Tuesday, December 23, 2014

ARC Reviews: Dreamspinner CELEBRATE 2014 Advent anthology Part 4

Dreamspinner's "CELEBRATE" 
2014 Advent Calendar anthology

Love Light by Jane Darius

Love Light (Celebrate! - 2014 Advent Calendar)Blurb:

Nick, a bartender, and Ben, a hotel reviewer, have been together two years. Though he hates the paperwork involved, Nick agrees to accompany Ben to a beautiful lodge on the Mozambican side of Lake Malawi. Over a bottle of wine, they trade Christmas horror stories from their pasts. But memories of hurt and loss only serve to remind them how lucky they are to have found each other. It might be time to try out the showerhead built into the tree outside….

Sandra's rating:

This was a bit on the boring side. Established couple, one of which is a reviewer for hotels, goes on a Christmas trip (staying at a hotel to be reviewed). While there, they regale each other with Christmas horror stories from their past. Nothing much else happens, except for sexy times.

This one didn't work for me all that much.

Minstrel's Solstice by Nicole Dennis:

Minstrel's Solstice (Celebrate!  - 2014 Advent Calendar)

A wasting plague swept over the Four Quadrants, changing how folks view the traveling guilds. Most travelers now make permanent contracts and settle in villages instead of continuing on the road. Needing to alter his lifestyle, Kerryll MacGhylle rides deep into the Northern Quadrant in search of a place to belong.
The Northern Duke, Cullan Gryffyn D'Antuono, accepts the contract of the frozen minstrel arriving during a powerful ice blizzard. He nurses Kerryll through the ravages of the sickness. Though they live at opposite ends of society, they have more in common than they realize.

Sandra's rating:

Very nice world-building in this short provided a great background for a sweet romance, combined with magic and celebrations, sadly lacking in sexy times.

I think I would have liked this a lot more if this hadn't been so short. We only get the first chapter, if you will, of what should have been a whole novel.

Excellent writing skills though, so I'm looking forward to more from this author.

The Journey Back by Kristen Slater:

The Journey BackBlurb:

Having quit his job, Idris is trying to make it home to his partner of twelve years, Dan, in time for Christmas. Stuck on a train during a snowstorm, Idris has nothing to do but think back on how much he has missed by putting his career first. His job has been straining their partnership for years, and now Idris worries he’s damaged it beyond repair. He desperately wants to get back to the UK and salvage their relationship—if there’s even anything waiting for him when he gets home.

Sandra's rating:

This short is told almost entirely in flashbacks, as Idris is on his way home from France to his boyfriend Dan in England, not sure whether he'll be welcome or not.

Again, we have an established couple, but the flashbacks provided sufficient information about their courtship and made the story believable.

Nicely done.

King Of Me by R.A. Kaitland:

King of Me (Celebrate!  - 2014 Advent Calendar)Blurb:

Cast out of his clan of shifters and with no family of his own, Anton Cedwell wants nothing more than to be accepted by his partner Sean’s family when the two of them visit over Christmas. But Sean’s powerful father, Flavius, isn’t happy his son chose a shifter as a mate, and Sean is hiding secrets from Anton. When Sean is attacked by rival weres, Anton hopes Sean’s family will finally see the depth of his commitment and how far he’s willing to go to protect the man he loves.

Sandra's rating:

This short was just a glimpse, an epilogue of sorts, to a shifter romance I'd really like to read. Sean and Anton's courtship has already happened, and all that's left is to introduce Anton to Sean's family/pack.

Nice writing, dear author, but please write me the whole tale.

Last Of Summer by Genna Donaghy:

Last of Summer

Although Rowan Stormbringer was raised Wiccan, he’s never felt a connection to magic. That changes on the eve of Yule, when he encounters a magical creature, a phoenix, that needs his help getting to Stonehenge before the sun sets that day. Hiding a magical creature in the mortal world is tricky at best, but partnering with a good-looking, snarky taxi driver may be just the ticket Rowan needs. As they explore their instant attraction to each other, Rowan and Martin must learn to trust one another if they hope to deliver the phoenix home in time.

Sandra's rating:

This was one of the better shorts I read from this anthology. It's about hope, rebirth, love, and finding that one thing you believe in.

Both MCs were likable, though Martin's purpose is more humorous, while Rowan needs to find the connection he missed all his life.

I liked the imagery of the Phoenix. And even though the romance smacks of insta-lust, this was an entertaining read.

Not bad at all.

The Light Of Winter by Jana Denardo:

The Light of Winter (Celebrate! - 2014 Advent Calendar)Blurb:

Dr. Gareth Evans and his medical doctor partner, Warun Jones, are having trouble making time for each other between end of term craziness for Gareth and holiday-related injuries pouring into the hospital for Warun. Gareth has planned what he hopes will be the perfect recipe for relieving the tension and bringing them back together. While Warun wants Gareth to partake in Plygain, a traditional dawn service of hymn singing for Christmas, Gareth plans to take Warun to Bryn Celli Ddu and introduce him to the Druid ritual of Alban Arthan, the celebration of the winter solstice.

Sandra's rating:

Sweet and romantic short about yet another established couple, both of them doctors (one a medical doctor, the other a PhD), who share their Christmas traditions with each other and thus learn a bit more about each other. This short appears to be set in Wales.

Coming Of Age by Venona Keyes:

Coming of AgeBlurb:

Akiyoshi ‘Aero’ Kurokuma, author of the wildly popular manga, Ecos, lost his assistant when his best friend retired. After Aero collapses from exhaustion four years later, he is forced to run a contest for an assistant. Placing impossible rules on the contest, Aero is sure no one can win. But a winner emerges: a young man from America, Daniel Beck. The first time he lays eyes on Daniel, Aero realizes he’ll have a hard time hiding his attraction. Daniel is a perfect assistant, but it doesn’t help Aero see past the twenty-year age difference between them. It will take all of Daniel's charm and the prayers offered at the shrine to make Aero take a chance on the romance they both want.

Sandra's rating:

If I were into Manga, I might have liked this a bit better. Alas, I'm not, so the time spent on explaining the background was wasted on me.

Stripping away those parts, this was basically a romance between the younger Daniel (from America) and the older Aero (from Japan), who are separated by about 20 years in age. Also, Daniel is sort of apprenticed to Aero and not yet of maturity under Japanese tradition.

This was just okay for me. The side characters were nice, but somewhat unrealistic, and I felt a lot of hero worship from Daniel for Aero, instead of what should have been true love.

Get all the stories:

All books reviewed were graciously provided by the publisher.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, happy reading!

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