Candy Canes and Cappuccinos by Elizabeth Coldwell


Candy Canes and Cappuccinos by Elizabeth Coldwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short story (24 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Kyle is struggling to run his coffee shop on his own after his partner walked out on him. He has his eye on Steven, who comes into the shop each day, but hasn’t worked up the nerve to express his interest. When Steven asks Kyle to help out with Christmas lunch at the homeless shelter where he works, Kyle is too exhausted to agree. He donates his tips but still feels he’s blown his chances with Steven and made himself look like a selfish jerk.

On Christmas Day, Kyle sees a way to make amends—to both Steven and the needy people depending on his kindness. It’s the right thing to do, and Kyle hopes he can clear up the misunderstanding and show Steven the type of man he really is. Maybe then they can consider some dessert when the lunch at the shelter is over….

When Kyle had been betrayed and dumped, he wanted to curl into a ball and close out the world. Instead, he threw all his efforts into proving his ex wrong and make their joint venture – a small coffee shop – a roaring success. Steven has been a regular at the coffee shop for a while now, and Kyle is interested but too shy to make the first move.

I really enjoyed this Christmassy, super short story. Kyle and Steven have plenty of chemistry, but I loved how they didn’t simply jump into bed with each other. The author did an excellent job in my opinion of balancing the start of the two men’s relationship, while still managing to keep the sexual tension and physical awareness between the men front and center of the story. I felt this really made the pacing of the whole short story feel like the relationship moved along at a good, realistic and quick pace without being a “sex for the sake of it” style of erotic story.

This is the sort of short story I feel people can enjoy reading privately on a train trip, or as a quick “before going to sleep” sort of happy story that’s quick and leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. It could also be a great way to introduce reader-friends to M/M as there’s nothing kinky or over the top about the story and even the sex scene is somewhat brief and not explicit enough in my opinion to be a turn-off for more traditional spicy romance readers.

With plenty of Christmas cheer, a lovely romance and a little bit of spicy love this is a great story and one I can happily recommend.

O Hell, All Ye Shoppers by Louisa Masters


O Hell, All Ye Shoppers by Louisa Masters
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (26 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ethan Hall plans to fill Saturday, December 23, with junk food and bad TV, a day just for him amid the holiday chaos… until his baby sister calls and begs him to go collect a present for her. At the biggest shopping center in Australia. On the busiest shopping day of the year. Hell no. Right?

Ethan’s soft heart gets the best of him. He battles through the parking lot, and in the main shopping concourse, he’s trampled, elbowed, and bombarded with terrible holiday music. Then he enters hell itself, a specialty store aimed at women… where he meets Ty. They bond in a sea of estrogen and manic shoppers, fighting together to attain freedom, only to find they’re not quite ready go their separate ways.

Ethan had some serious plans for relaxation for just one day before the Christmas madness set in. Only his sister called, pleading for him to go to the biggest and busiest shopping complex around and brave the hoards of crazed pre-Christmas shoppers. After risking life and limb to get through the crowds, Ethan finally tries to get the present off hold, only to bump into a fellow shopper, Ty. After helping Ty select a gift, Ethan eagerly agrees to let Ty buy him a drink – far far away from all the other shoppers.

I found this to be a delightfully fun, somewhat sarcastic Christmassy short story. I have to admit, I selected this because of the title. I loathe doing last minute Christmas shopping – even just getting the perishable groceries a day or two before the Big Day. It’s a nightmare and I can’t understand people who actually enjoy rolling with that mayhem. So this story really was right up my alley.

While the brief length of the story meant there was really very little time for Ty and Ethan to get to know each other before the chemistry exploded between them, I really liked how the author dealt with this. It made the story feel very realistic to me (although slightly too serendipitous) but overall I found it clever and believable. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t too much description in the sex scene – readers looking for a spicily erotic scene might not find this satisfying. There’s tons of chemistry between Ty and Ethan though and plenty of romantic feelings that grow very quickly between the two men. I feel this would be a wonderful story – perhaps to gift a reader friend with – to help introduce a reader unsure about M/M romances as a gentle, romantic story to show the appeal of M/M stories.

Lighthearted and fun, I feel this is a great short story, something that could easily be read quickly to help you get into the holiday mood or as a short indulgence over the holidays. Sassy, fun and romantic this appealed to me and the Happy For Now ending rounded out the story well, to my mind.

Girl at Christmas by Rhoda Baxter


Girl at Christmas by Rhoda Baxter
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (93 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Tammy is normally at her happiest at Christmas when she has the flat to decorate and those perfect days between Christmas and New Year to relax. But when her long term partner dumps her, with no real explanation, her Christmas looks very bleak.

Lawrence usually spends Christmas watching DVDs and catching up on his paperwork. At thirty one, he’s already stuck in a rut.

When Lawrence has a sudden heart attack, it is Tammy who comes to his rescue. It turns out a happy Christmas can be made from the most unexpected ingredients.

Girl At Christmas is a novella in the award nominated Smart Girls series. If you like authors like Lindsey Kelk, Sarah Morgan or Milly Johnson, it’s perfect for you. Grab a copy and get into the Christmas spirit today.

This book’s title doesn’t even hint at the sublime and sweet romance between its pages. I applaud Ms. Baxter’s presentation of two people finding each other just at the right time when both are ready to discover and accept love and a new future. Girl at Christmas is a character driven romance about two very likeable people that seem so real, they easily could be someone I’d be proud to know.

The novella focused on Tammy and Lawrence. She’s been hurt emotionally and he’s in danger physically – two very convincing reasons to care for this couple. Honestly, I’m having a hard time putting what I want to say in words. It’s not because I don’t believe this is a well written book – it is! Ms. Baxter has a way of making the heroine and hero’s path to love so sweet, and compelling and honest that I just wanted to hug them both. The author paid attention to the little things that people do to show interest, to show they care and because both of the main characters were a little shy, they were super adorable. I actually felt HAPPY to know them. I can’t remember actually being happy while I watched a romance unfold – interested, fascinated, and entertained,sure, but not happy in the way Girl at Christmas made me.

I liked how the author painted her characters to be slightly geeky; it was part of their charm. I also liked the three main supporting casts of Walter, Olivia and Suzie. Their friendship and camaraderie enhanced the novella and contributed significant emotional touchstones. The one character that caused a lot of the angst is Tammy’s ex, Jeff. I concur with Suzie’s opinion of him. I’m glad that Tammy finally found clarity where that bozo is concerned.

The one thing that stood out to me was Tammy’s recollection of Jeff’s opinions about things she liked, and that includes celebrating Christmas. The joy she experiences when she’s with people who see it the way she does is incalculable. The ending is more a happy for now because it’s a beginning of something beautiful. As to what makes me believe that Tammy and Lawrence’s strengthening love and HEA is inevitable stems from their conversations towards the end. But don’t take my word for it – try reading Girl at Christmasfor yourself and see why I feel so positive about Tammy and Lawrence’s love and future.

Mrs. Claus by Rhonda Parrish, editor


Mrs. Claus by Rhonda Parrish, editor
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Holiday, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (214 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

When you think of Mrs. Claus, do you imagine a quiet North Pole homebody who finds complete fulfillment in baking cookies, petting reindeer and crafting toys alongside elves? How about a magic-wielding ice goddess, or a tough-as-nails Valkyrie? Or maybe an ancient fae of dubious intentions, or a well-meaning witch? Could Mrs. Claus be a cigar-smoking Latina, or a crash-landed alien? Within these pages Mrs. Claus is a hero, a villain, a mother, a spacefarer, a monster hunter, and more. The only thing she decidedly is not, is a sidekick.

It’s Mrs. Claus’ turn to shine and she is stepping out of Santa’s shadow and into the spotlight in these fourteen spectacular stories that make her the star! Featuring original short stories by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, C.B. Calsing, DJ Tyrer, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Kristen Lee, Randi Perrin, Michael Leonberger, Andrew Wilson, Ross Van Dusen, MLD Curelas, Maren Matthias, Anne Luebke, Jeff Kuykendall, and Hayley Stone.

Santa might have demanded the lion’s share of the attention in the old myths about the North Pole, but that’s all about to change for good reason!

In “The Asylum Musicale,” Lizzie, a patient at an asylum, quickly began to wonder where Yessica Klaus, the newest patient there, had come from and why she seemed to be capable of things that no one else could do. The foreshadowing in the early scenes was excellent. I especially liked Lizzie’s descriptions of her life before she was committed and how she responded to Yessica when she began to feel threatened by her. She was a complex person who seemed to believe several contradictory things at once, so it was a lot of fun to weigh the various things she told the audience against each other and come up with my own theories about what was going on before the big reveal at the end.

All of the stories in this collection were creative, diverse, and well written. I never would have guessed that Mrs. Claus could be interpreted in so many different ways or that she could be frightening in one plot and sympathetic in the next. “You’d Better Watch Out” was the only tale that I thought could have used a little more plot development. While I loved the idea of Nick and Fianna Claus adopting a house full of children, I would liked to see a little more time spent on explaining why Fianna ended up with such an unusual part-time job and how she and her husband decided to take in so many kids. With a little more development, this instalment easily would have been my favourite part of the entire book.

“Good Morning” followed Nick and Eve on the one day of the year when they awoke from their slumber and used powerful magic to help Nick deliver presents to every home on Earth. By far the best part of the storyline were the references to who these characters were before they became Santa and Mrs. Claus. One of the things I’ve always found most thought provoking about this couple was how little attention anyone ever paid to why these beings gave away presents or how they ended up together. This story had the most inventive take on their backstories by far, and I deeply enjoyed reading it.

I’d heartily recommend Mrs. Claus to anyone who loves modern spins on traditional fairy tales.

Prude by Jordan S. Gray


Prude by Jordan S. Gray
Labeled: Book One
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (270 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Rebecca Washington is a girl in control. Well, at least when it comes to acing her college classes. The rest of the time, she seems to be at the mercy of everyone else. Like when she’s dumped in front of her peers, hit on right afterwards by a jerk for some stupid bet, and then paired up with the same jerk for a lit project.

In order to maintain her perfect GPA, Rebecca will need to give a stellar presentation while ignoring the prodding eyes that will be staring at her. When her partner, Derek, starts to ease her fears of public speaking with his laid back attitude, she’s forced to confront her new feelings about him and his charming smile. Rebecca knows falling for a guy who teases her for being a prudish nerd can only end badly, but what if it’s just another thing out of her control?

Rebecca Washington is your “typical” smart girl, good grades, attention to detail and a love life that fits neatly into an organized schedule. In fact, the schedule is so neat that her boyfriend decides that old married couples have more spontaneity and publicly breaks up with Rebecca, drawing her much unwanted attention. This includes attention from a strikingly handsome man in her British Literature class. With her life in chaos, Rebecca’s friends try to help her see there is more to life than just class and good grades.

Prude is a look at life from a controlled perspective, that is, until life becomes uncontrolled. Rebecca finds herself drawn to Derek, who happens to embody the exact opposite of everything that Rebecca is interested in. As the story unfolds, we see the many different layers of Derek and this lines out much more in Rebecca’s true search for herself.

While I enjoyed the psychological complexities of Derek; Rebecca had some subtleties of her own that come out throughout the book. Shayler and Ansley, Rebecca’s best friends since high school, make many appearances throughout the book, but I feel that we only get to know them on a superficial level. Even with Rebecca’s point of view throughout the story, we only get a glimpse of what makes up her persona. I felt that by the end of the book, I knew more about the backstory behind Derek and his character development than I did even with Rebecca being placed as the main character.

Some scenes of the book felt strained and rushed, almost as though there was a race to get to a more interesting part coming up. There were several stereotypical occurrences and some stilted dialogue which disrupted the flow of the story from time to time. The story development and plot twists did fit well, but still felt a bit forced.

Overall the story had a general easy to read flow. While I felt the overall character development and backstories could have been stronger, the core plot and twists throughout the story did make for an interesting read romance.

If you are looking for a fun story to give you a glimpse into the world of a prude, then be sure not to miss Prude!

Love on Longboat Key by Meg West


Love on Longboat Key by Meg West
The Keys to His Heart, Book 1
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (143 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Julie Joseph dreads spending Christmas in Florida with her cranky elderly parents. Yet that changes when she arrives at Sun Tower and meets the eligible bachelor whose equally quarrelsome parents have just moved into the penthouse. Thomas Briggs IV is hardly the type Julie has dated in the past: he’s tall, handsome, and out-of-this-world wealthy. He’s also the son of the CEO of Pilgrim Mutual Insurance, where Julie works as a copywriter.

Julie has just a few days to date Thomas before they both have to return to the ice and snow blanketing the Northeast. But there’s one big problem: Julie’s rival for Thomas’s attention happens to be her gorgeous, but mean-spirited boss at Pilgrim Mutual. Can Julie overcome the odds and beat out Amanda Ford to win Thomas’s heart?

Love on Longboat Key, the first in a trilogy of contemporary romance novels set on the barrier islands off Sarasota, is a sweet holiday tale about finding love on the beach.

Julie works for an insurance company in Connecticut but is in Florida to spend Christmas with her parents who live in a block of flats for the elderly.  Thomas works for the same insurance company in Connecticut and is in Florida to spend Christmas with his parents in the same block of flats. They have not met before their holidays.

The two come together and find discover they have mutual employers, in fact Julie’s immediate boss is Thomas’s ex fiancé. They take time out together to get away from the demands of their parents and enjoy the Florida sunshine instead of the Connecticut snow storms.

This is a sweet romantic story where two like souls from very different backgrounds come together and help one another with their family and work problems. Add to this the ex fiancé who expects Julie to work over Christmas and is also a little bit jealous about Julie’s friendship with Thomas, and we have a story with a green-eyed monster making it interesting.

I loved both main characters and Julie’s parents added humorous light relief. The conflicts in their relationship were addressed in a very sensible way, none of this did he – didn’t he? Will she – won’t she? If they were confused, they asked. This could have made it a bit insipid but it didn’t. The story was entertaining and sweet and came a a very satisfying end. I enjoyed it immensely.

Christmas 911 by Lori Leger


Christmas 911 by Lori Leger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (270 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Corinne Ritter’s life changes drastically after she loses her husband twice in the same night. Several months later, the Texas native is en route to a family gathering early on Christmas Eve when an emergency shopping trip lands her in the middle of a robbery turned hostage situation. As circumstances deteriorate, she receives a shred of hope in the faceless presence of the 911 dispatcher she only “knows” by the soothing sound of his voice.

Luke Oliver is counting down to the end of his dispatch shift, anxious to begin his chillaxing tropical vacation. When a frantic caller asks for him, he has no idea it’s the faceless Cori he’s assisted on two prior occasions. He remains with her throughout the crisis, becoming her calming influence throughout the storm.

But will Luke be able to walk away when the time comes, or will this single 911 call change his life forever?

“911…What’s your emergency?” “Oh, I’m sorry. I just read a smoking hot romance book and I think I’m on fire.” I’m totally, burning for the hero, Luke Oliver. Joking aside, I’ve had to call 911 a few times in my life and I’ve never had an operator that sounded sexy. My life is so unfair. LOL!

I almost didn’t pick this book to read when I read the synopsis and it stated, “Corinne Ritter’s life changes drastically after she loses her husband twice in the same night.” It just didn’t make sense to me but after I read the story it totally makes sense. In fact, it’s the beginning of an ingenious plot. I’m not sure how realistic it is but anything is possible, I found Christmas 911 to be one hundred percent entertaining.

As I reflected on the heroine, Cori, I experienced many emotions. There are many thoughts I’d like to share but I can’t without spoiling the numerous plot twists. It’s safe to say that I was happy for Cori, sad for her, scared for her, worried for her and even laughed with her. She was by far one of the most relatable heroines that I’ve read in a long time.

Luke was calm, stable and had unwavering strength when necessary. He was very sensitive and attentive to Cori’s needs which I found endearing. If I was going through a crisis I’d like to have Luke by my side. I also enjoyed Luke and Cori’s relationship because together they were quick-witted and quite funny. It was easy to see where Luke and Cori got their sense of humor. Both of their families were comical.

The synopsis tells you that Cori stops for a last minute shopping trip on Christmas Eve that lands her in the middle of a robbery turned hostage situation. That single event was a pivotal moment that had me on the edge of my seat. It was a riveting storyline that added suspense throughout the plot.

There are a few things I’d like to mention that earned my respect towards the author. I loved how she addressed the importance of family, camaraderie among police officers/military and the support of breast feeding. I especially respected the argument in the elevator regarding the “education person.”

I can’t say this book was predictable. I did not see that ending coming at all. Wow! I’m feeling frustrated that I can’t speak about it. It was a Wow! ending. A fishing enthusiast will love it way more than I did. 🙂

This was a very good book. I’m glad that I was the one that got to review it. This book would make a great Christmas present for my friends. I definitely recommend this book for those looking for a unique heartwarming love story and/or a reader that believes in true love and that anything is possible.

A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger


A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (138 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

With Christmas just a few weeks away, Gia San Valentino, the baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family, yearns for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her, and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to aren’t exactly the happily-ever-after kind.

Tim Santini believes he’s finally found the woman for him, but Gia will take some convincing she’s that girl. A misunderstanding has her thinking he’s something he’s not.

Can a kiss stolen under the Christmas lights persuade her to spend the rest of her life with him?

When I started reading A Kiss under the Christmas Lights, the first thing that hit me immediately was the writing style. It is important to stress that if you are like me and dislike books that are written in first person point of view, please give this book a chance like I did. I admit that when I started reading the first page I was like, “Oh, no!”, and was about to decline the chance to read it. But, with the first Italian lesson on page two? I was drawn so completely into the story I forgot I was reading a first person point of view. That itself is a testimony to the writing style. I have to give praise where praise is due. I was shocked that I enjoyed the entire book considering my pet peeve over first person romance books. Well done Peggy Jaeger! I enjoyed how Ms. Jaeger incorporated Italian lessons throughout the story. I’m not Italian but I have friends that are and the author hit the nail on the head with how she described this Italian family in the book.

As for the plot, again I was thrown for a loop. Maybe I should have mentioned the plot first in the initial paragraph. I don’t know which I’m more excited about, the writing style or the plot. It was clever and original. The misunderstanding that is mentioned in the synopsis was so effective, I simply could not put the book down. It was worth every minute I spent reading. A Kiss under the Christmas Lights was a quick read and I just might read it a second time because I wasn’t fully prepared for what I was about to experience. It was unpredictable and yet I’m surprised I didn’t figure it out sooner than I did. Regardless, when I did figure it out, the revelation was priceless – absolutely the best misunderstanding one could invent. I’m dying to blurt it out but that wouldn’t be fun or fair to future readers.

The heroine, Gia, and the hero, Tim, are perfect for each other. They are an example of fate. They were destined to meet each other and fall in love. I loved where and how they met and I enjoyed how their story evolved especially that misunderstanding. I can’t wipe the smile off my face. The ending was so sweet my teeth ached. I was left feeling a happy book glow.

If it isn’t obvious by what I’ve already written then you’re missing the point. This is a must read, especially if you’re Italian and even if you’re not. I hope you’ll laugh as much as I did. I absolutely would be proud to recommend this book. I have learned a valuable lesson for the future. I won’t be so negative about books written in first person POV. A Kiss under the Christmas Lights was a sheer delight!

From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit by Sandra Murphy


From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit by Sandra Murphy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (60 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

To the moon and back, here are ten tales with a twist. The unlikely characters have one thing in common–they’re ready and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. As the old saying goes, you have to watch out for the quiet ones.

From a quirky inventor, humored by his neighbors, to two old men out to dinner, to a more-than-meets the eye beverage maker, the stories will take you into the minds of the overlooked and unseen. Ignore them at your own risk.

Sometimes good things come in small packages.

“The Chicken Pot Pie Fiasco” followed a family throughout the day as they cooked and otherwise prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. Chicken pot pie was their traditional main course for it, but this year they had trouble finding the right ingredients for it. I can’t say much else about the plot without giving away spoilers, but this was a funny and heartwarming tale that made me grin. Figuring out the mystery element of the plot was almost as much fun as seeing what happened once the pie was ready and everyone gathered around the table to eat it.

While I liked every story, there were a few that had too many characters in them. “From Hay to Eternity” was one of them. It was about guy named Darren who was giving a Halloween hay ride to a teenage girl named Tiffany as well as some other visitors to the farm. There were so many other characters included in the plot that I had trouble keeping track of all of them. It would have been nice to focus on Darren and Tiffany instead, especially once I realized what was really going on during the hayride and why Darren kept mentioning the conflicts that some of his family members were having about what they wanted to do with the farm in the future.

Bert and Sol went out for a fancy dinner at an upscale restaurant in “The Perfect Bite.” Not only were the descriptions of their food mouthwatering, they made me even more curious to find out what the twist was in this tale. The hints were deliciously subtle. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about these characters and their dining experience. This was my favorite tale from the entire collection because of how much it made me look forward to finding out what was really going on here.

If you’re in the market for short, snappy mysteries that are full of unexpected plot twists, look no further than From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit.

The Gingerbread Skirmish by Robin Weaver


The Gingerbread Skirmish by Robin Weaver
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (104 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A freak snowstorm represents financial ruin for Kaley McIntire. She can’t transport a special order of gingerbread. No delivery means no payment; no payment means Kaley can’t make the rent on her in-the-red coffee shop.

Abandoned in the middle of nowhere, the same snowstorm represents frostbite for Tanner Clayton. Instead of showing appreciation when Kaley rescues him during a blizzard, he fixates on getting home to his violets. Not understanding his plants are part of a NASA experiment, Kaley assumes he’s gay, and Tanner doesn’t correct her mistake.

Stuck in her cabin for three days, chemistry heats up the mountain home, but can love possibly grow from a friendship built on a lie?

Tanner had been dumped. In the frigid cold, pre-Christmas snow and practically in the middle of nowhere, Tanner found himself walking for miles trying to find some civilization. Half a mile away near her cabin, Kaley spots Tanner. Undecided as to whether he’s a potential serial killer or just a genuine guy caught in the snowstorm, she ends up Googling him and finding out the man is a botanist. Convinced he’s gay, she allows him to seek shelter from the storm in the cabin with her. Only Tanner isn’t gay. And Kaley might be in over her head.

I found this Christmassy tale to be equal parts funny and sweet. I loved the author’s voice and even found the family-friendly Christmas-speak humorous (reindeer-hell, son of St. Nick etc). While the plot itself isn’t anything new – boy and girl find themselves stranded and snowed in at Christmas time – I thoroughly enjoyed how the author managed to keep the story completely modern. Internet connectivity and the dreaded cell-phone dead zones played a strong part of the plot and made it so I can’t believe anyone would take this as anything except a modern story. I was a little disappointed at just how antagonistic Kaley came across in the beginning. Far from being the hospitable host, she made it very clear how eager she was to get rid of Tanner, calling him names and degrading his genuine stress about his plants (he’s a botanist, so it didn’t seem at all outrageous to me as a reader that his concern over his research and plants was genuine and heartfelt) and generally being quite rude to my opinion. Her attitude really made it hard for me to feel any chemistry or spark between them, and her distaste of Tanner made their eventual romance quite hard for me to believe initially.

I was very pleased that the romance built slowly between Tanner and Kaley. After such a quick meeting and particularly after Kaley was so antagonistic initially, the saving grace for me was that the author really stretched out the shift from annoyance and defensiveness to romance and lust. This helped the whole evolution of their relationship feel much more realistic to me, and making their slow fall into love believable really helped me warm up to Kaley’s character and begin to enjoy the story. As I relaxed into their romance it became a delight to watch these two become intimate and fall in love. While I don’t feel that the sex is “erotic” or explicit, it’s not behind closed doors either. I feel this will be a lovely spicy read for those who like a bit of heat with their romance, but not the outrageous descriptiveness of modern erotica. There is also a lot of romance, a slower pace as the relationship between Tanner and Kaley builds and plenty of talking which I feel firmly places this story in the “spicy romance” category.

Even though this book is part of a series I had no problems keeping up with everything. The plot really does mostly revolve around Tanner and Kaley so the fact I didn’t know anything about some of the other citizens of the small town or know about their traditions didn’t really lessen my enjoyment of the story. While I’m sure the story would be more fulfilling for readers who have read the rest of the series, I found it good enough to read as a stand alone.

A fun and enjoyable Christmas story.