Countdown to Christmas: Romancing the Holiday Will Have You Celebrating the Season With a Trio of Great Writers

3 Dec

Romancing the Holiday edited by Angela James and featuring novellas by HelenKay Dimon, Christi Barth, and Jaci Burton (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

One of my favorite things about December is that the holiday romance books come out. What is it about this season that makes us so vulnerable to reading about love? Well, whatever it is, I’m in the mood for snow, trees, and family – the kind you’re born with or the kind you create for yourself – and if there is a heart-wrenching “I love you” moment in what I’m reading, then all the better. Luckily for like-minded readers, a new anthology just came out today which will put you right in the holiday mood.

Angela James is a powerhouse editor over at Carina Press, and I’ve come to realize that any anthology she puts together is worthy of my purchasing dollars. She cultivates outstanding writers, giving the reader serious bang for their buck, and Romancing the Holiday is no exception. I think the best complement I can give is that each of these novellas (two of which were part of a series I hadn’t even read) were so rich in experience that they felt longer, as if I was reading almost a full-length novel. For $6.79, that’s a pretty terrific bargain, plus I’ve found a couple new authors to explore!

For those of you already hooked on the below series mentioned, the title link prior to the review is the direct link for that one story as is the corresponding individual book cover I’ve put right in the novella discussion. Keep in mind that both the anthology and the single titles are only available in ebook form. This alone could be a good reason to put that ereader you’ve been wanting on your holiday list – I always remind people that the original Kindles are only $69! So reasonable and it opens up a world of publications you couldn’t read otherwise, particularly in the world of romance.

We’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Holloway #3) by HelenKay Dimon

We’ll Be Home for Christmas (Holloway #3) by HelenKay Dimon (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) ebook only

Like so many romance readers, I’m a huge sucker for small town settings in romance, the kinds of places Jill Shalvis and Shannon Stacey specialize in creating where everyone knows everyone else’s business. I blame L.M. Montgomery and her Anne of Green Gables series for this; I wanted to move to Avonlea, Prince Edward Island the minute I read about it!

HelenKay Dimon, who sadly I had not heard of prior to this anthology, has written a successful series about Holloway, West Virigina, a small town of less than a thousand people. All novellas, her stories feature members of the Thomas and Anders families and good-looking males seem characteristic of this rural gene pool.

In this charming story, a bachelor hold out meets his downfall. Lilah Young, who has moved to Holloway to take over her Uncle Ned’s campground, goes to the local nursery upon his instructions to pick up an order. She’s shocked to be confronted with a man who has the same name as the hot guy she shared three passionate days and nights at a hotel a few months ago, but he’s not the guy. The more she looks at him, the more she realizes he looks a little like that sexy hunk of man who rocked her world for a long weekend, but this is all pretty creepy and the real Austin Thomas is getting upset.

Spence Thomas is sorry he used his brother’s name and not his own that weekend, but he was smarting from all the men around him finding the woman of their dreams when he firmly believes that relationships always end with the women walking away. His mom did it, after all, and that’s one of the reasons Spence keeps things light, finding women to hook up with when he travels and then never sparing them another thought. Except for Lilah, the gorgeous woman who has starred in his erotic dreams ever since he left her. Trying to ingratiate himself back into her good graces (and hopefully her bed), he’s taken on helping her repair the campground in addition to his other work. But Spence is having some difficulty keeping things light when his heart and the whole town is telling him that she’s the one.

Dimon is an outstanding writer, capable of rich characters who let you see right into their hearts. Spence, with his unbelievably high I.Q., is so laughably stupid about women in general that it’s a joy to watch him get busted by relatives and townspeople for his ignorance in matters of love. Lilah is everything a heroine should be – spunky, smart, scarred from her bad marriage, but sexy and clear about what she wants. I’m going to have to read some of the other stories in this series and was thrilled to see on Dimon’s website that Carina had accepted still single Travis’ story for publication in 2013.

Ask Her at Christmas” by Christi Barth

Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth (Carina Press, December 3, 2012) – ebook only

Two best friends in Chicago have a problem. Kyle needs help getting his disapproving father’s approval and the only way to do that is to propose to the blond viper daughter of the man who owns the company his father is merging with. Caitlin is trying to stamp down her traitorous heart and help her best friend find the ideal proposal, but based on the threats she’s getting from his soon-to-be fiancée, helping him will mean losing him in her life.

The only stand-alone book in the bunch, this was a lovely story (best friends to lovers is my favorite storyline) and a total homage to the city of Chicago. I was ready to buy myself a ticket and fly out there for the holiday! Christi Barth is able to draw in a minimum of pages the vivid histories and personalities of her characters, helping the reader to fall quickly in love with them, and then carrying us on the couple’s emotional journey to everlasting love. Kyle is a little on the oblivious side, but he quickly realizes that Caitlin is the most important thing in his life, and acts accordingly. I had a big, silly smile on my face during the final proposal scene. He was a quick study!

I’ve fanned Christi Barth on Goodreads and will be buying several of her works in the near future, you can bet a deep dish pizza on it!

The Best Thing” (Kent Brothers #3) by Jaci Burton

The Best Thing (Kent Brothers #3) by Jaci Burton (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

I’m a big, big fan of Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series so I was eager to sample one of her books not about professional sports to see what it tasted like. I was not disappointed – this novella was yummy!

She’s still giving her male heroes a testosterone-laden job, in this case a family-owned construction company. While his two brothers have recently found the woman of their dreams, everyone knows that Brody Kent is the resident manwhore of the family. He hasn’t brought a girl home (or even serially dated one woman) since he was seventeen. This is why office manager Tori Lewis is kicking herself for the tumultuous kiss they shared at last year’s Christmas party.

She’s had a crush on Brody since she was fifteen and he was the high school star quarterback and it’s not gone away. In fact, it’s gotten worse as she’s managed to fall in love with him. But more important than her feelings is the second family she has in the Kents who were there for her when her home life was terrible. There is no way she’s going to jeopardize that by sleeping with a man who will break her heart and have her hair whacking in the breeze as he runs out of her life.

Brody doesn’t want to do any running, except toward Tori, who has shut him out of her life for over 10 months now. At his brothers’ prompting, he talks to her about that kiss they shared and makes clear that he wants more. He knows there’s something she’s not telling him, but as he moves her more and more into his life all he can think about is how perfectly she fits there and how she’s not pushing him for more than he can give. It’s more than he can say for his family and their acquaintances who keep asking him for when he’s going to give Tori an engagement ring. Can’t everyone just leave him alone?

This was a brilliant novella that captured so perfectly how stupid people can be when they feel they are getting pushed into a situation, even if they want that situation to begin with. The final scene when Brody tells Tori what she means to him is fabulous and the Christmas theme is deftly woven into the fabric of the story. I imagine fans of this series would love to see the other happy couples, but familiarity with the previous books is absolutely not a requirement for enjoyment of this Burton gem.

Angela James has done it again with another terrific anthology that’s bound to get you in the holiday spirit pronto. Download these affordable presents to yourself as soon as you can and start enjoying the spirit of the season!

4 Responses to “Countdown to Christmas: Romancing the Holiday Will Have You Celebrating the Season With a Trio of Great Writers”

  1. Liz Fielding December 3, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Great looking books, love the covers.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Countdown to Christmas: To All a Good Night Is Sweeter Than a Cup of Hot Chocolate This Holiday Season « torimacallister - December 10, 2012

    […] great Christmas reads, I was elated. I mean, Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis and my recent happy find, HelenKay Dimon? Color me […]

  2. Countdown to Christmas: Jill Shalvis’ Holiday E-novella Under the Mistletoe Reminds You Why Lucky Harbor is the Place to Be at Christmas « torimacallister - December 13, 2012

    […] spot. I can’t count the number of holiday anthologies she has warm and fuzzy novellas in (some of which involve sexy chemists and their high school crushes) and even her Lucky Harbor series has had a few holiday tie-ins (see below). I’m thrilled her […]

  3. December Read-a-thon: All I’m Asking For Anthology Demonstrates How Taking Risks Equals the Best of Holiday Rewards | torimacallister - December 9, 2013

    […] first” seniority? I swear, these kind of questions keep me up at night. I remembered enjoying Barth’s Christmas story last year, and the premise of Tinsel My Heart was […]

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