Sympathy by Jordan Castillo Price (41 pages)
Been meaning to read this for awhile, well since it came out obviously. Tony survived a bad car crash that Dr's said would leave him wheelchair bound, but he fought back to walk (with pain issues) and is working still with his brothers in the landscaping business. One day as a "joke" his brothers send him with a delivery to an old house that the kids though was haunted in the day and that had totally freaked Tony out. But he meets the new owner David, a hot gay potter. They hit it off (within minutes) but Tony is still freaked about the house. They go out for dinner and Tony has to face his irrational fears to be with David who also has some relationship baggage and a strange connection to Tony. I love Jordan's writing and the way Tony had to deal with his first time having sex since the accident 2.5 years ago and dealing with his feelings for the house which burned into his psyche as a kid was really well done. What I really liked was at the end Jordan talked a bit about her inspiration for the characters and the pottery work that David did in his studio which added to the overall story. A typical great JCP read.
Vintage Toys for Lucky Boys by CR Richards (30 pages)
Randy goes to an antique store with some old wind up toys he got from his last boyfriend hoping to get some money to buy his Mom a Christmas present. Seems they are some rare German toys and he's offered $6500. He gets to talking with Max, the hottest antique dealer in Canada, and he confesses a rather large secret to Max who is 100% supportive and seems he had a former boyfriend with the same issue he helped him work through. I'm being kind of vague because I don't want to spoil it for those who read it. Did it work for me? Not so much. There were a couple of line that totally threw me and I went back to read them because I thought I was mistaken, I wasn't. "Randy’s packer was wet with lube" What the hell does that even mean? And I wondered if Max was some kind of groupie for people with this particular issue as suddenly Randy is going to quit his job, work for Max, be Max's boyfriend and be true to himself within ohhhhhh, 45 min? That was the bigger issue for me. A lot to cram into 30 pages and I'm not sure it was all that successful. But certainly variety on the sugary true love forever Christmas stories that can show up.
All's Fair in Love and Advertising by Lenore Black (150 pages)
This was one of those books with a character that had the potential to make you so annoyed you hated him (and it), but somehow the author made him funny and likable despite being a totally arrogant asshole. That's talent. Max is a genius (by his own estimation) ad guy who's recently divorced and come out as gay and can't keep a secretary. He runs around telling everyone he's going to fire them, is not afraid to tell everyone how amazing he is, and everyone just looks at him and seems to quirk and eye-brow with an "yeah sure" thing going on. He meets with Joe to discuss doing a possible campaign to save Joe's company from a takeover bid and "accidentally" falls in bed with Joe that night. Ooops. Bad, don't sleep with client, bad move. But he has zero personal control and keeps going back for more but they decide to keep it separate from work. There is some industrial espionage, some spying on Joe while he's out for dinner, a few sessions with his therapist to discuss all this and some general hot smexin'. It was very light hearted (despite the whole business subplot) and I found myself smiling more than once. It wasn't LOL for me, but made me come away from it light hearted after. One part that really appealed to me was: "Max stole a glance down at the floor. It was terra cotta tile, hard and cold, and no doubt it would be hell on his back. He weighed this consideration against the hot, hot prospect of having Joe on top of him right now, making him beg for it. He was pretty sure the irreversible spinal damage would be well worth it." It was that kind of hyperbolic (is that a word?) thinking that made him funny because he was such a freaking drama queen. Great read when you're looking for a break from something dark or serious.
Somehow Keats ends up at a party wandering around naked. He thinks it's a party for a bunch of fake vampires (of course they are real). Suddenly his friend Leland grabs him and collars him and declares him his blood slave. Keats is confused as hell but not all that disappointed. He's less freaked out by the fact that they are real vampires than the fact that Leland is really gay which he'd been hoping. However if Leland can't bring Keats to behave as his sub, then the coven will take over and .... who knows but it seems baaaaad. Meanwhile Keats is thrilled to be Leland's sub and yet Leland doesn't seem to get it. Sigh. I found Leland is freaking out that Keats won't behave but rather than say "Look, I'll explain but for you to get out of this alive just pretend to do everything I say". Dilemma over. But instead he frets and tries to use non-existent ESP to get Keats to behave. Keats was teaching Leland more about having a sub than Leland was. It was a bit odd. It's just a 6 or 8 hour slice of their life so not a lot of time for development. I liked Keats, he was go with the flow, but wow, I've never see anyone quite as laid-back as he was.
Does it count as a DNF if you skim the last 3 pages of sex and don't really care how it ends? Total porn. Sam goes to his friend Andreas and Cole's cabin for Christmas and NY. Seems Cole won't let Andreas fuck him because he's too big but let's him do others. Sam is one of the others he's been trying but he always refuses. Jimmy shows up and he is Sam's roommate. They hit it off and start having sex every night and Sam thinks maybe Jimmy could be the one, until he sees him and Andreas getting it on in the woodshed, literally, it's not a euphemism like your Grandpa used to use. Anyway, Sam is very hurt, he thought maybe he and Jimmy could have something, later that night (NYE) he gets so upset he's in his room crying when Andreas comes in so he FINALLY lets him fuck him, he realizes he's not even thinking about Jimmy anymore, the end. I thought it had potential when he was upset about Jimmy, I thought maybe there'd be a confrontation and they could work it out and be a couple, but instead he went for the "fine, I'll fuck him too then" route and just decided that occasional sex with his friend's partner (while the friend watches) was fine. Ugh. There was also some weird language for body parts. No one calls it a "can". Butt, ass, arse, but can? This is one of those books that really promotes the gay stereotype as rampant sex with anyone anywhere anytime which some of my gay friends find crazy-making. There were people constantly having sex with each other and in the same room, it was like one big orgy anytime more than 4 people got in a room together. So that's fine if you're looking for that but I wasn't, not in a Christmas anthology. (Wow, for a short book I typed a lot.)