The erotica anthology Red Hot Holiday will be published by Carina on December 3, 2012. I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher.
The anthology consists of three short stories:
- “Wish List” by K.A. Mitchell
- “I Need You for Christmas” by Leah Braemel
- “Breath on Embers” by Anne Calhoun
One of the things I liked best about these novellas is that each one starts in the middle of a relationship and the main plot is about moving that relationship forward or the characters deciding if it will move forward. There are no awkward meet-and-greets or first touches. These people have been together a while and they are working some big things out. That aspect alone made these stories feel refreshingly different.
“Wish List” by K.A. Mitchell
Blindfolds. Handcuffs. Submission.
There’s so much Jonah Kendrick hasn’t tried, and so much he wants to explore. But just before Christmas he finds a ring box in his boyfriend’s desk. Jonah panics. He loves Evan and their sex is hot, but how can Jonah be ready for forever, when there are so many items on his Naughty Bucket List? Desires that might drive Evan away.
Evan’s noticed Jonah has been distant. His usually talkative and cheerful boyfriend is preoccupied. The seemingly straitlaced Evan stumbles across Jonah’s wish list of sexual kinks, and Evan realizes he may not have to hide his true nature from Jonah after all. The Dom in him wants to see Jonah on his knees, begging, submitting, but Evan isn’t sure Jonah’s ready to accept what being Evan’s sub would mean.
The two lovers must figure out how to share their hidden desires with each other before their secrets permanently damage their love.
While this was my least favorite of the bunch, I still really enjoyed it. I found myself bristling at the way Mitchell wrote Jonah’s character, mainly his aversion to commitment. I don’t envy romance authors in this scenario: you want to write about someone’s fears when it comes to committing all the while knowing your readers will expect a commitment of some sort in the end. How do you maintain the tension necessary there despite a rather inevitable outcome on the horizon?
In this case, I feel like Mitchell, in the space of a novella, wants to make clear that Jonah has fears and so to do that quickly and without question, Mitchell resorts to telling it to us instead of being able to show it.
Yet that didn’t distract to the point of ruining this. In fact, I was genuinely happy at the end of this story. Jonah and Evan make sense. And they’re HOT.
“I Need You for Christmas” by Leah Braemel
Ryan Porter is a sculptor, and beneath his callused hands, even the most rigid metals bend to his will. So, too, does his girlfriend Megan—a confident, strong woman who delights in submitting to Ryan’s dominance in the bedroom.
Megan is a Mountie, and she’s spent the past few years in the arctic following her career dreams. Family obligations kept Ryan at home, but their love survived the distance thanks to several hot visits. A Mountie always gets her man, and Megan is bound and determined to keep Ryan.
Now Megan’s with Ryan for the holidays…but how long will this visit last? She’s always been willing to do anything Ryan desires, but will he finally tell her that all he needs for Christmas is her?
This novella just had me smiling. I liked Megan the Mountie who moved to the arctic to pursue her career. I liked Ryan the artist who sacrificed a lot to take care of his family when they fell on hard times. There was a good gender reversal there.
Even though this was an erotica with some hard core sex scenes, when I think back on it, the overriding word that comes to mind is “sweet.” Megan and Ryan are sweet. *smiles and happy sighs*
“Breath on Embers” by Anne Calhoun
Christmas is the perfect time for Firefighter Ronan O’Rourke to take things to the next level with his sexually adventurous girlfriend. He knows she has feelings for him—and he’s sure of his feelings for her—but when Thea refuses his invitation to sample Christmas in New York City because what they share is nothing more than sheet-burning sex, Ronan sets out to change her mind.
Deep down Thea Moretti knows she cares for Ronan, but she can’t move past her grief over her late husband. Loud music and sex with Ronan are the only things she’s got that her feel alive, so she takes as much of both as she can get. She knows Ronan wants more, but during the darkest time of the year finding her way won’t be easy.
Ronan gambles everything and challenges Thea: one night of passion with him and another man. Can he prove to her that what they share isn’t just great sex but an emotional connection strong enough to last forever?
This is the darkest of the three BY FAR. Thea is a woman haunted daily by her past. She fights her feelings with Ronan so hard that it is off putting at first. But as Calhoun reveals pieces of Thea’s background and her reasons for trying to maintain distance, I felt like I got Thea. I still wanted her to get over it and commit to Ronan (who = swoon) but the characterization of her that pushed me away was just a very good narrative tool to show me, as the reader, what it would have felt like, as Ronan, to try to connect to this woman.
I like Calhoun a lot. I cannot recommend her full-length novel, Liberating Lacey, enough. She does a wonderful job weaving hard core erotica in with with human stories. It is compelling and hot and I would literally read anything she writes. “Breath on Embers” is just good story telling that happens to be built around sizzling sex scenes, including a menage scene. Sounds perfect, right?
Individually, I give “Wish List” 3.5 stars, “I Need You for Christmas” 4 stars, and “Breath on Embers,” 4.5 stars. As a collection of erotic novellas, they work incredibly well together. I give Red Hot Holiday 4 out of 5 stars.
Purchase it: Amazon