How do I begin to describe the A Touch of Mistletoe anthology? Perhaps by saying that these are some of the most unusual and yet enjoyable Christmas stories that I have read in a while (and that’s saying something!). The closest I could come to a unifying theme would be paranormal, but only four of the five stories fit that category. I guess in the end, all you can do is enjoy.
Here For You by J.K. Pendragon
A year after the death of his wife, Warren is lonely but not interested in a new relationship until he meets Kyung-sam. Kyung is gay, Warren is not, or is he as straight as he thinks? Kyung came to Canada to care for his aging father, and is in the closet. Warren feels an attraction for the kind Korean man who helps him out, especially after a fantastic blowjob that turns Warren’s perception of himself upside down. Can Warren and Kyung figure out what they want, what they need, and how to make it happen?
I give Pendragon credit for creating two excellent characters, both of whom have endured much in their lives and have come out the other side stronger. Warren’s visual impairment is not a hindrance to him and was the vehicle that brought the two men together. Set in a very short period of time, their quickly building attraction did not feel rushed. I liked that both Warren and Kyung-sam both had pasts that fed the angst they both felt and also liked that fact that the aforementioned angst did not take center stage.
The Christmas Spirit by Talya Andor
Ash Harmon, a paranormal investigator, is contracted to help top ranked figure skater Hanabishi-Yuki, who is being haunted. The threat is real and affecting Yuki’s performance on the ice. A systematic search of Yuki’s recent stops in the city identifies the where, but will Ash figure out the who and, at the same time, will the two men figure out the simmering attraction they have to each other?
A ghost, a highly superstitious world-class figure skater, and a paranormal investigator walk into an arena…No this is not the start of a joke, but rather the premise of The Christmas Spirit. I found the Japanese cultural references to be educational and not overwhelming and the simmering attraction between Ash and Yuki to be sweet. The story was set in Japan but specific details were left out of the story for simplicity sake, keeping the focus where it needed to be, on the ghost and the budding romance.
A Beautiful Thing by A.F. Henley
Ebeneezer Scrooge has nothing on Scott Misener, ready to put a damper on anyone’s Christmas cheer. Having a ball of mistletoe secreted into his shopping bag, Scott is woken to the sight of Drualus, Senior Correspondent for the Collective Assembly of Christmas Fae, who takes Scott on a trip to the past, present, and of course, the future, where historically, bad things happen.
I know, I know, the trope that has been done to death and so I am not going to go into too much detail except to say that this was one of my favorite stories and the ending was not at all what I was expecting.
Ad Meliora by E.E. Ottoman
All paranormal investigators An-An and M.C. want is a little Christmas vacation. What they get is a job investigating a series of paranormal murders and to perform an exorcism. The only problem is that An-An, although schooled in the paranormal, has no magic and is susceptible to the demon’s influence. Can M.C. keep An-An safe and exorcise the demon, or are there too many factors at play for the two people?
To be honest, I was not expecting what I thought was a F/F story and was pleasantly surprised to find out that An-An was transgender. The fact that this is a Christmas demon exorcism story was actually a plus. The setting and characters were detailed and easy to empathize with, and plot was clear and concise, making the overall story enjoyable.
Two Parts Mistletoe by Megan Derr
Owner of Two Parts Mistletoe potion shop and Master Potion Maker, Kingston is the best in the business, which is why Maurice Huxtable seeks him out. Hux believes that his employer, Lord Oswald, has been given a love potion and needs Kingston’s expertise to counteract it. Coincidentally, the two men know each other from twice-monthly anonymous visits to the brothel, Acacia. A highly illegal potion, a shift in the dynamic of their relationship, and a powerful foe could lead to ruin for the men.
This is not the fist time in literature that I have heard that a love potion is the worst potion of them all. In this story, the two main characters had history, even if they did not realize it until they formally met in Kingston’s potion shop. This was a story where the world building was exceptionally well done. Add to that the fact that potion making was an everyday thing and you have a story with a bit of a fantasy bent to it but that is not really how it felt to me. I found myself immersed in the lives of these two guys and enjoyed the, dare I say, “obvious” mystery element. If I re-read this story, it will definitely be for Kingston and Hux, I just loved those guys.
So, are you interested in a bit of everything unusual in a Christmas anthology? I was, and I was not disappointed