I read a lot of Christmas-themed novellas this fall, but I didn't really get around to reviewing most of them but with Christmas just a couple of days away it is time I catch up.
Holiday Kisses Anthology by Harlequin\Carina
This Time Next Year\A Rare Gift\It's Not Christmas Without You\Mistletoe and Margaritas
by Alison Kent, Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon, Shannon Stacey
I requested this Anthology purely for the Shannon Stacey story. I really like her Kowalaksi Family books so I jumped at chance to read more by her.
Mistletoe and Margaritas by Shannon Stacey:
Claire lost her husband unexpectedly two years ago, and is finally starting to feel like she can move on, explore feeling desire and attraction for someone again. Justin was Claire's late-husband's best-friend and her constant-platonic companion since his death. Justin is deeply uncomfortable with this development as he has been hiding his feelings for Claire for a very long time and this change threatens everything.
I liked this story more the more I thought about it, but as I read it I struggled a bit with the pain the characters feel. In the end I liked how deeply guilty Justin feels, how hard he had tried to live up to his friendship and how he reacted in the absolutely wrong way in his behavior toward and what it took for him to fix it. 4 out of 5 stars.
The Publication date for Holiday Kisses was October 29, 2013 Digital ARC provided for free by publisher via NetGalley.
The second Anthology I requested was from Carina Press (Which is probably my favorite imprint right now).
All I'm Asking For: A Contemporary Christmas Anthology
Tinsel My Heart\Season of Second Chances\Mine Under the Mistletoe by
Christi Barth, Brighton Walsh, Kat Latham
I have previously read and enjoyed Kat Latham's Knowing the Score London Legends #1, which has the honor of being the first sports romance I have read and enjoyed.
I read all three stories in this Anthology and enjoyed two of them.
Tinsel My Heart by Christi Barth
In Tinsel My Heart a now famous director Jack Whittaker returns to Minnesota to fill in for his directing partner, former best-friend Ty, who has let Jack down once again due to his drug addiction. Jack is unwilling to let Becca Huntley,their mutual old-friend suffer because of Ty.
This is a story of unspoken feelings, lingering misunderstandings and regret. The circus atmosphere of the Holiday production crowded with overly colorful secondary characters with and Jack's hostility toward Becca kept me from connecting with this story. I kept wanting to shake the characters and have them stop talking so much without actually saying something. 2 out of 5 stars.
Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh:
On Christmas Eve Claire is exactly where she doesn't want to be: Stuck in O'hare airport with her former fiancee the only person to turn to. Rather than spend the night in the airport floor as hotels fill-up with stranded travelers Claire accepts Logan's offer of a place to stay. It is painfully confusing offer to accept. It has been two years since she walked away from Logan after too many cancelled dates, lonely dinners due to Logan's workaholism. Claire has made a new life for herself but going back to their old apartment reminds her of all she had hoped they would have.
I quite liked this story. Claire wariness and Logan's desire to prove to Claire that he is a different man than he was when she left him was naturally addressed without making Logan perfect man. 4 out 5 stars
Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham
Ashley Turner has swapped houses with Oliver Stansfeld leaving behind sunny San Diego for what she hopes is the idealize English Christmas she grew up hoping for. Oliver is fleeing London and all the feelings and grief Christmas there would mean.
But Christmas for Ashley and Oliver is not turning out as planned. Oliver is stuck in London after deep snows ground all flights out, so he heads back to his house and his bed to wait for the airport to re-open. His bed isn't empty however as Ashley made it in to London in one of the last flights to land. Their introduction is hilarious and worthy of the best of British farce.
This a story of about the best of intentions, horrible mistakes, regret, loss and choosing love, set in a beautifully drawn modern London.
I almost wrongly nitpicked myself out of enjoying this story due to a small insignificant detail about Christmas lights and the difference between British and American plugs in the first few chapters. However there is nothing to nitpick about the romance in this story. I really loved how Ashley and Oliver got on, how naturally their relationship developed with all its hesitancy, false-starts and set-backs. I thought the resolutions were also natural and emotional. 5 out of 5 stars
The Publication date was Dec.5, 2013, Digital ARC provided for free by Publisher via NetGalley.
Another Carina Press book and another Shannon Stacey book I read this fall was Snowbound with the CEO.
Snowbound with the CEO by Shannon Stacey
The more I read romance the better I am at recognizing the tropes that work or don't work for me. Workplace romances or Boss/Assistant romances really just tend fall flat for me, but because this was an Shannon Stacey book I decided to give it a try.
It was a real departure from the Stacey books I have read as the characters are urban professionals without many secondary characters to speak of.
Adrian Blackstone is the driven CEO of Architectural firm specializing in restoration. Rachel Carter is his executive assistant. Adrian thinks Rachel is an incredibly valuable employee, so won't risk his attraction to her show, and Rachel absolutely loves her job, and doesn't want to threaten it by making a move on Adrian. A unexpectedly strong blizzard cancels a long-planned business presentation and isolates Adrian and Rachel's in remote resort and gives them both a romantic opportunity to pursue their attraction to each other in a way seemingly disconnected from their regular roles.
The romantic tension and flirtation that builds for them was very nicely done, as was the precarious re-entry into their regular lives. The conflict and misunderstandings that arise after they return to Boston and have to figure out what it meant was some-what predictable but I liked the resolution. 4 out 5 stars.
The Publication date was Nov.4, 2013, Digital ARC provided for free by Publisher via NetGalley.
The last Anthology I am reviewing for this is:
A Christmas to Remember
from Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
which includes the following novellas Dream a Little Dream/Every Year/Silent Night/Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas/A Family for Christmas by
Jill Shalvis/Kristen Ashley/Hope Ramsay/Molly Cannon/Marilyn Pappano
Dream a Little Dream (Lucky Harbor 8.5) by Jill Shalvis:
Ian and Melissa had a cozy friendship that blossomed into a friends-with-benefits situation till Melissa a serial-dater cut their relationship off. Six months later, Ian answers a fire-call to Melissa's apartment building where he rescues Melissa. Melissa wakes up post-rescue with changed mind-set and set out to make a place for herself in Ian's life again.
This fall I binged on Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor series set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. The initial trilogy was fantastic and the second series has been charming. I quite liked this story, particularly the how Melissa's turnabout was handled. 5 out 5 stars.
Every Year(Chaos 2.5) by Kristen Ashley:
Kristen Ashley gives readers of her Chaos series and Motorcycle Man a glimpse into Christmas at Tack and Tyra Allen's house. It features bikers too-tough for winter jackets assembling tire swings and enjoying hot cocoa. Rough and tumble people devoted to family, allowing some of it to soften them just a little bit.
I have to been in certain mood to really dive into Kristen Ashley because her voice is so jarringly different than most contemporary romance novelists. This was christmasy epilogue for Tabby and Shy and teaser for romance featuring Landon Cage (Shy's brother) not a stand-alone story. 3.5 out 5 stars
Silent Night (Last Chance 6.5) by Hope Ramsay
A newly homeless single mother makes a last-ditch trip to a childhood sanctuary of Last Chance in hopes of finding open door and chance to start again. Instead she run out of gas miles from her destination and takes shelter with her baby in a abandoned barn in a darkened farm.
Obviously playing on the Nativity story, I think the story started out strong but lost it way in the second half and it rushed the romance too much.I am however tempted to try some of the full-length Last Chance books. 3 out 5 stars.
Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas (Everston,TX 0.5) by Molly Cannon
Dinah is professional organizer sent to organize and ready Lincoln home for Christmas by his mother. When she shows up on his doorstep in a Mrs.Claus outfit he is completely befuddled and then resistant. As she brings order into his life, he grows increasingly attracted to her, but Dinah panics when she crosses what she feels is professional line by getting involved with him.
It was cute story that had I had little if any emotional connection to. The conflict felt forced and rushed. 3 out 5 stars.
A Family for Christmas (Tallgrass 1.5) by Marilyn Pappano Ilena is a war-widow with a young child making a life for herself in Tallgrass, where she has established strong friendship with other war widows. Dr. Jared Connors is new arrival at Tallgrass and he isn't quite sure if he is staying. In Tallgrass out of rebellion, seeking to disentangle himself from his pushy surgeon parents, he signs a contract to be the new family practitioner in Tallgrass. Attracted by Ilena who sort bulldozes her way into his life, he is wary of putting down roots. While I thought the resolution was rushed I did like how ambivalent and wishy-washy Jared is for most of the story. That is just a unusual characterization for a man in romance. He truly doesn't know what he wants for himself, just that he doesn't want what his parents want for him. I also liked quirky Ilena. Could have done without the Elf outfits however.
3 out 5 stars.
The Publication date was Nov.3, 2013, Digital ARC provided for free by Publisher via NetGalley.