Melissa Schroeder is known for writing hot military heroes and her personal experience at both growing up a military brat as well as as a military wife lends a distinct authenticity to her writing.
I would heartily endorse her longer length erotic romantic suspense Harmless series (particularly in the dead of winter since exotic climes like Miami and Hawaii are heavily featured), but her other series deserve a look as well. The Santinis consists of four novellas, each focusing on a Santini son who went into a different branch of the military. While this well-rated series is all about the Santini curse of falling for a willful woman and wanting a happily ever after yesterday (and you can imagine they don’t easily get it), at the heart of the series are the heroes’ parents, Stewart and Joey Santini.
In a flashback novella, A Santini Christmas takes us from a modern day crisis with the Santini family back to the 1970s and the moment that Stewart Santini, nicknamed Papa to his fellow Special Forces Marines, walks into a bar owned by a the parents of a friend lost in Vietnam. When the sassy, blond waitress comes over to take his and his friends’ order, Papa feels like he’s just been hit by a two-by-four between the eyes, making the realization that he is far from immune to the Santini curse of love at first sight.
To say that the subject of his affection is reluctant is putting it mildly. Joey (Josephine) Antonio left the Pacific Northwest for the Carolinas and now works 16 hour days in order to make enough money for art school. She also has no use for men, gun-shy from a horrible experience in high school. Yet this patient Marine is nothing but respectful and caring, no matter how many times she makes it clear nothing is going to happen. When he finally kisses her, she feels none of the revulsion she’s come to expect when dipping her toe into the dating scene. With Christmas around the corner, could it be that they will both get a long-lasting present, or will Joey’s past drive Stewart away for good?
Despite this story being novella length, the emotion packed into it feels more like a meal. Fans of The Santinis will enjoy the reappearance of all the sons and their growing families in the present day start of the novella, but you don’t have to have read the series in order to enjoy the bulk of the story. Keep in mind that this series, perhaps due to the shorter length of each story, possesses conflict but a pretty quick turnaround in terms of the heroine dealing with whatever emotional baggage she’s brought into the relationship (it’s sometimes startling). While I enjoy seeing the human struggle (and I know Schroeder can write it since she includes this type of emotional evolution extremely well in her Harmless series), there is something to be said for moving things along when you want a fast read, and this series fits that bill. If I have any criticism, it’s for the occasional typo or usage error in this series which takes me momentarily out of the story. Considering that these books are self-published, the good news is that I’m sure she will correct them since it’s easy to update ebooks to remedy such minor mistakes.
I really appreciated the foreword Schroeder attached at the start of the A Santini Christmas, highlighting her readers’ possible concerns regarding the handling of the topic of date rape and the lack of condoms in this essentially historical story. It’s important to remind a generation of younger readers that in the early 1970s there was virtually no such thing as a rape crisis center, with second wave feminists slowly founding them in grassroots fashion in the larger cities during this time period, and terms like “date rape” hadn’t even been coined yet. While I understood the choice to not have a condom discussion, in 1975 there still should have been a birth control discussion since the Pill had been around for over a decade a that point (and I believe that men in the military received a lot more condom encouragement than the average citizen). How could Joey and Stewart not worry about her getting pregnant, particularly since she was obviously very sexually inexperienced? I began worrying about Leo’s birthday based on that special Christmas night!
Any contemporary reader who likes their heroes with a rank, their heroines on the spicy side, and their romance of the love at first sight variety should seriously consider A Santini Christmas. At a mere $.99, it’s the ideal stocking stuffer for your e-reader this holiday season.
Happy reading. 🙂