Kissing Santa Claus
I have on my bookshelves a number of anthologies that I keep for just one of the stories in the book. Kissing Santa Claus is now the newest addition to that pile.
Bah, Handsome! by Jill Shalvis is a marked improvement, and is easily the best story of the book. Hope O’Brien has a bit of a problem: the loan she took from her jerk stepbrother Edward is coming due on January 1st and it’s looking like she’s not going to be able to meet the deadline – meaning Edward will take control of her B&B. Desperate, she requests an extension. Next thing she knows, Edward’s lackey – aka financial advisor Danny Shaw – is standing on her doorstep. Hope just wants him gone, but Danny’s really not the bad guy she thinks he is. He’s determined to help get her out of this mess; he just needs Hope to trust him.
I really liked both main characters, but I have to admit a soft spot for Danny. He was a high school geek who’s outgrown his geeky tendencies – for the most part. I thought he was adorable, sexy, and sweet, but more than anything, genuine. The chemistry is great, and the sex scenes are hot with occasional funny moments – a combination I love. Bah, Handsome! just really worked for me. The only complaint I have is that the ending felt rushed. I still believed in Hope and Danny’s HEA, I just wished it all hadn’t been wrapped up so very quickly.
Grade: B Sensuality: Hot
It’s Hotter at Christmas by HelenKay Dimon starts off poorly, improves over the course of the story, but ultimately remains an average read. Marissa Brandt is in Hawaii to develop a marketing proposal for a new exclusive resort, but bad things keep happening. Her purse has been stolen, she got into a physical altercation with a TSA employee, and now her hotel room has been ransacked. To top it all off, she’s stuck dealing with deputy chief of police Ted Greene, who’s made it clear he’s suspicious of this sudden crime wave featuring just one victim. But even though Marissa and Ted seem to do nothing but argue every time they’re in the same room, neither can deny their intense mutual attraction.
I normally enjoy romances that begin with the hero and heroine at odds, but in this case it fell flat. I found the verbal sparring annoying, and I just didn’t feel any of the chemistry that was supposed to be present. Frankly, for a while I couldn’t figure out why they were so attracted to each other. Then there’s the whole ethical issue of Ted sleeping with the victim of a case he’s investigating, plus the fact that even though he’s a deputy chief of police he doesn’t know the difference between theft, burglary, and robbery – which are not the same crime – that all worked to compound my annoyance. But as the story progressed and the romance between Ted and Marissa took center stage and became less antagonistic, it improved considerably. I found myself no longer questioning their attraction, and was rooting for them to find that HEA. Even with the marked improvement, however, the story as a whole just didn’t rise above average.
Grade: C Sensuality: Hot
Donna Kauffman starts things off with Lock, Stock, and Jingle Bells, which follows Holly Bennett as she comes back to her hometown to figure out just what to do with her mother’s Christmas and antique shop, now that her parents have retired and moved to Florida. Holly’s plan is to spend two weeks getting everything squared away, and then return to her advertising job in London. But when she runs into high school crush Sean Gallagher, who now runs his parents’ restaurant, things get a bit complicated – especially when Sean confesses his attraction to Holly and asks her to give them a chance before heading back to London.
I’m really not a fan of stories with long periods of internal monologue – especially when those monologues occur right in the middle of conversations – so the writing style in Lock, Stock, and Jingle Bells just didn’t work for me. It felt like the author was telling me instead of showing me, and without dialogue and action that moves at a good pace I found myself getting bored. I liked both Holly and Sean, I liked the premise, and I really wanted to like the story overall. Instead I found it rather pleasantly blah, with occasional highlights.
But what really irked me, and dropped the grade a bit, was when the author introduced a subplot midway through. At first I was intrigued, and hoped the author was using it to help bring Sean and Holly together. Uh, no. Turns out that the sole purpose of adding this little mystery was so the author could establish an elaborate setup for a future story. The ending that should have been devoted to Holly and Sean’s romance – you know, the romance in this story – felt hijacked and I felt cheated.
Grade: C- Sensuality: Subtle