My Week in Holiday Romances! (#3)

weekthree

Let’s be real, nothing was ever going to live up to Heidi Cullinan’s ‘The Christmas Fling’ this week (I had a good ol’ ramble about that here), but there was still some festive loveliness to be had. Eli Easton definitely came out on top for me, but all three kept the warm, fuzzy Christmas feelings alive in my heart.

36582719Published November 22nd 2017
160 pages

Journalism student Gabe Martin gets his first professional assignment—to write about a Christmas charity dinner that benefits a children’s home. It sounds like a total snooze-fest until Gabe learns that the event’s Santa is a mystery man. He shows up in costume and no one has a clue who he is. Uncovering Santa’s identity sounds like the perfect angle to turn a fluff piece into serious journalism.

Mack “The Mountain” McDonall, at 6’10”, is University of Wisconsin-Madison’s enormous star wrestler. When Gabe first claps eyes on him at a wrestling match, it’s lust at first sight. Gabe’s friend, Jordan, sets up the pair on a date. But when Gabe chatters on about his plans for outing Santa, Mack goes cold, and their first meeting becomes an epic fail.

As Gabe researches the children’s home, he learns that Mack has secrets a guy famous for being a brute wouldn’t want the world to know. Can Gabe find his holiday spirit, write a killer article, win the heart of a surly giant, and give everyone a very merry Christmas?

The blurb of this one didn’t actually get me that excited, both wrestling and journalism aren’t things that really do it for me, but Eli Easton is known for a good Christmas romance so I was always going to give it a try. And I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Gabe is fun and confident and passionate and outspoken, he’s got big dreams and will do whatever he can to achieve them. Mack is the epitome of a gentle giant (although he’d hate that I said that!). He’s careful, slow to trust, just as passionate as Gabe, he’s just quieter about it. For people who are practically polar opposites they have a surprising amount in common and I never doubted that they’d have chemistry.

From the moment Gabe sees Mack, he’s crushing hard, and I was right there with him. There’s an awful lot of man to love. They don’t exactly get off to the best start, there’s a certain conflict of interest when it comes to the article Gabe has to write, and Gabe is frustratingly oblivious as to why that might be. But Gabe is persistently apologetic and it’s impossible for Mack to resist that adorable little face, so they start this tentative friendship.

And said friendship is loaded with sexual tension. They’re just testing the waters, taking things slow because Mack really isn’t sure he can trust Gabe, but it’s clear as day how much they want each other. Gabe wants to climb Mack like a tree (well, like a mountain) but Mack wants to wait until it’s right, and the anticipation is torture. Makes it all the more scorching when they finally get there. Wowza. Mack seriously knows what he’s doing with that giant appendage of his.

It’s a relief when Gabe finally has that lightbulb moment and works out his little mystery. It gets everything out in the open, and Gabe finally gets to prove he can be trusted, which means the boys start to grow closer and really start falling for each other. It’s seriously lovely, they’re so well-matched. I couldn’t work out where Gabe was going to take the story for his article, but the reveal was wonderful and exactly what Mack needed to finally let Gabe in.

After that it’s a gloriously drama-free ending full of festive fluffiness, with the toasty warmth of family and friendship. Perhaps a little sickly-sweet, but I was so on board with it. A real cosy read.

4/5 stars

36643219Published November 30th 2017
120 pages

After years alone, Daniel Diaz is finally ready to shake up his orderly, solitary life. He’s about to leave for a cozy Christmas getaway with his new man when he gets the call from the ER that his former stepbrother has been admitted with a concussion and a broken hand—and Cole put him down as his emergency contact. Why the hell would he do that? Daniel barely knows the guy. After all, their parents’ marriage lasted less than a year and it was a decade ago!

But Cole has no one else to look after him and strict doctor’s orders not to be left alone. So fine, Daniel will bring him along on vacation to make sure he doesn’t starve or fall into a coma. This is supposed to be Daniel’s chance to explore romance again after locking down his feelings for too long—except it turns out his could-be boyfriend is more interested in partying and being an obnoxious jerk. Daniel sends him packing, and now he’s stuck with a virtual stranger in an isolated mountain cabin.

Cole Smith crushed hard on cranky Daniel when they were teenagers. Alone with him in a romantic winter wonderland, those feelings roar back to life. Glimpsing the caring, vulnerable man under Daniel’s frosty shell, he yearns to get closer. Christmas is a time for surprises, and Daniel and Cole discover a scorching connection that just might melt their hearts.

I’d never read something with a stepbrothers angle before, I wasn’t opposed to the idea but it had the potential to be a bit weird. But Daniel and Cole were only stepbrothers for a few months many many years ago, so was barely relevant, it only really served as the reason for them to reconnect after so long.

The set-up for the story was definitely a bit random. Initially it was totally believable, but I wasn’t quite sure how it got to Daniel taking the estranged ex-stepbrother he’s not spoken to in a decade away on vacation with him. I kind of just had to shrug that off and refocus, and after that I got on with book really well.

The characters aren’t anything I’ve not read before, Daniel is a workaholic who isn’t really over his first love who hurt him, and Cole is cute and sweet with a big ol’ crush. They’re perfectly likeable, and I did feel for Daniel having to deal with all the drama is certainly didn’t sign up for. And although I’ve read characters with the same feelings towards sex and relationships as Daniel, it’s the first time in the hundreds of M/M books I’ve read that I’ve seen a discussion on demisexuality, so that was lovely to see.

Daniel and Cole slowly get closer as they settle into their relaxing winter cabin getaway, easily trusting each other and you can see that they do fit each other really well. When they give in to their attraction to each other the sex is steamy, a nice bit of hot tub action, and you feel how much they care for each other. Although it did keep nagging at me that they still don’t really know each other. The characters acknowledge that though, that it’s strange for them to feel that connection so quickly, so I could accept it.

The whole things was simply…nice. Sweet, angst-free, all around festive loveliness in a Christmassy setting. It didn’t bowl me over, but I liked it.

3.5/5 stars

36596145Published December 4th 2017
88 pages

Ace and Gavin haven’t had a threesome in far too long. When Ace meets the perfect guy to join them, he can’t think of a better way to kick off the holiday season.

Jonathan is charmed by the sexy couple, and he quickly realizes that what started as a fling has the potential to be a whole lot more.

Gavin feels their connection just as strongly, but even after weeks of the three of them hanging out, he’s afraid to suggest they turn their friends-with-benefits arrangement into a serious relationship.

The joy and shared experiences of the season have a way of making magic happen, if only all three men could find the courage to ask for what they want.

I couldn’t help myself. I saw a festive standalone polyamorous romance, and I had to give it a go. I was willing myself to love it, because when I find a good polya romance it makes my soul sing, but I couldn’t help but be sceptical. Trying to develop three characters and their relationship and give it depth and make it believable, all in under 100 pages, just seemed a bit of a stretch. And in the end I think that’s what stopped me falling in love with it.

The three men are all very likeable, Ace and Gavin a pre-established couple who have always been casually poly, having other more casual relationships on the side with the occasional one night stand as a threesome. Ace very much the dominant, the alpha, the protector, but he has the softest centre. Gavin the ying to his yang. Jonathan loves being a third, seems to crave that kind of relationship dynamic (no surprise that I found myself connecting to him), the perfect versatile switch to slot himself anywhere, who just wants to find his place and fall in love.

Silvia Violet has been a bit hit and miss for me, there’s just something about her writing style that seems to tell you what’s happening rather than showing you, so it can feel a little ploddy and it’s harder to engage. I really enjoyed her Thorne and Dash books, but I felt like I had to push myself to finish her Fitting In series, so it’s been swings and roundabouts. This was probably more towards the Fitting In end of the spectrum, but I think I actually enjoyed this one a little more than that, mostly for the Christmas factor cause I’m a total festive junkie.

The sex between these three definitely had some heat, there was certainly chemistry, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t read before. And I don’t think the D/S elements were really necessary, they didn’t add anything or give any depth to the characters, they were just there. The dirty talk was veering towards cringey, nothing major, just not quite natural, and it kept distracting me from something that could have otherwise been even hotter.

I’m not saying it was bad, I found myself getting into it and getting invested in their blossoming relationship, but I could see the inevitable misunderstanding coming and it was completely avoidable and very frustrating. Drama for the sake of drama. The whole “overhearing something out of context and running away” thing has been seriously overdone, and where occasionally I’ll find it still tugs at my heartstrings, here it just made me roll my eyes so I kind of switched off after that, which is a real shame.

Basically it was all a bit cheesy. It was nice and festive, and it had its pleasing and charming moments, but it wasn’t really a winner for me. Sorry boys.

3/5 stars

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