Tag Archives: Novella

December Read-a-Thon: Remind Yourself How Lucky You Are With the Military Anthology, A Soldier’s Christmas

28 Dec

A Soldier’s Christmas, featuring novellas by Leslie Kelly, Joanne Rock, and Karen Foley (Harlequin Blaze, December 1, 2013)

I’m a sucker for military romance any month out of the year, but come December, romances featuring members of our armed forces grab me by the throat as much as those damn Hallmark commercials or that Apple commercial with the kid who makes the video which induces the whole family to cry.

Fortunately the addition of hot sex and the promise of a happily ever after helps balance me out, and even luckier for me, the clever editors over at Harlequin’s Blaze line seem to know this, as based on their latest holiday anthology,  A Soldier’s Christmas.

Because it’s Blaze, readers get the perfect combination of sexy heat in these encounters balanced by the holiday “awwwww” each of them evokes. Luckily each of these three excellent writers have serious military romance chops, so you’ll be impressed by the tone and authenticity of each novella, I promise. Let’s get to the breakdown, okay?

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Leslie Kelly

Although it’s not yet listed on Leslie Kelly’s Santori series (featuring a very fun and feisty Italian American family from Chicago), this novella is actually part of that group. Ellie can’t believe that Rafe Santori has turned up at the New Year’s Eve party for a local pet rescue. This soldier broke up with her years ago after the best relationship (and sex) of her life, telling her that it was unfair to make her wait for him when he had several more years of service ahead of him in the Rangers. He seems shocked that she’s recently engaged to her good friend Dennis, but why would he be? He told her to move on and that’s exactly what this veterinary student has done. One slow dance and a New Year’s kiss that drags up old memories and he disappears. Again.

Flash forward a couple of years and Ellie is stranded in the airport in New York on Christmas Eve, desperate to get back to Chicago to be with Dennis and her family. While she didn’t marry him, he did marry her best friend – Rafe’s divebombing back in her life made Ellie realize that she didn’t have the necessary spark with Dennis (but he did with someone else). He’s a great partner with their small animal clinic and since it’s his baby’s first Christmas Ellie wants to be there. With a massive snowstorm burying the East Coast in snow, her only hope is to rent an SUV and chance the roads. Guess what soldier just got the last one?

Don’t Open Till Christmas (Santori Stories #3 – Mark and Noelle) by Leslie Kelly (Harlequin Blaze, 2005)

Yep, it’s Rafe, who seems startled to see her but hesitantly asks if Ellie wants to share his ride. She realizes that this is fate giving her the opportunity to see if the man she fell in love with seven years ago still exists under that uniform. For Rafe, he knows he’s torturing himself with a married woman but he can’t help it – the thought of Ellie is what gave him comfort during some lonely nights and if he has to live with the reminder that he was an idiot for letting her go then so be it. The news that she is not married – especially when combined with his revelation that he’s officially stateside for one more year in the Rangers and then he’s a civilian – puts a whole different tone on their trip home. A few sexy detours into questionable motels due to the weather and these two people are contemplating that a Christmas miracle may have occurred…if they can convince the other person to take a chance.

One of my favorite things about Leslie Kelly’s writing is her sense of humor and this novella is no exception, continuing the hilarious situational fun and banter that I found in another book of the series (also a Christmas themed one), Don’t Open Until Christmas, Rafe’s brother Mark and his wife Noelle’s full-length novel. The whole series is fantastic (this is one over the top Italian family I’d love to join) but both Mark Santori’s story and this novella featuring his war-weary brother, Rafe, will brighten your holiday season.

“Presents Under the Tree” by Joanne Rock

Las Vegas producer Arianna Demakis is nervous this Christmas Eve and it’s not because she’s juggling three shows tonight. No, the reason she’s on edge is because sexy Air Force Captain Dylan Rivera – a man who gave her one unforgettable night four months ago – has promised to spend the holiday with her. It’s almost midnight and Ari is worried that he’s a no show, and she’s disappointed (but not surprised) since Dylan went on a mission right after their tequila-fueled celebration. She hasn’t heard from him since and it’s not a huge shock except for the fact that they are…um…married.

Full Surrender by Joanne Rock (Harlequin Blaze, September 1, 2012)

Dylan makes it to Ari by the skin of his teeth in the parking lot outside one of her theaters and finds himself as lost in her beauty and fire as ever. He’s happy to see she’s still wearing the ring he put on her finger four months ago but he knows she’s bound to ask for a divorce. He’s loved Ari since they were friends in high school, and couldn’t believe his luck when she showed up for his thirtieth birthday celebration. They’d promised each other senior year that they’d consider getting married if they both hit the big 3-0 and weren’t hitched yet. But he knows she must be worried that their alcohol-filled night was a mistake and he’s got a limited amount of time to convince her.

Dylan was adorable in his geekiness and the fact that he’s been thinking about Ari for years. He finds her fierce independence not just sexy but also potentially exactly what they would need if she agrees to give this marriage a chance – his tech job is perfect for a former chess club leader but his work falls under the highly classified label and he’ll potentially be out of touch for weeks and months at a time. Rock does a great job sketching both characters and showing their shared history and common interests that make their sudden marriage actually believable. I did wish that there was a little more discussion for the final revelation of feelings – and a hint of exactly how their relationship would work. I also felt like I was missing if this excellent novella was connected to another story; Ari compares her marriage to her friend Krista, who is married to a Lt. Col. (Lars?) in the Air Force – is this another Uniformly Hot novel? I really wish that Blaze would make a point of just tucking in a reference for readers at the start or end of novellas when there is a connection to another story. I don’t want to miss out and I’m enough of a completionist to be irritated if there’s another book I should be reading, particularly by an an author whose work I enjoyed in another story.

This was my first Joanne Rock story and I’ll definitely be trying another. She seems to have written quite a few military romances and other Blaze novels, as well as has a few historicals under her belt and is clearly an author worth exploring!

“If Only In My Dreams” by Karen Foley

Hot-Blooded by Karen Foley (Harlequin Blaze, 2010)

Navy SEAL Aiden Cross cannot figure out why he feels so horrible or why he’s no longer with his team traipsing through the African jungle on their mission. The only silver lining about waking up in a hot tent in excruciating pain is seeing army medic, Sergeant Lily Munroe hovering over him. He’s been attracted to her since the first moment he saw her nine months ago at a joint operations center in Entebbe. Knowing that relationships in the field can be more like hook-ups and often disrespectful to the women involved, he ignored his attraction (and hers). Much to his chagrin, his team buddy Brad swooped in and got involved with her, so she’s doubly off limits now, even if Aiden wasn’t suffering from Dengue fever. The only silver lining in all this pain is the news that he’s being shipped stateside for recovery in time for Christmas with his family and that Lily is going with him since she’s rotating out.

Lily has been extremely worried about Aiden and is more than a little nervous about traveling with him. Christmas is a pretty unhappy time in her family since her mother died on Christmas Eve when Lily was still a child, so she’s in no rush to get home. Despite her being attracted to Aiden and letting him know it, he wasn’t interested, hence her childish flirting with his buddy which came to nothing. When Aiden mentions on the trip home that he only believes in serious relationships and Lily knows she only does casual – having seen how hurt people can be when someone they love dies – she thinks that’s the door closing officially on anything they might have. But a combination of getting snowed into a midwest town without hope of making it home for the holiday, and her dispelling Aiden’s misconceptions that she’s in a relationship, seems to make their dynamic take a drastic shift. Sharing the last room in town might help Lily get her Christmas wish of Aiden in her bed, but the question still remains if there can be any kind of future between them.

OMG – such a good novella. I enjoyed having a military story not set in the Middle East and especially liked the realistic feeling of the misunderstanding between Aiden and Lily regarding her “relationship” with Brad. The B&B scenes were heartwarming and did a great job demonstrating Aiden’s ability to truly understand Lily and her fears – this was one man who I bet was amazing on a mission considering how focused he was on his objective! I’ve enjoyed several of Foley’s other military romances but just went out and bought a few others based on how hot and sweet this one was. She bowled me over!

Because of the nature of a soldier’s life, it’s hard not to come away from A Soldier’s Christmas being both high on the bittersweet romance of each story as well as impressed by the writing. As a reader, you are naturally thankful both for the men and women of our armed forces but also for being at home with family during the holidays when so many other people aren’t. I think a lot of the emotion I experienced reading this anthology wasn’t just provoked by the outstanding stories told, but how fortunate I felt to have love and family this holiday season in my life after seeing each of these couples experience their emotional roller-coaster during a potentially difficult time.

This is a terrific addition by the Blaze line to both their quality holiday novellas as well as their military romance collection.

Happy reading!

December Read-a-Thon: A Naughty Girl Gets a Happily Ever After in Twas the Night Before Mischief by Nina Rowan

26 Dec

‘Twas the Night Before Mischief (Daring Hearts #2.5 – Darius and Penelope) by Nina Rowan (Forever, December 10, 2013)

It’s always the mark of a good novella when the minute you finished it, you’ve hopped online and are ordering the other books in the series. That’s exactly what you get upon finishing Nina Rowan‘s third installment in her Daring Hearts series, focusing on the Hall siblings. Set during the Victorian period, this rather unusual aristocratic family has lived under the umbrella of their mother’s scandal in both St. Petersburg and in London, so naturally, as the siblings come of age, conventional relationships are not going to meet their needs.

Falling between the second and the third full-length book (which comes out in late May 2014), this novella focuses on the serious Hall twin, the spectacled Darius. His fascination with machinery has led him to have a multi-year professional relationship with Henry Darlington, an innovative confectioner, who has worked with Darius on various ways of separating out cocoa butter. This collaboration allows Darius to see the effect of Henry’s sudden remarriage on his twelve year old daughter, Penelope, and offer his own brand of rather (ineffective) cerebral comfort.

Flash forward and Darius is interested in seeing the now fully-grown Penelope again but is shocked at what he finds. Rather than the dutiful, quiet daughter he remembers, this young woman is stunning and vivacious, attracting male attention right and left. In particular, she’s garnered the focus of a Scottish fortune hunter who the Hall family recently ran off from Darius’ sister, Talia, but Darius’ warning to Penelope seems to fall on deaf ears. Yet even this changed Penelope still has the fire in her eyes that always attracted Darius and he steals a mind-blowing, stunning kiss under the mistletoe.

It doesn’t stop Penelope from running away with her Scottish suitor. She’s tired of being the dutiful daughter and getting no recognition from her father. While she likes her stepmother and siblings, she nevertheless feels like she’s on the outside looking in and the memory of her daring mother who would fill a room with the force of personality makes Penelope want more than the invisibility of a woman’s lot in life. She wants someone to truly see her, and so far no one has. When her elopement doesn’t work out and her father’s cool, intellectual colleague Darius Hall shows up in Scotland to rescue her, humiliation wars with relief…and something more. For Penelope finds that Darius is really more like his mistletoe kisses than the cool scientist he leads people to believe, and she might not be the only one with a fire inside. But will their short trip back to London be enough time to explore what’s between them before Penelope has to go back to being a good girl?

I cannot wait to read the rest of Nina Rowan’s Daring hearts series if this novella is any indication. It’s clear by both the author’s Ph.D. in Art History from McGill University, as well as her writing style, that she endows her characters with broad intellectual interests well-rooted in excellent research and solid theory – my favorite kind of historical writing! Both Penelope and Darius are extremely compelling, likable characters and it’s a joy to see them gain a greater understanding of each other. While it’s hard to imagine an aristocrat (even a much younger son) marrying a shopkeeper’s daughter, Rowan does make it clear even in this novella that the Halls are an unconventional lot who have lived through enough scandal that a little more doesn’t really faze them.

While there are a few mistletoe kisses (and a seriously naughty inn scene), there also isn’t a huge emphasis on Christmas, just the holiday season in general, so it’s a wonderful story to continue your holiday reading through the end of December. Many thanks to Ms. Rowan for writing such a terrific novella!

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, December 21, 2013

22 Dec

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Jacquelyn Frank‘s next book in the Nightwalkers series, Forsaken, will be debuting on January 7th and fans are chomping at the bit. Mercenary Leo Alvarez is dealing with his best friend now embodying an ancient pharaoh and he now needs to protect his friend from supernatural beings more dangerous than he could ever imagine. His unlikely ally is the Night Angel, a stunning creature who sets him aflame while also wielding power like he has never seen.

It’s now less than 10 days until the anthology Turn Up the Heat is published, and readers who snatch up books by Lori Foster, Christie Ridgway, and Victoria Dahl have already pre-ordered (and you should, too). Alpha males, beautiful woman and a love worth winning are a common theme of each hot, contemporary novella and I for one cannot wait. Pre-order it and have a great New Year with this book on your doorstep or delivered to your e-reader.

This past week gaslight fans all breathed a sigh of happiness as Kristen Callihan released the fourth book in her successful Darkest London series with Shadowdance. Mary Chase is happy in her work for the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals and when tasked with bringing down the vicious murderer labeled the Bishop of Charing Cross, she is determined to be successful. Her annoying rival Jack Talent also appears to be on the case and while it would make sense to work together, this lone wolf never does. Mary doesn’t realize that Jack would like to work closer…much closer…with her but the temptation she offers combined with the danger has him worried that if their killer doesn’t hurt her the ghosts from his past may.

Fun Stuff

‘Tis the season for finding awesome gifts for readers, and a truly unique gift can be found at Spineless Classics which offers the entire text of a book in a single poster with a unique design which manages to evoke the story. From children’s classics like the first Harry Potter book, James and the Giant Peach, among others, historical classics, nonfiction works like The Origin of the Species, to the New Testament, there is something for any kind of reader. At just under $70 these unframed posters are an investment but make a truly awesome gift.

I bet you have probably used the phrase “kick-ass” in reference to a strong woman (hopefully yourself!) but did you ever wonder when this phrase became part of our lexicon? The outstanding Romance Novels for Feminists blog has an outstanding analysis of when we started saying this (the late 1970s, a key time period for women) and has some great examples of which heroine it has been applied to in the post, “From Whence the Kick-Ass Heroine?”

Did you know Microsoft is working on a bra that will help read our body cues to alert us if we are going to begin eating emotionally? Prevention Magazine recently announced that the prototype, which measures heart rate, breathing rates, skin temperature and movement, still won’t be able to account for the holidays as a factor (what, they can’t add in a clock?) but should help people be more aware of their habits. So my immediate questions are 1) how to wash it and 2) what are men going to do?

Contests and Giveaways

From the Fresh Fiction blog, the author who actually invented the military romance, Lindsay McKenna, is the focus of a fantastic contest to win her entire Wyoming series, which appears to encompass both her Jackson Hole series as well as her Shadow Warriors series, in addition to others. Enter before Christmas to have a shot of getting most of this legend’s oeuvre.

Another holiday motherload of books contest can be found at The Rock Stars of Romance website which is hosting a contest to win a $100 gift card and a TON of ebooks and paperbacks from terrific authors. Hurry over there to enter, however, as this contest ends tomorrow.

The romance industry’s major publication, RT Book Reviews, is hosting a giveaway for all the books in the Baskerville Affair Trilogy, the series by Emma Jane Holloway which focuses on the niece of Sherlock Holmes and the steampunk world she inhabits as she attempts to live up to her family’s reputation for solving mysteries. The contest ends 12/27/2013, so use the Rafflecopter interface and enter to win!

Under the Covers Book Blog is giving away a copy of Jaci Burton’s Holiday Games, the wonderful holiday novella tied to her Play-by-Play series which stars the members of the incredibly talented Riley family. Enter by Christmas to see if you can win a copy of this terrific addition to the series.

Harlequin is celebrating the holidays by offering a unique bundle of historical romances (from all time periods and settings) as a giveaway and you become eligible to win by simply leaving a comment before December 29th. With authors like Nicola Cornick, Jeannie Lin, and Susan Wiggs, historical romance readers are bound to think that Harlequin headquarters is actually at the North Pole (well, they have to read something to keep warm, right?).

The blog Hesperia Loves Books is a having a wonderful giveaway for paranormal readers who love dragon shifters, offering the three current books in Jamie Rush‘s The Hidden series, but also ARCs for the next two books in the series, and a custom dog tag. Go over today and enter as the contest closes at midnight!

You’ll have to move fast but fans of Jeaniene Frost‘s Night Huntress series have a chance to win an ARC of the final Cat & Bones novel, Up From the Grave, if they send an email to Frost no later than midnight on the 23rd (tomorrow!). Details are up on her website, so get those fingers moving to let this wonderful author know you are interested in a leg up on reading this long-awaited novel.

Tawny Weber is having a great giveaway for her holiday book, Naughty Christmas Nights, and all you have to do is go use the Rafflecopter entry form by Christmas Eve to be considered. About two rival lingerie companies and the man and woman who are fighting for their future, the heat between them begins to mean more than getting the account.

Great Deals

Available for free right now is a collection of nine short stories, each from a different author, and encompassing a variety of romance genres and heat levels. Gratis: Midwinter Tales just came out on December 19th and clearly has a holiday theme, so give yourself a totally free present and see if you can find a new author to enjoy.

Also currently free is the steamy short from Alexandra Ivy and Laura Wright, Bayou Noel, about a Louisiana woman who is tired of waiting for the man she’s loved from afar to notice her. After five years, it’s clearly not going to happen, but she couldn’t possibly anticipate what a simple letter informing him that she’s leaving would unleash. This story falls between the eighth and ninth books of this shapeshifter series and as always, it’s as hot and steamy as a Louisiana swamp, so enjoy!

Elisabeth Naughton‘s first Eternal Guardians book, Marked, is currently available for free on Amazon, so snap it up. About a woman marked to die and the 200-year-old descendent of Hercules whose job it is to bring her in order to save his people, this paranormal romance has tortured alpha males and beautiful women who have the power to bring them back from the brink, all set in a political world with its own agenda.

Jennifer Skully (aka Jasmine Haynes) has reissued her book, Sex and the Serial Killer under its new title She’s Gotta Be Mine, and it’s currently free! The first of her Cottonmouth series, fans of zany romance and eccentric characters will definitely want to take a look at this story which features a divorced woman who bounces back from her husband leaving her for his high school sweetheart by undergoing a massive makeover. Not content with simply changing her appearance, she also decides to take up with the town’s sexy bad boy who is rumored to be a serial killer. Exactly. Go get it, now!

Courtney Milan‘s first novel of her The Brothers Sinister series (really a prequel), The Governess Affair, is also free right now on Amazon, and it’s a book that’s gotten kudos from historical romance readers around the world. When a hero who started off as the son of a coal miner and rose to be the right-hand man of a duke and feared throughout the country can’t get rid of a governess, well, love is clearly in the air.

One of my favorite novellas of all time is on sale for only $.99 – Laura Kaye’s Hearts in Darkness! About two people trapped in an elevator who never got a good look at one another but who are drawn together as they talk and um…do other things…it’s truly characteristic of Kaye’s hot, sweet writing style. Similarly, her fascinating stand-alone vampire tale, Forever Freed, is also only $.99, so check them both out so Laura Kaye can make your holiday a little brighter.

Suzanne Brockmann‘s novel, The Unsung Hero, the first book in her Troubleshooters series, is on sale for $.99, a great price for 416 pages of romantic suspense with a Navy SEAL hero. Lt. Tom Paoletti spots a terrorist when at home recovering from a head injury but the powers that be dismiss it as the product of his concussion. He assembles an eclectic team of his friends and experts, including Dr. Kelly Ashton, the girl-next-door who has grown into a compelling and beautiful woman. But all of them may not be enough to take down this bad guy and Tom begins to realize that protecting Kelly might be even more important than taking down this particular tango. Can he manage both?

Lynsay Sands seems to have enough Argeneau novels that one of them is always on sale (lucky for us) and this week’s deal is Immortal Ever After about a woman captured by a psychopath who seems to have fangs and the vampire savior who claims she is his mate. Only $1.99 it’s a great deal for a full-length novel from this excellent paranormal author.

Cherry Adair‘s book Hush from her wonderful Lodestone trilogy is on sale for $1.99 and has two thrill-seeking brothers who experience a kidnapping and a woman who is kidnapped along with them. When Zak and the woman’s escape reveal a new ability for him, he needs to figure out how to use it to find his missing brother. Quite a…um…large machete he’s wielding on the cover, yes?

That’s it for this week. I’ve got a review of a terrific anthology coming up this afternoon, but I hope you have a great Christmas with lots of amazing books as your present.

Happy reading!!

December Read-a-Thon: ‘Tis the Season To Be Tempted by Aimee Carson Puts One Naughty Girl and a Very Good Guy Under the Tree This Season

21 Dec

‘Tis the Season To Be Tempted by Aimee Carson (Entangled: Indulgence, November 22, 2013)

I cannot believe this is the last one of the novellas from Entangled’s ‘Tis the Season bundle! *sniff* I was super worried that with the first three being so awesome, maybe I was going to be disappointed with Aimee Carson‘s novella – after all, I haven’t read anything of hers before so she was a bit of a wild card. After Kate Hardy’s Scrooge-turned-Santa hero, Heidi Rice’s playboy-meets-uptight-British-workaholic, and Amy Andrews’ Drunk-Kindergarten-Teacher-Falls-For-Sexy-Soldier, how could anyone live up to the high bar set by these fabulous authors? Especially someone whose work I really don’t know?

Well, THAT’S something that will be changing considering how hot and funny ‘Tis the Season To Be Tempted is. Any author who manages to work ice tongs into a sex scene – and makes them wicked hot – is deserving of my admiration!

Wes Campbell is exhausted and a little depressed that he’s spent New Year’s with a client rather than anyone he actually cared about. He just wants to rest on the plane and gear up for even more work the next day. Facing the realization that his life is pretty bleak – no real family, a failed “perfect” marriage, and nothing but his business to occupy his time – is painful to say the least. Then the sound of someone’s voice drifts to his first class seat and Wes’ world fills with color, because that panicked voice belongs to the one woman who was always off limits, the perpetual rebel and younger sister of his best friend and college roommate, Evie Lee.

Evie is convinced that, after the year she’s had, it’s all too likely that she is going die a fiery death on this plane and no amount of gin and tonics seem to soften the reality. When she hears a deep male voice ordering the flight attendant to go easy on the alcohol, she’s unsurprised to see Wes, aka “Harvard,” her brother’s bossy best friend. He’s been a thorn in her side forever, managing to witness all her humiliating moments growing up. It’s been a decade since she’s been home to see her affluent parents who would have loved their daughter to go to an Ivy League school or at least marry someone like Wes, but Evie’s career putting a now-highly successful band on the map isn’t worthy of their admiration. With all this liquid courage, a little flirting with Wes might exactly what she needs to take her mind off her impending death, right?

While it’s the heroine who wears Hello, Kitty underpants, there is something far more sexy about the male version, don’t you think?

OMG, two terrific characters who are still wrestling with some inner doubts and vulnerability – Evie in that her breakup and job change have undermined the success she created for herself on her own terms and Wes in that his work and his life are not as fulfilling as they are supposed to be and he knows something is missing. That something is clearly Evie, and the heat between these two is smoking; their historical sparks have obviously been hiding that chemistry. Any author that can make Hello, Kitty underpants and hotel food implements sexy is a tremendous talent, and Aimee Carson‘s writing is detailed, funny and hot – a terrific combination. 🙂

Just like the other outstanding authors in this collection, Carson’s novella feels like a longer work because it is so packed with emotion. A bargain at $.99, the bundle with all four of these fabulous holiday stories at $2.99 is an outstanding bargain and an affordable stocking stuffer for your favorite romance reader (or a great way to use that bookseller gift card you received). My happiness centers on the fact that I get to race out and buy more Aimee Carson books (I’ve already put a bunch on my “to-read” shelf on Goodreads) so my time with this great author is only beginning. Merry Christmas to me (and you)!

Happy reading!!

December Read-a-Thon: ‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed by Amy Andrews Continues Entangled’s Fabulous Holiday Novella Streak

20 Dec

‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed by Amy Andrews (Entangled: Indulgence, November 15, 2013)

I have seen a lot of publishers churn out holiday books and novellas and (we all know) that while there could be some great titles in the bunch, a few of them are bound to be mediocre. With that in mind, my respect for Entangled has grown with leaps and bounds as every one of these ‘Tis the Season novellas are utterly fantastic! You’ve heard me wax ecstatic over Heidi Rice’s book yesterday and Kate Hardy’s book the day before that, so please add my appreciation for Amy Andrews to that list of admired authors.

The best present to me is that, while I’ve got a few of Amy Andrews’ books on my “to-read” list, I hadn’t yet indulged in her writing, so this novella was just the kick in the pants I needed to shunt a few of her novels up the ladder in my Kindle queue. Absolutely sweet was her Acknowledgements page at the end of this novella where she thanks Entangled’s Heather Howland and Liz Pelletier for all the help she received to convert her language from Andrews’ native Australian patois to a version of English which would match her American characters. Their team effort succeeded, as ‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed doesn’t take a single misstep, delivering two terrific characters, a snowstorm, and sexual tension so powerful it provides its own fireworks when our hero and heroine decide to ring in the New Year.

When our novella begins, Tamara is well aware that she’s reaching a new level of pathetic being three sheets to the wind by 9 am on the morning of New Year’s Eve, but she has good reason. Her best friend lent her the family Vermont cabin (and left the eggnog) and since Tamara can’t figure out how to build a fire without matches, she’s bundled in her coat and several layers with the theory that enough eggnog will keep her from freezing to death. Sadly, it’s also got her feeling quite morose about the state of her love life, which has been populated with losers this last year and turning thirty makes that experience a little more painful. With a raging snowstorm outside and reports of teenage looters on the television, tipsy Tamara panics when she hears someone on the porch clearly rattling the knob. Yet, she’s ready to defend her friend’s domicile, albeit with a golf club.

Blizzards are always better when you have a hot male body to snuggle in front of a fire with. (Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay)

Blizzards are always better when you have a hot male body to snuggle in front of a fire with. (Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay)

Sergeant Luke Jackson thought that he had left ambushes behind when his plane took off from Afghanistan 36 hours ago, but after he tackles the parka clad burglar wielding a mean putter he realizes that his attacker is a pixie-haired, slightly drunk woman. As her layers strip off after he manages to get a fire going so neither of them will freeze, he’s more and more fascinated with her. Listening to her drunken rambles about the men she’s dated, he’s actually grateful that they were all impatient assholes since Tamara is available now – and Luke is beginning to think that settling down into something more serious might be exactly the New Year’s resolution he needs. Convincing her to throw out her usual ten date timetable is going to be a challenge, but it’s nothing this soldier can’t handle.

Luke’s military service is alluded to but not belabored in this 55 page novella, yet do not worry that his character is underdeveloped. This delicious sergeant with his six-pack of abs and cleft chin is just as good on the inside as he is handsome, so I guarantee you’ll be in love with him by the fourth page after his appearance. Tamara is experiencing a very understandable crisis at the age of 30 and having her best friend’s sexy younger brother appear isn’t helping her libido dilemma, particularly when her head is very clear about the need to settle down. She’s funny and earnest, especially when drunk, and I liked that she had good reasons behind her principles and that Luke immediately respected them, even when he was determined to shorten her timetable in his own case.

‘Tis the Season Bundle by Heidi Rice, Kate Hardy, Amy Andrews and Aimee Carson (Entangled: Indulgence, December 9, 2013)

Like the other books in this series, ‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed manages to read like a longer novella and at only $.99 is an utter bargain deserving of immediate purchase. You’ll be seeing plenty of New Year’s Eve fireworks with this great story by Amy Andrews on your e-reader! Please note that all four novellas in this series are actually available as a bundle for only $2.99, and since I’ve established over the last few days that the three I’ve read so far are fabulous, it’s only mathematical literacy to realize that you should get the bundle to get the fourth story (to be reviewed tomorrow) for free.

Happy reading!

December Read-a-Thon: Heidi Rice Shows Us What Lucky Looks Like in ‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky

19 Dec

‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky by Heidi Rice (Entangled: Indulgence, November 1, 2013)

What does “getting lucky” look like in a holiday novella? How about a sexy playboy with a heart of gold, a soaking wet British achluophobe (fear of the dark), and a department store closed for Christmas where you can have anything you want? Exactly.

This fantasy is exactly what every salivating reader gets with Heidi Rice’s fabulous novella, ‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky, and it’s worth way more than the $.99 price tag since 1) it’s packed with vivid detail and a startling amount of emotion and 2) it’s Heidi Rice, people, and she’s awesome.

Kate Braithwaite’s long distance boyfriend has just dumped her via email so she trudges to the office she’s called home for the past six months (through a horrifying rainstorm) to remind herself why she left England behind. Doing PR for one of the premier stores in Manhattan has been a dream come true, but even Kate realizes how pathetic she is being the only person at work besides the security guard on Christmas. Thankful no one can see her, she exchanges her soaking wet clothes for a way-too-small elf costume and decides to try and be productive. At least she works more than the no-show playboy son of the owner who draws a massive salary and never comes to work.

Ryan Sinclair is in fact “at work” that day, and is busy pondering over what appear to be slutty elf dolls actually meant for children, when one (very sexy) elf startles him so much that he tackles her. This British beauty has a face to match her luscious body, but her frosty demeanor and workaholic attitude make her undesirable, or so he tells himself. Until the rainstorm which has become a blizzard kills the store lights and suddenly Katherine (he likes that better than Kate) is shaking, showing a vulnerable woman under the bitchiness. Over the course of a snowstorm which traps them in the store, these two people discover that the other person is not at all what they imagined…and that a Christmas blizzard may have deposited much more than snow on their doorstep.

Okay, this is Heidi Rice, a superhero in the world of category romance (way to go, Entangled!) and she delivers her usual brand of hot, sexiness wrapped in a hero and heroine who seem like a total mismatch but are really very similar under the skin. Kate has (understandable) abandonment issues and Ryan has worked to insure his daughter never, ever feels abandoned. I honestly could not believe that this novella was listed at 57 pages – if you told me it was closer to 100 pages, I would have believed you with the emotional evolution experienced by the characters between its covers. Does it move quickly? Of course, it’s a novella, but that doesn’t mean this story is anything but quality writing. Don’t move until you check out such classics of this author’s like Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger and/or Cupcakes and Killer Heels! They are the reason I love Heidi Rice and you’ll understand the minute you read them. 🙂

Movie Bliss: A Hopeless Romantic Seeks Movies to Love by Heidi Rice (Harlequin E, January 6, 2014)

Yet despite my being a fan, I only just managed to realize that her author bio clearly states that Rice also works as a movie journalist in her spare time. I was extremely excited to see on her blog that she has a movie guide specifically for romance lovers coming out in early January, Movie Bliss: A Hopeless Romantic Seeks Movies to Love. Seriously? Even better, it’s about 150 pages of recommendations AND it’s also only $.99. Whaaa??? Color me having pre-ordered it (and maybe my blog readers will get some movie reviews peppered in here since we all enjoy great films that make our HEA a visual reality, don’t we?).

Remember that ‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky is part of the same Entangled series as yesterday’s ‘Tis the Season to Kiss Santa by Kate Hardy, so you now have two reasons to take a look at these great books. With all the busyness and running around of the holidays, these books are exactly what you need to take a mental time out for yourself and do something just for you.

Happy reading!

December Read-a-thon: ‘Tis the Season to Kiss Santa by Kate Hardy Will Have You Wishing for a Snowstorm

18 Dec

‘Tis the Season To Kiss Santa by Kate Hardy (Entangled: Indulgence, November 1, 2013)

This novella came on just the right day for me. I knew I needed to read a holiday themed book for my December post and we had snow today – enough for a delay for my school but not enough for a snow day (which made me and all the kids sad). Since my husband and I fell in love during a snowstorm almost 21 years ago, there is nothing more romantic to me than being caught by weather (the kind where you need to snuggle for warmth) with someone you find attractive. Very attractive.

Enter category romance doyenne Kate Hardy (of Harlequin/Mills & Boon fame) and Entangled Publishing’s new Indulgence line who together have managed a lineup of delicious holiday novellas penned by serious category romance contenders! Names like Aimee Carson, Heidi Rice (!), and Kate Hardy are all well-known by readers within this genre of romance fiction, so color me impressed. Those Entangled editors are clearly smooth talkers with plenty of chutzpah to court such excellent authors for this holiday novella celebration, but that’s Entangled for you. 🙂

‘Tis the Season to Kiss Santa has a straightforward premise. Mitch has been called Scrooge for most of his life and he’s got good reason. He has no positive memories of the holiday which, for him, was filled with abusive, drunk parents and disillusionment. Now a successful PR executive in Philadelphia, he’s happy to spend the holidays doing what he always does – work. But when his soon-to-retire boss C. J. approaches him about playing Santa, Mitch balks even though he knows C. J. will be picking a successor soon. There is no way he’s agreeing to be something (or someone) he’s not.

C. J. lets him know that donning the red suit and Christmas cheer is for a local hospice, specifically for siblings of kids in the hospital who don’t end up with a lot of attention during the holiday, making Mitch reconsider his anti-Christmas stance. His boss and his wife lost a son years ago and, together with a bakery owner with a similar experience, have been putting on this party every year. Mitch feels his first stirrings of guilt and ends up agreeing to do the gig, despite his reservations.

The snow angel was my favorite! (Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay)

The snow angel was my favorite! (Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay)

Ellie is a British baker who was happy to step into the “chief elf” role when her godmother needed a hip replacement. But while the last-minute Santa is good looking, he’s also not exactly filled with the Christmas spirit. Yet, something seems to happen to him over the course of interacting with the kids, and it’s enough of a transformation that when he suggests he give her a ride home in the sudden snowstorm that sprang up, she accepts, inviting him in for coffee and cookies.

They both quickly realize that Mitch is there for the duration of the storm (and maybe Christmas day if the city can’t get the plow in soon). Ellie can’t believe that she’s so attracted to someone who she only just met a few hours ago and Mitch is stunned that this sexy redhead with the killer accent is getting under all his carefully shored up defenses. Together they discover if Mitch can get over his past and Ellie can recover the confidence shredded by her ex and have a very merry Christmas, indeed.

At almost 100 pages this $.99 novella is a total steal with two great main characters and a romantic setting. Mitch is grumpy – but not to the level of being an unlikeable asshole – and the setting of the hospice was unique yet never saccharine. Kate Hardy manages to sketch vivid people and settings with an economy of words that left me breathless as the plot moved effortlessly along, taking me with it. At its heart, this story is about the Christmas spirit helping people take chances, and that’s a message any romance reader can love.

You can be rest assured that I will be reviewing some of the other fabulous stories in this holiday series over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully they will live up to the standards set by Kate Hardy!

Happy reading!

December Read-a-Thon: Get a Santini Under the Tree With Melissa Schroeder’s Novella, A Santini Christmas

5 Dec

A Santini Christmas (The Santinis #5 – Steward and Joey) by Melissa Schroeder (Harmless Publishing, November 26, 2013)

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?

The Santinis Bundle by Melissa Schroeder (Harmless Publishing, November 20, 2013) – a great way to get all four books and a mere $3.99

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. 🙂

December Holiday Read-a-thon: Scrooge as a Hot Vampire? Yes, Please! A Vampire’s Christmas Carol by Cynthia Eden

2 Dec

It is always a pleasure when you see a self-published book done beautifully, and leave it to best-selling author Cynthia Eden to have the chops to manage this on her own with aplomb. Her paranormal holiday novella, A Vampire’s Christmas Carol, has everything you could want – compelling characters, excellent writing and editing, and a damn sexy cover – all of which harken back to the time-honored tale by Charles Dickens of a man confronted with the sins of his past and given the chance to create a different future.

Ten years ago, Ben Prescott had everything as he was walking through Central Park. A millionaire, his sterile apartment was filled with a tree and love as he hurried home to his beautiful girlfriend Simone so he could give her the engagement ring in his pocket. But in a flash it was all taken from him as a vampire attacked and changed him into a monster. Considering himself responsible for Simone’s death, Ben has spent the last decade as a vigilante courting death as he stalks and kills murderers, with the darkness almost fully overtaking him.

Until he is confronted by William, a demon he saved in a cemetery long ago. William informs Ben that – against Ben’s vehement wishes – he will witness his most painful memories, that of his turning and of Simone’s death. Two other people will visit him, to show him how his view of the present is skewed and how his future path is bleak indeed, in the hope that he can change in time to not be condemned to eternal damnation. But even this effort means nothing until Ben is shown the one person he wants most in this world – Simone – and he will do anything for the slightest chance to win her back.

WOW. This novella (a bargain at only $.99 for around 80 pages) packs a wallop. There are always holiday romance stories which use Dickens’ famous work, but I’ve never seen the concept executed with such freshness and deep emotion. Eden’s paranormal world is appropriately dark, but through Simone’s sacrifice Ben is finally able to see the potential he has to do the world good, and not just by killing the human detritus he has targeted in the past. I did not see several of the twists coming (which I loved) and my heart ached while praying for an HEA for Ben and Simone, even when it looked like that wasn’t possible. This was a masterful retelling filled with heat and emotion, which should be on every paranormal romance lover’s e-bookshelf this holiday season.

Happy reading!

You’ll Want to Flirt with Wendy Sparrow’s Latest Novella, On His List

23 Nov

On His List by Wendy Sparrow (Entangled Flirt, November 11, 2013)

When Entangled Publishing – who, next to Avon, is the romance publisher I feel I can trust to have a terrific level of quality and editing – announced they were launching their new Entangled Flirts line, I was intrigued. Anyone reading about the proliferation of ebooks has seen the articles indicating that shorter novellas and episodic books are the hot new item since people want a satisfying story they can read in one sitting amidst all the other activities happening in their lives. Entangled Flirts are designed to be 10K to 40K (think 40 to 80 pages) and cover the areas of contemporary romance, thrillers, and even historical romance fiction.

Huh. This is a fascinating trend, and I definitely wanted to sample the wares to see if the same level of quality that I enjoy in the Brazen (and Covet and Scandalous) line could be present in a shorter package. So I bought a few of them (at $.99, not hard on the wallet) and sat back to test the waters.

My first one was Wendy Sparrow’s On His List and I was WOWED by how such a short novella can back an emotional punch. It’s always a credit to the author’s writing when you finish the last page feeling the emotional satisfaction associated with a longer work, and the story of Remy and Owen definitely fit the bill.

Remy Maison lives in a dive apartment in San Francisco with her brother Denny and while the two of them work their butts off (she as a massage therapist and Denny as a driver) they can’t easily come back from someone stealing their rent money from their coffee can stash. Luckily Denny has an all day driving job with a regular who is a heavy tipper, but when Denny wakes up with one of his migraines, Remy has to sacrifice her day off to meet the guy at the airport and drive him around. Denny has cautioned her ad nauseum how this client is REALLY particular – he loves order, doesn’t want his things touched, and needs silence. This is going to be a challenge for chatty, button pusher Remy, but if the choice is tow the line or get kicked out of their apartment, she’ll somehow manage.

San Francisco (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Until she gets one look at Owen walking off the concourse, that is. Denny neglected to mention that the “client” was a gorgeous, younger guy here to look after his many businesses. While he’s definitely super particular, it’s also obvious that there is some serious heat between them. But Remy knows she needs to keep it professional, yet the urge is there to help Owen push his boundaries, just a little. With Owen living in Miami and Remy not a one-night stand kind of woman, this particular substitution might end up causing more heartache than if they got evicted.

In 60+ pages, Sparrow made the smart choice to keep this story entirely from Remy’s perspective and yet she steered clear of the first person (THANK YOU, WENDY) which keeps the tone of the novella similar to other well-written contemporary romances. The setting of San Francisco is outstandingly written and Remy’s dilemma of wanting to be professional yet at the same time unable to deny her playful personality is well depicted. While there is no consummation of their relationship (the novella is basically the first two days they know each other), there is still so much heat and yearning that I felt very satisfied in the sexy times department. An afterword in the book from the author explains her gratitude to the doctor who has helped treat her OCD, so Owen’s wrestling with Remy throwing him off schedule and marking up his itinerary feels very authentic as a result of Sparrow’s personal experiences.

If this novella is typical of what Entangled new Flirts line is going to offer, I plan on reading many more of these excellent stories. Many thanks to Wendy Sparrow for On His List – Owen would definitely get put in the “to-do” column of my planner!

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