Tag Archives: HelenKay Dimon

Naked Sushi by Jina Bacarr a Yummy Addition to Cosmo’s Red-Hot Reads Collection

15 Oct

Naked Sushi by Jina Bacarr (Cosmo’s Red-Hot Reads by Harlequin, October 15, 2013)

I’m beginning to appreciate the diversity of voices in Harlequin’s recent partnership with Cosmopolitan magazine‘s Red-Hot Reads ebooks. Tawny Weber, HelenKay Dimon and we all know how I think Lauren Dane’s Cake should win an award it was so awesome…this is quite the lineup of very different authors, all of them with a distinct readership. It’s a smart approach and I love smart.

When I saw Naked Sushi available on NetGalley and that it had the Cosmo Red-Hot Reads brand in the corner, I was intrigued enough to give it a try although I had never read anything by Jina Bacarr.

Bacarr has a somewhat zany style in this 90 page novella, starting the book in media res with our heroine, Pepper, stretched naked on a sushi table at a high scale Japanese restaurant trying to get the attention of her former boss and horrified to see the man she had sex with in the copy room of her programming company taking a tuna roll off her thigh.

The scene quickly dissolves to take us back to the beginning of the adventure, focusing on Pepper the brainy computer programmer who loves her job but not her witch of an office manager. She drops back into work one night only to find a hot guy in the copy room who she thinks is the new person just hired. They end up having one steamy sex scene before Pepper accidentally triggers an alarm and her copy buddy makes his escape after having his orgasm but right before she has hers. Ouch.

This is frustrating in more than one way, particularly after her bitchy manager, who is perpetually jealous of the pretty, capable Pepper even though she wears thick glasses and oversized flannel shirts, is the one to discover her bare-assed and shaking with need attempting to tidy the room. When the paper scattered every which way is revealed to be the company owner’s tax returns, Pepper is instantly fired without a reference. Angry at both the lover who left her high and not dry as well as the situation, Pepper shifts into sleuth mode and tries to get back her job. What she finds is that the mystery guy carries handcuffs….for a living…and that things are way more complicated than even she could imagine.

I wasn’t initially sure that I liked the style of this book, with the way it jumped around a bit on the timeline, until I realized that it had the flavor of a more steamy Stephanie Plum novel, with Pepper’s antics reminding me of that level of screwball luck. Granted, Pepper is a talented computer hacker but her FBI agent love interest walks the edge of obnoxious before melting for Pepper’s charms. I liked the vulnerability built into her backstory when we find out why she didn’t go through the entire application process for law enforcement, and adored the denouement of the final take-down. Granted, this is the most unprofessional FBI unit ever, with the hero having sex on the job and his sexually manipulative boss content to flash cleavage and make remarks about the hero’s intimacy with Pepper, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. Despite the cover blurb, both the POV of the hero and the heroine are given.

Naked Sushi is priced a little high for a 90 page novella – at the $3 mark – and considering I can get a full-length category romance Harlequin book for this amount, I worry that the publisher’s decision is going to put people a little off purchasing it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novella very much and felt that Bacarr lived up to the sensual promise inherent in such a provocative title.

Happy reading! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 13, 2013

13 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

A new addition to the Cosmo Red Hot Reads partnership with Harlequin is Everything You Need to Know by HelenKay Dimon. Jordan McAdam is jaded enough when it comes to men to administer a DC website detailing the hottest bachelors – including rating them on the manners in and out of the bedroom. When the opportunity presents itself to get the “hands on” dirt on elusive hottie Forrest Redder, they both wonder if and when his stats will get posted, or if Jordan might finally realize that some men are worth keeping to herself. Publication date October 15th!

While we are waiting patiently for the first book in author Jaci Burton’s new Hope series to come out, she continues to tantalize by releasing the book cover for the second one, Hope Ignites, complete with a link to pre-order! This contemporary series appears to have heart-warming themes of home and family in a rural environment, but with Burton at the helm, I’m sure that there will be plenty of emotional sexy times as well.

Cara McKenna is releasing her new book, Unbound, this week on October 15th, a contemporary featuring a woman trying to find herself after some major life changes (including losing over 100 pounds) by taking a three-week hike in the Scottish Highlands. What she doesn’t plan is finding a self-imposed hermit, forced to take in an injured woman. When her flirting and upbeat attitude begin melting away his defenses, both find themselves wondering if they can face their fears and find a future…together.

The next book in paranormal doyenne Larissa Ione‘s Demonica series is going to be Reaver (the 10th book in the Demonica series and the 5th in the Lords of Deliverance), and fans will be pleased to note that Amazon has currently discounted the paperback price to $4.80 if you pre-order this book prior to its release date of December 17th.

Thea Harrison is about to release the next novel in her Elder Races series, Kinked in early November.  One of the most popular dragon series in paranormal romance (and yes, there are plenty), this novel features two Sentinels who despise one another who are thrown together on a reconnaissance mission only to find their conflict – and passion – coming to a head. They need to discover a way to resolve their differences, and quickly, as their entire kingdom is at risk. This book is down to $4.79 if you pre-order the paperback copy from Amazon.

I’m going to have to do a blog post on historical romance author Bertrice Small who is still cranking out books at 75 years old. How awesome is that? Her latest is an addition to her The Silk Merchant’s Daughters series, and Lucianna – the tale of a beautiful Italian widow who comes to the attention of an English Earl captivated by her intelligence and looks while in the country on a mission for King Henry VII – is the next novel in the series, just released on October 1st . When her well-meaning family schemes to get her to England to pursue the attraction and find some happiness, Lucianna must confront what she really wants from her life rather than hiding from it.

Contests and Giveaways

I loved Dee J. Adams’ Adrenaline Highs series, so I’m happy to see that not only did she put out another book this summer, Against the Wall, the first in her new High Stakes series, but that it also currently has a giveaway on Goodreads to boot. A wrongfully imprisoned man is out for revenge against the person who put him there and he must team with a young woman who can give him access to her employer – in exchange for the safety of her kidnapped family. Sounds like Adams is giving her usual brand of page turning suspense! Enter before October 15th to win.

Historical thriller writer Tracey Devlyn is having not one but two giveaways this month! While her web contest is giving away the three books in her Nexus series plus a custom bookmark, her no-holds-barred Rafflecopter giveaway could have you winning an iPad mini if you help her promote her latest (and totally terrific) book, A Lady’s Secret Weapon. You can earn entries toward the iPad by entering the necessary information on either the Rafflecopter link on her website or on her Facebook page. Enter before October 31st for both contests.

Suspense maven Stephanie Tyler specializes in crafting terrific military heroes and her new Section 8 series is up to her usual mark. Based around a former Navy SEAL whose father was part of a secret operation named Section 8, now the government has given the order for all operatives and their families to be eliminated and it’s a race against time to save the innocent. The second book in the series, Unbreakable, is due out in early November and there is a contest to win a copy on Goodreads if you enter prior to October 18th.

Fun Stuff

I adore the blog Book Riot, particularly for featuring all the great reading-related clothing and accessories in the world, but know this wonderful resource has their own t-shirt, emblazoned with the terrific logo of “READ HARDER”. And you should! Only $20 and you could be exhorting this message to the people in your life.

Just in time for Halloween literary style are this pair of adorable custom made Edgar Allen Poe flats from CustombyKylee on Etsy. Only $50, this will have you quoting “The Raven” whether you are thinking of your high school English teacher or The Simpsons Halloween episode version (which is also pretty fabulous).

Just when I think it’s impossible for me to drool more over Kate Spade and her wonderful offerings, she proves me wrong! Case in point, her new library-inspired bag line, including the chuckle-worthy Required Reading Bon Shopper tote bag, printed with a colorful old-fashioned card catalog. Granted, it’s Kate Spade so this puppy is going to set you back about $228, but a girl can dream, right?

Great Deals

Shifter fans who have not yet read Rhyannon Byrd’s Dark Wolf Rising will be pleased to note that it’s available for free from Amazon right now. When a powerful wolf who has always steered clear of human females and mated within his pack instead finds an irresistable woman snooping around the pack’s land in the hope of finding her kidnapped sister, all previously held ideas get examined..and are found wanting.

Historical author Julie Anne Long’s The Perils of Pleasure is discounted to only $1.99 right now, so fans of Regency rogues arrested for murder and rescued by beautiful mercenaries with their own agenda might want to run over to Amazon right now and pick it up.

Fans of BDSM queen, Joey W. Hill will be thrilled to see that her Natural Law novel is currently available for free on Amazon. When a strong detective goes undercover at a BDSM club he’s glad to discover the Dominatrix willing to help him uncover the murderer in their midst, but she might also uncover some rather disturbing revelations about this cop’s sensual desires, and what he might really want.

That’s it for this week. Happy reading, everyone! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 15th

15 Sep

Upcoming Books

Historical romance writer Anna Randol is coming out with the final book in her Sinners Trio, Sins of a Wicked Princess, on October 29th, and the print copy is currently discounted to only $4.79, so fans might want to leap on this while it stands. I love her writing (her Turkish set A Secret in Her Kiss blew my mind with its unique voice and setting) and this book, featuring a jaded spy ready to get out of the game and the feisty princess who may or may not be behind his final assignment looks like a terrific end to a great series.

Steampunk maven Bec McMaster has a new book coming out October 1st, My Lady Quicksilver, and Amazon has also been clever enough to lower the cost of this paperback to $4.79 for the pre-order period. This book, the third in her London Steampunk series, combines the elements that have made these books so popular – hot romance, a unique view of paranormal creatures, and an alternate history of the city that’s completely intriguing. I really need to review this series – you find yourself falling for these characters hard.

Contests and Giveaways

Erotic romance author Cari Quinn can always be counted on to provide a sensual and emotional story. Her Entangled novel, No Flowers Required, came out at the end of August to great reviews and if you haven’t had a chance to buy it yet, you may want to consider entering the Goodreads giveaway for a copy. This novel about a down on her luck florist and the sexy man whose family is about to foreclose on her shop is a page-turner, so enter for your chance to win prior to the September 21st deadline. Her even hotter book, Unveil Me, published by Ellora’s Cave and containing two novellas both set in a sex club, is also up for grabs, and you just might win it if you enter by September 16th.

Erotic romance writers Vivian Arend, Lauren Dane, Alyssa Day, HelenKay Dimon, Kit Rocha and Moira Rogers have banded together to for The Hot Spot Facebook page, a communal page definitely worth watching. To celebrate it’s grand opening, they are having a variety of giveaways, so check out that part of the page for more details.

Don’t you remember my telling you what a phenomenal author Laura Kaye is? Her latest, Hard As It Gets (OMG, the cover!), begins her Hard Ink series as of November 26th, but while you’re glancing at the clock, enter to win a copy before September 17th on the Goodreads giveaway. This story, featuring a former military man turned tattoo parlor owner and the daughter of his military commander who has always been off limits, is bound to have her usual blend of heat, great characters, and an emotional story that wins your heart.

For romance authors and bloggers, please note that the excellent blog Romance in Color is having a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card and free advertising space and teaser promotion if you add their badge to your website. You’ll notice I’ve already done that on my sidebar, not only because this is a great giveaway, but because this blog is dedicated to heightening awareness of diversity in romance, and that’s a damn important issue. Anyone whose agreed with my lamenting about the dearth of good Native American romance or who stood up and cheered when Meljean Brook gave her acceptance speech for Riveted, you want to be reading what this talented group of readers is putting out. Even if you are uninterested in the contest, do yourself a favor and add this blog to your RSS feed or sign up for their newsletter.

Falling under the “fabulous contest” category, the announcement from Laura Kaye that several romance authors were banding together to offer an incredible prize to the writer who produces a 1500 word fan fiction piece based on one of their novels. What do you get? A free trip to the 2014 RT Convention in New Orleans! This includes registration, hotel stay and a plane ticket (between a $2000 and $3000 value) and you can use as your inspiration the work of Laura Kaye, Sophie Jordan, Cora Cormack or Jennifer Armentrout, whose website has all the details of the contest. Even the runner up prizes of signed books are wonderful, so try your hand at writing using these authors wonderful books as a base.

Fun Stuff

A lot of romance readers enjoy a fairy tale wedding, but what about if you combined your love of romance novels and weddings into…a dress? Yep, Jennifer Pritchard Bridal Design’s blog is featuring a stunning wedding dress made entirely of pages from romance novels. I wonder which ones they chose to cannibalize? Does it crackle when you walk down the aisle in it? Needless to say, there won’t be candles at this wedding.

Do you ever wonder about the pressures on romance writers to produce multiple books a year? The ever-wonderful Popular Romance project has a video clip starring editor (and professor) Sarah Frantz discussing how authors used to put out a book every couple of years, but now they are considered slackers if they do less than two annually (and that’s not counting short stories and novellas). It’s worth watching, especially the next time you’re busy thinking “where is the next one?” for your favorite series.

Yes, aspiring romance authors, it’s that time of year again – Harlequin’s “So You Think You Can Write” mini-online conference and all-around inspiration is about to begin with the friendly editors at this publishing powerhouse coming online to coach you with each aspect of what it takes to be a Harlequin writer. Considering the amazing number of top-selling writers who got their start at Harlequin (many of whom continue to publish the occasional book with them), it’s bound to be educational and (knowing Harlequin) fun.

For your dose of science this week, the Kinsey Confidential blog is going over the literature surrounding “Why Women Orgasm: Do We Really Know?” Lots of ideas, but no definitive answers. Sadly, most men are in the same place as the scientists.

September is an amazing month for readers, particularly those within commuting distance of Maryland! This coming weekend, September 19th to the 21st, Lora Leigh and 18 other fantastic authors are having a Reader’s Appreciation Weekend (RAW) in Hagerstown, Maryland. For only $100, you can hang out with your favorite authors and pick their brains for the scoop on your favorite characters and series, particularly about their new books coming out this fall. With such fabulous authors as Dana Marie Bell, Stephanie Julian, Darynda Jones (!), Mari Carr, Sylvia Day, and Bianca D’Arc, you are guaranteed a great time.

In a related note, perhaps this time more for authors than even readers, Laura Kaye mentioned the fantastic sessions to be offered at the Baltimore Book Festival, at the Maryland Romance Writers’ stage. Taking place from September 27th to the 29th, this incredible festival (which is so much more than just romance, so bring the family) is located in the Mt. Vernon area of Baltimore where they actually shut down streets and let books take over for the weekend. Take a look at the official website for directions and more information.

Great Deals

Lisa Renee Jones’ first book in her Tall, Dark and Deadly series, Hot Secrets, is marked down to only $.99 on Amazon. Capitalizing on the always dependable romance trope of three brothers who start their own security business, this first book in the series stars Royce Walker going after the prim, beautiful ADA who always fascinated him. That she’s as hot underneath as he’s guessed is a bonus – look out villains who want to hurt her, you’ve met your match!

I know you are still sneaking looking at the People or Us magazine with all the royal baby pictures, but please know you can feed your addiction by taking advantage of Harlequin’s awesome “Royal Baby” three pack of Harlequin Desires books based around a happy royal addition. Packing 463 pages from such writing powerhouses as Caitlin Crews, Maisey Yates, and Sharon Kendrick, this $.99 bargain is a must have.

Winning the “Holy Cow Who Is Their Cover Designer!” award is Harlequin Blaze‘s three pack Uniformly Hot! Volume 1 which has three books in the Uniformly Hot! series (and this series is AWESOME) by Rhonda Nelson, Tawny Weber and Karen Foley, all writers who can be depended on for great characters and serious bedroom heat, particularly when former military heroes are involved. Only $.99 for 502 pages of rippling abs, ladies. The packaging does not lie!

You know what’s better than $.99? Free! Ellora’s Cave erotic historical Western, Five Card Stud (book 1 in the Eclipse Heat series) by Gem Sivad is now available for free for people who like a combination of corsets and guns with their sexy times. A bounty hunter and a lady gambler out for revenge provide serious heat in the wild West in this full-length novel, so take a look – it costs you nothing.

Fans of BDSM literature should pick up Love Letters 1: Obeying Desire at Amazon since that’s also available for free right now. I enjoyed the third volume of this short stories series, each of which is based on different trope or subgenre, and many of the same authors write in this volume as well.

For historical romance readers who want a little free present this week, Delilah Marvelle has a tale of a titled and independent forty year old widow who definitely doesn’t want a man in her life. Lady Cecilia Stone finds her opinion changing when she receives the help of a shadowy Russian gentlemen who offers to help her travel to Russia and stop her eldest son from marrying an actress. Pick up Romancing Lady Stone for free to find out how this intriguing tale plays out!

Whew! There’s a lot going on this week. Happy reading, everyone! 🙂

Countdown to Christmas: To All a Good Night Is Sweeter Than a Cup of Hot Chocolate This Holiday Season

10 Dec

To All a Good Night by Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis, and HelenKay Dimon (Kensington Books, October 1, 2009)

We live in a great age for books. Back in the olden days before Amazon, you would have had to rely on friends or paperback exchange stores to find a holiday collection published from a few years ago. Even today, when we are fortunate to find them used, or better yet, download them instantly on an ereader, the paper versions of these books appear on supermarket and bookstore shelves in October/November and then are gone, never to be seen again in a retail store, by New Year’s Day.

Social networks geared toward reading, like Goodreads and LibraryThing, are godsends in that they offer terrific reviews and reader-generated lists of favorites. We can see what books people have loved based around themes, historical periods, or particular kinds of characters (military men, heroines with paranormal abilities, etc.). When I spotted the To All a Good Night anthology on a Goodreads list of great Christmas reads, I was elated. I mean, Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis and my recent happy find, HelenKay Dimon? Color me there.

These women do not disappoint. We have three hot, sweet stories with satisfying romantic endings, plenty of emotion, and a heated level of sensuality.

“Unleashed” by Donna Kauffman

I’m looking forward to reviewing Kauffman’s The Three Musketeers series after the holidays!

Based on the books of Donna Kauffman’s that I’ve read (and I’ve enjoyed all of them), her heroines are determined, honorable and unconventionally pretty, a combination I really like. Emma Lafferty fits this mold as a new business owner trying to get her petsitting business off the ground. She agrees to take an unusual two week job at the weekend home of an extremely wealthy older man over the holidays since she hopes it will help build up a more high-end clientele. Driving through a horrible ice storm, she barely makes it to the completely empty mansion before the roads become dangerous. Once there, she easily makes friends with the dogs and parrot in her care, but jumps out of her skin when a sexy male voice asks what she’s doing there.

Trevor Hamilton was hoping to get what he needed and be gone by the time the petsitter arrived but mother nature clearly has other plans. While he needs to get away from her and search his great-uncle’s house, he can’t help but be fascinated by Emma. This petsitter looks at him hungrily – not like the women who want his trust fund, but as if she wants him, the man. He’s trying to keep it playful and not pressure her but he makes his interest clear enough and she’s responding like a dream. One taste of her and Trevor can feel his priorities changing. What suddenly seemed important might not be in the face of finding someone who will love him for himself.

I love stories where people get trapped together due to weather, and this one (with those great dogs and the funny bird) was delightful. Seeing Trevor and Emma just click together, like pieces of puzzle they weren’t aware would fit, was downright heartwarming and I fell for them as hard as they fell for each other. The only part that confused me was the epilogue. I don’t see anything linking this story to another book or series, but the final pages of the novella clearly indicate the connection to another character. I’d love to read a connected story (particularly if I can catch a glimpse of Trevor and Emma again), so if someone knows the answer, please tell me!

“Finding Mr. Right” by Jill Shalvis

I can’t emphasize this enough – whether it’s ball players or firefighters, Jill Shalvis is consistently one of the best contemporary romance writers on the market.

I think that you’re not a true fan of contemporary romance if you don’t love Jill Shalvis. I devour her books and appreciate that she writes novellas as well as she does full-length books. Whether it’s her Lucky Harbor series or her fantastic Animal Magnetism books, Shalvis is as rock solid dependable as her strong heroes.

Her heroines are also full of quirks and that aspect always makes me like them that much more. Maggie Bell has multiple degrees under the white lab coat she wears every day and she loves puzzling out her work, which could help melanoma cancer patients and save lives. She’s aware that her research could also make the company she works for a ton of money, but it’s secondary in her mind which usually is honed like a laser on her work. Since the building is undergoing renovations, however, she finds her mind more than fixated on an extremely fine, blue jeans clad butt belonging to one Jake Wahler, her former high school crush and supervisor of the crew. When her sister tells her to stop trying for the brainiac guys who are just like her and go for someone the exact opposite, her mind naturally turns to Jake.

Jake is pushing his crew to finish this job before the holiday so they can all get their bonus and he can fly to New Orleans to meet his brother and do some serious partying. He can’t help but notice the gorgeous scientist who almost always trips on their equipment as she walks distracted through the hallways, but he’s astonished to find out that she was the 8th grade prodigy who tutored him in high school. Maggie Bell definitely did not look like this, with her killer curves, flawless skin and hair his hands beg to be buried in. She’s acting like the hot sex they had on her lab table was a one-time thing, but when it’s clear she’s getting threatened by someone who wants to hurt her, there’s no way he’s leaving her alone.

Jake was such a guy, and I loved seeing him react to Maggie’s nervous fact spouting (which is the trait of the schoolteacher friend, soon to the be the next heroine, in the Animal Magnetism series, so I’m thinking Jill Shalvis loves her trivia!). The scene with her crashing into the dishwasher was priceless, and I loved the testosterone showdown between Jake and Maggie’s boss, who briefly dated her. Macho guys falling, and admitting they are falling, are some of the sexiest heroes out there and Shalvis never, ever disappoints. I heart her.

“Can You Hand Me the Tape?” by HelenKay Dimon

HelenKay Dimon has published several romantic suspense novels with Harlequin as well.

It was just this holiday “Countdown to Christmas” series that exposed me to HelenKay Dimon with her novella in Romancing the Holiday, and I was impressed enough to get excited upon seeing her name again in this anthology.

As in that novella, this heroine is also someone recovering her self-respect after a crappy relationship. Natalie Pritchard is a tough parole officer whose always been frustrated dealing with her boyfriend’s law partner, Spencer Donovan. She doesn’t think he cares enough about the clients he represents and they’ve had a few run-ins. His partner, Charlie, may be tall and handsome but he’s been a self-absorbed manipulator, too, and she had enough a couple weeks ago when she broke up with him.

But there’s a complication. She had made a “tape” for Charlie for Christmas (uh-huh, that kind) just of herself, but she doesn’t want him or anyone seeing it now. In the hullabaloo of the breakup, he accidentally took it (without knowing what it was) and she desperately wants it back. While it kills her to do it, Spencer is the person most likely to help her. She’s disturbed to find out that Spencer is dissolving his law partnership with Charlie, but she manages to convince him to help her, even with the whole courthouse whispering about the time they are spending together.

Spencer has always hated the way Charlie spoke to his girlfriend, Nat, so much so that it was one of the reasons he’s jettisoning him as a partner. But until Nat swallowed her pride to ask for his help, he never noticed before how beautiful she is and the thought of her making this “tape” has his head spinning with images he can’t ignore. Can she get over the emotional damage Charlie has inflected on her to see what they have is special?

Dimon does a great job showing that, even if you’ve lost a lot of weight, that heavier person still lives inside your head, coloring how you think of yourself. Nat wrestles with her sense of inadequacy but watching her regain her self-respect and throw off Charlie’s past control (the elevator scene was downright triumphant) is fantastic and actually very realistically accomplished. HelenKay Dimon continues to impress me – she’s definitely getting placed on my “must-read” list.

To All a Good Night is another enjoyable anthology by three outstanding writers. One of the benefits of novellas in this format is, if you have only a limited time before bed, or the minutes are ticking by until your kids need you, you can get in a whole story from start to emotional finish and feel like you accomplished something! It’s like three novels in one, and considering the under $5.00 price tag in ebook form or even less money if you find it as a used paperback, you’re clearly getting serious value for your money.

So make that cup of hot chocolate and sit down to something else smooth and sweet with this anthology. You won’t be sorry. 🙂

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!

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