Originally posted at http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.com
I have loved everything I have read by this author but her books are really hard to find so I has very happy to see that she was publishing some of her older books. I got them all except this one because for some weird reason it wasn’t available on Kindle. So I waited, and waited a little more and since the book was still MIA I contacted Judith. She told me that there were some formatting issues and that it would probably be available again in about a week. Since it’s evident that I have a serious book-addiction I couldn’t wait anymore and ended up buying the PDF version from Smashwords just to realize that it was finally available on Kindle. I know this seems like a long story and too much trouble for a little novel right? Well, let me tell you that the book was worth it more that I even imagined.
The book is about Beth. Two years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy, now she’s leaving behind a successful career in a law firm in Manhattan to move to a small town in New Hampshire. She gets a dog, a nice job as a partner in her best friend firm and a big house with an even bigger yard. She has decided to enjoy life’s small pleasures like taking naps and walking barefoot in the grass. After one of those ever present sweet situations that we often get in romance novels, she meets Ryan. There’s an instant chemistry between them but Beth is too insecure about her body to freely engage in a relationship with him. The whole book is about their relationship, about ups and downs and about overcoming insecurities and adversities, about finding strength in love to be a better person (and this goes for Beth, but also for Ryan).
At a simple glance this looked like a typical story where the heroine is scarred and feels ugly and unlovable, and then the hunky hero comes charging and tells her he loves her, and that he finds her beautiful, and that he doesn’t care about the cancer or the mastectomy, and she feels gorgeous for the first time in years, and then they live happily ever after. Well, you can forget about it because this story was nowhere near that. This is the first romance novel I have read that deals with breast cancer, and it’s the first romance novel where the leads actually react and behave like normal people. There is no magic solution to their issues, there’s no “I’ll kiss it and make it better”, there’s none of that. Instead we get real people (maybe a bit hunkier than in reality) who deal with things how I imagine a regular person would. They get scared, they think about it, then they get scared some more. They feel insecure, they feel pain, they feel terror, they try to move on and they fight against the bad things that happen and don’t let it destroy them.
I said that the book was about Beth but it was also about Ryan. This was a fantastic hero. My favorite part about this book was the big reveal. There’s a lot of build-up towards that moment and when it comes, it doesn’t disappoint. I don’t want to give anything away but if you read the book you need to prepare yourself because Ryan might seem like your typical hero but he isn’t. He reacts like I imagine most of the people would. And I loved him for it, he was refreshingly honest, and even though some parts of the book were painful to read and absolutely heart wrenching, it just made the happily ever after even sweeter.
Beth was inspiring. She was strong but she also had her weak moments. She allowed herself to indulge in the occasional pity-party, but she knew that the only way out was fighting. I liked her very much and I was rooting for her the whole time. I admit that sometimes her self-doubt was a bit annoying mostly because she kept reciting how insecure she felt, but I also understood where she was coming from.
This book wasn’t all gloom and doom and unbearable angst (even if my review leads you to believe it is). It had its light moments and I think they were well balanced between the more dramatic ones. The cast of secondary characters was good, even if the story doesn’t focus on them that much, and the dog was adorable.
It was a great uplifting story about overcoming adversity and finding love, with a couple of unforgettable leads and some topics that aren’t normally dealt with in romance novels. If you are a fan of contemporary romance and enjoy books full of emotion then I think you should read this one. And yes, I got the book, read it and wrote the review in the same day, that’s how much I liked it.
Winter Warmers is filled with great stories that albeit short, pack a lot of punch. They are set around Christmas time rather than proper Christmas stories, although they don’t really have that as a common theme. They were all very different and as far as I could see the only thing they shared was the fact that the main characters were all a bit lonely, slightly awkward, and insecure. And by the end of their respective stories they all in a way overcome their issues, or at least take the first steps in order to do so. Some of them ended rather abruptly and felt almost too short, but they were completely satisfying. I think they all get their ending, some of them more like a promise of a happy ending than a proper happy ending, but that’s a good thing, it made them believable.
The first novella is Lucky Dip by Clare London. Andy is a school teacher preparing for the school's Christmas fair with his students, when he’s forced to share his space with Gregg, the guy who dump him months ago but now wants him back. Will Andy be able to forgive and forget?
This story was a lot of fun, Andy was clumsy, Gregg was charming and the kids were hilarious. The whole time I was reading it I kept smiling and overall it was a happy read. The whole story takes place during one day and wouldn’t mind revisiting these characters to see how they are doing.
The second story is Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder. Matthew is shy and insecure, his boyfriend left him because he was afraid of heights and now he listens to self-help tapes and tries to overcome his fear by going to the park and trying to climb the never-ending steps of the local toboggan. He does this every day and in the meantime ogles the cute guy selling the tickets and tries to muster the confidence to ask him out.
Butterscotch Kisses was all about Matthew, he was likeable and I was rooting for him from page one. This was another fun read and I had a great time just listening to his thoughts and watching him try to climb those steps. He was a bit neurotic and very insecure but he was also persevering and just plain adorable.
The third story is Wintertide by Lou Harper. Jem is feeling lonely when he sees an older guy throwing something at the sea. Curious he approaches him and that’s how he ends up having a one night stand with Oscar, and maybe giving each other the comfort and companionship they so desperately need.
This was the most different story of the bunch mostly because the tone wasn’t as light and the characters were dealing with deeper issues, but it wasn’t depressing at all. It was about two very different guys finding something they either thought was lost forever or didn’t know they could have. You should know that there’s a change in the narration from third person POV (when Jem narrates) to first person POV (when Oscar narrates). It caught me off guard and I had to do a double take, but I didn’t mind about it once I got used to it.
Next we have When in Amsterdam… by Josephine Myles. Brandon is in Amsterdam to spend a local holiday known as Sinterklaas with his boyfriend Jos. Seeking refuge from the rain they enter a sex shop and what they find there makes Brandon conquer his fears in order to give Jos something he wants, strengthening their relationship in the process.
This was the most erotic tale but it had a lot of heart. It was kinky but also very romantic. By the time the sex comes we already know the characters and how much they care for each other, and by the time the sex ends we have no doubt that they are in love. If you feel like stepping out of your comfort zone and reading something with some light elements of BDSM then When in Amsterdam… is the perfect story for you.
And last we have A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by J.L. Merrow. Liam lives with his crazy mom and crazier aunts, plays the sax at King’s Cross, wears leather pants, has a Mohawk and is in lust with an Anderson Cooper lookalike. Oh! And did I mention that his mom and aunts are witches? Well, not all of them, one is an Anglican priest… Every day he hopes the hot guy with the iron grey hair will notice him and maybe ask him out. Well, it’s Christmas so everything is possible.
This novella deserves a 5 just because of the dialogue alone, the inner dialogue was fantastic and the sexy banter between the leads was outstanding. The secondary characters were just as great and the whole thing was a joy to read. If you’re familiar with Ms. Merrow’s work you will see some of her usual elements here: unique characters that at first glance seem mismatched but that are perfect for each other, a lovely setting and an overall magical feel.
I can’t compare the stories because they are all very different and it wouldn’t be fair. I think there’s a bit for every taste, and so the best I can do is say that there's a lot of diversity and great quality in this book. If I had to do a mini review I would say something like this: Clare London’s Lucky Dip was fun, Chrissy Munder’s Butterscotch Kisses was sweet, Lou Harper’s Wintertide was touching, Josephine Myles’ When In Amsterdam… was daring, and J.L. Merrow’s A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou was charming. I liked every single one of these novellas and I want to read more by every single one of these authors.
I thoroughly recommend this book to fans of romance in general and of m/m in particular. You get five entertaining stories by five fantastic and talented authors.
Review originally posted at romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.com/