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Santa, Honey by Kate Angell, Sandra Hill, Joy Nash

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Anthology
Series: N/A
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 322 Pages, 4528 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback
Note: This review is based on the Kindle edition, which no longer seems to be available.

Santa, Honey
A Fine Holiday Treat

Obviously I'm more than a little behind on my reading, as I had fully intended to enjoy this anthology of holiday novellas during the actual holiday season, but I'm glad I finally sat down to enjoy them. Sometimes funny, often sweet, and rich with the flavor of my favorite time of year, this anthology is definitely worth a read...no matter what month is face up on the calendar.

Ho, Humbug, Ho by Kate Angell
Series: Richmond Rogues, Book 5
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 1267 Locations

Getting caught speeding his way through Holiday, Florida on the way to Miami for a wild celebration of the Richmond Rogues latest World Series victory pretty much ruined baseball player Alex Boxer's raucous plans for the holiday. Sentenced to forty hours of community service as the small town's mall Santa, he's stuck in a hot, too-tight costume next to a flatulent deer and nut cracking nutcracker Holly McIntyre, faking a hearty ho, ho, ho...instead of sipping brews on a hot beach and using his yule log to give a pair of busty beach bunnies in thongs a very merry Christmas.

Holly sees right through Alex. He's rich, sexy, and entitled, and he'd do just about anything to get out of his Santa stint. She doesn't even blink when his sexually suggestive comments and behavior are aimed her way. She wouldn't have expected different. It's her reaction to him that concerns her. That he sets her body to burning isn't any surprise, but the longer he's in her company, the more her heart is invested...and that's scary enough to curdle her eggnog.

As a big fan of Kate Angell's Richmond Rogues series, I was looking forward to this short holiday novella, considered book 5 in the series. In many ways, it didn't disappoint. There was genuine humor, yummy sexual chemistry, and some sweet romance. There was a sexy if womanizing baseball player, and a plucky, strong female lead. I enjoyed Alex and Holly together, and I admired how Holly didn't take much of Alex's crud. I appreciated how she maintained a very realistic view of their relationship. I do wish the character definition had been given a little more attention, because they lacked a little of the spark of individuality I'm used to Angell imbuing in her characters.

The narrative got a little choppy and rapid fire as the story progressed, with more straight description of action and events as opposed to a more flowing narrative that includes a wider descriptive pallet of background, scenery, and emotion. It started to take on a bit of a rapid-fire recitation sort of feel that gave me the impression that the story was being trimmed to fit a certain length. The extremely abrupt ending and sudden resolution further cemented that feeling.

Despite that, I felt like this was an entertaining addition to the Richmond Rogues series and a nice representation of Kate Angell's lighthearted, very fun, sexy style.

Naughty or Nice by Sandra Hill
Rating: 4 Stars
Length:1601 Locations

Thanks to years of suffering nothing but bad luck around the holidays, Jessica Jones is convinced she suffers from a Christmas curse. Considering that this Christmas Eve she's had her car and purse stolen, forcing her to hold up a supermarket for the $39.95 she's owed...with a gun that she thought was empty...which then causes her to take a hostage to assure her freedom...and that hostage turns out to be a bodyguard who is ex-CIA, you can sort of see why she's under that assumption.

Said ex-CIA bodyguard and Brad Pitt look-alike Luke Carter mostly thinks Jessica is a harmless lunatic...until the gun goes off. Before he knows it, he's handcuffed to the crazy bird and has a gun pointed at his head - the one part of his body currently not covered by Kevlar. He's cursing his lackadaisical response when he gets his first glimpse of Jessica without her Santa getup...and tumbles head over heals down the daunting chimney of love. Convincing the determined if utterly inept criminal to walk the straight and narrow with him, however, may take a Christmas miracle.

This delightful comedy farce by Sandra Hill may be a little dated with the many references to a younger Brad Pitt and his cinematic accomplishments of the early to mid-nineties, as well as a reference to IBM computers, but it's a fast, fun romp that made me grin. Definitely do not take this one seriously, it's not meant to be, but its ridiculous exaggeration and silly buffoonery made me chuckle.

There wasn't very much in the way of character development or plot, but you could find some if you squinted and looked really hard. There were also a few tendrils of a more serious nature with mentions of Luke's deceased wife and a childhood that breathed distrust into Jessica. I thought the ending was a little awkward and too quickly resolved (so common in this format), and the emotions of a key scene during the resolution seemed discordant with the actions and dialogue. Oh, and no adult should ever refer to a thirteen-year-old as sexy for any reason. It's icky and disturbing, as is speaking of her and to her as if she were a prostitute.

Love-at-first-sight stories don't usually do anything for me, but this one didn't bother me at all in that regard. Maybe because the comedy was so exaggerated and it was so obviously not to be taken seriously. Naughty or Nice was absurd, ridiculous, and flat out fun, even with the flaws.

Christmas Unplugged by Joy Nash
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 1629 Locations

Casey was used to taking care of her flighty and irresponsible younger sister. She'd been doing it since they were both children. As a computer programmer, she knew she could work anywhere, so she even moved from their Florida home to the mean streets of New York City when Emma decided to try to make it as an actress on Broadway. Now, as a major New Years Eve promotion for a posh jewelry store approaches a critical technical deadline, Casey is working nonstop to get the programming set to roll out to the billboards in Times Square. Emma has other ideas.

Cajoled, begged, and practically dragged out of the apartment she shares with Emma, Casey finds herself taking Emma's newly ex-boyfriend's place at a remote Upstate New York lodge for a Christmas holiday away from it all. And the last place Casey wants to be is away from it all.

Within minutes of arriving, her gorgeous and selfish sister has hooked up with one of the two brothers who are working their for the proprietors, their Aunt and Uncle. Casey is locked out of her room with no place to sleep, and has to rely on the gorgeous but stoic Matt Van der Staapen for a place to lay her very weary head. Fed up with her sister, out of her element in the middle of a blizzard, cut off from the world she knows and loves, she has to rely on a man too gorgeous for her to trust. Merry frickin' Christmas.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this nifty novella. Less comedic than the first two in this anthology, Nash struck the sort of perfect blend of character definition and romantic development that so many authors fail to achieve in shorter-length stories. It was realistic, sweet, and tempered with just enough conflict to provide some meat without tilting into dramatics or becoming cloying. In fact, from a strictly technical standpoint, it was one of the most comprehensive and satisfying novellas I've read.

The narrative was smooth and sophisticated, well balanced, and full of the sort of details in scenery and Dutch holiday culture that add depth and dimension to the backbone of the story, and the dialogue was genuine and maintained a steady conversational flow. When you add in the character definition, everything pulled together quite nicely and provided a highly satisfying read.

I didn't like Emma, whose selfish actions and flighty behavior never lead to any of the consequences she deserved, and I didn't totally buy into the main romantic conflict towards the end, which seemed a little out of character for Matt in particular, but the thoughtful and mature resolution to that conflict was supremely satisfying and more realistic than often seen in contemporary romance. This was a lovely and surprisingly robust holiday novella that I would enjoy pulling out to reread around the holidays. It really closed out this anthology on a very high note.

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Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Tracy's bookshelf: read

Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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