My True Love Gave to Me by Ava March
Alexander and Thomas are in love. Both 19 years old, while Alexander has fooled around with a few other boys his age, neither have ever been in a serious relationship. Alexander is actually the first boy Thomas has ever kissed. The feelings are all very new and intense for both of them. Being young and in love isn't as carefree as you think, especially in the early 19th century. Thomas is scared of others finding out and still doesn't feel confident about his feelings toward men. Alexander is a little surer of himself and pushes Thomas for a physical relationship.
One of my favorite things about Ava March stories is the way she writes such great chemistry and emotional intensity between her heroes. And she tricked me with this story. I thought it was going to be a straight-forward love story with these men exploring their new feelings for each other. Instead, she skips ahead four years and really throws an emotional wrench into their relationship. It becomes a bit darker, and both heroes really have to work at the HEA. Well done.
Winter Knights by Harper Fox
Here's the blurb:
Historian Gavin Lowden is in Northumberland on Christmas Eve for two reasons: to find evidence of a romantic bond between Arthur and Lancelot and to finally tell his partner, Piers, that he loves him. Piers has promised to come clean with his conservative family and join Gavin for their first holiday as a couple, but at the last minute, he bails. Devastated, Gavin heads out onto the moors alone, just as snow begins to fall ...
Gavin stumbles into an underground chamber, where strange happenings cause him to question what is real and what is fantasy. He's found by two mysterious men, who offer him a bed for the night -- and awaken him to nuances of erotic pleasure he didn't know existed. Pleasure he hopes to be able to share with Piers.
When Piers learns that Gavin has gone missing, he is desperate to find him. He knows now breaking up was a terrible mistake, and he's ready to take the next step in their relationship -- if it's not already too late.
Honestly, I read this blurb and wasn't looking forward to this story. I've read a couple of previous Harper Fox books, though, and really enjoy her voice so I read this one with a little bit of trepidation. I do think the beginning is slow, but after we start to get into the story, I think this turned out to be my favorite one in the collection.
Harper Fox twists the story of King Arthur and Lancelot in a pretty unique way -- to the point where you aren't quite sure if this story really happened or not. And the emotions you go through with Gavin -- from despair to acceptance to joy at being reunited with Piers -- are so well done. I couldn't help but smile at some of the parts of this story. I'm really loving this author and can't wait for more from her.
Lone Star by Josh Lanyon
Josh Lanyon gives us a warm, quiet Texas Ranger and a high-strung, very accomplished ballet dancer and that makes for a somewhat different romance. Mitchell lives and breathes ballet, having worked very hard to make it in the American Ballet Theater. After his father's death and walking in on his lover on the receiving end of being pleasured by a woman, he decides to make a quick trip to his hometown in Texas to settle his father's estate. Twelve years prior, he had been in love with Web, but it was too hard for Web to come out of the closet. Both young and ambitious, Mitchell fled to New York to pursue dance and never looked back while, Web became a Texas Ranger.
But now they are reunited and those feelings come back to the forefront. Even though Mitchell is somewhat hotheaded and has a bit of a temper, this turns out to be a very low-key, quiet romance. It's not necessarily a question of do they love each other, but how they are going to make their romance work living in two different parts of the country. And what I liked is that we get an HEA, but their entire future isn't laid out for us. They have such big decisions to make and, fortunately, Josh Lanyon doesn't force them to make their decisions in such a short story. I really enjoyed that Mitchell was a ballet dancer -- you don't run across that in a lot of romance books. Web has a warm, extended family that gave this book a small-town feel.
The Christmas Proposition by K.A. Mitchell
This one is by far the sexiest and dirtiest story of the group, and I really enjoyed it. After his parents died, Mel helps his siblings run a big tree farm in Pennsylvania. He has two jobs and a sister who struggles with prescription-drug abuse, so he has a lot on his plate. In the past few years, natural gas has been discovered underground in his small town, which has brought in tons of gas drillers. It's become a big business, and Mel sees lots of workers go through his town. One in particular, Bryce, has made more than just an impression. Bryce is not only a gas worker, he actually owns the gas company. Bryce and Mel became very involved about three years ago. But Bryce traveled a lot for his job, and Mel wasn't ready to leave his family obligations. But now Bryce is back.
These two can't keep their pants on when they are around each other. Whereas in the other three stories, there was always the pressure of one of the heroes coming out and coming to terms with being gay, in this story, these two are out and have no issues being together. And it is hot. I think this is the first I've read by K.A. Mitchell, and I definitely need to read more from her.