Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Warmers anthology


Title: Winter Warmers
Editors: Josephine Myles and JL Merrow
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Publisher: Pink Squirrel Press
Genre: contemporary
Length: 126 pages


Baby, it's cold outside! Beat the chill with Winter Warmers—a seasonal anthology.

Mulled wine. Butterscotch kisses. Hideous sweaters. Candy at the beach, or a trip to a sex shop in Amsterdam. And the man of your dreams, wrapped around you... Winter warmers come in many shapes and sizes, from the tongue-in-cheek to the hot-as-hell. Enjoy a quintet of heart-warming tales of men loving men from Clare London, Chrissy Munder, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper that are guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.

One thing's for sure—it's going to be a red-hot Christmas!

Lucky Dip by Clare London
Andy Jackson always knew that class 2C’s help in preparing for the annual Christmas Fair would be a mixed blessing. Then he’s paired up on the Lucky Dip with Greg, the man who dumped him but now can’t keep away, the pupils are either lecturing him on his lovelife or losing bladder control, and no one’s fixed the broken handle on the storage room. It may all be one whoopee cushion too far for him.

Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder
Matthew Morrison is determined to conquer his fear of heights and achieve a winning outcome. At least, that’s what the best-selling, self-help book he’s listening to promises. Being stuck on a three-story tower in the middle of a snowstorm wasn’t part of the plan. With no St. Bernard in sight, it’s Cute Ticket Guy Adam to the rescue, and an outcome Matthew never anticipated.

Wintertide by Lou Harper
May meets December when Jem and Oscar chance on each other at the Santa Monica Pier, only weeks before Christmas. The two men are separated by age, social status, and their taste in candy, yet if they are both naughty and nice, they might just find holiday cheer together.

When in Amsterdam... by Josephine Myles
Brandon is on his first visit to new boyfriend Jos’s home country, just in time for their Sinterklaas celebrations. But an unexpected detour into a sex shop leads Brandon to new discoveries about himself, and a whole new dynamic to their relationship. The weather may be cold and damp, but Brandon and Jos soon heat things up!

A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow
What’s the best gift a young man could get for Christmas? Mohawked saxophonist Liam wouldn’t have picked the hideous collection of knitwear he’s presented with by his mum and his aunties. He’d rather have the gorgeous older man he sees every day while busking at King’s Cross. But with a little Christmas magic in the air, maybe those garish garments are just the thing for attracting a silver fox…

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Lucky Dip by Clare London

Poor Andy Jackson—if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, all over him. This poor klutz trips over himself and the small children working on the festival displays. Not only is he a hazard to himself and others, it makes him feel like a fool in front of Greg Canbury, the debonair uncle of one of the students, and Andy's former lover. They'd broken up once before, breaking Andy's heart, and now, he's got to work an entire carnival in close proximity to the man. Sometimes, what goes wrong is really what goes right—one last disaster gives Greg a chance to talk with him.

This was a really cute story, although the non-stop accidents began to get a tiny bit wearing, particularly when they involved a toddler who had no business being there that I could see. However, this story of second chances is so charming that I left off wanting to swat the toddler's mother to say, "Awwww" for Greg and Andy instead. Out of the mouths of babes...

Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder

Matthew's trying to conquer his fear of heights, as step one of his road to more self confidence in general, a goal that costs him ten bucks, some fear, and an adrenaline hangover every night he tries to ascend a toboggan run. Cute Ticket Guy, with his massive collection of strange hats, isn't too clear on what this project is – no one likes toboggan runs this much, but when he has to rescue Matthew, a lot becomes clear.

I really felt for Matthew, who is feeling the effects of more than one bad boyfriend to go with an already debilitating phobia. He's trying so hard to cure himself of this, so that maybe he can tackle the other issues in his life. Cute Ticket Guy turns out to be Adam, who is a nice guy with a small streak of wickedness, which I really liked. This story ends on a beginning; they've really only just met, but it's a nice warm beginning.

Wintertide by Lou Harper

Jem and Oscar have so little in common that they use different POVs: Jem's is third person, Oscar tells his story in first person. The effect is a little ragged. Older, bereaved Oscar is looking for another chance at love; Jem's young and casting around. There isn't really anything to bring these two together other than Oscar's desire to take care of Jem and that they are both alone. A third party kibitzing on Oscar's end says some wise things and doesn't question Oscar's choice, though I did. The story is low-key, as befits Oscar's emotional state.

When in Amsterdam by Josesphine Myles

Joesphine Myles has become an autobuy for me, and I would want to read this collection if I knew nothing about it other than she has a story in it. Once again, she combines a bit of fish out of water, sly humor, and sexual heat. The reason for Brandon and Jos to be in the sex shop seemed a tad thin, but hey, they are there, and one thing does lead to another. Brandon had to expand his horizons just a bit, and Jos is willing to adjust his desires to what Brandon can handle. It's not the sex alone where they compromise, it's traditions and expectations, and both men are willing to give a bit. Loved this one.

A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow

This story starts off with a shocking remark, and only gets sillier. Liam, raised by witches, has the kind of good humor to accept his aunts' gifts in the spirit in which they were intended, and if their knitting looks like an explosion in a head shop, he's still game to wear it. And it's pretty good bait:

This time, though, he was frankly staring. Well, I couldn't blame him, now could I? He'd probably never seen a busker with a teapot on his head before.

Enough crazed knitting later, Liam does get his date with Neil, and a truly unconventional first date it is. Neil's assessment still has me laughing. Another ending on a beginning, and I hope Neil's got the fortitude to go the distance, because I want to read about it!

***
As with any anthology, some stories are stronger than others, but the quality here is high overall, and the last two stories alone are reason enough to buy the book. As a lovely bonus, the formatting is pretty, with snowflakes as scene breaks. Best of all, my copy had internal anchors for good interior navigation, which makes revisiting my favorites one at a time much simpler; I do not know why this feature is not more widespread in PDF files. This is the first project from Pink Squirrel Press, and they are doing a lot of things right. 4.25 marbles

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