My review cross-posted on Joyfully Reviewed: http://www.joyfullyreviewed.com/new-reviews/his-for-the-holidays-antho
“Mistletoe at Midnight” by LB Gregg
Owen Mackenzie’s family has come to Vermont for Christmas and Owen is ready for a full-fledged Mackenzie family holiday. He’s just hoping that for once his mother has left her matchmaking skills at home and no actuary waits in the wings hoping to be Owen’s Mr. Right. Upon arriving at the inn, Owen is stunned to find that, while his mother isn’t playing matchmaker, Mr. Right is staying at the very same inn…or rather, Mr. Used-to-Be-Right is. In high school, Owen fell in love with Caleb Black, who then broke his heart by leaving without ever sending word. It’s been years, and Caleb has changed, but the feelings Owen has for him haven’t. Owen’s wary of trusting his heart to Caleb once more, but fate – and a little family interference – has a way of breaking down the walls Owen has placed around his heart.
“Mistletoe at Midnight” is simply one of those stories that will make you happy when you read it. LB Gregg brings just the right amount of sweetness to this sexy holiday romance. Owen and Caleb have the “average guy” feel to them, making it easy for readers to connect with the pair. I loved that Ms. Gregg showed readers not only their second shot at happily ever after, but the story of how they first fell in love as well. Seeing both the then and now gave me a better understanding of how Owen and Caleb fell in love and gave their romance an overall stronger impact. “Mistletoe at Midnight” is a charming, wonderful story that kept me entertained from beginning to end. “Mistletoe at Midnight” is the first story of Ms. Gregg’s that I’ve read and it won’t be the last.
“Nine Lights Over Edinburgh” by Harper Fox
Detective Inspector James McBride is on the verge of bringing down the head of a human-trafficking ring. Then his cover is blown, getting McBride kicked off the case and reprimanded by his superior for his drinking problem. McBride isn’t willing to let the case go, however, and the fact that he’s assigned to security for a visiting Israeli ambassador isn’t about to distract McBride from his mission. But McBride’s good intentions take a hit when he spies the ambassador’s head of security. Tobias Leitner fascinates McBride, making him want something he hasn’t had in a very long time. Then McBride’s daughter is kidnapped by the very men he’s trying to bring down and McBride has no one to turn to but Toby. It’ll take a holiday miracle to bring these two men together while rescuing McBride’s daughter and salvaging his career.
Harper Fox brings the bright and seedy sides of Edinburgh to life in “Nine Lights Over Edinburgh.” The vividness of Ms. Fox’s prose was a delight to read. Yet, there’s so much going on in “Nine Lights Over Edinburgh” that the story feels a bit too jam packed and perhaps would have benefitted from a longer format. I felt like I never had the time to fully appreciate any aspect of the story.
What I like about Ms. Fox’s work is that she isn’t afraid of creating hardened characters and McBride is definitely on the gritty side. He isn’t likeable, per se, which made becoming invested in his story a bit difficult, but he isn’t uninteresting. The story is much more about McBride than it is about him and Toby as a pair. This is a pity, for Toby seemed to have real possibility and I would have liked to have seen him fleshed out a bit more, which also would have helped the romance aspect of the story. All in all, “Nine Lights Over Edinburgh” was a bit too much in too short a space. I wanted to love it, and perhaps if it had been a full-length novel I might have enjoyed it more.
“I Heard Him Exclaim” by Z.A. Maxfield
Steve Adams loved Christmas and, what’s more, loved playing Santa Claus at Christmastime. That all changed when he had a stent put in and was forced to get healthy. Now a slim guy with little Christmas spirit left in him, Steve plans to head to Vegas for some gambling and holiday fling with a hot guy or two. But on the road to Vegas, Steve meets Chandler Tracey and his niece, Poppy. Their car is broken and Chandler – unprepared for becoming a single parent after the death of his brother and sister-in-law – is more than a bit frazzled. Steve can plainly see that both Poppy and her uncle in need of a little Christmas magic and this former-Santa is just the one to give it to them.
A man who’s lost his way meets one out of his depth in “I Heard Him Exclaim.” Z.A. Maxfield brings the festiveness of Christmas out in full force as Steve takes both Chandler and Poppy under his wing and brings them to his home for Christmas. “I Heard Him Exclaim” is a bit slow to start, but picks up once the trio arrives at Steve’s home. The unevenness of the story also shows in the romance. It wasn’t the slow build to sexy detonation that was the issue. Rather, it’s the fact that the burgeoning relationship between Steve and Chandler is a so understated that it’s sometimes drowned out by Chandler’s panic over taking care of Poppy and the endearingly over-the-top approach the Adams family takes to Christmas. While not my favorite story by Ms. Maxfield, “I Heard Him Exclaim” definitely has Christmas cheer in spades.
“Icecapade” by Josh Lanyon
Ten years ago, Noel Snow capped off a successful New Year’s Eve heist by seducing Robert Cuffe, the FBI special agent that was always hot on his trail. Since then, Noel’s gotten out of the thieving game, choosing instead to write a series books based on his capers…complete with a plodding detective that can’t seem to catch the hero. Noel can’t get Robert out of his mind anymore than he can write him out of his books and each New Year’s Eve he calls and leaves a message on Robert’s answering machine, hoping that one time he’ll reach the agent.
This Christmas, however, Noel’s in for a surprise. Robert shows up on his doorstep, accusing Noel of being the mastermind behind a string of diamond heists. Noel’s innocent, but Robert refuses to believe him. The former thief can’t be too sad about the accusations; not when he has the opportunity to get a second chance with the agent that managed to steal his heart.
“Icecapade” is a fun and flirty story that won me over from the very first page. I can’t resist a good romance between a staid lawman and a cheeky, sly thief and Josh Lanyon delivers that and more. The sparks that fly are hot enough to melt ice and the back-and-forth between Robert and Noel charmed the hell out of me.
Mr. Lanyon writes “Icecapade” solely from Noel’s point of view and it works. Noel is a loveable hero. He’s a bit of a scoundrel but, from what Mr. Lanyon shows of his history, it’s clear that Noel could have turned out a lot worse than he did. Noel doesn’t apologize for having been a thief and his stealing isn’t something readers are expected to forgive and forget. As with all of Mr. Lanyon’s characters, you have to like Noel as he is, flaws and all. Robert, in turn, is a bit of a wild card to Noel, but it’s clear enough to readers where the agent stands. I didn’t need to be inside Robert’s head to fall for him; the tenacious FBI agent made as much of an impression on me as he did on Noel.
“Icecapade” has the energy of a great caper story paired with a meltingly sensual romance. I finished Noel and Robert’s story wanting more, not because the story was lacking in any way, but because I simply enjoyed Robert and Noel together so much that I didn’t want “Icecapade” to end.
From the sweet to the gritty and the festive to the witty, His for the Holidays has a little something for everyone. Enjoy the holidays all year long with this collection of stories from four incredibly talented male/male romance authors.
Note: All four stories in the His for the Holidays anthology are also sold individually.