Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Today I have the pleasure of hosting day 2 of the Men Under the Mistletoe mini-blog tour.

Many people go home for the holidays. Some with anticipation, others with a sense of trepidation, and some have reasons all their own. But whatever the reason, there’s often a pull toward home when the holidays approach. Perhaps some of that pull is grounded in the classic image of a family around the table for a holiday dinner or gathered around the tree on Christmas morning. Symbols of togetherness with loved ones. And really, that’s at the core of the holiday season– spending time with those you love.

There’s also a giveaway today! Just leave a comment on this post or email me at ava(at)avamarch(dot)com to enter, and I’ll pick a commentor/ emailer at random to win an exclusive print edition of the Men Under the Mistletoe anthology, signed by yours truly. If you’d like, you can share your thoughts on Home for the Holidays, or you can just wave and say hi to everyone. Contest ends December 9th at 11:59 EST, and please don’t forget to include your email address (if it isn’t already in your blogger profile) so I can contact the winner.

Now I’ll turn it over to Josh Lanyon, Harper Fox and KA Mitchell to discuss what Home for the Holidays means to their characters in the anthology, and I'll chime in at the end.

Josh Lanyon

Lone Star begins with Mitchell Evans returning home to Texas following the death of his father. Not exactly a happy homecoming or a terrific way to spend the holidays, but it’s even worse because Mitchell didn’t love his father. Didn’t love him, didn’t understand him -- and he believes the feeling was mutual.

But I guess one of the themes of this story is that home is where the heart is.

A lone star blazed in the midnight blue sky.

It looked like the Christmas star, which was appropriate seeing that it was four days till the holiday, but with Mitch’s luck it was more likely a crashing jet plane headed straight for him.


Yeah, that would be about right. On the bright side, it would spare him driving any more miles down this long, dull stretch of memory lane. Texas looked only minimally better at night than it did in the day. Nothing but rugged, ragged landscape. Igneous hills of limestone and red rock as far as the eye could see—which wasn’t far, given the darkness beyond the sweep of the rental car headlights.

Mitch rubbed his bleary eyes. This was more driving than he’d done in years. He didn’t even own a car anymore. New York had decent public transportation, and when Mitch wasn’t working he was—well, he was always working, so problem solved.

Prickly pear, yucca, and juniper bushes cast tortured shadows across the faded ribbon of highway. A mighty lonesome stretch of country, as they’d say out here. Cemeteries were more plentiful than towns. He wasn’t entirely alone, though. Outside of Fredericksburg a pair of headlights had fallen in behind him and they continued to meander lazily along a few miles back. Some cowboy moseying on home, though not in any hurry to get there.

That made two of them.

It had been six months since Mitch had got the word his old man had keeled over, and he’d have happily waited another six months—or six years—before dealing with what his father’s lawyer euphemistically called “the estate.” But after the blowup with Innis, Mitch had desperately needed time and space. And one thing Texas had in plenty was space.

Harper Fox
Part of what’s been hurting Gavin so much, making him incapable of loving Piers the way Piers deserves, are the shadows still falling into his life from his bigoted, aggressive father. Now, Gavin has come a long way from home, made himself very intellectually independent, and until the events of the story break him down, he’s been incapable of admitting there’s even a problem. Here’s how he finally explains it to Piers:-

“I hate him. He’s a racist and a homophobe and every kind of bigot you can think of, but when Mam left he was all I had. I love him. I never want to see him again and I’d do anything to make the bastard proud, and short of learning to weld ships together I can’t. I’d die of joy if he picked up one of my books. I want to kill him."

Gavin knows that the one thing he should have done was go and confront the old man. Sometimes we have to go home at the holidays for very non-festive reasons, and Piers has always been there, ready and willing to help him when he finally made the decision. This is what happened when they got there:-

A car pulled up over the road and my eldest brother got out. The sinking in my stomach turned out not to be necessary. For once he was pleased to see me. I put him into perspective, he said, looking Piers up and down. He too had thought the New Year a good time to try for a visit and an introduction, and I didn’t understand what he meant until his beautiful black girlfriend got out of the car and stood smiling nervously on the pavement beside him.

Of course it was all a waste of time. The four of us sat in the dingy little living room and listened for a while to the old man’s bitter, corrosive outpourings, then Piers, who had held my hand without concealment since we had arrived, got up and quietly led me away. My brother and his girlfriend followed. She was crying and so, to my astonishment, was he. I gave them both a hug. Piers, with his usual grave kindness, invited them for lunch at our flat. I felt no grief. I was dizzy with release from my ancient bonds, from chains I hadn’t realised were there. The old man didn’t matter. The morning sunshine did, and the smile on my lover’s face as he drove us away, and that was about it.

KA Mitchell

It's funny that Ava is doing this topic, because when The Christmas Proposition begins, Mel is hard at work longing to be anywhere but home for Christmas. He feels trapped by his home, but at the same time is afraid to leave it. His best friend's destination wedding in St. Thomas provides the escape he's longing for, and then he's trapped again—and forced to host the wedding at his family's tree farm by the end of the chapter.

Home means something different to the other characters, too. Mel's sister is home from rehab. Mel's brother who left home as soon as he could has come home to help Mel enjoy a vacation. And Bryce usually has his home on the road, a trailer that is half-office, half-bedroom. His home is where his work is. I hope by the end of the story, Mel and Bryce find out that home for the holidays means being in each other’s bed—er, arms.

Ava March

In My True Love Gave to Me, Thomas returns to England after living in New York for four years. He goes home for the holidays. But he doesn’t return home out of a need to spend the season with a family he hasn’t seen in years—a family that hasn't bothered to contact him in years—or to share in the holiday festivities with friends. Home is where the heart is, and in Thomas’s case, his heart has always been with Alexander (Sasha), his first and only love.

He did not need to hear the creak of the floorboards to know Sasha was approaching. He somehow felt the man’s presence coming closer. That sense of warmth, of home, that only belonged to Sasha.

Since Alexander’s in London, that is where Thomas goes, and he does so with hope in his heart...and a definite bit of trepidation and determination.

“I had it stuck in my head that I couldn’t allow another holiday to pass without seeing you. I was well aware of the distinct possibility that you would turn me away, but I had to try.”


Here’s the schedule for the mini-blog tour:
12/5 - Josh Lanyon on Christmas Kisses
12/6 - Ava March on Home for the Holidays
12/7 - KA Mitchell on Scene and Setting
12/7 - Carina Press on Next Christmas and holiday cookie recipes
12/8 - Harper Fox on Dark to Light
12/9 – Josh Lanyon wraps it up

Happy Holidays! And don’t forget to comment/email to enter to win a print copy of Men Under the Mistletoe.


  1. Ava, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your story very much. I have been a fan of Josh, Harper and K.A. for a while and bought this anthology because of my familiarity with their work. I am very glad that you were included, and now you can count me as one of your newest fans. Thomas and Sasha were just wonderful.

  2. Lovely thoughts. my family is complicated, so as soon as I left home I decided that I wasn't doing the routine of mum's, dad's, in laws. We invite any one who is on their own to come to our house. The more the merrier, so long as they bring their own dining chairs!
    Our family is large, extended and fluid and I love it and the chaos that it involves.
    I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas with the family they are born into or the family the choose.

  3. First, I'd like to say hello to you, Ava and, of course, Harper, Josh, and K.A. As I mentioned yesterday, I've read 'Men Under the Mistletoe' and will review it some time soon for QMO. I'm definitely going to read more stories by all four of you in the future.

    As for the Home for Christmas theme, I happen to be blessed with a small, but close family. There are so many families don't have the closeness we do and my heart goes out to them. With the emphasis on family, it's even more difficult for those who are alienated from, or don't have a family. So, even with the inevitable insanity that accompanies family gatherings, I'll take a deep breath remember how much I am loved.

  4. What a nice post, Ava! And I'm really enjoying everyone's shared snippets on the topic of home and hearth.

  5. I've not had a chance to read this collection yet and I've never had the pleasure of reading one of your stories, Ava. I'm very much looking forward to it! I love how Carina Press gathered such a group together to assemble a batch of Christmas Cheer.

  6. Ava, since your story was up first I read it first and it was a joy. I had not read any of your stories and it was a good first story to read, and the first of many. You had me feeling for both Sasha and Thomas.

    Christmas at home when I was little was hectic. There are 4 kids in my family. What more can I say. Now a days I like a quiet Christmas and that usually means a visit with the in-laws. I may be in the minority but I do enjoy spending time with the in-laws.

  7. This was a great post. Being home for the holidays is very nostalgic and makes you feel like a kid again. Mom always wants to overfeed me when I'm home and for just a little while it's nice to be babied.

    Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

  8. Hi Ava, I haven't read Home For The Holidays yet but I'm anxiously looking forward to it.
    This year I'm taking my Dad away from home to celebrate Christmas with my two sisters and their families that live a two hour plane trip away. He hasn't seen his grandchildren there for quite a while so he's looking so forward to it. It'll be my first Christmas away from home in a long time.
    Thank you for the enjoyment you've made for us in the release of this wonderful book.

  9. Following the blogs as my guide, I'm reading one story a day. Josh was yesterday, you will be this evening. Thank you for the lovely stories you given me in the past. I grew up on regency romances, and feel you have given me the best of both worlds.
    As to holidays there is nothing better than sharing with family, even if it is a family of two.

  10. Just popping in for a quick bit to say thanks for sharing your thoughts on home for the holidays. They've been great to read. :)

    Now I'm off again for the afternoon, but will be back later to catch up.

  11. I have never read Regency before; halfway through your story and loving it! I have no family here in Australia, other than my hubby and kids, so we spend Christmas with friends. In some ways it's nice, but I do miss family at this time of year.

  12. Do you hear that? It's my must have list growing after reading all these blurbs....

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  13. Oh damn.. This collection just sounds too good to pass up. Can't wait 'till I get it! :)

    japoki at inbox dot lv

  14. This year my family and I are traveling to Rio de Janeiro to spend Christmas with my aunt. It is the first time it happens. I'm thrilled because my family is small (my parents, older sister and I) and Christmas became a sort of routine. I hope going to my aunt's family open my parents to other possibilities like spending Christmas with our neighbors.

  15. I forgot to put my email

  16. Holidays always mean home and family to me

    I'm really looking forward to reading the anthology last years was awesome

    Sarah S

  17. I am one of those for whom this story was an introduction to your work, Ava, and I'm very happy to say that I'm looking forward to more and more. I've always loved Diana Gabaldon's Lord John Grey novels and your story reminded me of them. I cried more than once for poor Thomas and Sasha, even though I had faith they would work things out. Thanks for a great reading experience.

  18. Gah! I'm starting to think THE UNIVERSE doesn't want me to read this book! I bought it at ARe, and the FILE WON'T OPEN!!!!

    (VJ is pouting and sulking and being generally mopy)

    That said - I'm loving the little "slice of life" Christmas thoughts you all are sharing!


  19. All of these stories sound great!
    I hope I get the chance to read them soon!

    \o/ Please enter me in the contest!!


  20. I always enjoy an inside look from the authors about their stories; it's like discovering the story all over again upon rereading.

    Kudos to the cover artist(s) also!

  21. Hi, Ava. I haven't read any of your work yet, but I definitely will. Your contribution to the anthology sounds right up my alley.

  22. I love books with Christmas themes! This whole anthology sounds lovely. Different authors always have such interesting stories.

  23. HJ

    I love Regencies, so it was a bonus that your story is set then. And it's very realistic too - some m/m set then skates over the difficulties. I greatly enjoyed reading it, too - very well fleshed-out and credible (as well as likeable) characters.

  24. And the winner of a print copy of Men Under the Mistletoe is Judi (loveless3173)! I've already emailed Judi and the book will be winging its way to her sometime next week (after I receive my author copies).

    I want to thank you all for stopping by the blog and taking part in our mini-blog tour. It was wonderful to read your thoughts on home for the holidays, along with the nice words on the stories in the anthology.

    I wish everyone a happy holiday season filled with love and good cheer.