Saturday, December 13, 2014

ARC Review: Celebrate! 2014 Advent Calendar - 3

Dreamspinner's CELEBRATE - 2014 Advent Calendar

Saint Martin's Day

Saint Martin's Day (Celebrate!  - 2014 Advent Calendar)From the blurb:

Five years ago, Neno Kovač fled California, graduate school, and his lover, Toby Cowan, to return to his native Croatia. Since then, he’s led a quiet life as a librarian—until one November afternoon when Toby, who has never stopped loving Neno, shows up in Zagreb. When he left the United States, Neno wasn’t ready to give up his home and family to take a chance on a long-distance relationship. But Saint Martin’s Day has arrived, the day pressed grapes turn to wine and autumn turns to winter. Perhaps it will be a day when other changes are possible as well.

Dani's rating:

Fielding has an amazing ability to draw me into a story with fully realized characters and setting without resorting to info dumping. I love that this story is set in Croatia during the Saint Martin's Day (November 11) celebration.

Years ago, Neno picked family over love, heritage over happiness. When Toby, the only man Neno has ever loved, finds Neno (in a library!) half a decade later, Neno is ready for a new beginning.

I would have liked this to be twice as long to bask in the culture of Croatia and see more on-page interaction between Toby and Neno. Their reunion comes very quickly. I'm also interested in the dynamics of Neno's old-school family, which were mostly glossed over.

This is short but quite lovely with stellar writing (of course!), a lovers-reuniting-after-years-apart theme, and an ultra sparkly HEA.

Hummingbird House

Hummingbird House
From the blurb:

To honor his grandmother's final request, Trenton Appleton drops everything to visit the family’s ancestral home: Hummingbird House, where he experienced his first kiss and first heartbreak with Callum Eason. Eight years ago, confused by his attraction to Trent, Callum reacted badly. But with help he never expected, Callum found himself and learned to accept who he was. Now Trent is back at Hummingbird House, and Callum has his opportunity to salvage their friendship, at least. But Trent is less receptive than he was all those years ago. Still, Callum is determined to show Trent he has changed and keep his promise to Trent’s grandmother. When past mistakes repeat themselves, Callum must break the cycle before his last chance with Trent passes him by.

Dani's rating:

Romantic, tender, and bittersweet, this story is about family and coming home.

After his beloved grandma passes away, Trent returns to the small English town where he spent a chunk of his childhood to claim the Hummingbird House, which has been in the family for generations.

Heading home means Trent has to face Callum again, the man who broke his young heart.

The letters Trent's grandma wrote her loved ones were lovely, even though considering her illness, I'm not entirely convinced she could have managed such a big undertaking.

I liked the dual POV and the sexy scene at the end.

Callum's family made for a nice set of secondary characters, and the spirit of the season shone through. We needed more time with the MCs and an epilogue set further in the future, but the author made me believe the HEA.

A Night Never Forgotten

A Night Never ForgottenFrom the blurb:

After a one night whirlwind romance, Braylon returns to Toronto on the first of December every year in the hopes of seeing the man of his dreams again. Instead Braylon meets a strange man who tells him Christmas is a magical time, and one never knows what unexpected gifts he’ll receive. Braylon takes a chance and makes a Christmas wish, but instead of getting what he wants, he contracts an infection leaving him dependent on dialysis and unable to make the journey the following year. But the stranger just might be right; an unexpected gift may be the miracle Braylon needs most of all.

Dani's rating:

This story has an oddly detached quality and a rather heavy theme.

Braylon and Ross meet once, but Braylon never forgets Ross. He returns to their first meeting place at an ice skating rink the first week in December time and time again even after he falls ill, but finding Ross proves an impossibility.

Aided by an enigmatic older gentleman named Chris (*ahem*), Braylon doesn't give up, but his body gives up for him.

While I appreciated the sweetness of Ross's "gift," the men needed much more time on page together. The character of Chris is introduced abruptly and not integrated into the story enough.

Despite the overall cheesiness of the plot, however, the ending promises a hopeful future.

The Magic of Weihnachten

The Magic of Weihnachten
From the blurb:

American Walsh Brandt is happy when a promotion lands him his dream job and a quiet new life in Germany. Until December rolls around, when he realizes it’s almost impossible to hide from the holiday season in Germany.

Dierck Reiniger is fascinated by Walsh’s hatred of Christmas and makes it his personal mission to help Walsh enjoy Weihnachten and the German traditions he grew up with. Walsh has a great time getting to know Dierck—but he still isn’t sold on Christmas, despite Dierck's efforts. Dierck's on the rebound, and he's determined to develop their physical relationship slowly, much to Walsh's frustration. It isn’t until they’re alone in a secluded cabin—hiding from the traditional trappings—that Walsh finally recognizes what the magic of the season can bring when spent with someone special.

Dani's rating:

The German setting in Baker's story is wonderful, and the writing is quite strong, but I never connected with the MCs.

Walsh was whiny; Dierck, jolly and easygoing. Since the story is told from Walsh's POV, I was never sure why Dierck wanted to take things so slowly. It didn't feel believable.

I really enjoyed the scenes at the cabin: the men cuddling by the fire and cutting down a Christmas tree, but the book definitely needed some steam to add spark to the plot. There was nary a kiss here and no real tension. The ending was also too tentative.

An extra star thrown in for German culture, traditions, and pastries! That was by far my favorite part of the story.

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