Review: His For The Holidays – Josh Lanyon (anthology)

 Authors: Josh Lanyon (editor), LB Gregg, Harper Fox, ZA Maxfield
Stories: Mistletoe At Midnight, Nine Lights Over Edinburgh, I Heard Him Exclaim, Icecapades
Formats: eBook
Release Date: December 6, 2010
eISBN#: 9781426890833

(review copy was eARC from NetGalley.com)

Mistletoe At Midnight by LB Gregg

I’ve always enjoyed L B Gregg and Mistletoe At Midnight is a fun holiday story. The “voice” is a bit different from her earlier stuff. The fun, wit, can-you-believe-this chaos, and strong romance are all still present. Cool family, too. Love Owen’s brother Ryan. The stuff that comes out of his mouth is classic L B Gregg.

The difference seems to be a slightly darker, despair vibe that I haven’t really seen in anything other than the Halloween hit, Dudleytown. The character of Owen, and Caleb to a certain degree, just seem really sad. The feelings are addressed within the story so it fits, but they definitely deviate from Gregg’s previous characters. I’m a big fan of that. Makes them seem more individualized.

The character of Keith is another example. All of Gregg’s previous release involve some kind of crime mystery. This story was all about family, the only intrigue being who invited who and what to do with the motley crew. The addition of Keith served as visual aid to Owen’s personality and I’m not sure Gregg has used a person this way before. It didn’t bother me, but I’m not sure he was entirely necessary either. He created a conflict and then exited stage left. I feel bad for him … kinda.

I like the variety and originality of this. I really liked that it shook up the normal. I loved that Owen and Caleb weren’t all over each other right out of the gate. And the supporting cast of friends and family were really great.

Nine Lights Over Edinburgh by Harper Fox

The only thing you can expect from a Harper Fox novel is to not have too many expectations. The way she twists and turn, pulls everything inside out and backwards, all with blunt force, is unlike anything else in the M/M genre. She truly does stand out as an original.

Like her previous stories, Nine Lights Over Edinburgh doesn’t caterer to the Hallmark crowd. Her stuff is gritty. Her characters are dark. The events don’t happen in a neat little row. The poetic, yoda-style ramblings can be confusing if you aren’t use to the Scottish speech pattern. 90% of what I watch comes from that side of the world and there were a few times even I had to re-read a section because it seemed to talk itself into a circle.

What is so great about all of that is how beautiful real life can be when it isn’t perfectly coordinated. McBride is in the middle of the most horrific thing he could ever imagine and to pretend otherwise is nuts. His desperation and panic are very convincing. He makes a lot of mistakes. To see the underbelly, so to speak, is not pretty, but Fox shows us how necessary it is.

There are happy Christmas stories out there, but this isn’t one of them. For most of the time the reader may even forget it’s supposed to be. There are a few one-liners and sweet moments that lighten things up when things start to get too dark, especially McBride’s daughter … she is a handful.

This romance between McBride and Leitner is seething right under the surface the entire time, but Fox doesn’t really let it out to play until the end. A gamble in this genre because so many of the comments and ratings I see on review sites suggest many read for the sex/romance. I hope it pays off for her because the plot is strong and should do well for those who prefer mystery/suspense stories.

And for anyone wondering … there is a spectacularly happy ending.

I Heard Him Exclaim by ZA Maxfield

So fun!

Steve and Chandler start the story as strangers. Both of them are on the road trying to escape the memories of what they are missing most this Christmas. The timing is just right for them to cross paths at a gas station along the way.

Overwhelmed with his new responsibilities with his niece, Chandler welcomes the opportunity for something good. He still worries, but accepts Steve help. Steve is just excited that he can share Christmas again.

The attraction between the two is obvious but they have to be more subtle with Poppy in the car. Their own form of hide and seek.

As good as the beginning of this story is, the best parts are when they make it back to Steve’s house. Steve’s over the top family is fantastically devious. Steve’s normal Christmas rituals are unlike anything Chandler has seen and he finds himself letting go of some of his anxiety. The care, warmth, teasing, and instigating between Steve’s family rubs of on Chandler, and Poppy is lossing a bit of her haunted look.

I’m glad that through all the holiday cheer that the problems they had in the first place didn’t go away. Maxfield was able to deliver great tension breakers when things got too heavy, but Christmas was in no way a cure-all. Instead it allowed them both to lay it out on the line. The worst case scenario being they would part ways after the holiday and Chandler got his car back. But if it worked, they knew there wouldn’t be anyone else for either of them. Funny how much being completely 100% from the start with someone cuts out a lot of the doubt and insecurity in a relationship.

Icecapades by Josh Lanyon

I love the give and take of these two. Each spending the last 10 years thinking they knew all they needed to know about the other, Noel and Robert are in for many surprises.

We know where Noel is feeling since we are in Noel’s head the entire time, but Robert is almost as obvious with his motives. We can see the wheels turning as he fits in new information from Noel’s current life.

The best part for me was when we find out why Robert has never picked up the phone during one of Noel’s New Year’s Eve phone calls and, presumably, why he never changed his phone number. Until that moment it could have gone either way as to why Robert really tracked him down.

There is a little game playing in the beginning, neither one wanting to be the one to give in first. Lanyon made it work, though, so neither man came of like a jerk. It was close a few times, but backed off just in time.

I would definitely recommend this story, and all of the ones in the His For the Holiday Anthology. Seems he has a great feel for stories that compliment each other and yet still keep the authors individual style.

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