These is something mysterious when it comes to reading anthologies, because each story is a big unknown until you actually start unwrapping the present. In this one, the biggest mystery for me was that lack of vanilla the title promised and while I got a couple of interesting wrapped up gifts, the rest was in the lines of average or even a bit strange. In Boughs of Love by Rebecca Brochu, I got to know Reese who took on raising his brother's daughter Holly after the accident that took away her parents' lives. He does everything for Holly and each joy she experiences puts a smile on his face, so it's not all that strange when he indulges her and goes to buy the biggest tree she can find. What he didn't expect was to find a hot worker (Keifer) there and for the man to refuse to leave his thoughts. This was my favorite story of the bunch, simply because of the great tension and the wonderful descriptions of want between the characters. It's surprisingly low on sex, but the sparks between the characters make up for it and I did wish the story was longer. Dressed for Dinner by Pelaam on the other hand was all about sex with Kevin and his Master Stefan attending a type of themed party revolving around their lifestyle. The story is really BDSM focused, but I found it to have little actual substance and had trouble connecting to the characters or enjoying their play. This one was not for me. I loved Paul, the main character in Tied with a Bow by Nicola Cameron. His story was probably the most inspirational one of the bunch and his secret life as writer of gay ménages definitely made it more playful. I loved the humor in this one and his somewhat awkward way as he fought his attraction to his two neighbors. I loved how he put them in his story, especially since it filled the air with expectation. My remark would be the too quick switch to the ending and the very realization of his fantasies. As a big ménage fan, I do want a bit more work in such relationships. Enough about Earl by Giselle Renarde was a bit unemotional, or I experienced it that way. Jodee and Cam are best friends, but Jodee used to have a crush on gay Cam and now she's talking constantly about her gay college friend Earl, making Cam bite his tongue almost each time she speaks. They are attending a Christmas party where they would meet Earl and his best friend Kyle, who also has jealousy issues, and the pairings happen from there. The very couples, though obvious, didn't really work for me. I knew too little about Jodee and Kyle, and yet they took so much page space, while Earl and Cam wanted different things and seem to take the edge off or forget more than they actually wanted to have any type of a relationship. The Christmas Cookies by Troy Storm was terribly confusing to me. It all starts with Ben, the mailroom clerk eating some spiked cookies and his bosses, the company owner Art and the office manager Marv, rescuing him from further embarrassment. The story had a good start, but the resulting ménage seemed strained and the story jumps only jumbled it further. Each of these stories brought a little kink into Christmas cheer and while some are better than others, overall this is a well-rounded anthology and not a bad way to meet some new authors.
Boughs of Love by Rebecca Brochu
Dressed for Dinner by Pelaam
Tied with a Bow by Nicola Cameron
Enough About Earl by Giselle Renarde
The Christmas Cookies by Troy Storm
With a range of stories, including two menages, this decidedly un-vanilla selection of stories offers something for almost every level of BDSM. From funny and humorous to the more serious, all of these stories had something that made me smile. Boughs of Love by Rebecca Brochu Reese's story is a wonderful example of how holiday cheer can bring entirely new hope to a lonely man. Reese has done the responsible thing when his brother and sister-in-law died in a car accident, and is now in charge of his six-year-old niece Holly. It has changed his life. While still single, his life no longer revolves around his career, but around her. He is determined to make this a great Christmas for Holly, and part of that is picking a tree. The man they run into leaves a lasting impression, and when Keifer, the tree man, finds Reese a few days later and rescues him from an embarrassing situation with his ex, he turns out to be extremely interested in Reese. The passion they unleash once they get going could light up an entire Christmas tree –several times over! Dressed for Dinner by Pelaam Kevin and his Master Stefan are in for a very kinky night out. Dinner at a friend's, dressed in provocative clothing involving quite a bit of leather for the Dom's an not much at all for their subs, is followed by the use of the friend's playroom. Even the somewhat shy Kevin knows he is in for a treat, and Stefan doesn’t disappoint him. While strict and definitely dominant, he is also very concerned with Kevin's welfare through it all. Be ready for some very kinky BDSM play in this story. Tied with a Bow by Nicola Cameron Paul, the narrator of this story, is shy and withdrawn in real life, having been told he is "no good at sex" and "weird" because he wants to be tied up. But in his secret life as a writer, he can spell out all his fantasies, and makes good money from it. The fact that his sexy upstairs neighbors, married couple Tim and Rory, are the inspiration for his threesome scenes is a well-guarded secret. Except – not as secret as he thinks. Once these three get going, the heat in Paul's life increases significantly! Enough about Earl by Giselle Renarde This is a very sweet story about two gay men, neither of whom has found love so far. Actually, it is about each of their best friends as well, and the resulting four-way situation is quite complicated. Cam is Jodee's best friend, and she used to have a crush on him. Now she has a crush on Earl, her gay colleague. Cam is almost jealous about Earl, but when he meets him discovers that all may not be as it seems. The ensuing pairing off was fun to watch happen, and the ending made me grin. With a great set of characters, this was a wonderful story about unexpected pairings. The Christmas Cookies by Troy Storm This story definitely deserves the descriptor "wild". Ben is the narrator, but he's been eating some type of spiced Christmas cookie at the office party, and is somewhat out of it. More so at the beginning, which is good, because he has dropped all his inhibitions and is now open to the advances of the company owner , Art, and the office manager, Marv. The two of them turn out to be a committed couple, and they definitely have designs on Ben. Their plans for Ben, the mailroom clerk, are quite explicit, more than a little bit kinky, and made the whole story fun to read.