HOLIDAY HOUSE SWAP
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 193 pages
Release Date: December 21, 2016
Reclusive writer Noah Kinley is facing a dilemma: how to confess to the world he’s really the author of a best-selling romance series. For years, his friend Julie has been the face of his brand, but she wants her life back now. Fast running out of ideas for his popular series, Noah wants to break out into other genres. Not that he’s writing much of anything at the moment anyway, thanks to paralyzing writer’s block. With his publisher breathing down his neck for the next installment, he hopes a change of scene will get his writer’s juices flowing again. Desperate enough to try anything, during the holidays Noah swaps his isolated cabin in the woods for a gentrified horse farm.
In HOLIDAY HOUSE SWAP, Sarah Madison delivers a winning tale of two men who are thrown together by unique circumstances. Nerdy, introverted Noah exchanges his cabin in Maine with the owners of a palatial Maryland estate. Unfortunately, he is literally caught with his ‘britches’ down when the true homeowner arrives … an incredibly handsome ex-soldier fresh from the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan! What evolves from this scenario is a light-hearted and angst-lite Christmas story at a time when we need a break from the stress and chaos of this season. It is most definitely a fluffy romance. However, it is a story of two men who sort through their flaws and emotional demons of the past to find the most wonderful – and incredibly elusive emotions in life: Love.
The character development of this book is amazing. This is a true gift of Sarah’s. I find her other works ‘strong’ in this regard. Noah and Connor come alive with their distinctive yet “night and day” personalities. Their differences only make their similarities and the interpersonal dynamics that ROCK this story … that much sweeter. The pace of this story remains consistent throughout. I did note a somewhat “hurried” ending. Although this is often synonymous with a reader’s desire for the book to continue. As far-fetched as the premise sounds: House-swapping during the holiday season is not unheard of. In fact, it is becoming increasingly popular. So, high marks for plausibility… The only thing that grabbed me was the lack of a “Christmassy” feel. Upon reflection, this is not a book about candy canes, mistletoe, reindeer or fudge … it’s about what makes Christmas special: The warmth that we get when we share the holidays with friends, family … and lovers. This books deserves a full 5 twinkling stars!
Gareth: Without further delay, please welcome the author of Holiday House Swap – Sarah Madison!
Sarah: Hey Gareth! Did you guys have a nice Christmas?
Gareth: We did. And how about you?
Sarah: No complaints! I love this time of year – the baking, the gift-giving the coming-together of loved-ones… The whole “package” if you pardon the pun.
Gareth: The last time you visited us was in August 2016 – right about the time of the Olympic games in Rio. Your highly popular FOOL’S GOLD was about training and qualifying horse and rider for the Equestrian events. Of course there was a huge dose of romance thrown in … If I remember correctly.
Sarah: There was indeed a ‘dose’ of romance. Actually, their love was central to the book. The backdrop of the Virginia horse country and training for the games was merely …. How do you always put it?
Gareth: “Window dressing.” The backstory is merely a vehicle for enhancing the plot. BTW … what did you think of my review? Does it suit you, Madam Author?
Sarah: Very much so. You always have great things to say. You are fair and objective in your approach to reviewing.
Gareth: There ya go making me blush …. BUT we are here today to talk about your new book HOLIDAY HOUSE SWAP.
Sarah: Yes, we most certainly are!
Gareth: What makes your Christmas story special among the others? After all, other writers have worked equally hard …
Sarah: Wow … you really know how to put someone on the spot don’t you?
Gareth: As Scott says, “It’s what I live for.”
Sarah: As you pointed out in your review – it’s all about what I love best about Christmas stories – unexpected guests, deep-seeded hurts of the past, mistaken intentions and people thrown together in unusual situations … only to find peace and true love in the end!
Gareth: What appealed to me about the book was non-reliance on angst. Instead, you worked with a sound premise and the quirkiness of an introverted sci-fi geek. A character who is hiding a huge secret from the soldier he grows to adore.
HOLIDAY HOUSE SWAP has this “relaxed” feel to it that I have come to associate with your work. The ‘angst-lite’ I mentioned comes at a time when we have too much going on – extra trips to the mall, unexpected gifts to buy, crowds to shove your way through … it is just too much. Then you have to worry about cooking for great-aunt Bertha who has recently turned Vegan, is lactose intolerant, diabetic and allergic to everything under the sun! But back to Holiday House Swap … The Sarah Madison I know hates stress and chaos (good luck with that by-the-way). Your writing style in general is not the overly lethal, high octane, over the top drama. So when you called me and said that you had a Christmas book and would I read it? I told you to shoot it my way.
Sarah: I like your point of ‘angst-lite’. I felt that it had no place in a light-hearted Christmas story. You’re right, Gareth. I am not big on drama so I avoid as much of it as possible. However, I adore conflict in books; it is what drives a story forward. But … not for the holidays.
Gareth: Christmas is over. Why should I bother buying it now?
Sarah: Once the tinsel is put away and the reindeer get stuffed back into the attic … the Christmas “blues” often set in. The positive, exciting feelings leave almost immediately – and a person often feels depressed and let-down once it’s over. Reading that fluffy holiday romance is just the cure for those post-Christmas “blues”.
Gareth: So what I’m hearing you say is that Holiday House Swap can enhance the magic of Christmas … while also taking the sharp edges off the sadness and depression that often occur when … as you say … Donner and Blitzen are tucked away for another year. Is that the basic point you are trying to convey?
Gareth: You chose a writer of romance novels and a soldier as your main characters. Why did you choose this particular combination?
Sarah: I adore the reality that “opposites attract”. That is why I chose a romance novelist and a war-torn soldier. I needed a plausible reason why my soldier might not be expected to come home for Christmas – and why his relatives thought they could trade the soldier’s home for the writer’s cabin. I also thought it likely that the soldier with limited resources for entertainment overseas might very well have read some pretty sappy romance novels.
Gareth: Limited resources? Like Trump’s Cabinet?
Sarah: Don’t get me started. You promised you wouldn’t.
Gareth: Fair enough. There is a line delivered by Connor somewhere in the story where he asks, “Do you mean there are only six or seven unique plots out there?”
Sarah: You’re a writer – you know that “how well you tell the story” is just as important as the story itself.
Gareth: When I first stepped foot in the M/M romance world I was amazed at how the overwhelming majority of writers are women. Admittedly, it was somewhat confusing as to how women – especially straight women – could possibly understand the dynamics of a gay relationship. Then it hit me! Relationships are built upon connections. Emotional connections. The mechanics of dick in/dick out can be learned. However, the qualities of a romantic bond can be understood and written about by either gender. Love is truly gender-neutral. That is why this notion of ‘women not being equipped to write about gay relationships’ is in my opinion “beyond ridiculous”.
Sarah: Well-said! It is nice to have a gay man’s ‘stamp of approval’.
Gareth: Is it that important to have a gay man’s approval?
Sarah: Well, it is very nice to know that we are hitting the mark so-to-speak. It is both a compliment to you and a nice affirmation for me. Thanks.
Gareth: You and I both live in rather Conservative States. Nowadays it seems as if everywhere west of Buffalo, New York and east of Walla Walla, Washington is ‘Conservative’. How do keep Sarah Madison separate from Lou Ellen Higgins or whatever your real name is?
Sarah: Oooooh, that’s a tough one. I once had to sign a moral standards clause that would allow my boss to fire me for “unspecified lapses in character”.
Gareth: Damn! Where did you apply for a job? A convent?
Sarah: Yes. I’m a nun. You’ve just outed me.
Gareth: Sister … you are no “Sister”. Not unless Francis I has relaxed things at The Vatican that much!
Sarah: Okay, I am not a nun. But I do have to keep Sarah very separate from “Lou Ellen”. Most days, Sarah Madison feels like the ‘real’ me. I don’t have to bite my tongue as Sarah. Through Sarah I can vent my outrage over politics, equal rights, climate change and more. I suspect I probably say more about these topics than is truly appropriate for an author, but when you must muzzle yourself around everyone in your ‘real’ life, it’s hard not to let it “rip” at times. Some days are harder than others though. I’m struggling with my reaction with this past election and not letting it affect my interactions with people on a daily basis. I fear things are going to get mighty ugly for everyone in the not-too-distant future. This is why I believe it is so important for authors and creators to share possibilities of hope through stories and entertainment. We need to keep showing worlds in which acceptance, diversity, equality and tolerance are not dirty words.
Gareth: That is so well-said, Sarah. I agree with you. It seems as if we, as a society, are being bombarded with all these demoralizing emotions. Hillary’s defeat still seems unfathomable. Personally, I feel almost cheated in a way. We were told by the media that the likelihood of his victory was something like 15%. When Scott and I watched the election results tumble in …. We were amazed at how his “win” column kept growing and growing – while Hillary’s victories were minute. They kept saying that the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida were “too close to call”. Too close to call? Where was this decisive, overwhelming victory that we were assured would happen?
Then I remembered something my mentor at the state capitol told me years ago: There is no such thing as a “sure thing” in politics. That stuck with me – and I saw it happen again and again on the state level. But Hillary and Trump was like David and Goliath. Roseanne Barr once said on her television show, “That David and Goliath is just a story they told to sell more Bibles.” But that’s TV. All I know is I felt like we were robbed. Add that insult to the injury of what very well might happen. It is sickening. I don’t think anyone is truly comfortable with the unknown … but our outlook is sketchy. With that said, a fellow author in our genre called me and kept apologizing to the gay community on behalf of straight white women for allowing him to win. I love this person dearly. She has an incredible heart so I felt her anguish and confusion and utter shock. Although I don’t think she meant to say the bit about it being the fault of straight white women everywhere, I do think she wanted to say something – or hear something that would help her make some sense of it. Despite being in the same shocked and confused state as she was, I told her not to apologize to the gay community. Although this has been one hell of a punch in the gut – and our future looks dark … the gay community is comprised of survivors. We have felt stomped on and detested by the majority. However, we have prevailed. The older ones of us have the battle scars to prove it. We are happy the younger men and women of our community had it a little bit easier. That was a sign that things were on an upward momentum. Slow – but upward none-the-less. While I fear the younger ones will come to know dark days ahead, I believe it is within us to soldier on.
I think every minority whether it be GLBT, women, people of color … we are all in the same predicament. During my conversation with her, I told her that 16 years ago, a man I despised took the White House. George Bush was a bastard in my opinion and he would ruin the country. I firmly believed that. And I watched him do his best to wreak all the havoc he could. But 8 years later a remarkable man took over. Although he had a huge mess to clean up, he made the sun shine for me, again. So, I do see unsure, ominous clouds on the horizon – but I have to remember I thought much the same way about Trump as I did about Bush. Unfortunately, I think Trump has a malicious side that makes George Bush look like small potatoes. However, I have to hope for the best. That’s all I have left. Hope. Let us not forget that we are the nation that built itself from nothing – then scratched and clawed our way Westward. We built a monumental society from nothing. Our founding fathers breathed life into a new concept – Democracy. This concept became the envy of every person in the world who wanted freedom and liberty. We are builders, Sarah. Our ancestors had a resounding drive to dream of a strong future – and then the guts to make it happen. Their blood runs through our veins, Sarah. So, we have an obligation to keep striving for a better world … and hope for a brighter future.
Sarah: Wow! I can feel your passion and I admire it. Thank you, Gareth.
Gareth: It might come in handy if Scott runs for office.
Sarah: I thought you said he decided against running?
Gareth: He feels like you. That we all must use our combined strengths to keep us on the high road so-to-speak.
Sarah: He’s right. No offense to your ability to write well … you sure write great dialogue! But you clearly have a skill. You said he feels strongly that positive change lies in the evolving scope of the law. You believe that the key to change is in Congressional powers on both state and federal levels. Right?
Gareth: You’ve got quite the memory. And I thought you were half-asleep while I kept babbling on.
Sarah: I’m serious. Both of you should run. To use your word: I think you guys have the “juice” it takes to do it.
Gareth: You are very sweet. While I believe in husband’s abilities to live up to his commitments, I like the freedom Gareth has here. The world doesn’t grasp that our government leaders are scrutinized to the extent that I can’t risk someone may discover my Facebook identity. I would have to walk a fine line … similar situation as you. People would almost burn us at the stake if they knew our involvement with M/M literature. Although it is one of the best-selling and lucrative genres in the world, it could get some of us in real hot water. The stake thing … was a tremendous overstatement. But the reality is … it is beyond many peoples’ capacity for tolerance. However, I am a better advocate than a writer. And as long as there is a Sarah Madison and the many committed, creative people like you – one less Georgia boy would hardly be missed.
Sarah: It is like I told you weeks ago. Yours is the bigger picture. For you and Scott.
Gareth: Well, I’ll definitely run it by Scott. See what he thinks. You’ve just planted a seed. Let’s see if it grows. But back to you. This interview is about Sarah Madison.
Sarah: It’s about “us”. Didn’t you tell me six months ago that you wanted Gareth’s Corner to be a place where readers could see a ‘real’ side of their “favorite authors”?
Gareth: Yes, that’s why I proposed it to the owner of my former blog. I think that very thing has happened during the course of our chat.
Gareth: I think that you have revealed that spark in you that I recognized months ago. You are truly a caring individual who believes in the worth of everyone. You care so much that your heart is heavy … and you’ve got the guts to admit it. You have also proven that your sensitivity goes beyond the whole of us. You give a damn about the individual person too. You wish only the best for your friends, readers, fellow authors – and the guy walking down the street as well.
Sarah: You asked me months ago what I thought of your premise for this ‘show’. Truth is … I had my doubts. Now, I think that what sets Gareth’s Corner apart is the depth to the questions and the friendly interaction you seem to bring out in people. A spot on your couch is more than just your typical interview with the same tired questions that generate generic answers. I love being a guest in your corner!
Gareth: Let’s close this thing before I start blushing … Thanks to my wonderful guest Sarah Madison. Her book Holiday House Swap is delightful. Full of humor and charm – and heaven knows we need all of that we can get in the world. So, buy it – and enjoy! She truly is my favorite author. Plus, she’s a redhead with a cool hat! Thanks also to Dani Maas and my new home here at LoveBytes! Dani, if you’re listening – I’m still waiting on that Dutch chocolate you promised!