Tag Archives: Mine Under the Mistletoe

December Read-a-thon: All I’m Asking For Anthology Demonstrates How Taking Risks Equals the Best of Holiday Rewards

9 Dec

All I’m Asking For: A Contemporary Christmas Anthology by Brighton Walsh, Kat Latham, and Christi Barth (Carina Press, December 5, 2013)

This is quite a personal motto of mine, actually. The best things in my life (my college education, my career and most importantly, my husband of 20 years) have happened because I took a huge risk – just stepped forward into the air like the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy has to trust that he can cross the chasm and get the chalice to save his dying father. It’s scary as hell while you are doing it, but it’s also exhilarating. Setting standards and making sure that you and others live up to them is hard but incredibly important, and I firmly believe that it’s one of the keys to happiness.

Imagine how thrilled I was to see this personal theme laced through one of Carina Press’ holiday anthologies, namely All I’m Asking For: A Contemporary Christmas Anthology. Let’s take a close up look at each of the stories in this anthology for further analysis, shall we?

Keep in mind that you can buy the entire anthology (see above links in the text or caption of the cover) but editor Angela James and Carina Press are nothing if not accommodating, so if you feel that it’s just one or two stories you desire, you can purchase them as stand-alones as well. The below links in each review and next to the individual book cover will take you right to that story on Amazon.

Tinsel My Heart by Christi Barth

Tinsel My Heart by Christi Barth (Carina Press, December 5, 2013)

Right off the bat, I’m wondering about the order of the authors on the cover of the anthology. If Christi Barth‘s story is first, which it is, why is she not listed first? It’s not alphabetical order either, so is it some kind of Carina Press “whoever was published 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 intriguing.

Becca Heglund gave up her dreams to leave Minneapolis and pursue a career in the theater in New York in order to stay home and care for her dying grandmother. She’s watched her two former best friends, Tyler Peterson and Jack Whittaker form a highly successful business partnership and even win an Oscar for Best Director and she’s happy for them. But Ty promised to film her theater company’s Christmas production and the pre-sales to the DVD could save the organization, but not if Ty doesn’t show. Considering he just entered a Malibu rehab facility for his drug problem, she’s up a creek and looking for a paddle.

Yet her secret high school crush, Jack Whittaker, appears on the theater’s doorstep looking none too pleased about being home in Minnesota but stating he’s here to fulfill Ty’s obligation. He’s a lifesaver even if he is being a total grouch and hearing that he hates Christmas means that taping the Christmas production is going to be no cakewalk with this particular Grinch. Yet amid the live goats and chopping down Christmas trees, hot, stolen kisses become something much more (the car scene at the tree farm, WOW!), yet they both know that Jack can’t wait to get out of Minnesota again and Becca is going to be left behind.

Rich in detail (I adored the fried cheese curds and “you betchas”), I instantly loved the competent, loyal Becca and her determination to embrace any opportunity to save the theater group and the production. Jack is afflicted with dickishness between his brusque manner and hating Christmas, but once you understand how he was treated growing up and also how betrayed he feels by his best friend screwing him and all their employees with his recurring drug problem, you understand where he is coming from. Tyler is revealed as always having been a user and while it’s not stated, you can easily see that a young Becca and Jack didn’t see the signs that their friend was already an addict before he even graduated.

I was startled by two pieces of this story. The first was how we had a fade out from the first dinner together to the following morning. Purportedly there was a pretty hot couch make out session, something that was repeated four or five times according to the text and I didn’t get to see one of them. That sat funny with me – not only did I want in on the chemistry, but these two people are hiding their long-standing attraction to one another. How did that play out in their initial physical intimacy? How and why did Jack call a halt to not going past 2nd base and why on earth did Becca not lay it all on the table and order him into her bed? I felt like I was being left out of the loop even while I was loving the rest of the story.

The second piece that took me aback was the very ending. Becca announces her plans and Jack steps up to declare himself. Big “awwwww” moment with the ornament (loved that!) but never once does Becca worry that a career move at the same time she’s becoming a couple with an Oscar-winning movie director might give the appearance of using him to climb the professional ladder. I know she’s not doing it for that reason, but I wondered that neither she nor Jack had the thought flit through their mind. And it seemed like a big decision – if they had been together before I think it would have felt a little more understandable, but while they knew one another as friends, they didn’t as lovers and I’m still sitting here worried that it’s going to be far from smooth sailing when they move to New York City. Jack’s a bigwig there with hordes of women he’s “dated” around every corner, he’ll be hugely busy for months on end with movie projects, blah, blah. Can it work? I’m freaking out a little. Good luck, Jack and Becca – I’m pulling for you!

Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh

Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh (Carina Press, December 5, 2013)

I really hate second chance stories (I think it’s my firm belief that people rarely change that makes me not read them), but this story was part of the anthology and since I never read any Brighton Walsh before I figured I would gird my heart for emotional agony and simply try and get a sense of her writing. I was so impressed. I loved the story but plan on reading other Walsh novels as Season of Second Chances was excellent, combining believability with strong emotion.

Californian Claire Hanlin is stuck in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport during a snowstorm. If that doesn’t suck enough, it’s also her birthday, the day before Christmas, and the city reminds her all too painfully that she left here two years ago when she broke up with her fiancee, Logan Dawes, the man who promised her forever and instead put work first. While desperately trying to find a hotel room, an all too familiar voice greets her. Yep. It’s Logan in the flesh with an all-too-intriguing offer.

Logan cannot believe that the woman he let get away is standing before him in the terminal, even more beautiful than he remembered. He’s had two years to wallow in the fact that he screwed up his chance at happiness. He’s tried to reform his work habits, making more room in his life for his little daughter Sophie who missed Claire being in her life as well, and this snowstorm might be just the chance he needs to show Claire that things could be different. When the two of them give into the heat between them, Logan knows that he desperately needs to get this right, yet a promise to Claire that he has to break again means that he’s never going to hold onto this incredible woman.

It’s always a good sign when a novella can put your heart in your throat praying that everything will work out, even when you believe it can’t. It’s hard not to understand and empathize with both Claire and Logan since we understand their choices even when it’s hard to agree with Logan’s. The writing is terrific, with truly three-dimensional characters, enough backstory to ground us beautifully yet not so much that it takes away from the action in the present, and a movie-worthy conclusion and epilogue. I know have a couple of Walsh’s books on my to-read list and I’m really looking forward to it!

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham (Carina Press, December 5, 2013)

Ever since I raved about Kat Latham’s terrific book, Knowing the Score, I knew I’d pre-order anything she wrote, and that’s actually why I purchased this anthology (and in further support of her, the individual copy of Mine Under the Mistletoe as well!).

Ashley Turner is horrified to be jarred awake by a naked man climbing into her borrowed bed, having swapped her apartment in San Diego with a guy in London in order to have the storybook Christmas she’s always wanted. While her two roommates couldn’t make it, called away by holiday obligations, Ashley is determined to live her mother’s lifelong wish and she’s brought everything she needs to make this happen. The bonus of her absentee host appearing might be just the local touch she needed, particularly since he so handsome albeit a little Grinchy about the holiday.

Oliver Stansfield couldn’t wait to get out of London and away from his past. His recent loss of his disabled sister festers in him, especially since she adored the Christmas season and this is his first holiday without her. Finding a gorgeous Christmas angel in his bed comes as shock since his grueling day at Heathrow Airport ended with all flights cancelled due to the snow and ice descending on the city. He literally forgot he had swapped houses, but one look at the beautiful blond with her nightshirt slipping off her shoulder and he’s wondering if the holiday doesn’t have a silver lining.

Watching these two people not only acknowledge the incredible chemistry between them but also begin to find common ground despite their disparate approaches to the holiday is so sweet that I feel this novella is the best of the entire anthology. Latham writes the disconnect between Americans and the English incredibly well (each protagonist’s bafflement at certain turns of phrase or traditions is adorable) and her sex scenes are hot and delicious – believe me, you’ll be pricing flights to London after reading them!

For anyone with dreams of visiting England or giving themselves a magical European Christmas (and perhaps finding love along the way), this novella is a Christmas wish fulfilled. Laced with humor (Ashely’s astonishment that Ollie is so polite while naked and holding a pillow in front of himself after she nailed him between the legs is going to bring a smile to your face), the story is also understandably emotional. While these two people move quickly into love, it’s completely believable as they are two people who are already experts at loving – Ashley with her mother, students and friends and Ollie having loved his sister with all his might after their parents abandoned her to his care.

One of the best aspects of the story which builds your affection while reading it is the contrast between the two characters. While this strong contrast brings out the best in characters, with Ashley’s intrepid attitude and sheer joy in the context of her past forcing Ollie to face his demons, the similarity between them is that they both are lonely with the loss of a relative they loved binding them together in their particular brand of loneliness. These are two people truly destined for each other and I adored the epilogue!

All I’m Asking For is an excellent holiday anthology combining the efforts of three talented writers, and is one I would heartily recommend to any contemporary romance reader. At just over $5 the entire anthology is an excellent value, with individual stories (if that’s your preference) priced around $2.50. If you haven’t had an opportunity to sample these three authors, this is an outstanding introduction.

Happy reading! 🙂

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of October 6, 2013

6 Oct

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Historical Romance writer, Katherine Ashe, is giving readers a fantastic Christmas present with the release of her holiday novella, Kisses, She Wrote: A Christmas Romance. When a rakish earl stumbles across the diary of a wallflower princess whose fantasies are anything but demure, sparks are going to burst into flames that will light the Yule fire, for sure. One of the best pieces of this novella? It’s currently only $.99 on Amazon. If you’re too eager to wait until December 3rd, then check out Ashe’s website for a tantalizing snippet. Ashe fans might also want to note that her full-length Regency ghost story (with a romance at its center), Captive Bride, is also reduced down to $.99 as well.

Samanthe Beck’s McCade Brothers series has just become one of my favorites since I read the associated novella in Lovers Unmasked and bought and read the first book in the series, Lover Undercover (awesome!!!), so I was thrilled to see that the next installment of the series, Falling for the Marine, will be out at the end of October. A marine helicopter pilot with a back injury is anxious to get back into the pilot’s seat but when he’s hot neighbor is the masseuse assigned to him she’s not the only one with straying hands. Entangled publishing is great with pricing, so this hot novel by a great author is only $2.99. Mine is already pre-ordered!

Dianne Duvall just released the fourth book in her Immortal Guardians series, Darkness Rises, featuring a beautiful swordswoman who gets the drop on vampire and the two-hundred year old guardian who realizes the vamps she’s killing have influential friends, a fact that puts her and his fellow guardians, in danger. Released on October 1st, this 400+ page paranormal romance is under $6 for its ebook version which suddenly places the series on my “to-read” list!

Fantastic new author Kat Latham (who blew me away with the first book in her rugby-based London Legends series, Knowing the Score) will be offering a connected Christmas novella to her series, Mine Under the Mistletoe, due out on December 5th. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy! No cover art as of yet, but I’ll let you know when it comes out.

I was impressed with the intensity of Shannon McKenna’s One Wrong Move, which made me thrilled to see its sequel, Fatal Strike, was just published in trade paperback and ebook form at the end of September. Containing more of a pronounced paranormal element than its predecessor (which still had one, it was just subtle) this book features a captured woman tortured like a lab rat with injections that bring out psychic powers. She finds herself escaping to a safe place where a handsome, protective man exists who always makes her feel better but she thinks he’s a product of her imagination until he bursts through the door. Bring. It. On.

Giveaways and Contests

While Lauren Dane fans are reveling in the publication of her latest book in the Brown Siblings saga, Drawn Together, this week, they need to not forgot that this prolific author does not rest on her laurels, but always has yet another amazing book coming out. Her Bound By Magick series is about to have the fourth book published in early November, Wild Darkness, but readers should note that Goodreads is actually having a giveaway (ending October 11th) if you wanted to see if you could win a copy.

Author Cassandra Carr has always given us great sports romances, so it’s not a surprise that her recent contest is running under a “Hockey Hotties” moniker! Enter to win a selection from her backlist of great hockey romances by leaving a comment on the webpage.

Sports romance fans need to run not walk over to Give Me Books in order to enter that blog’s Extreme Jock Giveaway. I’m still reeling from the prizes – 44 author signed paperbacks, 97 ebooks, 19 ebook sets, various swag and even a few book retailer gift cards!! Be warned that the Rafflecopter giveaway is naturally extensive with so many authors participating (you’re going to spend a decent amount of time tweeting and clicking those Facebook like buttons for entries) but it’s so worth it.

Entangled Teen has collaborated with Hesperia Loves Books to produced an unbelievable giveaway to support Breast Cancer Awareness and research. Running for the month of October, this giveaway gives participants the chance to win over twenty books, many of them signed, by authors such as Jeaniene Frost and Lori Foster. Tweeting and posting on Facebook about the giveaway gives extra points, but consider the multi-point bonus that comes with donating to the National Breast Cancer research program (the link is right in the rafflecopter giveaway). I did in honor of my Aunt Martha who is currently fighting breast cancer (and who loves romance) and I’m sure you can think of someone who has suffered through this disease. SUCH a great cause!

Paranormal romance readers who like their books a little to the left of steamy hot are already familiar with Joey W. Hill’s Vampire Queen series, but right now on Goodreads, she’s also giving away the first book in her Arcane Shot series, Something About Witches. Featuring a witch who prefers the reliability of a handgun to a spell and the sorcerer she pushed away years before who needs her help, this book (and series) is worth a look. This was the intention of Berkeley Sensation publishing who are gearing up for Hill’s new release on December 3rd, Unrestrained, by giving away books from all her various series. Thanks, Berkeley! Enter by October 11th for a chance to win.

Historical mystery readers who love their puzzles with a touch of romance will want to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Banquet of Lies by Michelle Diener. In Regency London a young woman must pose as the French chef of a nobleman in order to be positioned to ferret out her father’s killer and protect the document he entrusted to her prior to his death. Her employer’s curiosity and obvious romantic interest runs the risk of exposing not only her identity but also attracting exactly the one person she needs to avoid if she is to survive. Enter by October 11th for a chance to win.

If Banquet of Lies has you thinking about French food and Paris, you might want to check out the Travel Channel’s contest to win the “Parisian Trip of a Lifetime!” Six days and five nights for two at a cushy hotel in the City of Lights, including a half-day private tour (I think I’d go just for this), a two-hour Parisian bakery workshop (okay, nix the previous statement, I’d go for this), and $1500 spending money. *sigh*

Karen Hawkins’ second book in her The Duchess Diaries series is also being offered as a Goodreads giveaway and historical romance readers will definitely want to give How to Pursue a Princess a good look, whether they win or not. A young woman is pressured to make a good match and hopes she’s going to fall for the wealthy Earl her godmother thinks is perfect, until the hot and penniless Russian prince walks into the room. Whoops. Enter before October 12th to take this one home.

Signet Publishing deserves some major kudos for the outstanding covers of Marie Claremont’s historical series Mad Passions. This Victorian romance series has just had the second book in the series, Lady in Red, come out on October 1st, but if you haven’t yet picked it up, you may want to try to win a copy by entering the Goodreads giveaway before October 15th. This dark series’ installment features a young noblewoman who manages to escape the asylum in which her father has placed her, to run right into the arms of a duke who might very well be her salvation. That he finds her torment to mirror his own only binds them together as they fight for her future.

Fun Stuff

My deep-seated admiration for Laura Kaye’s writing is hardly a secret, and I’ve put on the Sunday posts how much I’m looking forward to her upcoming book, Hard As It Gets, which is the first in her new Hard Ink series. Thankfully for her fans (and quite frankly, any woman who enjoys eye-candy!), Avon Publishing has produced a fantastic video with her being interviewed about her inspiration for the characters. She’s delightful, the Baltimore backdrop lovely, and the tattooed figures…um…quite inspiring. Take a look!

Macy’s is selling a dress by Tommy Hillfiger featuring a great print that is row upon row of books. In the shirtwaist style, this looks awesome with boots and is a reasonable $79.95. I’m so on this.

For every girl who used her mother’s bangles to mimic Wonder Woman’s cuffs or pretended to be Barbara Gordon turning into Batgirl, there is a great nonfiction book, The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid. Right now this informative text is an amazing $1.99 at Amazon, so feed your inner Superwoman and download it in a flash.

Great Deals

I was thrilled to find on M. L. Buchman’s blog a note that some of his fantastic novellas which accompany his The Night Stalkers military romance series were being offered in a “romance bundle” from StoryBundle. Not having heard of that particular store, I went to take a look and was wowed by the mission of the website. Designed to promote indie authors by offering their books together with other books as a “bundle” around a given theme, the site’s founders hope to encourage you to find new authors you might enjoy. Unlike the great $.99 bundles on Amazon I often promote, StoryBundle also 1) lets you set your own price for the bundle (although it suggests an incredibly affordable one) and 2) encourages you to add an extra percentage which they donate toward charities encouraging writing and literacy among children. How awesome is that? Books are downloaded in either .mobi or .epub form so Kindle users or other ebook readers can all handle the files. Take a look at the romance bundle to realize that this is no pure donation – not only Buchman’s books but also independent books from Stephanie Laurens, Jo Beverly, Mary Jo Putney and Kristine Grayson. WOW!

Historical romance writer Courtney Milan’s Turner series novella, Unlocked, is on sale for $.99 right now on Amazon. A little over 100 pages, this story features a wallflower determined to stand up to her former tormentor upon hearing he’s returned to England. That he’s here to apologize for his past behavior doesn’t seem to quench her ire and the nobleman in question finds he wants much more than her forgiveness.

I’ve never read a suspense story that happened to be a Western, but I’m about to change that with the news that B. J. Daniels’ Harlequin Intrigue novel, The New Deputy in Town, is free for download on Amazon right now. When a new lawmen has to solve a bridal shower murder and everyone in the heroine’s family had a motive, things are bound to become complicated quickly.

Lyndsay Sands’ Argeneau Vampires series is understandably famous, so it’s always a good deal when they are discounted. Right now, The Accidental Vampire, the seventh book in the series, is marked down to only $1.99, a terrific deal. Starring a new vampire trying to adjust to coffin life on her own who gets set up by well-meaning friends on a blind date, the heroine is thrilled to discover the experienced vampire Victor Argeneau on the other side of the table. He’s good-looking enough to have his pick of woman with a heartbeat or without, but he definitely wants to help her, particularly after the realization that someone wants to put an end to his sweet fledgling’s new existence.

Having just reviewed Jennifer Ashley’s latest in the Highland Pleasures series, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, I’m thrilled to note that the accompanying Christmas novella, A Mackenzie Family Christmas is actually FREE right now on Amazon for its ebook form, so run over and grab it while the price lasts.

I love Cat Johnson’s Westerns but her Red, Hot and Blue series has always demonstrated she knows her way around a man in uniform (and out of it as well, mrrrrooow!). The third book in the series (each named after the hero), Jimmy, is now available for free download at Amazon, so check it out. An undercover Special Forces hero, the red-haired daughter of a senator, and one unbelievably hot one night stand (did I mention terrorists?) all make for an unbeatable combination.

That’s the scoop for this week. Happy Reading! 🙂

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