I love Christmas. I get stupidly festive. My tree goes up ASAP, my workplace is covered in bunting and tinsel, I listen to nothing but Christmas music and watch Christmas movies, so it naturally follows that I read almost exclusively Christmas/winter themed books. I devour them pretty quickly, so rather than post individual reviews for every book, I figured I’d take you through what I’ve read week by week. My first week of holiday stories has set a pretty high benchmark…
Published November 24th 2017
Theo hardly has time to date. Between work and caring for his four-year-old son there aren’t many hours left over. He’s lonely though, so he joins a hook-up app and starts chatting to a guy called Luke. Luke seems friendly and they arrange to meet. Theo doesn’t mention that he has a child. It’s early days and he’s worried about putting Luke off before they get to know each other.
Luke is currently working as Santa at the local shopping mall. He figures Theo never has to know. Christmas will be over soon and Luke will move on to a new, less embarrassing job. He’s surprised when Theo and a little boy visit Santa one afternoon. Theo doesn’t recognise Luke, and Luke realises he’s not the only one with a secret.
Despite misgivings on both sides, they start dating, and the chemistry is amazing. But as Christmas approaches their secrets pile up like colourful packages under the tree. If they’re not careful, they’ll lose the best gift of all—each other.
My first holiday romance of the season, and it was a candy-cane-sweet one. It was typical Jay Northcote. I pretty much have the same feelings towards it as I do all of his books. The premise of it drew me in, single dad falling for a shopping mall Santa, with a cast of very likeable characters and a guaranteed HEA. There’s just something about Jay’s writing that never quite draws me in enough to lose myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. It’s just what I needed to start me off. It was very Christmassy, and set in England which made me feel a little closer to the story, and the two MCs had lovely chemistry. Even some of the sex got festive which was a nice touch. Theo and Luke are distinctly normal blokes, so there was no need to suspend my disbelief or push myself to believe in their romance, it was all very straightforward. Theo’s son Archie was truly adorable and easily brightened up any scene he was in, a total sweetheart. But that’s really all there is to say.
It is, in essence, a cute little romance wrapped up in a neat little bow, without anything all that exciting happening. Not groundbreaking, but a nice easy read to ease you into the holiday spirit.
Published November 27th 2017
Last month, Alex Barrow’s whole life imploded—partner, home, job, all gone in forty-eight hours. But sometimes when everything falls apart, better things appear almost like magic. Now, he’s back in his Michigan hometown, finally opening the bakery he’s always dreamed of. But the pleasure of opening day is nothing compared to the lonely and beautiful man who bewitches Alex before he even orders.
Corbin Wale is a weirdo. At least, that’s what he’s heard his whole life. He knows he’s often in a fantasy world, but the things he feels are very real. And so is the reason why he can never, ever be with Alex Barrow. Even if Alex is everything he’s always fantasized about. Even if maybe, just maybe, Corbin is Alex’s fantasy too.
When Corbin begins working at the bakery, he and Alex can’t deny their connection any longer. As the holiday season works its magic, Alex yearns for the man who seems out of reach. But to be with Alex, Corbin will have to challenge every truth he’s ever known. If his holiday risk pays off, two men from different worlds will get the love they’ve always longed for.
Next up was the first book I’ve read by Roan Parrish, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but good god this was incredible. Pretty sure nothing else is going to top it this holiday season. I’ll admit I was wary, because all the talk I’d heard about it pointed to it being rather magical, and I wasn’t sure how literal that was. I’m not into supernatural stories, they just don’t really float my boat, but the magic in this story was so tangible and believable, a little hint that was up to you how you interpreted it. It was just perfect for me.
I’m almost certain any review of this book you can find will tell you that the writing is simply gorgeous. Poetic, romantic, enchanting, completely unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Roan puts you under her spell with page after page of stunning similes and metaphors, painting a masterpiece of words, immersing you in a world where every person and place, the sex and the food (omg the food), has been touched by magic.
Alex is so warm, solid and safe. Corbin is fascinating, magnetic. Unlike anyone else and yet so familiar. I did feel a strong connection with Corbin. I’ve never been quite the outcast that he is, but I have always sought security in my imagination, even to this day having “imaginary friends” that I can use to alleviate my anxieties and find comfort in, so I felt like I understood Corbin on a deeper level.
There is an instant connection between Alex and Corbin, it feels like there’s a greater force bringing them together. Alex is so respectful and careful in his intrigue, and his gentleness and sincerity make him someone Corbin can trust. It was lovely to watch Corbin grow, slowly letting Alex in, opening his world to someone else like he’s never had the opportunity to do before; Alex gradually replacing the walls Corbin has built around himself with his own arms of safety, allowing him to flourish.
I adored how Corbin thinks, the way he views the world, the language Roan used to help you see things through his eyes. Like the way he identified his attraction to Alex as “like desperation with none of the darkness”. He’s such a wonderfully unique character because, as he tells Alex, he believes in everything. God, magic, curses; everything is real to Corbin, and there is such power in that kind of conviction.
The whole thing was just exquisite. I imagine I’ll be reading it again before the season is over…
Published November 28th 2017
For Ben Slater, moving back to Bristol means being closer to his family, living with his best mate, and volunteering at the local animal shelter. But there’s also Jason, his best mate’s eldest brother. Ben’s had a crush on Jason for as long as he can remember, but the eleven-year age gap has always seemed insurmountable.
Jason Armitage works as a vet at his uncle’s practice. He owns a cute cottage on the outskirts of the city, and a loving dog. The one thing missing is someone to share it all with. His brother’s best friend seems a bad choice, but Jason can’t help taking a second look. Ben’s changed a lot since Jason last saw him; both in appearance and attitude. Gone is the shy young boy, replaced with a confident, twenty-four-year-old man.
In the run up to Christmas, the festive period gives Ben the ideal opportunity to show Jason what he has to offer. But concerns for his brother’s feelings hold Jason back. If they have any chance of making this work, Ben must convince Jason that he’s old enough to know what he wants, and Jason needs to believe that a relationship with his brother’s best friend won’t ruin their friendship.
I finished off my week with this best-friend’s-older-brother romance from Annabelle Jacobs, another author I’d not read before. It definitely reminded me of Jay Northcote’s work, being set in the UK and not being particularly angsty or dramatic. I engaged with this one more than Jay’s, but that’s mostly to do with the whole rescue animal element, as that’s something very close to my heart having worked in dog rescue.
I feel like I was distracted by the writing style in the beginning, it didn’t quite flow right for me, there was a lot of unnecessary small details that just felt like padding. The characters were likeable if not hugely interesting, but I slowly warmed to both the people and the story. It was another one that felt familiar to me because of the setting, and Ben, Jason and Liam all felt like people I could easily bump into somewhere near me.
I liked Ben and Jason together, even if it took me a while to really feel the chemistry between them. Their attraction was clear, and I was eager for them to get past the indecision and get on with being together. It was a story built around very happy, accepting families which added to the Christmas spirit, so it really was a very light read.
The main selling point of this book is the animals. Daisy, Tom and Socks all have real personalities and steal every scene that they’re in. I was more invested in them than the humans, to be honest. They bring the drama and a number of moments that tug on your heartstrings, and they help you connect with the people surrounding them.
It’s a pretty straightforward book, predictable in a cozy and safe kind of way. By the end I’d stopped thinking too much and just enjoyed it. Just the kind of angst-free fluff I like at Christmas.