Publisher: Carina Press
Number of pages: 257 pages
Source: ebook copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble - the 3 novellas can be bought separately as well
We wish you a merry Christmas…and a happily ever after!
A memorable three-night stand gets rekindled in a cabin in West Virginia. An office romance is sparked by an impulsive holiday kiss. And two best friends scout locations for a marriage proposal and discover that they make a perfect match. 'Tis the season for laughter, love and a lifetime of happiness.
Edited by Angela James this anthology includes:
We'll Be Home for Christmas by HelenKay Dimon
No man likes having his bedroom skills described as forgettable, but that's just what Lila Payne does when she runs into Spencer Thomas again. When she discovers that he'd lied about his name during their brief three-day romp a few months before, she's so angry that she pretends she doesn't remember him.
Spence regrets his deception, but not as much as he regrets that their time together didn't last longer. When she shows up in his town, looking to revitalize her uncle's mountain resort, Spence is determined to help. Maybe rescuing Lila from a hopeless renovation project will get him in her good graces—and back in her bed.
Lila has no interest in being rescued, and Spence is insulted by her stubborn rebuffs and her "faulty" memory. But when rehab work turns into an after-hours meeting, the two of them are in for a night that just might prove unforgettable...
Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth
Caitlin McIntyre’s heart stops when her best friend drops to one knee and proposes. Kyle Lockhart never once hinted over the years that he has any idea she’s in love with him. Not wanting to jeopardize their friendship, she’s never let it slip. Good thing, too, since it turns out he’s only practicing—he’s about to propose to someone else.
A business merger might not be the most romantic reason to propose to a woman he barely knows, but Kyle’s determined to win the respect of the dying father who’s never seen him as quite good enough. Kyle’s always depended on Caitlin’s friendship, while trying to ignore the physical response she arouses. So he turns to her when it comes time to craft his proposal, not realizing his decision will affect their relationship, forever.
This Christmas, Kyle and Caitlin get one last chance to admit their feelings for each other, and find a mutual happily ever after, before he commits his life to another woman and Caitlin leaves town and him…for good.
The Best Thing by Jaci Burton
Tori Lewis had a perfect working relationship with Brody Kent, until a year ago, when a flaming hot kiss changed everything between them. With passion dancing a wicked tease around them, they have to decide which direction their relationship is going. But Tori doesn't want to risk losing her job and the only family she knows, while Brody wants to shake things up and make Tori his. Can he convince her he's worth the plunge into the unknown?
My Thoughts: You know all how much I love the holidays and holiday romances so when I saw Carina Press' holiday release selection I couldn't have been happier! :-D (pst besides this contemporary romance anthology there is a sci-fi romance and an erotic romance anthology as well, so make your lists and check them twice! ;-))
Romancing the Holiday is the contemporary romance anthology Carina Press released for the holidays, it contains three novellas by HelenKay Dimon, Christi Barth and Jaci Burton. I'll review the novellas separately to give you my impressions of the stories and how they fare on their own.
I'll start with confessing that although I have glimpsed HelenKay Dimon's name before, until now I haven't read anything by her, so this novella was my introduction to both HelenKay Dimon's writing and her Holloway series (despite We'll Be Home for Christmas being Book #3 in the series), and since I enjoyed both a lot, I'll definitely check out more of her stories. :-D
We'll Be Home for Christmas is Spencer Thomas' ("that other Thomas boy") story of how he finds love with Lila. I have to say that I found the above blurb a bit misleading, as it led me to expect Spence to have several rounds of trying to convince and have Lila admit that indeed she remembered their night, but actually Lila after her initial one sentence denial never refuted it, to the contrary she alluded several times to their time spent together. But that's just a minor technicality, and other than that the novella was delightful.
I very much enjoyed the secondary characters, both Austin (Spence's brother), Travis (their friend), Darla (their high school classmate and diner owner) and Cleo (town's busybody old lady) were fun and delightful, all had a lot of heart and (some more than others) quirky personalities. Holloway was a delightful little town and this novella was a wonderful holiday story: it was heart-warming, funny, with that feel-good feeling of small towns' sense of community and helping out each other with a bit of sexiness thrown in. Spence is intense and brooding yet we see pretty soon that deep down he is a nice guy just having issues of abandonment and Lila was an equally nice and normal heroine. Their relationship, chemistry was interesting and kept me involved in the story from start to finish. Have to say, I wouldn't have minded at all if it were a full length novel. ;-)
HelenKay Dimon's writing flew smoothly, it was both natural and light (enjoyed the humour infused in the dialogues):
Something in the lightness of Spence’s voice and the way he smiled over the clear annoyance in his voice grabbed her attention.yet didn't have any problem with the emotionally charged parts either.
“You’re close to your dad.”
“Very. He grew a business while raising two rowdy boys. No one ended up in jail or rehab or under an overturned tractor.” Spence’s eyes glowed with admiration. “I’d call that a miracle.”
My only and biggest problem with this story was its ending. It was improbable, rushed and unrealistic. To see a cynical, jaded and emotionally vulnerable man sprouting "happily-ever-after-forever" declarations after less than a week, and about 30 mins after he didn't even consider their relationship serious or long-term just because his brother and friend told him to, kind of ruined an otherwise greatly enjoyable story.
Verdict: We'll Be Home for Christmas was a delightful story: If you love small town romances with the local busybodies, the meddling siblings and friends, a brooding yet sexy hero, and funny/sexy writing you'll be in for a treat. I've put HelenKay Dimon on my authors-to-watch list and can only recommend We'll Be Home for Christmas if you are in the mood for a delightful holiday romance.
I give We'll Be Home for Christmas 4 stars!
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You could say that I'm a long-time loyal reader of Christi Barth, I have read and enjoyed her latest 3 novels (Act Like We're in Love, Cruisin' Toward Love and Planning for Love), so I knew that any Christi Barth story would be a sweet romance. Combine that with a holiday setting and I couldn't resist the temptation! :-D
Although Ask Her at Christmas featured one of my favourite tropes (the "best friends to lovers" trope with a bit of marriage of convenience thrown in) it failed to enchant me. Christi Barth's writing was wonderful, she has a way with words to paint the perfect holiday settings ;-) (you'll feel as if you were watching a holiday movie with her colourful and vivid descriptions of scenes and events), but despite the holiday ambiance permeating the story and truly adding the sprinkling of snow and bough of holly on top I couldn't love the romance since I had trouble connecting with the characters and understanding their motivations. Maybe it was because the hero and heroine were both so ready to forget about their love and give up their decade-long friendship or just because the characters didn't make much sense to me.
On paper everything should have been perfect: Kyle the geeky yet drop dead gorgeous IT guy who has been best friends with unassuming, bestest of all friends Caitlin, who is ready to do whatever for him, even planning the most perfect and romantic proposal so the guy she has been in love with can ask his girlfriend to marry him. This setup right there was a bit unnatural, it took me some imagination to believe that Caitlin, despite being the best friend there could be would be so ready to help Kyle woo a woman for life when it would mean her eternal unhappiness. And their motivations behind their acts just left me baffled:
Kyle is marrying a woman who is more of an escort to social events than a girlfriend to impress his father, and Caitlin is giving up his best friend and her love for him because she wants to help him obtain his father's approval.
“I’m not going into this marriage to make googly-eyes and quote poetry. Monica and her precious hotel chain get perks if we marry, and I get my dad’s respect.”
Neither character won my approval. Despite being a grown up Kyle seemed way too quivering under his father's judgement and besides the very few allusions to convey that Kyle found Caitlin attractive there wasn't much to show he was in love with her or was worthy of her love.
“Umm, because you’re dating Kyle?”
“We’re not exclusive. He knows it. Kyle certainly doesn't sit home alone when I’m out of town.”
Well, that was true. He’d racked up his fair share of hookups.
It may be naive of me but when a heroine is celibate because she loves the hero I would expect quite the same from the hero...
And the potential fiancée was such a cardboard villainess it made me cringe. She was really awful. I understand that in a novella it would have been difficult to make her a more nuanced character but I still would have preferred to have her be a bit gray instead of the sharp black that she and white that Caitlin was.
Pushing up into a half crouch with one hand on the table, Monica whipped out the other to encircle Caitlin’s wrist. “Listen carefully. You will take the job, you will leave Chicago, and you will cut Kyle out of your life.”
Verdict: I still love Christi Barth's writing but despite its holiday setting and the wonderful holiday ambience that permeated this story, due to the characters I couldn't understand or like much, Ask Her at Christmas wasn't such a hit with me. Also at the end, while everyone knew a HEA was mandatory I still found the proposal superfluous and rushed. Sure, the hero's declaration of love was romantic and swoon-worthy, but I find it rushed to get married after one kiss and a decade of friendship, shouldn't they try dating first?
Once again Christi Barth delivers a picturesque romance with flowing writing and beautiful lines but I just couldn't understand or like the characters, so sorry Ask Her at Christmas, it's not you it's the characters.
“You deserve a wife who belongs to you, body and soul. You deserve a lover in your marriage bed. Someone to be there in the middle of the night to chase the demons away. Someone who fires up your blood and stirs your passion. Someone who wants you, who needs you with every cell of her body.”
I give Ask Her at Christmas 3.5 stars!
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This was only my second Jaci Burton story and the first time I met the Kent brothers. The Best Thing is the 3rd instalment in the trilogy, after Ethan and Wyatt have found love and wedded bliss this time it's Brody's turn to fall in love. The premise is that at last year's Christmas party Brody and Tori (their spitfire assistant and family friend) kissed, and after more than 10 months of Tori giving the brothers the cold shoulder they decide it's time Brody fixed the problem.
I found the small town and the characters very lovable, and though the Kent family tended to be quite overwhelming with their over-the-top meddling I found both the story and its characters charming and wouldn't mind revisiting them by reading the first two books in the series. ;-)
Tori and Brody were both nice characters, believable and real. Their chemistry and affection for each other was palpable and Jaci Burton knows how to write both sexy and sweet:
[...] stray thoughts of Tori kept filtering through. Her laugh, the way she looked naked, her competitive nature when they’d played video games, or the soft way she snored when she’d fallen asleep while watching movies. He’d never realized how alone he had been until he had her with him all weekend, or how much he’d enjoyed spending time with her. Usually he was all about getting women out of his house. Now all he could think about was when he could get Tori back there.
I had two problems with this story:
- the first being that I found the setup premise hard to believe: that a person could stay bitchy and give the cold shoulder to not just a guy she has a crush on but at least 2 other people she cares for?
[...] she’d been decidedly unhappy for almost a year now, ever since Brody had kissed her at the last company Christmas party.
I thought it was way too much for Tori to sulk and brood for almost a year and keep up her unhappy disposition. Also, why did Brody, his brothers and Tori's best friend let things stay this way for so long? Seriously, in real life after such a lengthy period of emo-PMSing there would be high probability of depression...
- and the final crisis, you know the big conflict that brings the angst into the story as to will they or won't they? And well I expected much more originality from the story and Jaci Burton than the conflict I got :-( Maybe the reason why I felt so let down by THE conflict was that it was exactly the same as in the first novella (We'll Be Home for Christmas by HelenKay Dimon)
Oh and yes, the biggest pet peeve of mine: the public declaration: I just don't get it why characters (and maybe some people) think that those things which are said in front of a public carry more weight and are truer than words whispered in private. I just don't get it. I much prefer a heartfelt, honest intimate declaration than a she-bang with fanfare.
Verdict: The Best Thing was a delightful, fun and sexy small town romance with lovable characters and great chemistry between the hero and heroine. I had a few problems with the story, which although didn't ruin completely my enjoyment of the story still managed to detract a bit from the dream 5 star rating. But if you love public declarations and characters (a hero) who make mistakes, then I'm sure you'll enjoy The Best Thing.
I give The Best Thing 4 stars!
Writing: 8/10 at times I felt the filling lines between the dialogues a bit brusque
Cover: 9/10 - love it!
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Verdict: Overall Romancing the Holiday was a delightful collection of holiday romances that I heartily recommend for you to read to get in the festive mood. I discovered some lovely new series (and even author), and I will definitely read the remaining two Carina holiday anthologies ;-)