Winter Hearts: A Collection Of Festive Lesbian Short Stories is a huge anthology about the winter season and its various holidays. It is full of fluffy, good-feeling, contemporary romance fics by various well known authors. All profits from this holiday box set will be donated to The Trevor Project and to Stonewall.
With so many stories to choose from the characters really ran the gamut of humanity. There were characters I absolutely loved, and of course some I didn’t care for much. Not only did we get a variety of themes across the 13 stories but we also saw a lot of common contemporary romance tropes brought to life. For the most part though, in each tale, the characters were bright and engaging, and left you rooting for them every step of the way.
The Writing Style
Hmm, this one is trick. With so many authors, there were also a lot of writing styles. You’ll see first person, third person, and even a few stories with the point of view switching to that of a chicken, or even a beloved little dog. Some tales I thought the romance happened a little fast, but most of them I found to be just right.
The Cause. I absolutely loved that the authors came together to create a holiday offering where all the proceeds could be donated to LGBTQ+ oriented charities. It’s a beautiful thing.
Here is where I’m going to gush and point out how much I loved the 6th story in the anthology. Christmas in Angel Valley by Cara Malone was so sweet and gorgeous and had the perfect ration of romance, hope, and happy ending that every holiday tale should encompass to leave us feeling jolly and light. My favorite of the novel and a total shining star!
Another pro is the sheer size of the anthology. You aren’t just getting a 200 page or less mashup of some short stories. This novel is nearly 900 pages long and really there is something to be found for everyone inside. Even if you don’t like one or two, others will make up for the loss.
And for the established fans of some of the contributing authors, you’ll be chuffed (did I use that right, my dear Brits?) to know that a few of the authors took the opportunity to give the reader a little glimpse into the lives of some of their established characters. But even if I haven’t read the original works that featured those characters, the stories were all complete and whole on their own.
Two things stood out as cons for the anthology. The first was that nearly every story had one or two typos. It wasn’t enough for me to bang the story down, but enough to notice. At least one tale had more, and that could have contributed to my impression of that particular story.
The other thing was the sheer volume. Yes, I’m aware I put this into the pros as well. However, I foolishly didn’t check the page count when I started this and had no idea that I’d be locked into this novel for close to a week. Some people don’t like reads that long so this is the warning.
First, I’m not an anthology kind of person, just never have been. But there are certain things about this novel that definitely made it worth it for me. I personally felt that at least half of the 13 stories were a good to great read. Now, given the amount of pages in the anthology, and the fact that half the stories were a ‘yes’ in the enjoyment column, plus the indisputable low price, those are ALL reasons to snatch up this book. Simple math meant the ratio of good book to page count and price was just right.
Second, I absolutely ADORED Christmas in Angel Valley by Cara Malone. That alone is worth the price of admission for this little Christmas fiction circus. What a hidden gem!
Third and final reason for reading this book…the cause. I LOVE that they’ve done this and even if I had never read any contributing authors, or *gasp* hated every single one (that’s just ridiculous, I don’t hate any of them!) I would buy this book just for the cause alone.
Excerpt from Winter Hearts: A Collection Of Festive Lesbian Short Stories
This excerpt is from Christmas in Angel Valley by Cara Malone
“So,” Olivia said, her gaze fixed on Serenity, “I missed the ten-year reunion. Catch me up –what have you been up to since high school?”
Serenity smiled. This was a topic she could talk about at length, to the attractive and intimidating Olivia Winters or anyone else.
“I stayed close to home,” she said. “Got a degree in culinary arts from Granville State and then opened a bakery in town about five years ago. We do a lot of wedding cakes in the summer and Christmas is our other busy time –well, I should say my busy time. I had an assistant, but she just took a job at the new grocery store.”
No, no, no, Serenity thought as she heard herself veering away from ‘successful business owner’ into ‘struggling solopreneur’ territory. Why had she said that?
“Umm, what about you?” she asked quickly, shifting the conversation to Olivia.
“I’ve been all over,” she said. “I went to New York City for college and grad school. I thought I’d want to stay there long-term, but I was done with big city living by the time my six years was up. I guess that old saying about taking the girl out of the country is true, because I ended up in Westbrook, which is a couple of hours from here and not a whole lot bigger than Angel Valley. I guess I prefer to commute into the city than live in it.”
“What do you do?” Serenity asked.
“I worked for the county prosecutor as a junior attorney,” Olivia said. She turned her head, her long ponytail swishing over one shoulder, and Serenity caught a subtle wave of citrus in the air. Then Olivia added, “The goal was to work my way up to judge.”
“Past tense?” Serenity asked, wondering if it was an impolite question as soon as she’d asked it. “Yeah,” Olivia said. “I’m taking a little break –doctor’s orders.”
She laughed, but this time her lips stayed tightly pressed together. Serenity averted her gaze, feeling bad for making Olivia uncomfortable, and took another sip of her martini. Dad did make them strong.
“So, are you married?” Olivia asked, taking Serenity by surprise. “Got a thousand rug rats running around by now?”
“Far from it,” Serenity said. “Now that I’m on my own at the bakery, I barely have time to eat, let alone date. And even before that, I can’t say that I was the greatest at juggling work and romance.”
The alcohol must have been working because she found the boldness to let her eyes trace Olivia’s figure –covertly –from her tight slacks up to the neatly pressed button-up shirt that hugged the curves of her waist and small breasts, and then up to her full lips. The lower one had a slight dimple right in the center that Serenity remembered well. She’d spent hours –days, even –staring at it all through elementary school and middle school, wondering just what was so fascinating about it.
It wasn’t until high school that she figured out the reason she’d had such trouble tearing her eyes off Olivia, and by then Olivia was locked into a cliché, obviously superficial romance with the most popular boy in school.
“I had a girlfriend a few years ago and things were getting serious,” Serenity blurted, horrified at her own lack of a verbal filter. “But the bakery was only a couple years old and I was putting in a lot of hours to establish myself in the community. She wanted a life outside the bakery and I couldn’t give it to her, so we broke up.”
“I’m sorry,” Olivia said. Serenity looked at her, ready to melt into her mother’s shag carpet from embarrassment, but then she said, “My last girlfriend had similar opinions. Well, I think her exact words were, ‘Do I have to get booked into the county jail for you to notice me?’ but the sentiment was the same. I guess you could call me a workaholic.”
She laughed, then emptied her tumbler, and Serenity had to struggle to keep her jaw from falling open. Had she heard that right?
She looked toward the door and saw Ashley coming into the house, her son on one hip and her husband following behind her. Serenity waved her over. There were very few things in the world she wanted more than to pry further into Olivia’s personal life, but nothing productive would come of it so she was grateful for Ashley’s arrival.
She made the introductions, and when Olivia put out her hand to shake with Ashley and her husband, she was looking at Serenity as she said, “Actually, I go by Liv now.”
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This collection includes:
Eliza Andrews – Her Holiday Song
Lila Bruce – Easier Said Than Done (A Love Bites Christmas)
Giselle Fox – The Perfectly Imperfect Storm
Anne Hagan – A Sweetwater Christmas
Jea Hawkins – Full Circle: A Must Love Chickens Christmas
Cara Malone – Christmas in Angel Valley
TB Markinson – A Christmas Miracle
Susan X Meagher – Family Matters
A.E. Radley – Holly Hollydays
Adan Ramie – Drive Me Wild
Emma Sterner-Radley – Greengage Holiday Cheer
Em Stevens – The Gift
Natasha West – Stock Take
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