Cover Image: If the Fates Allow

If the Fates Allow

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Member Reviews

A couple were four star-worthy, another only two, and the others three stars -- so, three stars for the book overall.
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This seemed like an adorable idea, but I just really couldn't get into this holiday collection. I gave it numerous tries, but I just couldn't make it work for me. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC.
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This book is an anthology of 5 short stories by different authors. I had never read any of these authors before, so it was all new. I love Christmas centered stories, so I really enjoyed that aspect of them. I also appreciated that they were all LGBTQ themed. In terms of the stories themselves, it was sort of a mixed bag. 

“Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be A Live Tree” By Killian B. Brewer seemed to be a companion to another novel, which made it hard for me to get into. It was enjoyable and well written, I just think I would have been more into it if I had read the other first. 

“True North” by Pene Henson  was one of my favorites of the collection. I really loved the description of Montana around the holidays. I loved the writing, and I am always a sucker for a “Reunion with a past crush” story-line. I thought the characters were well thought out, and I absolutely would have wanted a full version of this. 

“Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar Grille” by Erin Finnegan wasn’t as sticky sweet as the others, and had more of a sorrowful feel. It is a story of grief and losing the love of your life, and how to come back from that and learn to live. I loved the writing, and it really did have that little bit of Christmas magic that made it a good fit for this series. 

“Halfway Home” by Lilah Suzanne was another favorite of the collection. It was a sweet story about a girl who loses her job and her girlfriend all in one day. She finds a stray dog and brings it to a shelter. She then meets a cute girl, and boom! A very sweet, slow romance begins. I really appreciated that (which is not always the case), and I thought the pacing really fit where Avery was in her life. 

“Shelved by Lynn Charles is a story about a library assistant who is trying to match up her uncle with a new patron at the library, and her attempts to flirt with a girl who works at a Christmas Tree nursery. I actually really loved the friendship that built between Karina and Wes the most! I always love when there is a good solid friendship story-line along with the romance.
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I had high hopes for this because it seemed like it was going to be right up my alley. But ultimately it was just meh overall.

I did really enjoy True North and Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille. True North especially took its time to explore the characters a bit more and had more genuine emotion.

The other 3 were just too corny for my personal taste. I know that I should have expected that with a collection like this, but the writing itself in those other stories was just corny to the point of being basically juvenile in my opinion.
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A collection of cute love stories.  Nothing overly special, nothing too steamy.  Simple, to the point, and swoony romance.  It wasn't my favorite holiday read, but I found it to be lovely little "bites" of romance.  Great to read before bed, knowing I could finish one up and not be awake all night.  

Satisfying, and just enough.
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A fantastic little christmas anthology filled with many great stories. I connected with some more than others but it was a lovely anthology
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This anthology features Christmas shorts from a number of LGBTQ+ authors. All festive, romantic and in most cases super sweet.

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Real Tree by Killian B. Brewer

Marcus works in a small-town diner. He loves his job, his boyfriend Hank, who’s the local mechanic, and he adores his deceased grandmother’s interfering friends. As Marcus never knew a traditional Christmas, he’s determined to make this year perfect. Suspecting Hank is going to propose, Marcus freaks out, and his grandmother’s friends only make it worse by giving him too much advice on exactly how to perfect his proposal scenario.

This was a cute tale, and I liked both Marcus and Hank. The interfering old folk mostly merged into one, but the set up worked, it was light-hearted, and the story as a whole satisfied.

Rated: C

True North by Pene Henson

Shay is a basketball player in the WMBA, and also for a Russian team. She’s invited home to Montana for Christmas, and takes her best friend Devon with her as armor. See, last time she visited she felt like she didn’t fit, being all famous and highly paid, and she behaved like a brat. Already being black in a very white town sets her out, but being six-three and a lesbian seals the deal. Shay doesn’t feel comfortable there anymore.

Her supportive mother mistakes the two women’s friendship and introduces them as a couple, much to Shay’s chagrin, as Milla, her teenage crush, is there too.

Ah, first love. Well, for this pair, it never went away. Despite Milla hearing Shay is part of a couple, she fortunately doesn’t believe it. A sweet romance unfolds as Shay makes recompense with her family and friends for her last visit.

I liked this story in that it didn’t suffer from small town wise person porn – you know, where one person who the heroine has known all her life gives her great advice and everything is okay. In fact Shay fixed her own problems, and she got the girl. However, I couldn’t envisage an easy relationship for them in the future, and I thought this could’ve been better settled.

Rated: C

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar and Grille by Erin Finnegan

Jack is assistant to the mayor, and a somewhat cynical politico. He used to go to the Casa Blanca bar with an ex-boyfriend, and winds up there on Christmas Day feeling morose and confused (I would be too. The place charges $60 for a shot of Tequila). The cameras off him, he finds himself opening up to the cute barman, Javi, about what happened with Joey, his ex.

Through his conversation with mysterious Javi, he attempts to come to terms with what happened with Joey the previous Christmas, all while finding a way forward to living again.

I liked the heat of LA at Christmas, and the ending to the story was a twist which was a pleasant surprise. This wasn’t a romance, though it centred around his previous love.

Overall I liked Jack but skimmed some of his story. Though atmospheric, it was a little slow.

Rated: C

Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne

This tale is of the cold-hearted lady who needed to learn how to feel. And it features a hella ugly dog for extra feel-good measure. Written in the less-usual third person present tense, Avery doesn’t blame the HR lady… or Avery inches along the commute, this took me a little while to get into because of the style shift from the other shorts. I don’t generally prefer third person anyway so this made me struggle.

Avery is having a bad day. She gets fired, then her car gets rear ended and to top it off, her girlfriend walks out on her. Weirdly, Avery is not bothered by any of these things that much. See, she’s dead inside. At least she considers the possibility. But the next day, after she picks up a stray dog/gremlin from outside in the pouring rain, she knows that not to be true. As the manager of the dogs’ home—Grace—gives her all the feels.

This was a lighter story, and I enjoyed it once I got over the style. Rudy, the dog, and all the homeless pooches at the pound enabled a bond to form between our H&H as Avery went back to help out.

But then came the oh-so-cute clincher which annoyed the heck out of me. Avery, who has got a temporary Christmas job working with Santa at a mall, had this great idea of combining the two services. Get Santa to help adopt out all the dogs to shoppers in time for Christmas.

What could possibly go wrong with that? Amazingly, irresponsible Grace goes along with this poor idea and a lovely time is had by all with unplanned, unchecked and likely short term homes found for the animals. It’s like no one ever heard of the expression ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’.

And after that, I didn’t care so much what happened between Avery and Grace.

Rated: D

Shelved by Lynne Charles

Karina is a student, working in a library over the holidays to make ends meet. She befriends a man, Wes, who comes in every day to use the free WiFi, and helps him out with job applications since he’s unemployed. See, Karina is a helpful person / meddler, and she soon goes on to try to set up Wes with her uncle Tony. Last Christmas Uncle Tony split from her aunt, and is a little curmudgeonly about the season.

Karina drags him out to buy a Christmas tree, and finds herself enraptured with the lovely Hailey, the lumberjack there. We now have two couples in the frame for this story. Of all the shorts, this was my favourite. Karina had a mean father who made her feel bad about herself, but she had two good friends in Wes and Uncle Tony. If I had a complaint, it was that the two guys were made out to be almost elderly, while they are in their forties. This didn’t quite scan, but the rest of the story was cute, library-and-book centred, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Rated: B
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Winter is finally over here (in Germany) but with the cold days we had, let us recap this winterly holiday themed anthology published by Interlude Press and with a bunch of amazing talented writers. 
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This was such a good anthology. I loved that there were a diverse cast of couples and relationships.  It was just what I needed for this cold Christmas season. I can't wait to reread my favorite stories next winter.
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A review long overdue, but as they say, better late then pregnant. Disclaimer: I received this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Yet another short story collection; different authors, same theme. If The Fates Allow covers five different holiday themed queer romance stories - the first four alternating between male and female couples, and the fifth going all the way with one of each (and an explicitly mentioned bi man at that). Like with all short story collections, not all were my cup of tea, but overall I really enjoyed the book.

Killian Brewer's "Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree." didn't really work for me, though might easily be a personal matter. Like Gracious Living, it felt almost glossy. It's quite strong on exposition quite early on, some of which are then repeated in later dialogue - something which really doesn't feel neccacary in such a short story. Overall it cute, I guess, but not really my thing.

Pene Henson's "True North" didn't go quite the way I first thought. It starts out introducing the main character going home for Christmas with her friend, only for the two of them to be mistaken for a couple, thoroughly supported, and given their own room - in short, it feels like a pretty basic 'fake dating' trope; until the narrative introduces an old crush, and everything changes. 

Erin Finnegan's "Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grill" was the first story I found I really liked. It tells of Jack Volarde, political advicor to the mayor, during his first Christmas after his partner's death. I wouldn't place it in the noir genre, but the overall mood of the story definetly reminded me of dark lighting and strong contrasts, of main characters with far too many walls up, and of old fashioned bars. Good read, and whilst I might've waited for the twist, it still surprised me. 

Lilah Suzanne 's "Halfway Home" tells of a young woman not quite at home in her life, and how she eventually finds home through a local dog shelter, a certain demon dog, and an adorable Dog Rescuer and Holiday Enthusiast.

Lynn Charles' "Shelved" was probably my favourite, and not only because I have a weak spot for libraries. The characters are all lovely (except for one certain father), and I found myself really enjoying their different personalities and interactions. It is the kind of story where, of course, everything goes just as planned, and works out just as the main character dreams they will, but honestly, it's a Christmas story, and they're allowed to be sappy at times.

It's a good collection, of varying stores, characters, and plots, but with an overall good holiday feel that feels like a good cup of cocoa and a nice warm blanket - 4/5 stars.
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This is a charming collection of stories set at Christmas. There was an inventive spirit that imbued the stories with some of the magic of Christmas, without ever becoming too saccharine. The writers are all winning authors of LGBTQIA fiction at Interlude press, and the quality of writing is evident in the complexity of the characters, and the thoughtfulness of the stories.

I really enjoyed reading this clever anthology.

1.	4 stars.  Gracious Living Magazine Says It must be a Live Tree, by Killian B. Brewer. A man comfortable with his lot spends Christmas Day working in a diner, feeding the homeless. This is a happy tale of friends, colleagues and a lover, seen through the eyes of a man happy in his skin.
2.	4 stars. True North, by Pene Henson. WNBA star coming home for Christmas to the small town she’d left behind, only to find the pull to her best friend in high school to be just as strong as the day she escaped into her career.
3.	5 stars. Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grill, by Erin Finnegan. Mayoral assistant wraps up work on Christmas day and manages to avoid the please of friends to socialise. The bar he used to frequent with his lover was open, and a new bartender gently guides him back to life. A heartfelt ode to quiet compassion.
4.	3 stars. Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne. A woman afraid of life finds a stray dog, and takes him to the pound. This starts an adventure that entices her to re-engage with life. Well written, but it's hard to be interested in a character disengaged from life.
5.	4 stars. Shelved, by by Lynn Charles. A young librarian plays matchmaker for her beloved uncle via book recommendations to a new library customer, and along the way is matched herself. Charming tale of matchmaking and the matchmaker.

Advanced reading copy provided by NetGalley for an honest review.
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Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be A Live Tree ☆☆☆

I think I would have appreciated this one more if I had read the book with these characters in. As it was, I wasn't particularly amazed by this as an opening story for the anthology. That being said, it had some cute moments.

True North ☆☆☆☆

The real reason I was excited to read this anthology was Pene Henson's story. Both her full length books are among my favourites, so I'm always eager to see what she writes. This was pretty much my favourite story in the anthology. I just kind of wish it had been a full length story.

Last Call At The Casa Blanca Bar And Grill ☆☆

This was probably my least favourite of the stories. It's a bit of a downer, right in the middle of the anthology, and if I'm honest, I found it a bit boring. But the writing was good, and it did work well as a short story. It was just not for me.

Halfway Home ☆☆☆

Possibly the cutest story of the whole anthology. I was initially a little put off by the present tense, but it grew on me. It's either this or the final story that I would call my second favourite of the anthology.

Shelved ☆☆☆

Honestly, Karina's general uselessness after seeing Hailey for the first time is the most relatable, I love them both so much. I kind of wanted to see more of their relationship developing, because I felt like that was a more central plot to the story, but instead it's more about Karina's Uncle Tony and Wes. Which I did appreciate a lot (give me more older LGBT characters!! Let them find love!!), but it was a little unexpected. Anyway, this was probably my joint second favourite in this anthology.
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Going to review each of the shorts separately as this was really a mixed bag for me.. 

"Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree" no rating
dnf after the first chapter. A racist joke, then fat hating joke in the first chapter. This is not the story for me.

"True North" 3.75 stars
Sweet holiday romance between a Black lesbian WNBA player and the girl she had a crush on when she was a teenager, when she visits home for the holidays. I enjoyed this one. 

"Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar Grille" 4.5 stars
This is not exactly a romance, more of a Christmas story about grieving the love of your life, and coming to a turning point where you figure out a way to live with the grief instead of being subsumed by it. The pacing is lovely, the characterization spot on, and it's got just a touch of magic in it that really works. There is a wonderful kiss in it. 

"Halfway Home" 3.5 stars
This is a sweet dog-centered f/f holiday romance. I especially appreciated the slow pace that matched Avery's numbness, and the way it matched pace with her approach to Rudy, the stray dog she finds. I like that Avery's arc is about her moving toward being more active instead of mostly letting things happen to her, enjoyed watching her start to go after what she wanted. 

"Shelved" 3 stars
This one is a lesbian library assistant who is trying to match up her bisexual uncle with a new gay patron, and who has a crush on the girl who sells Christmas trees. The best parts were with the girl she has a crush on, and her matchmaking through book recommendation efforts, but I had a hard time sticking with this one because I mostly didn't care about the characters and the writing didn't grab me. It also felt weighed down by the MC's father's emotional abuse. 

Trigger Warnings:
Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree: racist joke, fat hating joke. 

True North: references to dealing with racism in high school. 

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar Grille: grief centered narrative, vague reference to someone dying in a bicycle accident.

Halfway Home: car accident, mostly set at an animal shelter, with one dog in particular that there is worry he may not be adoptable and may be euthanized. Dog shows aggression, someone gets bitten. 

Shelved: MC lives with an emotionally abusive parent and some details of that abuse are described in the story.  References to an ex dying.
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This is a wonderful holiday anthology with some great pieces and some weaker ones. Overall impression is very sweet, but the first story really drags it down. I really loved that the book was a mix of m/m and f/f stories. 

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree by Killian B. Brewer
I honestly could barely make it through this story and only the fact that it's short made me power through it. I couldn't stand the Do-Nothings (I grew up around a large quantity of women like this and I'd rather jump into an active volcano than to deal with them again) and their completely unnecessary fatshaming jokes were grating. The whole plot made me uncomfortable, and as it descended into a frantic mess of expectations versus reality, I was very glad for it to be over.

True North by Pene Henson
This was a wonderful story that I enjoyed a lot. Shay was a very nice character and her dynamic with Milla was very sweet and even better was her friendship with her best friend Devon (who was hinted at to be asexual, which always makes me happy) and her relationship with her family. I was somewhat annoyed byt the unnecessary confusion over Devon supposedly being Shay's girlfriend, but I powered through that annoyance and got a very nice story.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan
Unfortunately, I couldn't get into this story much. I'm always quite interested in stories dealing with grief, but Jack as a character just didn't grip me at all. His flashbacks about his lost partner felt intrusive in the way they were inserted into the story and I ended up skipping most of them. I really enjoyed the twist, although it took me a while to realise what just happened, because I wasn't expecting anything magical.

Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne
I loved this story so much. As someone who dealt with feeling absolutely nothing at all, I felt connected to Avery. Her and Grace's relationship was sweet and I found Avery's panicked blubbering whenever Grace was near absolutely adorable. I also loved Rudy the gremlin dog. I wouldn't mind this story to be longer.

Shelved by Lynn Charles
As always with anthologies, the last story was my favourite. I loved the premise of the story and all the characters involved. I love how Wes and Karina practically adopted each other. I loved how it showed the importance of libraries, especially for minorities in small communities. The relationship Karina had with her uncle (and later with Wes) was wonderful to see, especially given what her father was like. Karina's matchmaking was hilarious and I loved to see how much she cared. There were parts that should've been fleshed out and I genuinely would love for this story to be worked into a longer story. I'd be all over that.
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Overall, this is sweet, cheerful holiday read. Some stories I enjoyed more than others, but I feel that is a given for anthologies.

My favorite story was probably True North. I really connected with the characters and wanted more when the story was over. But Halfway Home was a close second and made me tear up a little. 

Shelved and Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree were both cute stories, although Shelved was the more serious of two while still being funny.
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Cute, if a bit cliched, collection of romantic queer short stories perfect for the holiday season. The writing quality isn't as consistent as one might desire, and some stories are more entertaining than others, but each is heartwarming and enjoyable. A nice, easy reading seasonal collection for those who need the occasional escape from heteronormativity in literature.
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This is a collection of stories tied together by the theme of the holidays.   The stories are all LGBT, some with characters we’ve meet previously in other books, some with brand new characters.  
Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree  This is set in Tammy’s Dinette, the holiday story of Marcus and Hank.  Marcus has always worked the holidays and this Thanksgiving is no exception.  His mother always worked for the extra money so holidays don’t really mean a lot to him.  But we get a visit from the Do-Nothings, who as usual are meddling and spouting secrets.   I loved the misunderstanding and Hank’s efforts.  “Because I do love you, Marcus… All of you.  Happy you.  Sad you. Sexy you.  Even the nutjob you sitting beside me right now.”  And isn’t that what we all want? 
True North Shay and Devon play basketball together and Shay is losing her edge.  A visit to her hometown in Montana is in order, where people mistake Devon as Shay’s girlfriend while Shay has to deal with her hometown crush, Milla.  It was cute and sweet, with Shay trying to be a good daughter and balance some mistakes she made at her last visit. “Your mama wants her gay daughter to feel at home.”  Shay has the parents we all should have. 
Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar and Grille  - Jack works for the mayor of Los Angeles and he’s busy over the holidays.  His family is worried about him and wants him to come home but he’s pretty adamant about staying.  Instead, he heads to Casa Blanca, a bar he he has a history with.  He meets the new bartender, Javi, and Javi listens to the story of Jack’s great love, Joey.   Jack carries so much misplaced guilt about Joey.  Joey is gone and Javi thinks maybe, “Have you considered that maybe you need a little nudge; that maybe it’s time to move on?”   This is a melancholy story that ends with a bit of hope. 
Halfway Home  - A cute story of Avery, someone who isn’t able to give all of herself to anyone because they don’t really accept it.  It takes a stray dog and a shelter volunteer to bring her out of herself. 
Shelved  - My absolute favorite of the anthology, mainly because we not only get to see Karina pining away for the “lumberjill” she met at a tree farm, but we see a niece’s best intentions and wishes for her beloved uncle.  Karina has the worst father in the world, my how I wanted to slap that man, but Uncle Tony, he gets it. As does Karina’s new friend. Wes.    “Your father gets no say in who you are or who you find happiness in.  It was so sweet to see Karina try for happiness for her Uncle while trying not to make a Hailey mess.  It was funny, sweet and adorable (dad notwithstanding).
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Christmas romance stories that feature non-traditional couples but all the well loved and used romance tropes? YES PLEASE!

This is a nicely done Anthology collection with a good selection of stories that showcase rather typical Christmas stories but with the nice spin that all of them feature LGBTQ+ characters. 

The writing in all is easy to read, nicely structured and with a easy to follow plot without being boring. The characters are nicely done, the plots themselves are cute and fluffy and while they are predictable and nothing new in itself its still a nicely done collection. 

The only reason for my rating is that while i love that this collection does not feature the typical pairings the actual plots and ideas behind the stories are nothing new. We have the typical christmas-y stories trophies in here. 

And while i don't mind those, i kind of wished that at least one of the story would have done just a bit more different. 

Its still a wonderful book and if you love Christmas stories and love finally getting a christmas romance collection with LGBTQIA elements i HIGHLY recommend this book!
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Every year I look forward to holiday stories. Christmas, Hanukkah, winter solstice ... the particulars don't matter because it's the spirit of the season that warms my heart. The sense of hope and love and joy always leaves a smile on my face and reminds why this is such a special time of year. When those stories are full of diverse characters, plots that are unique, and settings I've not read a million times before it's even better. I knew the If the Fates Allow anthology from Interlude Press would be excellent and I'm so happy to say I wasn't wrong. 

I'm not going to review each story individually because as a whole, the entire thing is wonderful. Each story is unique, each one brings something different. Whether it's the humor and nostalgia in Gracious Living Says It Has to Be a Live Tree (some title, huh?!) by Killian B. Brewer or tons of heart and feel good vibes in True North by Pene Henson, you'll find something to connect to in each story. Perhaps you like your holiday stories with a bit of a magic to them, the kind with that sense of something bigger going on? If so, you're definitely going to enjoy Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan. This one will definitely hit your feels and leave you with that warm, fuzzy feeling that sticks with you for a long time. If you're like me, you are a sucker for those stories where people find love in the most expected places. If that kind of thing pushes your buttons, you'll for sure want to check out Shelved by Lynn Charles. This one was all kinds of sweet and romantic. And then there's Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne where a scraggly dog without a home helps Avery find out there's more to life than just going through the motions. 

Truly you guys, this anthology is one great story after another. They're each unique in a wonderful way and will leave you feeling like you just had a cup of yummy hot cocoa, snuggled under your favorite blanket while sitting in front of the fire. These stories will put you in the Christmas mood for sure. Be sure to check them out and be prepared to revel in the holiday spirit!
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