Wendy welcomes the authors of LGBTQ romances in the new charity anthology, Secret Santa: A Romance collection. She reviews Stanley’s Christmas Redemption by Gabbi Grey (Published December 14, 2021, by Rhetoric Askew.) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Meet me under the mistletoe…
In this limited edition Christmas romance collection love blooms underneath the mistletoe as secret admirers finally confess their love and secret Santas make holiday wishes of the heart come true.
Get into the Christmas spirit by diving into these stories where anything can happen through the magic of Christmas—and love.
Authors in this collection are:
Mandy Melanson – USA Today Bestselling Author, Sunny Abernathy, Sofia Aves, Danika Bloom, Jennifer Bonds, J. Shanee Byers, Leann Castellanos, MaryAnn Clarke, Caitlyn Coakley, Merrie Destefano, Maci Dillon, Beth Fred, Amber Ghe, Adina D. Grey, Susan Horsnell, K.L. Humphreys, Ivy Hunt, Lizzie James, Ainsley Jaymes, Di Jones, A.L. Morrow, Colleen Key, Mia Kingsley, Nikki Landis, Jeanine Lauren, Dawn Luedecke, Margaret Madigan, C.N. Marie, Chelsea McDonald, Stacey Jaine McIntosh, Katherine Moore, Irene Micheals, Marianne Petit, Kyrii Rayne, Arietta Richmond, J.A. Roles, Katy Rose, Elle Ryan – USA Today Bestselling Author, Angela Scavone, Rachel A. Smith, Emmanuelle Snow, Amy Stephens, Stacey Wallace, Tienna Wilde, Aubrey Wynne, Stormy Winds, Rayne Elizabeth, Faedra Rose, Jennifer M. Miller, A.M. Daniels, Adam Johnson, Amy C. Beckinsale, Ashley Zakrzewski, Callie Vegas, Dusty Grein, Emma Mountford, Gabbi Grey, Helena Novak, Isabela Jacobs, Jenny Redford, Jessica Ames, Jo Bradley, Joe Quakenboss, K.M. Pyne, Lark Anderson, Lexi Noir, Marissa Ann, Mira Kane, Morgan Meyer, Naomi Panthera, Natalia Prim, Nikki Kimberly, Nova Edwins, R.J. Murray, Raquel Anne, S.E. Roberts, Sara Cunningham, Tabitha Barret, Thea Dane, Valkyrie Luna, Zaria Knight, Zelda Knight
Grab your copy now to experience the magic of love during the holidays. Net proceeds go to Ronald McDonald House. Release week price of 99 cents!
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Most of the stories are m/f, but there are at least two that are m/m and so we welcome those authors to discuss their stories.
The Santagram (A.L. Morrow)
Forget the mistletoe. To win back the heart of the man he loves, he’ll have to jingle his bells instead.
Health nut Rory Townsend won’t admit it, but there are other things he’d rather be doing on a Saturday night than watching his partner, Nolan Shaw, clip his toenails and dribble ice cream down his T-shirt. In Nolan’s defense, it’s not his fault he’s in a rut: this past year has sucked—and not in the fun way.
Determined to give their relationship the shot of adrenaline it needs, Rory wants to get Nolan the perfect Christmas present. But funds are tight, so Rory gets creative and takes a side gig delivering naughty Santagrams. Sure, the outfit’s skimpy and he has to … um … jingle his bells. But Nolan’s worth it.
At least that’s what Rory thinks until he shows up at his next client’s door and comes face-to-face with Nolan himself. Will a pair of skimpy red shorts and some mistletoe be enough to rescue their romance?
A novella-length story of approximately 20,000 words.
Rory reached back to rub the base of his neck, which—for a reason he couldn’t quite confirm but suspected had something to do with Brooke’s sudden scheming—was becoming increasingly tense. “I don’t know. I’m not sure more time apart will help anything. We already barely see each other—”
“Exactly! Nolan’s barely home. He won’t notice or suspect a thing.”
“Yeah, but Emmett the EMT knows you exist. Nolan and me … not so much lately. If I’m never there to remind him, he might forget entirely.”
Brooke clicked her tongue and threw her hands in the air. “That’s not true, and you know it.” She adjusted the pace on her treadmill again, then gave Rory a pointed look. “Fight for your man, dude. I shouldn’t have to tell you this. Sheesh.”
She was right. He knew she was right. Nolan was worth it. He was worth everything.
“By the way,” Brooke added, “you do know Emmett’s last name isn’t really ‘the EMT,’ don’t you?”
Rory chuckled. “I was at the wedding. I saw the invitation. What can I say? I like the alliteration. And the fact that his career is basically an abbreviation for his name.”
“All right, just checking,” she said.
But she seemed unconvinced.
A.L. Morrow is the (naughtier) alter ego of a USA Today bestselling young adult author. When she isn’t writing clean(ish) YA tales, “A” enjoys dreaming up steamy scenes set in spectacular places—often along with a touch of magic or myth. She believes that love is love and likes reading and writing various genres of romance.
In her downtime (what’s that?), A finds delight in scouring for secondhand designer fashions. She briefly lived in a haunted mansion, once took a flight to visit Scotland for a day, and is prone to meeting minor celebrities in random hotel elevators. She resides in the eastern US.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B095NN3LFC
Newsletter Sign Up Form: http://bit.ly/ALMorrowNews
Stanley’s Christmas Redemption (Gabbi Grey)
I have life figured out—a good job, a nice car, and an ex-boyfriend whose heart I broke. But then my younger half-brother dies unexpectedly, and I go back to our hometown to settle his affairs. A quick trip before Christmas. Instead, I get the shock of my life. Do I face this new challenge or do what I’ve always done and run? Or will I stay and get to know the most amazing man I’ve ever met and take on a responsibility I’ve never dreamed of facing? This is likely to be a holiday season like no other.
I’m a therapist who helps people deal with grief. My life is fulfilling. So what if I’ve been single for years? I have the kids I counsel and co-workers I adore. Maybe I’m tired of going home to an empty house and not looking forward to another Christmas alone. But I’m not going to be taken in by some slick city guy who can’t wait to leave town. I’m not going to upend my life just because I’ve met the man of my dreams. Right?
Oh Christ. I knew that voice. More than once over the past seven years, I’d heard that voice in my mind. When I was down. Regretting my life’s decisions.
Meg dropped onto the stool next to me.
Of all the gin joints in the world. Well, coffee shops, but the sentiment was the same. All I wanted was to sit and sip my chai latté. And let the world go by. “It’s Christmas Eve, Meg. Maybe I deserve some peace?” I didn’t, but I had to try.
Meg sipped her black coffee. A large coffee. In a ceramic mug.
She was here for the long haul.
I could leave. Slip off my stool, head for the door, and disappear into the throng of Christmas shoppers in the mall. But I wouldn’t do that. Couldn’t do that. Meg was here to confront me about my past, and my best interests lay in letting her say her piece. Wait… “Why are you even in Mission City? I thought you and that wife of yours were in Calgary.”
“Namita. Her name is Namita. And since you haunt me on social media, you know this. Just like you know Maddox and his husband Ravi have two beautiful children.”
Yes, I knew. Yes, my ex had two beautiful infants. Yes, looking at those photos hurt my heart.
“Maddox doesn’t need your shit, Stan. You were safely ensconced in Vancouver. Why come back to Mission City? There’s nothing for you here.”
She spoke the absolute truth. But she didn’t know my truth.
“If I promise to stay out of Maddox’s way, will you leave me alone?”
“You think I’m going to take your word for it?” Incredulity laced her voice. “No, you’re screwed. I’m going to make your life a living hell. I’m the voice of Christmas Past.”
Note, she hadn’t actually answered my first question.
“But I’ll share that we’re here to visit Maddox, Ravi, and the twins.”
“Violet and Victor. Cute.” Crap. Why had I said that? Provided her with ammunition?
“You’re going to stay well clear of those babies, hear me?” She sipped her coffee. “Because you know I’ll kick your ass.” She turned to give me an assessing look. “Although I have to say your ass is looking better than it has in a long time. You working out? You’ve lost weight?”
Nice of her to notice.
“I might’ve decided to do some extra workouts.” Not too defensive.
“Starting to feel your age? Afraid you can’t attract the young studs anymore?”
I was feeling every one of those forty-five years today. Meg was only a few behind me, but her wife was about fifteen years younger than her. “You worried your gorgeous young wife is going to tire of you?”
Her green eyes flashed. “Watch what you say about Namita. We have a soul bond. Nothing short of death will tear us apart.”
I’d once felt that way. About Maddox. Now I knew better. Nothing was forever.
“Look, Stan, I don’t know why you’re back. Frankly, I couldn’t give a shit. But you know I’m protective of my own. You hurt Maddox. Your leaving devastated him. I mean, how low can someone go?” She tapped a finger to her cup. The nail was short and unpolished. I used to think of her as rough as well, but time had softened my perception of her. I’d left, and she’d stayed. Been by Maddox’s side, in spirit if not in body. Theirs was a close bond, and she’d let me know what an asshole I was for leaving.
She wasn’t wrong.
“You do what you have to do.” She rose. “But give Maddox a wide berth. He’s forgiven you. I haven’t. You mess with his happiness, and I promise our next chat won’t be nearly as cordial.” She pushed her curly dark hair out of her eyes and our gazes locked. “We clear?”
She slapped me on the back. Hard. “Then have yourself a merry little Christmas.” She plopped her Vancouver Olympics 2010 hat onto her head and exited the coffee shop.
My latté had grown cold and my stomach was in knots. I could’ve told her the real reason I’d come home, but that would’ve been humiliating. I rose and stretched. Too long on that stool. I hadn’t asked her how she’d found me, but she’d always been good at stuff like that. Creative. Inventive.
I’m not even sure where to start with this one… It’s a short story about an ex (Stan) from a much beloved story and I admit that I didn’t like him very much. Ok, that’s not true, I didn’t like him at all. He hurt one of my favorite characters by leaving him when he was recovering from an accident and all I could think of was “How could someone do that to the person they are supposed to love?” and “What an ass!”.
Somehow, (he doesn’t make a very good first impression even in this story) I found some redeeming qualities. This man has turned out to be a likeable fellow that I found myself rooting for. Stanley has many facets and while following in true Gabbi Grey style he’s full of angst and hurt and is afraid to put himself out there, he also is charming and sweet and has a heart of gold.
What brings all this goodness out of Stan? It all starts with tragedy and heartache and a goodbye that never gets to be said. Also, a little boy who is now an orphan. OMG, I know this was a very short story, but I cried so many times! Just the way Stan meets his nephew, and his therapist was heart wrenching. Watching them all build a relationship together over Christmas, well, cue more tears. I also love the way Gabbi writes about real issues and ways to deal with them like therapy dogs and horses.
I’m also going to put this out there… it’s an insta-love story which isn’t everyone’s jam, I know, but I love how an author can make it work out and be at least somewhat believable. I mean, come on, it’s a short story and a romance. I’m fine giving an author a bit of leeway when trying to give us a good story and a HEA in just a few chapters. And let me tell you, this is a very good story. It’s so good in fact that I hope the author gets the opportunity to expand on it at some point because I now love Stan and want to know more of his story.
I really enjoyed this story; it was filled with love and acceptance and forgiveness. Oh, I was happy to see so many characters from past books too. I hope to be able to read some of their stories in the future.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Gabbi lives in beautiful British Columbia where her fur baby chin-poo keeps her safe from the nasty neighborhood squirrels. Working for the government by day, she spends her early mornings writing contemporary, gay, sweet, and dark erotic BDSM romances. While she firmly believes in happy endings, she also believes in making her characters suffer before finding their true love. She also writes m/f romances as Gabbi Black.
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