Another romantic and amusing collection of heart-warming Clare London characters for the winter season! This is an eclectic group of steamy short stories guaranteed to raise temperatures and making the cold winter days more bearable. Some are funny and witty; some are serious, and some are a mixture of the two, but one thing they have in common is a happy ending. Thanks, Clare, for the laughter, tears and all the warm fuzzies.
A Good Year
Duncan is really looking forward to Christmas this year and wants it to be perfect. He has incessantly talked about where they should spend Christmas; what they should buy for gifts, and a hundred other things that lead to holiday craziness. First, Duncan feels guilty about talking about it so much, fearing he's upsetting Joe. Then, he begins to wonder if Joe's silence means that Joe is only going along with him rather than arguing. Duncan begins to panic. He tosses and turns, waking Joe up. Joe isn't particularly happy about being woken up, but he loves Duncan and believes his insecurity is unfounded. They talk for a while and Joe tries to reassure Duncan that all is well. Duncan is appeased but still can't sleep. He begins to seduce Joe, hoping to show how much he loves and appreciates him. Soon all thoughts of sleep vanish as they settle into a sensual, but comforting rhythm of lovemaking, both reaching the conclusion that as long as they are together, the rest doesn't matter.
This story showcases the drama of being newlyweds and going out of the way to please one's spouse, yet not being secure about how to do so. Joe does an outstanding job of both reassuring and distracting his husband while he lulls him into a place, both emotionally and physically, where he feels safe and warm.
Andy loves being a teacher, even when it means going above and beyond to make sure his kids get what they need. Even though he knows it will be trying, Andy also knows it's important for the kids to feel involved, gaining a sense of accomplishment from their tasks. The current task is to help make decorations for a school fair. With things being more hectic than usual and everyone running around helter-skelter, Andy tries in his calm and patient way to keep things together. All the while, he encourages the children, redirecting their attention instead of chastising them when things begin to get out of control. Although Andy is thrilled to hear he's getting help, he quickly changes his mind when he sees who the help is; his ex-boyfriend, Greg Canbury.
Working with Greg is stressful to say the least, with the furtive glances, Greg checking him out and asking to speak to him privately. Things go along okay until one of the children notifies Andy and Greg: “We've lost our balls.” Apparently, all of the supplies haven't been delivered yet, so Greg and Andy go in search of their glitter balls that are currently in the teacher's storage room. The men work together, in the tiny room, until midnight, sorting items meant for the fair. Greg wants to talk about their past breakup, but Andy won't hear it, especially since Greg was the one to end their relationship. In an effort to make a quick get-away and avoid the dreaded conversation, Andy accidentally slams the closet door - the one without a handle. With no way out until morning when someone finds them, they try to make the best of it. Somehow, if you don't solve your problems, Fate has a way of making you face them even if you don't want to; this becomes Andy and Greg's time to solve theirs.
I laughed so hard at the children's antics and at Greg and Andy's attempts to keep order, yet allow the kids to be creative at the same time. The story is realistic and hilarious at the same time, and Andy and Greg are given time to sort out their problems.
When people aren't sure of something, they frequently try to hide it by being sarcastic and argumentative. Seb and Jamie are close friends, who fight over almost everything. During a Christmas party, they have retreated to the kitchen with their latest argument; who gave Jamie, who loves meat, a meat cookbook as a Secret Santa present; while Seb, a vegetarian, is given a book about vegetarian cooking. Both are convinced that the other is the culprit and neither wants to concede an inch. After a while, Seb and Jamie become aware that they have been abandoned by the rest of their friends. Instead of just waiting for them to return, they decide to put their cookbooks to good use. Each man chooses a dish to make from their respective gift.
Although cooking together isn't always thought to be a source of cooperation, their culinary venture affords them the distraction they need to stop fighting. Neither of them truly enjoys their bickering, but they've become so accustomed to interacting this way, they don't know how to stop. With time on their hands, they both become introspective and they begin to share their true feelings. They are faced with the possibility that, maybe, they are too hard on each other. Their fighting takes too much effort, especially when it's not what either man wants.
I wanted to bang Seb and Jamie's heads together to make them stop arguing long enough to pay attention to how they really felt about each other. The cookbook incentive was a brilliant way to give them the 'time out' they needed to step back and look at things honestly.
No one likes travelling by public transport in the Christmas season, and Drew complains bitterly. Until Joe – his colleague, best friend, and maybe more – makes his own announcement.
On the way home from work, Drew is questioning why the bus lines have cut service a week before Christmas. He goes on a sarcastic tirade about the madness that always takes over as Christmas grows closer. His friend, Joe, tries to smooth it over, explaining that there is a bus accident and the busses are trying to compensate by carrying more passengers. Drew makes a rude sound of disagreement, but his proximity to Joe, who he loves being with more than he can admit, makes him even grumpier. Joe tries to be the voice of reason, listing examples of people who may not have any other time to shop. Just before they reach their stop, Joe tells him something new, making Drew, perhaps for the first time, speechless and completely changing Drew's attitude toward Christmas.
This story is short, witty, and reminded me to keep my mind open, so as to not miss the subtleties of possible good things happening around me. Clare's cheeky humor is just right and Drew's “bah-humbug” attitude and description of the bus ride is both hilarious and insightful.
Caleb and Owen have been living together for a while. But they’re still working out the ground rules of two strong-minded men in the same household. What starts as a deceptively simple discussion on whose name should come first on the Christmas cards develops into a passionate debate – and glitter on naked skin!
Caleb and Owen love each other, but are still in the adjustment period of their cohabitation. They say they aren't competitive, but that's far from the truth. Everything they do makes them suspicious of each other, with each of them wondering if there's an ulterior motive. In this case, it starts with Owen accusing Caleb of opening his mail. The letter turns out to be a homemade belated Christmas card sent to both of them by the little girl downstairs. When Caleb finally convinces Owen that the card says “to my friends”, he can't leave it at that. He wants to make sure his name is first, as if that is important. Enjoying the argument, Caleb eggs Owen on until he's totally frustrated. At that point, Caleb knows he's won the game, at least for the moment. Soon neither of them can ignore the sexual signals they are giving each other and they take it to bed. Although the situation is more pleasurable and definitely hot, they continue their “discussion” and finally decide that it really doesn't matter what 'position' they hold in the relationship; as long as their love is intact, they are good.
This story was a bit of a puzzlement to me so I am just going to say that all this competition and power struggle stuff, must be a “guy” thing; yet, to some extent, it helps them find their place in the relationship. This is something that every couple has to define. Clare's tongue-in-cheek description of Joe and Seb's arguments made me laugh out loud at some points, even while shaking my head at the absurdity of arguing about things like whose name goes first when signing a Christmas card. All in all, it was great fun.
In the Wee Small Hours
“In the wee small hours of the morning, while the whole wide world is fast asleep; you lie awake and think about the boy and never ever think of counting sheep. When your lonely heart has learned its lesson; you'd be his if only he would call. In the wee small hours of the morning, that's the time you miss him most of all.” ~ Marilyn McLeod/Mel Bolton
'In the Wee Small Hours' by Clare London, two young lovers, Matty and Jake, lose their temper and say things they don't mean. Jake storms out and though Matty waits for him to come back, he doesn't. They're both full of regret; the pain almost unbearable. But, instead of swallowing their pride and taking the first step toward apology, each is waiting for the other to give in.
Matty sits in a bar, dripping with despair, miserable almost past caring. The bartender has seen a lot of men in similar situations, but something about this man in particular, calls him to try and give comfort. As he listens, the bartender realizes that the situation is not as hopeless as it seems; he offers a relatively simple solution and encourages Matty to find the person he loves, admit he is wrong, and do whatever it takes to make things right again. Matty hesitates because he's afraid his lover doesn't need him anymore, that possibly he never needed him in the first place and has moved on, but he also decides that he will never know unless he tries.
His lover, Jake, has reached the same point in his musings about their relationship, especially the desperation of missing Matty. While he's contemplating his ridiculously self-imposed exile, he, also, finds counsel with a street person who thinks he's a king. He pours out his love for Matty and his regret that he did too much talking and not enough listening. As the "king" listens, he comes to the same conclusion as the bartender does for Matty, that Jake need only go to Matty and let him know how he feels and, together, they can heal the rift.
This is a poignant love story which kept tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat throughout the whole tale. I wanted to knock their heads together when I found out that the problem was one of pride and insecurity, but I also loved the characters and felt that they loved each other, truly and deeply. The emotions expressed in this story are ones that most of us in a relationship have felt from time to time. The most important lesson taught here is, that it isn't what we say or don't say that matters; it's learning to listen with our hearts that truly makes the difference. Thanks, Clare, for this awesome story and for your ability to move me so deeply.