My Week in Holiday Romances! (#2)


I spent the weekend and the start of the week rereading and catching up on the Leaning Into Stories series by Lane Hayes, making sure I was refreshed and up to date before starting ‘Leaning Into A Wish’, which meant I made sure to pick a couple of quick one-day reads to fill the rest of the week. Two new authors to me, and two delightful surprises, kept me reaching for my Kindle all week.

36597880Published November 22nd 2017
130 pages

Ryan Haskell loves everything about the wine business. He’s fortunate to work at one of the most prestigious wineries in Napa Valley doing something he enjoys with the people who are like family to him. But he could do without the good-natured intern slash former jock with the wicked grin who always seems to be in the way. Ryan isn’t sure why the new guy is under his skin when everyone else loves him. Thankfully he’ll be gone after the holidays.

Danny Meyers can’t believe his luck when he lands an internship at Conrad Winery. It’s the perfect temporary gig to wrap up his graduate studies. He’s left his dreams of tennis stardom on the court to focus on a new career and a new life. However, he didn’t count on the spark of attraction he feels for his prickly co-worker. When their tentative friendship blossoms into something more than either man counted on, they may have to change direction and lean into a holiday wish.

Re-reading the previous books in this series reminded me just how much I loved them. Lane Hayes hasn’t always hit the mark for me in the past, but the Leaning Into Stories series is honestly wonderful. My favourite of the series is still ‘Leaning Into The Fall’, but this festive addition was delightful. It stars Ryan who we met in ‘Leaning Into The Fall’, who works for Wes at his winery, and he wasn’t the most likeable character back then. But he very much redeems himself here. He’s professional and driven, but very insecure, and all he wants is his Happily Ever After.

Danny arrives to work at the winery with him, and Ryan can’t stand him. He thinks he’s a brainless jock who relies on his looks and his charm to get through life, and he pretty much makes a snap judgment and keeps him at arm’s length as much as possible. But we quickly get to see that Danny is actually one of those too-good-to-be-true types; gorgeous and funny and doting and passionate, but in a believable way. And although he and Ryan clashed at first, their chemistry is apparent from the start.

Geordie plays a fairly big part in this book, and it was so lovely to see him again. I feel for him so much, he’s still grieving from the loss of his long-time lover, the pain is still sharp for him. I just wanted to scoop him up and cuddle him. But he still had that vibrancy that is inherently Geordie, and he put his energies into being a matchmaker which was endlessly entertaining. He knew right away that Ryan and Danny had the potential to be great together, and boy was he right.

When Ryan gives in to his attraction to Danny, they are smokin’ hot together. It was seriously delicious. I’d gotten the impression they were writing it off as a great one night stand, but they almost immediately made it public knowledge and were bonafide boyfriends so I got a bit confused, but I was happy to roll with it because I liked them together. I felt those new relationship butterflies along with them and basked in that new couple glow radiating off them.

Both Ryan and Danny are dealing with their own parental issues, whether it be absent parents or controlling ones, which resulted in lots of questions and drama regarding their futures individually and as a couple, so there was enough going on to keep you guessing and keep the story moving, without ever feeling unnecessary. In end they bring the best out in each other and I was willing them them to work everything out, which thankfully, in true holiday romance fashion, they did.

The whole thing was festive and lovely and sweet and sexy, with the well-earned HEA Ryan had been hoping for, and it left me with a smile on my face. I’d like a Danny of my own for Christmas!

4/5 stars

19274364Published December 25th 2013
94 pages

Every dreary day, Zach Driscoll takes the elevator from the penthouse apartment of his father’s building to his coldly charmed life where being a union lawyer instead of a corporate lawyer is an act of rebellion. Every day, that is, until the day the elevator breaks and Sean Mallory practically runs into his arms.

Substitute teacher Sean Mallory is everything Zach is not—poor, happy, and goofily charming. With a disarming smile and a penchant for drama, Sean laughs his way into Zach’s heart one elevator ride at a time. Zach would love to get to know Sean better, but first he needs the courage to leave his ivory tower and face a relationship that doesn’t end at the “Ding!”

Amy Lane is one of those authors who I’ve heard nothing but good things about, but I just haven’t gotten around to reading anything from her. Until now. And this adorable little Christmas romance was a lovely first for me. It was so freaking cute!

Zach has had a very privileged life, with successful parents and a successful business of his own, so he’s the king of his tower. But he’s hiding away in his penthouse suite because, although advantaged, his life has also been very sheltered. He doesn’t have friends or a social life or any idea how to interact with other humans outside of business. He’s not cold at all, he’s just hopelessly clueless in a very sweet way.

Sean is this vibrant, bright star. He’s bubbly and interesting and not at all privileged, he’s just trying to get by. Sean and Zach meet in the elevator of their building, and we get to witness their little 30 second interactions as the months go on, and with every meeting we get to see how much these fleeting glimpses of Sean mean to Zach. Someone is finally working their way into Zach’s life, injecting bursts of colour he didn’t know he was missing, encouraging him to start letting other people inside his bubble of solitude too.

Zach is honestly so adorable, every side of him is charming and endearing without him even trying. Sleepy Zach, excited-to-see-Sean Zach, all of it is bloody delightful. He doesn’t have a filter, especially around Sean; he wears his heart on his sleeve and lets Sean coach him through his inexperience with friendship and intimacy. When they finally make it to the bedroom, it’s a total revelation for Zach. He’s no virgin, but we see him moved by the power of sex with someone who means something to him.

Both men are leaning towards a little too perfect, which in other circumstances would get a bit sickly saccharine, but in this kind of short and sweet holiday story it all fits nicely. Zach’s missed out on so much so he deserves to have things go his way. He goes from this cloistered, lonely man, to a happy, free soul surrounded by fabulous friends and a man who adores him. It was simply wonderful, and left me feeling all the warm fuzzy feels.

4/5 stars

love-ahead-expect-delaysPublished November 30th 2010
79 pages

Austin thinks driving a 1989 Geo Spectrum fourteen hundred miles in the middle of winter is a bad idea. But he would never forgive himself if the man he loved, Zach Roth, got himself killed in Idaho, so he agrees to go.

Besides, he has something to prove. He wants Zach to know it’s more than just Zach’s deliciously wicked body he adores. And if it takes spending Hanukkah in Zach’s grandma’s old hatchback to prove it, then so be it.

Ever the optimist, Zach believes everything will turn out for the best. But bad weather, robberies, blown gaskets, run-ins with the police, and motel bedspreads of questionable cleanliness seem to conspire against them, and they may need eight days of miracles just to keep each other…and their romance…alive.

Astrid Amara was an author who I’d never even heard of before, but I wanted to look for holiday stories that weren’t about Christmas and this one popped up. So it was a total unknown, but I gave it a go and I’m very glad that I did.

I get easily distracted by awkward writing styles, but I liked the way Amara wrote. In fact, I didn’t really notice it, I just got absorbed in the story, which is exactly what I need when I’m reading, so that was a great start. The characters had their quirks and flaws, and they felt genuine and real.

It was refreshing to meet a character with some issues that weren’t romanticised at all, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a person quite like it. Austin has a serious temper, he can be overprotective and unpredictable, and it’s an issue that has Zach seriously questioning the future of their relationship. Their relationship is already established when we meet them, but I never felt like I was missing anything not witnessing how they got together. They were just two normal guys, and I really enjoyed that authenticity.

They had arguments that were necessary, and they didn’t make up right away. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses and true love winning out. There were secrets and questions about their pasts, there were sweet moments and tense moments, a push and pull within their relationship dynamic that never went over the top.

But then a big ol’ slice of drama rolled up and I had no idea it was coming. I had to stop for a minute to get myself into it again because things got seriously shaken up and I totally wasn’t prepared for it. Austin and Zach’s relationship was put to the test in extreme ways, and it helped both them (and me) to see that in a life or death situation, their only concern was each other, so we got to see depth of their love shine through. It was unexpected but really lovely to read. Zach grows to have true faith in their relationship, and we see that though Austin may act like a bruiser, at his core he’s a total softie. He’s not magically a calm, trouble-free boyfriend, he’s got things to work on, but at the end of the day he makes Zach feel safe.

This was a solid romance; cute, realistic, and with a few Hanukkah miracles to bring the holiday magic to it all. I liked it a lot.

4/5 stars

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