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Book Reviews: Shorts/Novellas – Christmas in July Edition

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 There are over two hundred thousand fence posts between Syracuse and Boston. Henry Auttenberg likes numbers—it’s his job—but he isn’t going to count them all, even if the view outside the rental car is less confounding than the driver, his attractive but oh so obnoxious colleague, Marcus Winnamore. It’s Christmas Eve, and Henry would much rather be home with his family. When the blizzard that grounded their flight forces them off the road, however, he’s stuck with Marc until the storm passes—or a plow digs them out.

As the temperature outside plummets, the atmosphere inside the car slowly heats up. Henry learns the true reason for Marc’s chilly distance—he’s not exactly straight… maybe… and he’s been fantasizing about Henry’s mouth, among other things. Confession laid out, Marc is all for sharing body heat… and more. Henry isn’t interested in being an experiment, but as the night and cold deepen, he could be convinced to balance certain risk against uncertain reward.

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Book – Counting Fence Posts

Author – Kelly Jensen

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 61

Cover – Very nice!

POV – 3rd person, 1 character POV

Would I read it again – Yes!

Genre – LGBT, Christmas in July, Holiday, Stranded, Contemporary, Romance

** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

Confession: When I first read Kelly Jensen, it was in “When Was the Last Time” and I said, in my review that, although this was a new-to-me author, “It’s a beautiful piece of art and craftsmanship, just like the story.”. Well, THANK YOU, Christmas in July! Kelly Jensen knocks it out the park once again. And, honestly, I could say the same thing about this story: it’s a work of art.

We start off already in the car, during a snow storm and I was relieved for this, because I like when we start off right in the guts of the story. Henry is unrequitedly crushing on co-worker and superior Marc, who is driving but as stubborn bull, so when things take a weathered turn for the worst, things get hot and bothered.

Through a lot of talking – which was great to see – the two begin to share secrets, as the hours drag on. Not only did I love that the situation was realistic – heavy, sudden snow fall that couldn’t be fought through, visual detail as well as temperature dropping and rushing to layer up on many clothes – but the chemistry felt real as well. Though we do get some hot scenes, there was no “let’s get naked” or impractical stuff here. It was freezing and the characters, and us readers, never forgot that. From breathing fogging, cold fingers, biting wind etc and snowfall, there were subtle, but regular reminders of the weather.

When it comes to Henry and Marc, as characters, I can only say that I’m in love. At first, Marc is grouchy, irascible and frustrating for both me and Henry. But then he slowly begins to melt as the snow piles up and we – me and Henry – get to see beyond the protective armour. *sigh* Henry himself is just loveable and lovely and sweet. He’s frustrated, scared and afraid of falling into *that* trap again. Ugh! The feels are ridiculous.

This is no insta-love story, either. This is two adult men being stranded in a situation where emotions are heightened, strength is more vulnerable than usual and they end up saying things that they were normally too scared to say. So when they talk and share a heart-to-heart, they both acknowledge that it’s a rotten situation, that it might be temporary, as it’s likely that whatever they share in this distressing moment may not last once they’re past it. What they share is shared on the knowledge that there may be hurt, but no recriminations, if things fall apart once they’re safe. Because they accept the limitations of the situation, but also talk with hope and encouragement, wishing for more after this situation is resolved.

As you can probably tell, I’m rambling. I do that when I’m utterly in love with something and can feel all the emotions, the uncertainty, the *happy sigh* moments that made me smile and crunch in on myself in excitement; that make my toes curl and breath hitch, my stomach tighten in anticipation. All that and more. In 61 pages. Genius!

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Favourite Quotes

“Marc had never met an obstacle he couldn’t defeat. Over, under, around, or through. He probably had that tattooed somewhere on his body.

Henry lost a moment imagining just where that ink might be and how it might flex across Marc’s pleasantly muscled frame.”

““You don’t think all this is improvisation, do you? I’m good, but I’m not that good.”

“It could just be a ‘trapped in a snowstorm’ thing. Holy shit, I don’t want to die without checking that particular box.”

“I don’t think many people have ‘see if I’m gay’ on their bucket list.””

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Elementary music teacher Elijah Phelps is content with his life, but content doesn’t always measure up when the only thing keeping him warm at night is a wine buzz and a vivid imagination. A Secret Santa gift from a mystery admirer spices up his routine, and Eli is in over his head when it seems the two prospects—the sexy Coach Ryan Jeffers and the very tasty Principal Daniel Collins—have taken more than a casual interest in the easily flustered music teacher. Between Christmas concert mayhem, a broken-down beater, and a case of mistaken gaydentity, this holiday season will be one to remember. A new year brings the possibility of new love, but will Eli choose the jock or his brilliant and completely off-limits boss?

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Pages – 54

Wow. This was a firecracker of a story.

Not only were all the main characters fantastic (Eli and his two possible Secret Santa’s) but the drama that ensued was both hilarious and realistic. There was great chemistry between Eli and both Secret Santa options, but I’ll admit I was totally rooting for the Principal the whole time.

There was hilarity, drama, anticipation, chemistry and so much more. It was a good giggle, a sweet story and had the added bonus of some lip biting, sexy stuff added in for good measure.

Everything you could want in a Christmas in July story.

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 Noel Nicholas is on a sabbatical from the North Pole realm. Back home he’s known as the Son of Santa, but in the human world, he’s a university student and he likes living in anonymity. Only Ruby, his cupid friend from the Eros realm, knows his true identity. That is, until Fannar, the gorgeous ice-sprite from the Pole, shows up unexpectedly. This causes Noel’s suppressed and unrequited crush on Fannar to return full force. However, there are more pressing matters at hand—Noel’s father has taken an extended vacation but cannot be found, and there’s only a month until Christmas.

As Noel is finishing his semester at school and he hasn’t seen his father in months, Mrs. Claus has tasked Fannar with finding Santa. Fannar keeps in touch with Noel but comes around far more often than necessary. It’s not helping Noel’s ability to hide his feelings… but as it turns out, they may not be as one-sided as Noel originally believed.

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Pages – 53

I really liked this one. With a Grinch of a Son of Santa, for reasons that total make sense, and a cheeky and flirty Ice Sprite, there was a lot to like about this one.

Although I will admit that I was mad when shortbread was called a Christmas food (being Scottish, it’s not even that closely related to Christmas, it’s more of a New Year thing, or all round food) it was a small thing and one that I chose to overlook.

For a short story in the Christmas in July theme, it had all the things I could want from it – Christmas spirit, a cheeky elf (or rather, Sprite in this case) and a grumpy, un-Christmas-y person, who finally saw the light, in the Son of Santa, Noel. I liked how their history together was explored and how Noel slowly began to see the good in Christmas again, after being oversaturated with the holiday cheer his whole life.

I thought the last three postcards at the end were a very nice touch.

Overall, a great little story and one that I’ll come back to.

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