Today we have another set of holiday short stories and novellas from the 2014 Dreamspinner Advent collection. This times we have reviews from Crissy and Kris. These stories are available individually or as a full set from Dreamspinner Press.
The Light of Winter by Jana Denardo
Gareth and Warun have been very busy of late, and it’s been driving a wedge between them. Both men know that they need to reconnect to keep their relationship strong. With the winter holidays approaching, Gareth makes plans to include Warun in one of his druidic celebrations for solstice. Though he knows Warun accepts his pagan religion, he’s nervous about sharing this aspect with him. The trip is what they really need to reconnect, however, and both men feel more settled in their relationship for having shared it.
This was a short, sweet story about two men needing to remind themselves how good their relationship is. I really liked the tie in with the winter holidays, and how it was the perfect time for these two guys to reconnect. This story was very short, but it was really well done. Both Gareth and Warun are fleshed out, real feeling characters, and I felt that we got to know them well. On top of that, Denardo gave us a nice insight to the Druid religion. A nice little story with an interesting twist. And the geek in my really appreciated the Torchwood reference. Absolutely recommended.
Krampusz by Lou Harper
An epic fail in interviews, Brian takes a job teaching English overseas—in Budapest, to be exact. His roommate Zoli takes an immediate dislike to him, which Brian doesn’t understand, but once Zoli begins to warm up to him, he introduces Brian to Hungarian customs. Their first stop, the Christmas market where Brian takes in the display of Krampusz, a demonic Christmas myth. What he doesn’t expect is what comes next with his roommate, or the revelation that follows.
Krampusz is a sweet holiday story that I found brief, but entertaining. I thought the beginning held a good tension between the main characters, and the author did a good job keeping whatever secret it was that Zoli held. There’s a reason that Zoli’s cold, growly manner warms suddenly, though it does feel abrupt at the time. I would have liked some sort of reason for the transition. I’m a little disappointed by the lack of background and the sudden insertion of history between Brian and Zoli. It felt too brief and rushed at the end, like a last minute thought. This was a cute story, but it’s stilted and brief. I wish it would have been a tad longer.
Home of the Chirappa by Ariel Tachna
American Trent is heading to India to spend the holidays with his boyfriend’s family. Nik hasn’t been home for ten years because he wasn’t sure how his extended family would deal with his orientation. Trent is overwhelmed by the differences in the country, language, and practices, as well as Nik’s huge family. As he sees Nik settle into life in India, Trent is certain that Nik will want to eventually move back there.
Nik loves being home again after so long, but he’s sure that Trent will be too overwhelmed with the country and his family to ever want to come back. In fact, he fears that Trent will end up breaking up with him because of it. Uncertainty plagues both men, but eventually they confess their fears. But when Nik’s grandfather, the patriarch whose word carries the most weight, gives them their blessing, it seems like everything will work out just fine.
I adored this story, and that’s due in large part to the wonderful picture Tachna painted with her words. I felt almost as if I were traveling to India myself. The descriptions were vivid and real, and I could see everything clearly in my head. And this view of the country through Trent’s eyes really gave us a great feeling as to where his head was at, and what he was feeling. His uncertainty really came through, as well as just how much he loved Nik and Nik’s home country. It was a wonderful dichotomy, and it really showed the depth of his commitment to Nik.
I would have liked to see just a little bit more about Chirappu, to get a better feel for the Hindu holiday. But the celebratory aspect was clear, and I loved seeing everyone come together. More than that, there was a wonderful tolerance in this smaller area of India, in particular where different religions were concerned, and that was fantastic to see. These two guys needed to talk to one another, but within the plot, it worked out well. Both men were feeling shaky because of the trip, and both were a little overwhelmed. Thankfully this aspect wasn’t dragged on too long, and the ending was sweet and heartwarming. Home for Chirappu was a wonderfully written story with a different perspective, and I enjoyed it a great deal.
The Magic of Weihnachten by Bru Baker
Christmas has never been a big deal in Walsh Brandt’s family and, when his mother passed away when he was nineteen, it was even less so. When he was offered a promotion in Germany, Walsh happily accepted it, thinking when Christmas rolled around it would be less of a festive to-do. Germans are more introspective about Weihnachten, or so he thought. Then the season rolls around and his everyday market is transformed into Christkindmarkt—decorations, festivities, and celebrations galore.
When Walsh rushes through the market in an attempt to get home quickly, he runs into his fate, literally. Dierck Reinger is the first man to make Walsh think of more than a one night thing in a long time. But Dierck loves Weihnachten and is determined show Walsh the magic, no matter how much Walsh resists. As they near Weihnachten, days and nights are spent together rediscovering Christmas and Walsh begins to wonder if Dierck is using him as a holiday fling or whether he wants something lasting.
The Magic of Weihnachten is a charming tale of bah humbug discovering the miracle of the holiday and a little bit of romance along the way. I thought this short novella was adorable. The characters are immediately attractive and Walsh’s dislike of all things Christmas is the perfect gateway to the relationship in this story. There is a lot of time and events skimmed over, which I’m sure happened due to the fact that the story had certain constraints, but I wish those times and events had actually been on page. They would have added so much to the building of the relationship between Walsh and Dierck. As it is, I found The Magic of Weihnachten heartwarming and precious.
A review copy of these books was provided by Dreamspinner Press.