The 2010 Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar Naughty or Nice was released on December 1. December was chock full of short stories full of holiday cheer and romance. This year’s collection had so many great stories that it was no hardship to keep up with the stories as they came in to my inbox each day.
Here are my top five favorites from Naughty or Nice (and it was difficult to pick just five favorites):
#1 - A Trouble Halved by Andy Eisenberg. A tremendous story that covered coming out and finding first love. Allen is a high school senior about to head off for the holidays for the usual visit to the grandparents. Just as he’s leaving he ends up chatting with Greg, a friend he’d grown apart from. Allen comes out to Greg during some back and forth texting. Allen soon discovers that Greg has a crush on him just as he’s had one for Greg. There’s so much good stuff going on in this story including a great, but sad, story from Allen’s grandma, some excellent interactions between Allen and Greg as they get to know each other and some nice holiday cheer too. I hope Eisenberg revisits these characters, I’d love to know what the end of high school and the start of college is like for these two.
#2 - You Can’t Choose Your Family by Zahra Owens. Owens took a different path than most of these stories and focused on a couple that had been together for 20 years rather than looking at new love. Jay and Fran got together in college and built a successful life and business together. Jay’s boisterous family loves the couple while Fran’s are staunch conservatives with his father being a fire and brimstone pastor. After Fran’s father passes away, the two begin make new ties to Fran’s sister (who was already an advocate for the couple) and mother. This is a great story about a modern family and how people can change over time. Owens created great characters with Fran and Jay. You could easily see how these two had been together for so long.
#3 - Enchanted Grounds by Michelle Moore. Enchanted Grounds is in the running as my favorite story in this collection. The bulk of the story takes place in the Enchanted Grounds cafe where the treats, the coffee (or the hot chocolate) are delicious and Kristie knows exactly what everyone needs. Max wanders into the cafe on a stormy afternoon and falls in love with the place. It sparks his creativity, both his drawing and his writing flourish here, and he starts having vivid dreams about a hot man too. I couldn’t read this story fast enough to see how the magical events turned out. Everyone could use an Enchanted Grounds-type place in their life. Perhaps Moore can tell another story about this place sometime.
#4 - GI Joe Holiday by Amberly Smith. Declan is a Navy SEAL in training who is ordered to sit for Mason, an artist who is working on a statue for a military memorial. Declan is gay and not out to anyone. Mason is out and proud. Of course the two are very attracted to each other. Watching these two figure out their feelings was incredible and very well written. Watching Mason freak out because Declan isn’t out was sad and the reason for the freaking was a little heart rending. The ending is sweet, holiday perfection. I’d love to see another story with these two to know how they navigate their relationship with Declan still in the service.
#5 - Pop-Ups by Clare London. London can always be counted on for a good story and this is no exception. Jack is having computer trouble, or so it seems, as a bunch of pop-ups take over his screen. He actually clicks on one of them since he’s curious about the getaway he’s just “won.” He is, of course, skeptical. While he’s dealing with the pop-ups he thinks a lot about his neighbor, friend, IT help and frequent hookup, Henry. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to ruin the fun twists offered in this story. Good job, Clare!
See the reviews for the other 26 stories after the jump…
Continue Reading »