Review: Santa Daddy by Kiera Andrews

Title: Santa Daddy

Author: Keira Andrews

Publisher: KA Books

Genre: m/m contemporary

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: November 19, 2020

After graduating from college, Hunter has found himself unsure of what is the right direction for him. He knows he should get a job in an office, but can’t find anything that fits him. On top of that, he’s romantically and sexually inexperienced and can’t get out of his own way. Staying with his mother, Hunter agrees to help out an old friend and play a Christmas elf one last time.

And, there he meets the sexiest Santa imaginable.

Nick is everything Hunter could want: tall, muscular, and devastatingly handsome. Unfortunately, he’s grumpy, withdrawn, and takes an immediate dislike to Hunter. However, he grudgingly agrees to let Hunter work at Nick’s Christmas tree farm to earn a little extra cash for the holidays.

When a blizzard hits and strands Hunter at the farm, sparks fly. Hunter manages to worm his way into Nick’s heart, which is still grieving for his partner who died years before. Can he take a change on this new connection? Or will Nick, like Hunter, get in his own way.

I thought this was a fun, light, and fluffy Christmas read. Hunter was adorable and very relatable. He overthinks everything and doubts everything about himself. At the same time he desperately wants to do the right thing. The chemistry between him and Nick was hot and sweet at the same time.

Nick was also a great character. His partner had died years before and Nick closed himself off to the world. But his heart is also soft and he can’t say no to helping out kids. He finds he also can’t say no to the adorable Hunter, and soon finds himself slipping into a role his thougt he’d never play again.

There wasn’t much of a conflict in the novel, which was nice for a Christmas read. There’s an age gap that’s addressed by other characters, but it’s also recognized that Hunter, while young, is also an adult capable to making his own decisions. If you don’t like age gaps, that might not work, but I do, so it worked well for me.

Overall, I felt this was a fun and easy read. It was a little like eating cotton candy: fun and sweet, but not much substance. But, for a Christmas romance, I think that’s perfect.

Review: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Title: Whose Body?

Author: Dorothy L. Sayers

Genre: mystery, detective story

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: 1923

When a dead body turns up mysteriously in a bathtub wearing a pair of pince-nez, Lord Peter Wimsey jumps at the chance to investigate. The police soon think they have identified the body, but Wimsey is unconvinced. He thinks the missing person the police have identified the body as is still missing. Excited by his first murder case, Wimsey dives headfirst into intrigue, deceit, and grudges long held.

When I bought this book, I really had no idea what to expect. I’d heard of Lord Peter Wimsey, but have never seen nor read anything of him. I went into this book blind.

Luckily, I was very pleasantly surprised. I love Wimsey. He’s easy-going, light-hearted, funny, sarcastic, and good humored. He pokes fun at others and himself. He’s a gentleman without a profession, so he’s turned his sharp mind to detecting. He also is a veteran of World War I, something that could not fail to leave its scars.

The mystery was well constructed. A body is found in a shared bath of a building. Another man fitting the description has disappeared. It seems like an easy match and the police are happy to rest there, but Wimsey is observant and soon discovers the man in the bath cannot be the missing gentleman. He works very well with a police detective, Charles Parker, and his valet, Bunter, and they soon untangle the mess.

I will say that I was uncomfortable by some period-typical anti-Semeticsm. The missing person is Jewish, and while everyone is complimentary, it’s in a sort of back-handed way that makes it clear that “for a Jew, he’s actually not bad.” That made me very uneasy because I was unable to decide if it was the characters or the author talking. My only solace was that Wimsey himself did not join in.

I also really loved the lighthearted digs at other detective novels the characters too. They weren’t mean-spirited, but all in good fun. The characters would mention how thing would go if this were a detective novel and how much easier it would be. It was a lot of fun. There was also a brilliant scene in which Wimsey and Parker question a witness. They start by saying how witnesses rarely have as good a memory as in detective stories, and then ask a series of questions that guide the witness deeper into his memory until he surprises himself at how much he knew. It was brilliant.

Yes. Whose Body? is a sharp, funny, and well constructed detective mystery. Wimsey is a delight, and I look forward to reading more of him.

Review: The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

Title: The Hockey Player’s Heart

Author: Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

Publisher: Big Gay Media

Genre: contemporary m/m romance, hockey romance

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: January 15, 2020

Caleb Carter is a hot shot hockey player out with a foot injury. He’s returned to his hometown for some rest. He never expects to run into an old crush, Aaron Price. Seeing him brings up a lot of old feelings, and he decides to go for it. But Aaron’s had some bad experiences and isn’t ready to jump into a relationship with a celebrity. The chemistry between them, though, is hard to deny and both become optimistic about their chances.

This was a very sweet story. Both characters were wonderfully well done and very believable. For all his fame and fortune, Caleb was very down to earth. He’s affable and outgoing, connects with those around him, and politely deflects attention that is unwanted. I also like how good he is with kids, both in Aaron’s third grade class and the local hockey team. There’s also a very sweet scene near the end of the book between him and a teenage fan that almost brought tears to my eyes.

If I had any complaint about the story is that it was almost too easy for Caleb and Aaron to get together. There were barriers, yes, but they all were easily overcome and there was no real drama. I would have liked to explore the depths more, especially Aaron’s troubled past.

However, this book had wonderful relationships between characters. I loved the main relationship, but also the relationship between both men and Caleb’s sister, Pam. I thought it really brought the characters alive.

Yes. If you want to read a lighthearted romance that will make you smile, this is a great book to pick up.

Review: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

When the Banks need a nanny for their children, Jane, Michael, John, and Barbara, they never expect the magical woman who arrives. While Mr. and Mrs. Banks never notice the odd things she does, Jane and Michael are fascinated by her tricks, from sliding up the banister to her magical carpet bag. Together, they have many adventures and experiences.

So, I did not like this book. I know that I was influenced by the movies, but I found Mary Poppins to be completely unlikable. She was perpetually in a bad mood, sniping at the children, snapping at strangers, and acting offended when anyone brought up the extraordinarily things going on around them. The kids weren’t much better. There was a whole chapter devoted to Michael being in a bad mood and acting out.

The magical scenes didn’t feel very magical to me. I think that’s mainly because Mary kept poking holes in them and acting like it wasn’t magical. I think the only time she seemed to enjoy the magic was when she and Bert had a tea party in one of his chalk paintings.

My favorite chapter revolved around John and Barbara, who were babies. It was revealed that babies under the age of one can speak the language of the world. They could hear the wind talking, converse with a bird, etc. They were distressed to discover they might lose that ability, and it was very sad when they did.

But, other than that one chapter, the book felt very flat and dull to me. I’d checked out an anthology of Mary Poppins stories, but I didn’t want to read any more after that first.

Not really. There are better classic children’s books that inspire a sense of wonder. Mary Poppins falls short.

Review: Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray

Title: Briarley

Author: Aster Glenn Gray

Genre: M/M Historical romance, fairy-tale retelling

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: May 5, 2018

During World War II, a parson takes shelter in a country house during a rainstorm. Unnerved by the empty rooms and lavish supper laid out for him, he soon flees, but not before plucking a rose from the garden for his daughter. This, of course, brings out the master of the house, a hideous dragon-man breathing fire and raging at the theft. The beast demands the parson send his daughter to the house as his punishment…

And the parson refuses. He stays instead, and our Beauty and the Beast tale takes a delightful new turn.

This was such a lovely retelling. I love the parson, Edward, and his concern and care for not only his daughter, but the invisible staff at the country home. He’s told the way to break the curse, and becomes determined to help because it’s the right thing to do for the staff. I’m all about characters who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I love his suggestions as to alternative ways to find love, like getting the beast a puppy.

The romance was very sweet, too. I like that sexuality was explored in various ways and how the beast, who’d been cursed for a hundred years, had a more rigid concept of his sexuality than Edward did. It makes sense that a man from the 1800s would still view his sexuality as an abomination, while Edward had a looser view of his own.

Overall, this is such a sweet read and a lovely m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I’ve been looking for a long time.


Review: A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber

Title: A Stroke of Malice

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: historical mystery

Source: Purchase (Amazon)

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

On holiday for a Twelfth Night Party in her friends, the Duchess of Bowmont’s home, Kiera Gage quickly finds what she’d hoped to be a pleasant escape to be another day on the job. A decomposing body is found in the castle’s crypt and is tentatively identified as the duchess’s son-in-law, purported to have gone to Paris a few weeks prior. Kiera and Gage called upon to investigate and find not only the identify of the body, but the killer as well. They dive into the investigation, but Kiera soon finds that the killer will go very far to hide his identity and stop the truth from being discovered.

I really love this series, and the latest entry didn’t disappoint. It starts out light-hearted with wonderful historical details and costumes. I’d never heard of a Twelfth Night party before, and it was described so vividly, I could imagine myself there. I wish I had been, except for the part where the dead body was discovered.

Once again, my favorite part of this series is the love and devotion Kiera gets from her husband, Gage. Where he could demand she stop investigating, especially since she’s pregnant, he’s nothing but supportive of her. He understands that she needs to use the skills she unwillingly was taught to do some good in the world. Their relationship is loving and romantic, and I would read a thousand books for it.

The mystery was really well done, too. I love books that expose the seedy underbelly of the age when it came to the upper class. Most books of the time make it seem like everyone was perfect and faithful and no one every strayed, but Huber delves into the affairs the upper class had and shows how it was an open secret of the time. I loved the duchess and her family. They were definitely a colorful sort and not one that you come across in books a lot.

Overall, this was an excellently written book and a fantastic read. It was just the kind of thing I needed to escape the world around me.

If you haven’t read any of the Lady Darby books by Anna Lee Huber, I highly encourage you to start today. They are excellent historical mysteries with just the right touch of romance. You won’t be disappointed.

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Broadway Books

Genre: thriller, mystery, suspense

Source: mom

Publication Date: April 22, 2014

On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing in an apparent kidnapping. Nick reports the disappearance, but a series of clues combined with his odd behavior quickly point the police in his direction. Not only that, but Amy’s diary entries reveal a marriage gone wrong and her fear that her husband might kill her. Nick is determined to prove his innocence by conducting his own investigation, an investigation that goes shockingly off the rails as a horrifying discovery.

Wow. No, really, wow. I have never read a book where I so completely and utterly loathed both main characters before and yet still enjoyed the book. Maybe enjoyed is too strong a word. The book held me in its grasp and kept me turning the pages.

I have to admit, I went in knowing a good deal about the book. Between its popularity and the movie, I knew the twist and most of the climax. That actually made the first half of the book more interesting than it would have been, I think, because I completely despised the Amy that was presented in her diary entries. She was so fucking fake and I hated her. I actually liked what happened with her character in the second half of the book because she was real. I’m trying to be as circumspect as I can and not give any spoilers, which is hard, but there it is.

I never liked Nick at all. He was just a terrible person from start to finish. I did go back and forth from wanting to see him go down to getting his revenge to not wanting anyone to win. Which, I don’ t know if anyone did win. I wasn’t satisfied by the ending, though; I felt let down. But it fit the characters, so I can’t complain.

I guess I recommend it. This was really outside of my usual genre, and like I said, it was addictive. I can’t say I loved it, but I wanted to keep reading it to see what happened, and that’s the sign of a good book. So, yeah. If you like thrillers with terrible people, check this book out.