Monday, December 5, 2011

ANTHOLOGY REVIEW: "Men Under the Mistletoe" by Josh Lanyon, Harper Fox, Ava March, and K.A. Mitchell

TITLE: Men Under the Mistletoe
AUTHORS: Josh Lanyon, Harper Fox, Ava March, K.A. Mitchell
GENRE: Male/Male Romance-Contemporary-Historical
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
PUBLICATION DATE: December 5, 2011
SOURCE: Netgalley-Thanks Carina Press!
SUMMARY: A man receives the gift of pleasure at the hands of two expert lovers. Boyhood sweethearts get a second chance at romance. Two very proper gentlemen indulge their forbidden desires. And a Christmas tree farmer has an epiphany. It may be cold outside but these four holiday novellas will warm you up.
NOTE: These novellas are available individually as e-books, in addition to the collection.


My True Love Gave to Me
by Ava March

Ava March is a popular m/m romance novelist who specializes in historicals particulary Regency England.  This novella follows this pattern.  The main characters are Thomas Bennett and Alexander Norton who meet as young men at Oxford University.  They are attracted to each other immediately, but, when it comes time to really show Alexander his feelings, Thomas leaves the country for four years.  In this story, he arrives back in London to convince Alexander that he regrets leaving him, but realizes how much his actions changed Alexander.   

There is alot packed into this little story.  Readers are provided detailed, but not overdone scenes of the early part of Thomas and Alexander's relationship.  The wonders of first love are especially poignant here as is the scene where Thomas leaves.  I really felt for Alexander and had a hard time forgiving Thomas later on.  The later section did have a few melodramatic moments, but moved along at a realistic pace.  Thomas and Alexander have definite chemistry throughout the story and this was shown beautifully in the sensual scenes without being smutty.  The conclusion was very sweet and proved a satisfying way to wrap up Thomas and Alexander's story.


Winter Knights
by Harper Fox

Harper Fox's contribution is a contemporary romance with a supernatural twist.  The narrator is Gavin, a folklore doctoral student, who is dealing with the fact that his Catholic lover, Piers, dumped him rather than tell his family the truth about his sexuality.  Gavin had been planning on spending Christmas for the first time with Piers and was so devastated by Piers's decision that he found himself wandering in the middle of a blizzard.  He is rescued by two mysterious men that remind him of the mythical King Arthur and Lancelot, conveniently named Art and Lance, and learns how to save his relationship with Piers.

This is my first Harper Fox story and I was definitely intrigued.  The writing style was smooth and easy to understand and the first-person narrative was executed almost flawlessly.  I did have a hard time understanding Gavin at first, but he definitely grew on me.  I really liked how Fox slowly revealed key aspects of Gavin and Piers's relationship in a way that did not put the sole blame of their problems on either men.  I also enjoyed the depiction of Art and Lance and their relationship.  They were sweet and completely comfortable with each other.  I was a little taken aback by the m/m/m scene with Art, Lance, and Gavin and thought that the story didn't need it.  There is a minor supernatural aspect to this story, but I won't go into too much detail in order to avoid spoilers. 


Lone Star
by Josh Lanyon

Lone Star is a contemporary, western romance between two former childhood sweethearts.  Mitch and Web were best friends growing up in a Texas small town who grew into lovers once they reached their teenage years.  But, a heated confrontation led Mitch to leave town to become a professional ballet dancer.  Twelve years later, Mitch comes back to settle his father's estate and reunites with Web who has become a Texas Ranger. 

I really enjoy most of Lanyon's work, but I found this one a little lacking.  I liked the premise and the characters.  As a former dancer, I loved the character of Mitch and his explanation of the world of ballet.  Web seems like a sweet guy that I would like to have learned more about.  The beginning of the story was great.  There was drama from Mitch and Web meeting again and some cute interactions with the townspeople, but nothing ever really happened from there.  I would love to have seen this idea in a longer format so Lanyon could concentrate on the Mitch/Web relationship beyond the sudden realization of their feelings.  There was a vague supernatural element that never took off and the ending was very abrupt and not extremely satisfying.  I do hope that readers check out Lanyon's other stories because I don't feel like this novella is a great example of his amazing talent.


The Christmas Proposition
by K.A. Mitchell

In this novella, readers meet Mel and Bryce, two former lovers who meet up again around the holidays.  Mel is runs his family's Christmas tree farm while Bryce is a high-style millionaire.  Their love affair ended a couple years ago after a misunderstanding.  Now, these two reunite at a diner where Mel works part-time.  Bryce is determined to show Mel what he has been missing by remaining at the family farm while Mel comes to grip with the fact that he never completely got over Bryce.

This is my first experience with K.A. Mitchell's writing and, while it was not my favorite, I enjoyed this story enough to try some of her other longer works.  Both Mel and Bryce were decent characters and I liked the logistics of the reunion plot.  I had a hard time getting into their actual romance in a story this length and would have loved to seen this plot in a longer work.  That being said, I did find myself enjoying myself and got through the story quickly.  It was a nice, easy read for a rainy afternoon.  Also, I should warn readers that this is probably the most graphic novella in this collection.







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