Monday, December 10, 2012

25 Days of Xmas Stories Days 6-8: Red Hot Holiday

I’ll be home for Christmas…to fulfill all your dreams.

This holiday, a Mountie is determined to get her man. A widow finds a fireman who ignites her passions again. And two men unsure of their commitment discover a happily ever after—and a blindfold—under their tree. No matter your desires, this collection of three shorts is bound to treat you to all the joys of the season.

So here we are at Days 6-8.  Sorry I took a short break, work got crazy but I'm coming back with a zinger!  Saw this recommended over at Dear Author and it sounded to delish to pass up.  Each story gets its own review and then overall impressions! 

"I Need You for Christmas" by Leah Braemel
Ryan Porter is a sculptor, and beneath his callused hands, even the most rigid metals bend to his will.  So, too, does his girlfriend Megan--a confident, strong woman who delights in submitting to Ryan's dominance in the bedroom.

Megan is a Mountie, and she's spent the past few years in the Arctic following her career dreams.  Family obligations kept Ryan at home, but their love survived the distance thanks to several hot visits.  A Mountie always gets her man, and Megan is bound and determined to keep Ryan.

Now Megan's with Ryan for the holidays...but how long will this visit last?  She's always been willing to do anything Ryan desires, but will he finally tell her that all he needs for Christmas is her? 
I enjoyed this story quite a bit.  I wanted to smack a couple folk for their behavior (Ryan kind of included 'cause while Megan was making a big change in her life, so we he and his involved a heck of a lot of other people having to adjust whereas hers was really just her), but by in large I thought this was a cute story.  It was steamy and I appreciated that while Ryan found Megan super-sexy, she wasn't a model type woman playing cop--Braemel clearly described Megan in such a way that she looked the part of a Mountie.

There isn't actually much I can say--this was a solid story, the main characters felt pretty well rounded (though I couldn't keep the secondary characters quite as straight in my head) and thankfully Braemel avoided a tacked on conflict.  The two had a big enough conflict to resolve that anything additional would be extraneous.

"Breath on Embers" by Annie Calhoun

Christmas is the perfect time for firefighter Ronan O'Rouke to take things to the next level with his sexually adventurous girlfriend.  He knows she has feelings for him--and he's sure of his feelings for her--but when Thea refuses his invitation to sample Christmas in New York City because what they share is nothing more than sheet-burning sex, Ronan sets out to change her mind.

Deep down Thea Moretti knows she cares for Ronan, but she can't move past her grief over her late husband.  Loud music and sex with Ronan are the only things she's got that make her feel alive, so she takes as much of both as she can get.  She knows Ronan wants more, but during the darkest time of the year finding her way won't be easy.

Ronan gambles everything and challenges Thea: one night of passion with him and another man.  Can he prove to her that what they share isn't just great sex but an emotional connection strong enough to last forever? 
I was at odds with this story.  On the one hand the sex was hot, the characters were conflicted and I was engaged with the struggle that Thea felt.  What I had issue with was that I couldn't quite understand why Ronan would keep trying.  Quite frankly whether its Thea or its Ronan, neither paints a great picture of her.  Thea spends most of the story trying to convince herself that she just wants to sleep with Ronan--well technically she just wants to use Ronan however she feels like whether it be to have sex, go down on him or a makeout session.

Ronan meanwhile spends the story trying to convince her, himself and his best friend Tim that there is so much more to her and that he will bring it out whether she wants it or not.  Has she been grieving for a long time? Yes.  Should she try to move on and get past the guilt she feels over her husband's death (because it sounded like survivor's guilt to me more often then not)? Yes.  Is she coping in a totally unhealthy/unsafe manner?  Yes.  But I didn't see progress.  For every step forward they take, almost immediately one of them says or thinks that she's shutting down.

It got really annoying.  What redeeming value did Thea have exactly?  Its not like they hung out, or did couple things.  Their entire 'relationship' was predicated on the physical.  The reversal at the end needed more space to breathe to make me believe that they would work as a couple.

"Wish List" by K.A. Mitchell

There's so much Jonah Kendrick hasn't tried, and so much he wants to explore.  But just before Christmas he finds a ring box in his boyfriend's desk.  Jonah panics.  He loves Evan and their sex is hot, but hot can Jonah be ready for forever, when there are so many items on his Naughty Bucket List?  Desires that might drive Evan crazy. 

Evan's noticed Jonah has become distant.  His usually talkative and cheerful boyfriend is preoccupied.  The seemingly straitlaced Evan stumbles across Jonah's wishlist of sexual kinks, and Evan realizes he may not have to hide his true nature from Jonah after all.  The Dom in him wants to see Jonah on his knees, begging and submitting, but Evan isn't sure Jonah's ready to accept what being Evan's sub would mean.

The two lovers must figure out how to share their hidden desires with each other before their secrets permanently damage their love.
If the above didn't give it away, this is a m/m romance.  As far as stakes go this had bigger stakes then "I Need You For Christmas", but had a much more believable arc then "Breath on Embers".  While on the one hand I knew things would end up positively (this is a christmas romance), there was a lot of moments where I doubted that conclusion.  These two ran back and forth between rocky and smooth sailing, both with equally understandable reasoning.

I rather judge Jonah for some of his actions (there was a rather immature lapse in judgement), but Evan too left room for judgement.  Really this came down to communication for them.  Not just about their desires, but how they viewed their relationship.  Neither was entirely certain how serious the other felt--which is a problem.  Then to compound it with silence, aloofness and avoidance...well.  That's a recipe for bad moments.

The sex was hot--so freaking hot--and I think the story felt genuine.  Who wouldn't freak out if they thought they were being proposed to?  Especially if they weren't sure how serious the whole relationship was or felt a distance from their partner?

So two stories out of three definitely made this collection worth reading.  "Breath on Embers" used the holiday the most in terms of as part of the story, but all three stories made the season itself an important part (Jonah's birthday is January 1st, Megan was excited to tell Ryan her news the day of Christmas, etc).  Heat level is high and the stories are a quick read for anyone needing a bit of steamy diversion.