Series Review: The Christmas Angel

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In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas Angel through the years. Whether it’s the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk), post World War II (L.A. Witt), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday), 2018 Europe (RJ Scott), the Christmas Angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need it’s blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.

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Review: ‘Five Dares’ by Eli Easton

35457416Published October 2nd 2017
245 pages

Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.

But hey, nothing gets the “terrible two-o” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Cape Cod. As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities—including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.

But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.

I loved the concept of this book right off the bat. It just sounded a bit silly and frivolous, which is exactly what I needed in my life. The story definitely goes a little deeper than just a bit of fun, even teetering on the edge of getting emotionally heavy at times, but overall it’s an entertaining, low-angst read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Jack and Andy are total besties, this notorious double act that have been friends since forever and are known for their daredevil antics. Well, it’s mostly Andy being the stuntman, Jake has always been his ideal wingman, bringing in the crowds and amping up the tension. They’ve always been the perfect team. So they take part in one final stunt before they’re supposed to head to opposite sides of the country for the next stage in their lives, and it blows up in their faces. Quite literally.

So they get one last summer together, struggling on without the use of their hands, but still revelling in just being able to spend a couple more months together. But these young men run into certain obstacles. There’s many things they’ve learned how to do hands-free, but getting off isn’t one of them. So when daredevil Andy suggests mutual blowjobs to relieve the sexual frustration, there’s only way it was going to go. Jake has always followed Andy’s lead, and here it’s no different, even though he’s putting his heart on the line.

Because, of course, Jake has always been in love with Andy. Getting a job across the country was supposed to be his chance to get away and move on, to stop pining over his very straight best friend. And yet here they are, getting their sexy on, which is very not straight. And that’s where this book starts to develop into something deeper. Yes, it’s funny. Yes, it’s hot (that scene in the kitchen, HELLO). But beyond that it’s about two young men really discovering themselves. Especially Andy who finds himself wanting things he never thought he’d want, not from his very male best friend.

There were many moments where I wanted to bash their heads together, because come on, it was so obvious they both had feelings for each other. It very quickly stopped being just about a convenient way to get off, so them constantly trying to justify it that way was frustrating, but exactly what I was expecting from these guys. I was desperately willing Andy to open up to the possibilities about himself, to stop trying to force himself into a box that fits his dad’s expertly structured vision. He had to let himself dream.

It’s only when their summer is over that we start to see just how vulnerable Andy is. He’s always seemed so happy-go-lucky, but once he’s separated from Jake, his insecurities about his future and what he wants overwhelm him. It seemed in the beginning that this need to do reckless things came from needing to be acknowledged and validated by other people, but in the end it all comes down to Jake. Needing to keep him close. Needing to be a part of that team. Being scared about losing him.

Essentially, they just don’t function when they’re apart. You’d think Jake would have it worse, having to deal with getting over the guy he loves. But ohhh boy, does Andy fall to pieces. It’s heartbreaking and satisfying all at once to see him have that inevitable epiphany as to what Jake really means to him. And their reunion was all sorts of loveliness. The grand gesture Andy makes is perhaps a little but much for me, but it does suit his reckless personality, especially where his feelings for Jake are concerned.

And that epilogue, the final dare, was just perfect. Wrapping everything up in a pretty little bow. You can’t not root for these boys, and it’s a story I can see myself reaching for again in the future. I would highly recommend it.

4/5 stars

Review: ‘Tender Mercies’ by Eli Easton

35076747Published October 27th 2017
216 pages

Eddie Graber’s dream of a sanctuary for rescued farm animals was about to come true when his partner backed out at the last minute. Now Eddie risks losing the twenty-five acre property in Lancaster County—and all the hopes he held for it—before the project even gets off the ground. He needs help, he needs money, but most importantly, he needs to rediscover the belief in a higher purpose that brought him here in the first place.

Samuel Miller worked hard to fit into his Amish community despite his club foot. But when his father learns Samuel is gay, he is whipped and shunned. With just a few hundred dollars to his name, Samuel responds to an ad for a farmhand and finds himself employed by a city guy who has strange ideas about animals, no clue how to run his small farm, and a gentle heart.

Samuel isn’t the only lost soul to serendipitously find his way to Meadow Lake Farm. There’s Fred and Ginger, two cows who’d been living in a garage, a gang of sheep, and a little black pig named Benedict who might be the key to life, love, money—and even a happily ever after for two castoffs.

‘Tender Mercies’ was cute as hell. Slow-build romance, animal rescue, total sweetheart MCs, it was ridiculously lovely. If you like your romance with a lot of angst and grit, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you want something warm and cosy you can wrap yourself up in, this is the one.

Eddie is a bit of an animal justice warrior. He’s got big dreams of building his own animal paradise, but really the man is clueless. When Samuel hobbles up to his farm in search of his own sanctuary, Eddie ends up with exactly the man he needs. Both to fix up the farm, and heal his wounded heart. Both of these men are kind, gentle souls who learn a lot from each other because of the completely different worlds they come from.

Although the romance is the central element to this story, it’s so entrenched in the enveloping setting of the farm that it isn’t always at the forefront of the action. The sanctuary and the animals are a huge part of it, and for someone like me who loves animals and used to work in rescue, it’s a really engaging storyline that I’d have been interested in even without the romance aspect.

As I was reading this I found myself thinking that maybe the romance was little too slow-build for me, Eddie and Samuel barely even touch each other until over half way through the book. But once they give in to what they want and tentatively become more than friends, I forgot to care that it took a while to get there, I was just happy to see them together. There isn’t a huge amount of sex in this book, but what there is has a good amount of heat without being too adventurous or raunchy. It is Samuel’s first experience of such pleasures, so the excitement comes from the newness of it all and his desperation to feel it all at once.

The pace of the writing is a little ploddy, you kind of meander through the book instead of it driving forward, but it does fit the setting of an idyllic country farm so it’s not out of place. The only thing I felt wasn’t quite right was the difference in narrative voices, in that there wasn’t really a difference. It’s written in third person, but there’s a subtle shift in points of view between the MCs, and I found the shift too subtle. It was still clear whose eyes we were looking through, but given the difference in the characters and their backgrounds and their views on the world, the voices still never really differed.

It wasn’t enough to put me off though. There was just too many things to like for it have any kind of negative impact. The story really is wonderfully angst free. There’s a fair amount of internal worry, mostly from Eddie, stressing about the farm and his finances and not wanting to fail the animals or Samuel. And Samuel struggles with his self-confidence and not feeling good enough for Eddie. But it’s mostly fleeting moments that they work through and find comfort in each other for. They’re not the best at talking to each other about their worries early on, but once they get more serious as a couple the communication gets much better and far less frustrating.

As placid as this book was, it still made me feel things. I was glued to the pages when the farm was in serious trouble, so desperate for Eddie to not give up and find a way to make things work. I got so attached to the animals, especially Benny the pig who was a star character all on his own, needing them to be safe and secure. And I got swept up in the big rescue at the end, wanting to get stuck in and help them out myself.

The whole thing was a gloriously sweet read, maybe a little sickly sweet at times but it was a nice change up from some of the heavier, grittier things I’ve been reading lately. The epilogue was perfect, a heart-warming happily ever after that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. It was a real pleasure and I’m looking forward to the next one, there were far too many breadcrumbs left about Eddie’s friend Devin for him not to get his own story at some point…

4/5 stars