Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Brandon Witt
Fearing himself forsook by his favorite fowl, Samuel Phipps bundles up on a blisteringly cold winter evening to look for the absentee turkey. The missing bird loves adventure, but Samuel could kick himself for not putting his foot down on her wandering ways—lest she become a meal for some opportunistic wolf in the Ozark woods. But…she was tame, she knew about people. Samuel thought just maybe she’d gone to visit Samuel’s newly arrived neighbor, Raymond Webber.
Whatever Samuel expected from Raymond, it was not a fit silver fox answering the door with nary a stitch of clothing on. Stunned by Raymond’s utterly free and open personality, Samuel all but forgets about his bird—until Raymond let’s slip whats for dinner. The revelation has Samuel reeling—and yet he can’t get his mind off Raymond. Perhaps Samuel can learn to forgive the older man, but can he learn to cope with such a high-energy one?
This was an absolutely delightful read. It may be only fifty odd pages long, but the characters jump off the page. I love how Samuel is a curmudgeon who learns to live a little and Raymond is a wild child who learns to have a care for others. The story is rich in the little details that define Samuel’s and Raymond’s rough living—they are about a far removed from society as you can get—from caring for all Samuel’s livestock to Raymond’s desire to live totally off the grid.
The Faloola hook was an excellent and creative way to bring these two dissimilar men together and from there, their individual personalities are clearly shown to get under one another’s skin in the best of ways. They may be men of a certain age, but I certainly wouldn’t have know it if it were for the explicit mentions of their ages. Overall, it found the characters played extremely well off one another and there was a compelling mix of drama, crossed lines of communication, and va-va-voom to warm up anyone’s winter night!
The Peppermint Schnapps Predicament by Clare London
If Frankie Faraday has a thing for his designer suit-wearing boss, so what? It isn’t as though Bill Mason would ever notice a floor associate—even if he was the best damn floor associate Mason’s Emporium has ever seen. Which is part of the reason why Frankie doesn’t mind contriving ways to be in the general vicinity of Bill. Like when inventory needs to be taken and Frankie volunteers himself to help the boss get it done. He just never imagined he’d wind up trapping himself and the object of his wildest desires into a storage closet, all alone, with no chance of coworkers coming by because everyone else has already gone home for the night.
Of course, Frankie also didn’t imagine big, burly Bill would be claustrophobic…or that the lights would go out, leaving Frankie uncomfortable in the pitch dark. But Frankie is nothing if not industrious. Rummaging through the season’s stores, he slakes their hunger with chocolate Santas and their thirst with peppermint schnapps. What’s more, Frankie finally gets to see a bit under Bill Mason’s polished veneer—and he likes what he sees.
While they struggle to stay sane during their captivity, Frankie and Bill learn more about one another—and what they have in common—than they probably ever would have otherwise. As it turns out, Frankie’s amorous feelings are entirely unrequited. In fact, Bill and Frankie learn just how well they mesh together, both in terms of personalities and in terms of carnal desires. But how long can a backroom romance last once their coworkers finally come to the rescue?
This story really didn’t do anything for me. Even though the story is broken up into little chapters and Frankie and Bill switch off narration duties, for a big chunk of the middle where they start exploring a physical connection, I admit I couldn’t tell one apart from the other. While Frankie is clearly the hyper-foppish one with “everyone writes me off because I’m so foppish” thoughts, we learn Bill’s got an inner angst streak a mile-wide because “everyone writes off my dreams because I’m the boss’s son.” When they’re not tossing each other off, the bulk of this narrative is flip-flopping between who feels worse about how people perceive them.
With little other than physical descriptions and a single personality trait to really distinguish these characters, it was really up to the plot to make this story. Unfortunately, the *trapped in the storeroom* bit feels a bit tired, not to mention of *course* neither of them has their cell phone and all the other employees are off for the night. If you’re into absolutely anything even vaguely Christmas-y and just want to see a couple of random guys inexplicably hit it off in a store room, you might like this.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.