I know, I know. I’ve been negligent in my blogly duties as of late. And I had been so proud of myself for being able to consistently post every month, thanks to this challenge, up until now. With my track record of procrastination, distraction, and lack of follow-through, that’s an accomplishment. But now I’m back on track and (fingers crossed) will not be derailed or diverted again this year.
My apologies for missing out on August’s TBR Challenge: Kicking It Old School (publication date 10 years or older), which was due on or around August 16. I did read a book for that challenge. In fact, I read Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks (published May 28, 2002), as well as its two sequels: The Baker’s Apprentice (published March 14, 2006) and Baker’s Blues (published August 24, 2015). They were all three very intensely evocative reads and took me to an emotional place I was unable to translate into words. I will write those reviews, just not quite yet. The subject matter hit a little too close to home for me on several levels and triggered some memories and feelings that I needed time to process and work my way back from.
Now, this month’s TBR Challenge: Historical was a definite challenge for me. You see, I’m not overly fond of historical fiction. (Those who know me well would probably be boggled by the ironic dichotomy of this fact, but that is a discussion too complex for this review post. Suffice it to say that if a psychiatrist ever had the opportunity to analyze the inner workings of my mind, they would have their life’s work laid out before them.) But for me to willingly choose to read a book set in the past, there needs to be a compelling reason. Yes, there are definitely exceptions (usually involving paranormal or fantasy elements), as I’ve stated in a past post, but as a general rule I don’t seek these books out and the pickings within my TBR list were slim.
Thankfully, an author of my acquaintance whose taste and opinion on books I trust and admire recommended Victorian Holiday Hearts, a collection of holiday themed, Victorian era M/M romance novellas written by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon. Having previously read and enjoyed Summer Devon’s short story, The Gentleman and the Lamplighter, I decided to give these stories a whirl.
All four of these novellas were endearingly charming and I enjoyed them immensely. They are all very quick reads full of entertaining characters and all four stories are interconnected through the boisterous, eccentric, loving and lovable Andrews family, who serve as background characters in each brother’s story. As each season is different, one from another, so also is each brother’s story different from the other, which is exemplified through differing moods and tone. From the melancholy to the comic, from the lighthearted to the passionate, from the solemn to the hopeful, from the mysterious to the devoted, each of these romantic pairings cross social, class, and economic barriers to reach their HFN/HEA to satisfy any romantic reader’s hopeful heart.
Four seasons, four novellas about one theatrical family. A boxed set of love.
They were the source of entertainment in a world without movies or television. Magic, singing and dancing, acting — the adopted and biological sons of the Andrews family could do it all. And in the warmth of their eccentric and large family circle, they could be anyone they wanted or love whomever they wished. In a world where men loving men was a crime, the Andrews and their friends found refuge for true love.
Simon and the Christmas Spirit – The holiday spirit has forsaken Simon Harris. A recent reminder of the man who used then left him sends lonely Simon on a glum visit to his club to while away a few hours. A breath of fresh air in the form of Christopher Andrews is about to enter his stale life.
Performer of many talents and faces, Christopher gained entrée into the club to win money at cards. Unfortunately, he’s losing. But the evening needn’t be a complete disappointment as he strikes up a friendship with a gentleman which ends in a bedroom.
Simon and Christopher enjoy a few hours of pleasure together, never expecting to see each other again, but Simon’s newfound resolution to change might just transform both their holidays.
A short story, which includes a brief excerpt. Simon and Christopher’s future will appear in our next short: Will and the Valentine Saint.
Will and the Valentine Saint – Will Andrews wishes to escape the craziness of his bohemian family and create some order in his life. Hiding his eccentric theater background and presenting false letters of recommendation, he interviews for a position at a legal aid society. The last thing he expects is to fall hard for his genteel employer, Hugh St. John.
When Hugh needs a secretary, one magnetic candidate draws him. Will Andrews shares his vision for the Society and is also the most attractive man he’s ever met. But Hugh has never even kissed a man and would never throw himself at an employee.
As the pair plans a Valentine charity dinner, they grow ever closer to surrendering to Cupid’s arrow. But when Will’s false credentials and true background are revealed, can Hugh forgive his lies and omissions? Can fragile romance blossom into true love after trust is broken?
Mike and the Spring Awakening – Young Micah “Mike” Cordett’s privileged life explodes when he is caught naked with a schoolmate. Running away from disgrace, he blunders into a trap in a seamy part of London and endures months of abuse before escaping. But with the help of the Andrews family, he’s begun to climb out of his fear. Yet, when a reminder of his happier past erupts into his life in the form of Lucas Spring, Mike’s not certain he’s ready to face the remnants of the charmed life he’d once enjoyed. He’s certainly not ready for love.
Lucas Spring pined for Mike from afar when they were in school. This shadow of the confident boy he once knew shocks him, and Lucas vows to do anything he can to help restore the person he’d so admired. With patience and determination, he hopes to ease Mike’s fears and perhaps even win his love.
But when a violent figure from Mike’s past looms into his present, will the tender shoots of a new beginning be crushed?
WARNING: Contains themes of sexual abuse that may trigger some readers.
Delaney and the Autumn Masque – Delaney, former pickpocket and now a member of the Andrews theater clan, performs magic tricks as Billbo the Magnificent. Hired to entertain at a fancy dress ball, the magician is struck by the lurking, dramatic figure of the Grim Reaper. He follows Death to a quiet room for a glorious, lustful encounter.
With his identity hidden, impoverished gentleman Bartholomew Bancroft dares to indulge in an out-of-character moment to quench his forbidden yearning for another man’s touch. But in the light of day, he can’t dismiss his memories of the mysterious magician or a craving to see him again.
Bartholomew enlists the dexterous conjurer to teach him to pick pockets. His plan: to retrieve his hand-crafted jewelry taken by a vengeful ex-lover. During the lessons, Bartholomew and Delaney yield to desire, certain their affair will last only until they retrieve Bartholomew’s stolen work.
At another costume ball, the gentleman and the magician work together to foil the thief, but when all masks are abandoned at last, can lasting love remain?