The way the revelations come to a head is sweet but somewhat frustrating at the same time.  Ryan's family is quite annoying and instead of allowing Ryan and Meg to have their private moment, they intrude on it. Not just intrude on it, but totally kill the surprise for one of them.   Other than that, the way it ended was sweet.

There are a couple of characters (June, Ryan's agent, Ryan's family) that had me shaking my head and while the sex between Ryan and Meg was good, it was a bit much at times.  There is a tad of light BDSM play, but not enough to really even call it that (contrary to other reviews I have read that state that it is a bit heavy).  Otherwise, a good story.

(Note:  If someone had made the comments to my husband that Ryan's agent made to him in regards to Meg, career or no career, there would have been no holding him back.  The way that particular part of the story was handled almost killed the entire thing for me).

Breath on Embers by Anne Calhoun (M/F, with one M/F/M experience)

This is by far my favorite of the three in the anthology.  A well-written story about Thea, who is living in grief two years after the death of her husband.   She uses loud music and hook ups to make her forget, if only for a little while.  For over a year she has hooked up with only one man, Ronan.  Ronan is a New York firefighter who is interested in taking the sexual relationship to the next level but Thea refuses.  She is still dealing with the loss of her husband and insists on keeping the relationship with Ronan strictly sexual.  She wants no emotions involved, no dinners or dates, nothing pertaining to a 'normal' relationship.  She has moved across country to get away from her family and that of her late husband.  She wants no emotional entanglements at all.  She has a demanding job... by choice.  When Ronan pushes for something more, she pulls back due to fear... fear of feeling anything other than the grief that she lives with daily and the numbness that she feels as a result of her music and hot sex.  Her husband died close to Christmas so she hates the holiday and tries to stay numb until they are over, never allowing herself to feel for anything... or anyone.

This was a very good story.  I read reviews that mention a threesome and I admit to not being too big on that as most books with them simply aren't written well in my opinion.  While reading I kept waiting for this wonderful story to be ruined by the threesome that I knew was coming.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The reasons for it make complete sense and it opens Thea up to emotions that she had been denying during her entire relationship with Ronan.  Yes, another man is involved, but with the way it was handled, it proves to Thea that what she and Ronan have is special, unique.  Bringing another man into their bed, while exciting for all involved, was nothing but sex... just sex.  With Ronan, the emotions are there.  Emotions that she has not allowed herself to feel because feeling something for a man not her late husband is wrong, cheating.  

This was a very enjoyable read.  At times I found myself frustrated with Thea and the way she handled Ronan but in the end it all worked out.  Ronan is wonderful.  He has a lot of patience and instead of walking away when Thea pushed him back, he held on knowing that they were meant to be together.  The sex is hot and not overdone... meaning not on every other page and not used as an excuse to not deal with bigger issues.  

A beautifully written, sexy story about real issues.

This book was provided by Net Galley and Carina Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.


  1. It's hard to review antholgies but you made all the individual stories very clear. This sounds like a mixed bag. I like the sound of the third story by Anne Calhoun.

    1. The Anne Calhoun story would have easily gotten 5 stars on GR had it been a little bit longer. Strange for me to say that considering it had a threesome in it. :) It was a very good story. I really hated the DNF of the first one but there was no way in hell I could have read another page.

    2. I don't normally. There are a couple of authors who can pull it off (m/m authors... you know who they are) but normally they fall flat for me. Not in this one. It was written perfectly.