The Christmas Angel: Christmas Homecoming by L.A. Witt
August 1939. Roger Miller and Jack O’Brien have been close since childhood. By the time they realize there’s more between them than friendship, Jack is leaving their sleepy Iowa town for college. But they console themselves knowing he’ll be home for Christmas. Right?
It is Christmas before they see each other again, but that Christmas comes six years and a world war later. Aged, beaten, and shaken by combat, they’re not the boys they were back then, but their feelings for each other are stronger than ever.
Neither know the words to say everything they’ve carried since that peacetime summer kiss, though. Even as they stand in the same room, there’s a thousand miles between them.
But maybe that’s some distance the little angel in Roger’s rucksack can cross.
The Christmas Angel series books are standalones and can be read in any order.
I love historical MM stories set during the wartime periods. They are especially poignant and bittersweet usually ending with me blinking back tears.
Christmas Homecoming is part of The Christmas Angel series, where a carved wooden angel worked its magic to bring people together throughout the years. This novella is the only one in the series I’ve read so far.
The story starts in 1939 when Germany was about to invade Poland. Roger and Jack were two childhood friends. Jack was about to leave town for the city. Roger was doesn’t know what to do with his life yet but he is sure that he doesn’t want to be a farmer and marry a girl.
On the day before Jack was about to leave, the two friends decided to take a swim together for the last time. That was when they realized the feelings between the two of them evolved into something else. They shared a kiss. They didn’t see each other again for 6 years.
This is a beautiful love story between two men at a time when such love was not yet accepted. It is full of yearnings and sweet stolen moments made more precious because it’s taboo. I wanted to hug them and give them their safe space.
The war tore the two men apart. L.A. Witt deftly inserted details that portrayed the life of soldiers at war-time and after. It made what would otherwise be a sweet but simplistic fairytale more complex and nuanced. The survivors had to deal with PTSD. Roger and Jack were not spared. They each carry with them complicated memories of bombs and the men who kept them company in the lonely nights. My heart went out to Oskar, the spy and Floyd, the pilot. The story did a good job drawing me to these two secondary characters who existed only in memories. I wanted their stories too.
Admittedly, the middle part did drag a bit but as the story slowly eased its way to the resolution I found myself enjoying it even more. I liked how the author gave Roger a way out of the prescribed path his parents laid out for him. I liked how they found a way to be together. I even found myself interested in the two old codgers who inspired the boys that it’s possible.
Christmas Homecoming is a touching holiday story I recommend. For a book its length, it’s filled with many interesting characters and intense emotions. It captured the small-town atmosphere, the post-war melancholy and the fervent longings of forbidden lovers. It didn’t make me cry but it did warm my heart.
L.A. Witt books here
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Modified And Sacred – Jana Denardo
Lieutenant Addison Hunt is proud to serve the Confederation even if he still feels like he’s on the outside looking in. Addison was illegally genetically modified as a child, leaving him burdened with a sense of shame. Emotionally isolated from his fellow crewmen and recovering from injuries from his last job, Addison is happy to have light duty transporting an esteemed diplomat to a peace conference.
Deveral is one of the Sacred Kin, possessing a psychic ability that his people consider a spark of the divine. Like all the Sacred Kin, he’s led a sheltered life as a temple priest, but his heightened empathic ability makes him the perfect diplomat. Nervous to leave his home, he’s curious about his new companion, Lieutenant Hunt.
Not everyone wants the diplomatic mission to succeed, and a rebel faction poses a real threat to Addison and Deveral. Finding themselves cast adrift on a “lost” colony, they’ll have to fight to stay alive.
Modified And Sacred is an enjoyable sci-fi romance that touches upon religion and science. It has a lot of stuff going on from human trafficking, illegal modifications to lost colonies and sacred beings. My favorite was the Fyrians, a specie who can change the colors of their skin and hair depending on their emotion.
Deveral was a Sacred Kin, assigned to go on a diplomatic mission to negotiate with a breakaway faction. He lived a pampered life and has never been outside his planet so his survivals skills were almost nil. Dev is easy going and never shies away from getting what he wants.
Addison is a Confederate soldier nursing an injury so he was assigned a boring mission to escort the Fyrian ambassador. Turns out the mission was far more exciting than he bargained for. Their shuttle was shot down and they crash landed in an unknown colony. A big part of the novella is about him and Dev navigating the land and trying to evade pursuers. Unlike Dev, Addy was more uptight. He has secrets to keep and a job to do so he was very hesitant to complicate his relationship with the Sacred Kin who was all but ready to jump his bones no matter the danger they were in.
I like that the plot moves fast but because this is a novella, some developments were rushed. I’m all for quick reads but I think this could benefit from adding a couple more chapters to flesh out Dev and Addy’s relationship, the issue with mods, their escape from the lost colony and the ending. The backstories were interesting though they gloss over some points
The worldbuilding could also use additional details. We get a small peak at a small corner of their universe and what I saw was intriguing enough for me to read a sequel if there’s any. There were many interesting aspects I am curious about such as their governments, other alien species, technology and so on. I want to see more of the Turing crew and the Fyrians. I hope Xavi gets his own book too. Clearly, there are more stories waiting to be told about this colorful universe.
Thank you to IndiGo for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
The Artist and the Soldier – Angelle Petta
Two young men come of age and fall in love, set against the backdrop of true events during World War II.
It’s 1938. Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel meet at an American-Nazi camp, Siegfried. Neither have any idea what to do with their blooming, confusing feelings for one another. Before they can begin to understand, the pair is yanked apart and forced in opposite directions.
Five years later, during the heart of World War II, Bastian’s American army platoon lands in Salerno, Italy. Max is in Nazi-occupied Rome where he has negotiated a plan to hire Jews on as ‘extras’ in a movie—an elaborate ruse to escape the Nazis. Brought together by circumstance and war, Bastian and Max find one another again in Rome.
Exploring the true stories of Camp Siegfried and the making of the film, La Porta del Cielo, The Artist and the Soldier is intense, fast moving, and sheds light on largely untouched stories in American and Italian history.
The Artist and the Soldier was right up my alley. A historical novel set in the WWII era featuring two young men who fell in love. And it started as idyllic. Max and Bastian met and became close in Camp Siegfied, a real life American-Nazi summer camp for young boys of Aryan descent. I think of it as idyllic even though they have to deal with bullies and other unpleasantness. This is the part where the two boys, in their relative innocence, felt drawn to each other though they don’t fully understand it yet.
The summer was interrupted by the pronouncement that Max’s father was death. This is followed by tedious scenes of dealing with grief and Max’s mentally ill mother which was made worse by Bastian’s monumental fuck up just right after the boys admit their feeling to each other. This effectively killed my enthusiasm for the book.
I understand this is a ME problem and maybe I’m so used to romance where HEAs are a given. Age-gap makes me cringe but I could shrug it off, abuse, dub-con or non-con might be pushing it but the ultimate turn off for me is cheating. And I couldn’t fathom what in the fucking hell made Bastian meekly follow that woman to her bedroom right after having sex with Max. Also, Bastian is possibly bisexual (he has been with girls) and if so, here we go with the cheating bi thing. Can we not with this trope, please?
And so with a heavy heart, I tried to read the rest of the story but like I said, the impetus is dead.
Objectively (because I need to take a step back from my own stupid biases), I love the premise. It combines two real historical events, the film La Porta del Cielo and the American-German camps. Stories about how Jews escape the Nazis are always fascinating and it always amazes me how resourceful and resilient people can be in order to survive. I think most readers would love this book. I recommend this for history buffs, especially those into WWII stories, and those who, unlike me, can move past Bastian’s mistake. Because deep in my heart, I know there’s more to the story than their love affair.
I received a copy of The Artist and the Soldier from
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
No stars because it’s a ME issue.
Edit: Netgalley is asking for stars so I will give it 2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book