Jeff & Will love the holidays for all the seasonal stories and movies. They’ve been watching and reading a lot. In this episode they discuss Hulu’s Happiest Season and Hallmark Channel’s The Christmas House. They also review Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper, Holidays in Blue by Eve Morton, Gifts for the Season: Winter & Christmas M/M Charity Anthology, and Party Favors by Erin McLellan. Jeff also gives a shout out to American Ballet Theatre’s male/male pas de deux Touché, which recently premiered.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Happiest Season on Hulu
- The Christmas House on Hallmark Channel
- Jonathan Bennett’s Engagement Video and Story on People.com
- Christmas by Starlight on Hallmark Channel
- Touché on American Ballet Theatre YouTube Channel (video set to begin at start of Touché segment)
- Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper on Amazon
- Holidays in Blue by Eve Morton on Amazon
- Gifts for the Season: Winter & Christmas M/M Charity Anthology on Amazon
- Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert on Amazon
- The Trevor Project website
- Party Favors by Erin McLellan on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm Audiobook Gift Memberships on Libro.fm (available through December 31, 2020)
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper. Reviewed by Will.
Dave isn’t a grinch per se, but he’s not feeling the magic of the season as he, and his best friend/brother-in-law Jake, fight through holiday shoppers to find ideal Hanukkah gifts. Dave longs for simpler times when it was more about time spent with family and not the materialistic pursuit of the ‘perfect present’.
At Jake’s bar, Dave attempts to chat up bartender Amit, who Dave has had his eye on for quite a while. Dave enjoys attempting conversation with Mr. tall, dark and broody, and any time he gets more than a one-word answer, he sees that as a definite win.
But when Dave finds Amit in the back room, doubled over and unable to catch his breath, it’s clear something is wrong. Jake tells him to get some rest and Dave joins Amit on his walk home.
They make a stop at the nearby art studio where Dave teaches painting, and they talk as they paint dreidels (handmade right there in the shop).
Amit is a man of few words but it’s during this impromptu date that he tells Dave his secret, he’s a golem, a being made from clay and brought to life with magic to do the bidding of others. It turns out that Amit isn’t sick, it’s his magic that is fading. But the meaningful touch of someone special (someone like Dave) helps to recharge him. And it also turns out that the glaze they’re using to paint with, when applied to Amit’s fading tattoo with Dave’s brushwork, also reinvigorates him.
Their first real date is an evening of Chinese take-out and a game of D&D with Dave’s online friends, capped off with a perfect goodnight kiss.
Things continue to go well, even as the holidays increase Dave’s stress levels. They spend the first night of Hanukkah at Dave’s parent’s hose, where he officially introduces Amit as his boyfriend. They’re welcomed with open arms, then eat, play games, and open gifts.
The eighth, and final, night coincides with New Year’s Eve. After watching the ball drop on tv, Dave and Amit sit on the porch together, dreaming of their future. They don’t have all the answers when comes to relationships between a human and a supernatural entity, but they’re in love, and whatever problems they encounter, they will happily face them together.
I love sweet holiday stories, like, I literally can’t get enough of them. Gay romances that center around the Jewish holidays are pretty rare, so when I encounter one (especially one this good) I like to shout it from the rooftops, letting everyone know that this story is definitely worth your time.
Holidays in Blue by Eve Morton. Reviewed by Jeff.
One of my seasonal reads is the debut author from Eve Morton called Holidays in Blue. It’s a delightful and thoughtful second chance romance about two guys who also need some second chances in their lives as well.
Cosmin is the host of a show that has been a mainstay of radio for years, but headed into the Christmas season he gets the news that he’s being cancelled because the listeners just aren’t there any more. In a funk, he heads home to Toronto and to his childhood home which is basically as it was when his father passed away.
Then there’s Eric. He’s stumbling in his acting career and while he’s trying to get a new gig going as an audiobook narrator. In the meantime though, he wants to retreat to the safety of home for the holidays.
Now Cosmin and Eric briefly met up and a holiday party where Eric is on the catering staff. They grew up across the street from each other and Eric had a bit of a crush on the older Cosmin. Days later, the two are back across the street from each other. And since Eric’s parent’s are away until just before the holiday–the guys reconnect after an ice storm shuts down the city and makes it treacherous to even step outside. It’s the perfect opportunity to have some forced proximity and Eve gives our heros some wonderful things to bond over as they’re stuck inside–even though their stuck inside right in their own neighborhood.
I like the take on the forced proximity too since you’ve got two guys who do have some history, although that history is many years in the past. Eric talks about the crush he had on Cosmin. Cosmin talks about his failed relationships and job issues and Eric does the same. The two also make food together, manage to share a bit for warmth in a power failure which leads to some cute and sexy making out. Cosmin also opens up about his family, which sparks some ideas for the finale of his radio show too.
Eve takes us deep into both of these guys and what makes them tick. I loved getting all the looks at their pasts and presents and it all spun together to draw these two closer and point the way to their next career act too. The age gap was delightful as well, especially the way Eric remembered Cosmin and how he’d made the younger man feel when they were teenagers.
I adored how Eve weaved the story of Cosmin and Eric around the holiday season which just added to the magic of the two men coming together for their happy. The angst of some of the goings on is offset by the sweetness that permeates the story and the strength of the outcomes. The story that Cosmin uncovers to use for his radio show is so wonderful
Eve Morton’s first is such a good read, full of rich characters. I can’t wait to read future books and meet more of the people and scenarios that she’ll bring to the page.
Gifts for the Season: Winter & Christmas M/M Charity Anthology. Reviewed by Will.
Another book that I recently enjoyed as Gifts for the Season: Winter & Christmas M/M Charity Anthology. That is jam packed with some wonderful stories by some really amazing authors. I wanted to highlight a few of them.
Single Dad Christmas by RJ Scott
Austin is the successful single dad of the title, and two years ago he hired a handsome and capable manny named Paul. Time is now up, and young Paul is ready to travel the world. Can Austin finally ask Paul to be a permanent part of his rambunctious family? Maybe an eggnog fueled kiss will work, or a trip with the triplets to visit Santa will finally give these two the courage to confess their feelings and grant each other their one true Christmas wish.
Must Be Santa by Annabeth Albert
Features Teddy and Nick from Albert’s full-length Christmas novel Better Not Pout, which I reviewed (and heartily endorsed) in the last podcast episode of 2018 (episode number 169 to be exact). If you like audio I also recommend that you check the excellent narration of that book by Sean Crisden. Must Be Santa finds our heroes living out their happily ever after and expanding their family with two foster kids. I don’t need to tell you that parenting during the holidays has its ups and downs, but by the time Christmas and New Year’s Eve rolls around, they’re one big happy family.
Five Gold Blings by Clare London
Is about flashy and fabulous Alec who’s trying to make a go of it as a fashion influencer. One day he gets caught with his pants down (literally) by hunky delivery guy, Grey. They flirt as the packages keep arriving, and Alec even wrangles Gray into participating in live fashion shows for his online followers. Gray eventually encourages Alec to ditch the cut-rate clothes of his sponsor and show off his own creations, all while falling in love in the process. This story perfectly combines ridiculous comedic situations with sweet/sexy romance, which as far as I’m
concerned, are the cornorstones of any Clare London story.
Twelve Days of UPS by Eli Easton
Is another story featuring a deliveryman hero, this time it’s Dan who brings a steady supply of packages to Paul, a writer who has a secret admirer that’s sending daily gifts inspired by the Twelve Days of Christmas. Paul enjoys his daily interactions with big, hunky Dan, and finally gets the courage to ask him on a date… on his back patio, sharing some wine and fancy cheese (the gift corresponding with the eight maids a-milking). Eventually they figure out who has been sending the gifts and have fallen for each other in the process.
It should be said that I never, in a million years, wanted to read a ‘love in the time of covid’ story, but Eli Easton has managed to pull off something that is so sweet and charming, she’s made me a believer that romance can in fact happen in a year as fucked up as 2020. Dan and Paul wear masks and practice responsible social distancing throughout the story. Paul’s growing attraction to Dan, despite the fact that he doesn’t know what is underneath Dan’s face mask, is an important part of what makes these characters so genuine and real and kind. When they finally do kiss, after they firmly establish that there’s no threat of possible transmission, it’s sweet and satisfying.
Again, these are just a few of the stories in this amazing anthology, which also happens to feature A.E. Via, Lane Hayes, Joanna Chambers, Posy Roberts, Suki Fleet, Felice Stevens, VL Locey, Annabelle Jacobs, Amber Kell and Alex Jane. It’s really amazing.
It’s also worth noting that all proceeds from the sale of this charity anthology go to The Trevor Project
Party Favors by Erin McLellan. Reviewed by Jeff.
Earlier this year I had a Valentine’s interlude with Erin McCllean’s Candy Hearts, part of her “So Over the Holidays” series. Erin’s back with a story for this season, one that takes place over New Year’s. In Party Favors, two women who’ve met online and struck up a fantastic friendship decide to ring in the new year together, which brings them a happily ever after neither could have predicted.
Amanda is tired of her life–tired of working for her family and doing what’s expected of her. When Wren, and impulsive free sprit, invites Amanda to a getaway weekend to start off the new year, Amanda says yes. She’s excited to meet Wren in real life and to not go to our parent’s New Year’s Eve ball with a date her mom sets up.
Amanda and Wren aren’t sure what to expect of the other–and spending so many days together. It doesn’t start of well when Amanda falls into the pool upon being greeted by Wren. It’s truly a delightful beginning, and things amp up even more when the cabin Wren and Amanda have at the resort has only one bed. They decide to share, which gives the story the faintest hint of forced proximity alongside the online friends to lovers storyline.
I adored Amanda and Wren from the first page, which was actually text messages between them. They’re each itching for a change. Amanda is not into working for her parents glassware company while Wren wants to settle down a bit and reign in her “fun” lifestyle. Who knew a New Year’s even weekend could help these two find their way.
Now they bonded over a love of vintage clothes. Amanda loves them, gets them wherever she can and often incorporates them into her wardrobe, much to her parents dismay. She want to open a vintage clothing store. Wren is a lingerie designer who’s also into vintage–in fact they met when Wren tweeted that she was looking for a 1950s baby doll teddy pattern.
Erin does a terrific job having Amanda and Wren rub off on each other. Wren shows Amanda who to let loose, and be more comfortable not living her life to please her parents and helps her see that there can be more. Where as Amanda won’t let Wren totally lose that freespirit that she think makes her look flighty–it’s in fact a very important part of who she is. She also makes these two jump off the page with vivid descriptions and emotions. Their inner monologues are key to the story as they get lost in the excitement of the weekend, worry their making the wrong impressions or getting lost in the heat of passion.
And, oh yes, this book is full of sexy times with a some light kink, similar to the tone in Candy Hearts. Also as in the previous book, the sex is key to the plot because it emotionally bonds these women to each other that goes beyond the dates and talking do. Sometimes its as simple as streaking in the snow behind their cabin, sometimes it’s about taking chances with where they’re having sex and at all times it’s about creating a deeper trust.
Beyond the sexy, some of the heart to hearts these two had were just perfect as they got to know each other in the real world. Plus some of their escapades were just kooky–like crashing a conference that was at the same resort. It was one of many parts of the book I laughed out loud because of the sheer fun. I loved it all.
This was a perfect holiday novella offering tremendous characters–I would totally love to have Amanda and Wren as friends. And speaking of friends, we met Wren in Candy Hearts and Benji and William are here with her for New Year’s Weekend. I loved Benji and William so it was great to see them here, although you won’t have had to have read Candy Hearts to enjoy Party Favors.
So I absolutely recommend Party Favors by Erin McCllean and can’t wait to see what holiday she tackles next.