Title: Men Under the Mistletoe
Authors: Ava March, Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon, K.A. Mitchell
Publisher: Carina Press
Format: eBook (novellas also available for individual sale)
Publication Date: December 5, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
This is the first m/m book I’ve reviewed for the blog, and I really enjoyed the novellas. I requested the book for review because I am a huge fan of Josh Lanyon’s writing, but the other authors were all new to me. While the novellas differ in quality, Harper Fox and Josh Lanyon’s pieces were outstanding.
As with Carina Press’s other Christmas themed anthology, A Clockwork Christmas, the novellas in this m/m anthology are available for individual sale.
My True Love Gave to Me by Ava March
In 1817 London, Alexander Norton begins a hot and heavy affair with Thomas Bennett, only to be cruelly rejected by his first love. Four years later, Thomas has returned from America to reconcile with Alexander. Unfortunately, Thomas barely recognizes the bitter man Alexander’s become. Can Thomas convince Alexander of his remorse and somehow find a way for them to be together?
From the beginning of this novella I was impressed with how Ms. March conveyed that heady feeling of one’s first love. Alexander is enamored of Thomas and eager to be with him, but Thomas can’t bring himself to commit. Since the novella is set in the early nineteenth Century, it’s easy to understand Thomas’s fears. The characters are so well-written that I was disappointed there wasn’t more to the plot. Basically they separate, then have to find a way to reconcile later, but there just wasn’t much to the story. I’m afraid this novella, despite the deft treatment of the protagonists, suffers when compared to the novellas that follow. 3 out of 5
Winter Knights by Harper Fox
I’m not familiar with Ms. Fox’s work, but that will soon change. This was a masterful story that drew me in from the first. Gavin Lowden is a historian in Northumberland looking for proof that Arthur and Lancelot were lovers. He’s also hoping that his lover Piers will finally come out to his conservative religious family, allowing the two to spend some much-needed time together. But when Piers tells Gavin he can’t come out to his family and that he’s decided to resume his former engagement to a woman, Gavin’s heart-broken. He sets off for the moors but falls into a crevice. Two rescuers, Artie and Lance, pull him out and take him home with them to mend his broken heart.
This could have been an awkward story to read, because of Artie and Lance’s involvement with Gavin immediately following his fight with Piers, but Ms. Fox handles it exactly right. I love that Artie and Lance force Gavin to examine his behavior with Piers, and the Camelot and Arthur legends make for a nice touch. Great attention to detail and a riveting story made this a winner for me. 4.5 out of 5
Lone Star by Josh Lanyon
I love Josh Lanyon’s authorial voice and his taut writing, and this novella is an excellent example of his style. Mitchell Evans is a star in the world of ballet in New York City, but after catching his lover with a woman, he needs a break and heads for rural Texas for Christmas. His estranged father passed away a few months ago, and Mitch needs to settle the estate. He doesn’t count on running into his first love, Texas Ranger Web Eisley. They still set off sparks, but their lives are so different now that anything long term seems out of reach.
I was so excited to read this novella that as soon as I received the ARC, I immediately read this story, then set the anthology aside to finish later. Even weeks later Mitch and Web were clear in my mind, and I find their romance compelling. There’s always a good dose of angst in the Lanyon stories I’ve read, and this one is no exception. One of the many reasons I find his work so intriguing is that his characters remain with you because of his deft treatment of their vulnerabilities. Definitely a novella I’ll be re-reading many times. 4.5 out of 5
The Christmas Proposition by K.A. Mitchell
Ms. Mitchell’s wry sense of humor made this story for me. Set in Epiphany, Pennsylvania, Mel Halner runs his family’s Christmas tree farm. Three years ago millionaire Bryce Campion asked Mel to leave Epiphany with him, but Mel turned him down. Now Mel’s best friend Tiff is marrying Bryce’s friend Kurt, and Mel will have to face Bryce at the wedding. Bryce isn’t used to being turned down, and he’s clearly interested in resuming their relationship, but it’s not clear if for Bryce this is a short-term fling or something more.
Mel and his family were hilarious, especially when we learn that his parents named him and his siblings for the three wise men, setting up lots of Christmas jokes. Tiff, the bridezilla, is good for a few laughs at Mel’s expense as well. However, I felt that the romance between Bryce and Mel needed a little more development. Mel’s unsure about Bryce’s feelings for him, and as a reader I, too, was unsure if this was just about the smexy times, because there are a LOT of smexy times in this novella. I also found Mel’s inability to tell anyone how he really feels pretty annoying. It made for some funny inner monologue, but I wanted him to speak up for himself. When he finally does just that, I had some serious concerns that it would be too late. Regardless, this was a fun romance with an interesting premise. 4 out of 5