Sunday, 4 December 2011

Book Review: Secret Santa by Sierra Dean

Title: Secret Santa
Author: Sierra Dean
Release Date: 29 November 2011
Number of pages: 128 pages
Publisher: Samhain
Series: Book #2.5 in the Secret McQueen series
Source: e-ARC provided by author
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon

Grade: 5 stars

Novellus perfectus!

Goodreads appetizer: ’Tis the season for ho-ho-homicide.

Secret McQueen, book 2.5

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The season for mistletoe, Christmas lights…and a killing spree. When Secret’s friend, Detective Mercedes Castilla, asks for help to solve a series of murders longer than a string of lights, Secret resigns herself to the fact her holidays will be anything but peaceful.

It seems someone is killing New Yorkers in an unusually gruesome way, and as the bodies pile up faster than presents under the tree, the police are no closer to finding the killer than Secret is to finding the perfect present for one of her boyfriends, Lucas.

Tracking down a monster in Manhattan the week before Christmas is almost as difficult as shopping for her ever-expanding collection of loved ones. When tragedy strikes close to home, Secret must do everything in her power to put an end to the horror in time for Santa to come down the chimney.

Warning: Contains a less than merry McQueen with a sword and a reason to use it; a festive new use for mistletoe; and a promise that will haunt Secret like the Ghost of Christmas Future.

My Thoughts: If you follow my blog you must know I passionately love the Secret McQueen series (if you just joined the fun you can catch up by reading my review of the prequel and the first book), and as Christmas is my favourite time of the year I was excitedly looking forward to reading Secret Santa (Book #2.5 in the Secret McQueen series), and wow was I blown away!

Which let's be realistic was not a simple feat since my expectations of Sierra Dean's writing and the story kept growing exponentially with every further book, and yet Secret Santa floored me.

Once again Sierra Dean starts the story with a bang (she should seriously receive the best first lines/first scene award). Secret Santa resumes the story where Book #2 A Bloody Good Secret left off: Secret became the new tribunal leader and she has trouble adjusting to this new title and more administrative than active duty. She misses being the one in the fights, the thrill of the chase and taking matters into her own hands. But of course we don't have to wait long before Secret takes charge and starts investigating the latest mystery, and as always she can count on Holden her ex-Vampire-Council-contact/friend to have her back.

What I loved (but which doesn't come as a surprise since Sierra Dean made me used to this in The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters) is that despite the length restrictions Sierra Dean manages to give the reader a complex, fully developed, detailed and rich story even in a novella. I am usually left unsatisfied with novellas because the action/resolution is rushed, the characters and mystery are not developed enough, but none of this was the case with Secret Santa.

The mystery and chase were layered and kept the reader on their toes, while the bantering witty dialogue between the characters was stellar! The unique and so entertaining humour I come to associate with this series is back on full force:

Secret when worrying about meeting her boyfriend's mother:
If I could kill a vampire Tribunal leader, I could handle Momma Alvarez, right?

Secret about her kitten:
With the tinsel gone, she took up her favorite hobby—attempted manslaughter. She weaved between my ankles while I walked, trying her damnedest to make me do a face plant into the Christmas tree.

Thanks to the evocative writing
words got caught in a cold gust of air and were carried off unheard into the dark
Sierra Dean paints a vivid setting, be it festive, lit up down-town New York or abandoned creepy graveyards. (By the way Sierra Dean has a knack for creating the best creepy settings: first in Book #2 a falling apart old haunted house in an abandoned amusement park and now a Victorian graveyard full of old angel statues, gave me goosebumps just reading about them!)

I enjoyed that despite the quick resolution of the final fight, the explanation of the mystery was done intelligently, giving reason and some back story to the mystery.

When talking about the Secret McQueen story you must know that here you don't have a love triangle but a love.. I don't even know what since there are so many potential love interests for Secret, let me just show you the main contenders. First there is Lucas, billionaire werewolf king and classy gentleman (one of my favourite heroes, sadly he isn't much on the scene, and didn't make an appearance in Secret Santa either *frowns*), there is also Desmond, second in command werewolf lieutenant to Lucas, a playful and warm-hearted man, and then there is Holden, Secret's ex-contact-to-the-vampire-council and drop dead gorgeous intense vampire friend/ally whose chemistry with Secret makes my Kindle sizzle. Secret has been living with Desmond for the past six months, and yet despite their living arrangement and Secret saying she loves him, I'm not convinced. Somehow I find their relationship convenient, casual and shallow. I don't feel the intensity, both in heat and restraint that I do when Lucas deigns to come on scene or when Holden finally gets some screen time. In my opinion they both pack much more heat whenever they interact with Secret than Desmond, who I find adorable, but much more like a cute puppy.

Just to show you what I'm talking about, a Secret and Holden scene:
"Holden, will you please help me?" What I was thinking was more along the lines of Holden, if you don’t agree to help me, there will be blood all over this sword before I even start hunting for fae.
"I will help you, because I would follow you to hell and back. But when this is over I need your word that you will stop ignoring this."
"I don’t know what you want."
"I want you."
So I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this love square will evolve...

The ending was perfection itself! It was festive, heart-warming, sweet and still remained completely true to Secret. Hats off to Sierra Dean, a holiday UF novella can't get any better than this!

Verdict: Secret Santa reminded me once again why I looove the Secret McQueen series so much. It is witty, it is funny, full of action, sexiness and yummy heroes, and the kickass heroine is simply one of a kind! If you love urban fantasy, you HAVE to read this novella for the holidays! I would think that writing a Christmas UF story is a contradiction in itself but Sierra Dean pulled it off! She gave such a festive and still kickass story you will bite your nails but close the book with a smile feeling good about the world and craving that hot chocolate with marshmallows :-)

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 10/10 - only one word: perfection!
Writing: 10/10
Cover: 8/10 - I know it's a holiday story, but I still have some problem picturing kickass Secret wearing a fluffy Santa hat...

Order of the series:

#0.5 The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters - read my review here
#1 Something Secret This Way Comes - read my review here
#2 A Bloody Good Secret
#2.5 Secret Santa
#3 Deep Dark Secret - to be released on 6 March 2012

Buy it:

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