The ‘Oh Crap It’s Only A Week Until Christmas’ Holiday Book Binge, Part 1

I was going to call these “lightning” reviews, but I’m going with “magical reindeer fly-by” reviews because they’re more ephemeral than electrocution-inducing.

Yes, I’m an Alliteration Whore.

In no particular order….

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‘Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

'Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

  • Title: ‘Twas the Night After Christmas
  • Author: Sabrina Jeffries
  • Series: Hellions of Halstead Hall, Book 6
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Gallery Books, October 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Trope(s): Angst, Big Misunderstandings, Parental Issues, Smartass Heroine, Alpha Hero Who’s Secretly a Beta Hero, Plot Moppet
  • Quick blurb: A widowed hired companion tries to reunited her unseen rakish employer with his long-estranged mother.
  • Quick review: Angsty and gooey and predictable, and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
  • Grade: A-

She kissed like a woman who didn’t know her own sensual power. Most women did – even the virginal ones. The fact that she didn’t made him want to show it to her. Graphically. Thoroughly. Over and over, until she realized what he’d known since the moment she first stood up to him – that she was one of those rare women who understood how the game was played…and then played it by her own rules.

This might be my favorite of the Hellions of Halstead Hall series. Yes, the setup is standard formula romance, but Jeffries really pulls it off by making this a very intimate and emotional and oozingly romantic story.

The minus in the A- minus is for the price — I know it’s a full novel and not just a novella, but it’s Christmas, for crying out loud. And don’t try to use “But we released it in October!” as an excuse.

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Red Hot Holiday (Anthology)

Red Hot Holiday anthology from Carina Press

  • Title: Red Hot Holiday
  • Author(s): Anne Calhoun, K.A. Mitchell and Leah Braemel
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Carina Press, December 2012
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 262 pages
  • Trope(s): Angst, Big Misunderstandings, BDSM, Menage, Beta Heroes, Widow
  • Quick blurb: A unique and unexpected mix of holiday-themed erotic stories
  • Quick review: A bit uneven, but definitely not the usual gooey Christmas schmaltz
  • Grade: B-

Wish List by K.A. Mitchell

“Feel small, like I could crawl inside you, but big too, like all of you would fit inside me.”

I have read and will continue to read anything and everything by K.A. Mitchell, and I *love* that a non-Christmas, non-het story was included in this anthology.

I Need You for Christmas by Leah Braemel

“I wasn’t the only one who pulled Kevin out of the water. It was a team effort.”

“I know. But I’m not in love with any of them.”

I’m generally not a big fan of Gift of the Magi takeoffs, because the conflict and resolution are always so blatantly telegraphed, and this was no exception. The fact that the heroine was a kick-ass Mountie and the hero was a believable Sensitive Artist almost made up for some of the external melodrama — but not enough for the gratuitous sex swing.

Breath on Embers by Annie Calhoun

Ronan the Rescuer loomed over her, big and tough and willing to throw himself at whatever fire appeared, literal or metaphorical, but this wasn’t hot flames. This was the cold fire of hell no one could rescue her from, because nothing was wrong, except her husband was dead.

Like nearly every other reader, I was blown away by Calhoun’s gorgeous writing — the balance of characters and setting and holiday angst was perfect. HOWEVER… I know I’m in the minority on this… I felt the resolution of the conflict was a cop-out to make this story more “erotic” and fulfill a “Stop the presses! We need a menage!” trope quota — even more than the gratuitous sex swing. I just didn’t buy it.

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A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift by Jennifer Ashley

A MacKenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift by Jennifer Ashley

  • Title: A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift
  • Author: Jennifer Ashley
  • Series: Highland Pleasures, Book 4.5
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Trope(s): Family Reunion, Big Misunderstanding(s), Plot Moppets (a LOT of them), Pregnant Ladies (a LOT of them), Testosterone in Kilts (a LOT of it)
  • Quick blurb: The Boys of Scotland and their Lovely Lassies and all their children and pets and servants and horses and in-laws.
  • Quick review: If you love the MacKenzies, you’ll probably read this book and like it. Just like me.
  • Grade: B

Hart looked like someone had kicked him repeatedly.

Every single character from all four previous books was crammed into this book, along with their numerous spawn. Those who weren’t the main characters of their own book all got smoochy cameos in this one, including Crabby Old Fart-Muffin (my son’s favorite epithet) half-brother Lloyd Fellows AND Bellamy the Boxing Butler (oh, fine then, he’s a valet, but that’s not alliterative).

The subtitle of “The Perfect Gift” was the often obscured yet charming plot thread, but it really wasn’t the point. It did, however, remind me how much I looove Ian and Beth and then I had to go and read their book again. And then I had to double-check to make sure I had Elliot’s book AND Daniel’s book on my “Coming Soon But Not Soon Enough Hurry the Hell Up” list.

One-Quote Review: The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe by Sabrina Darby

  • The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe by Sabrina DarbyTitle: The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe
  • Author: Sabrina Darby
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher:  Avon Impulse, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss ($0.99 ebook)
  • Length: 100 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Courtesan, Wounded Soldier, Tormented by Guilt
  • Quick blurb: Reclusive war hero’s mother hires courtesan to seduce him out of the ruined castle he’s restoring.
  • Quick review: A bit predictable, and a fairly implausible HEA, but the writing is all passion and emotion.
  • Grade: B

Their nakedness seemed right in the soaring space of the great hall. Stripped of all its earthly trappings, the luxurious and glittering material goods for which she’d strived the last five years.

This novella has temporarily restored my faith in historicals – and in Avon’s Impulse line.

Also: “indolent nakedness” is now on my list of favorite phrases, right under “erotic spectacle.”

Cheap is Good, Free is Better

I’m going to try to make this a recurring feature, because I have a kajillion freebies and 99-centers in my stupidly overwhelming TBR queue.

These are all Kindle books, but none are Amazon-only. Images link to Goodreads.

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If It Ain't Love by Tamara Allen

If It Ain’t Love by Tamara Allen
M/M romance set in Depression-era New York City.
EVERYONE should read this because it’s FLAWLESS.

Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan

Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan
Goofy housemates help jilted heroine rebound.
This is UTTERLY HILARIOUS and RIDICULOUSLY SEXY.

Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan

Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan
First in the Gilded Age/Nell Sweeney
historical mystery series, with a
kick-ass governess/detective heroine
and one of the best flawed heroes ever.
AND…the other books are only $3.99.

Maid for Love by Marie Force

Maid for Love by Marie Force
First in the McCarthys of Gansett Island series
– this is my favorite because of the chemistry
between the hero and reluctant heroine.

Safe With Me by Shaina Richmond

Safe With Me: The Beginning by Shaina Richmond
First installment of a serial erotic romance –
the complete series is available for only $4.99.
READ THIS because is it SEXY AS ALL HELL
and the writing will SUCK YOU IN.

Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell

Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell
M/M romance with a truly memorable couple.
This is my favorite K.A. Mitchell.

Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott
My second-favorite Austen spin-off.
Trust me, this is really enjoyable.

Pole Star by Josephine Myles

Pole Star by Josephine Myles
Fun novella about a stripper who
finds love in the emergency room.

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania
I’ve enjoyed all her books, and this is my
favorite – even though it has twin-switching.

Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon

Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon
This isn’t my favorite by Rose Gordon,
but it’s a good kick-off to the better sequels.

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The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste

The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste
This M/M romance is STEAMY – and not just
because the heroes are trapped by a hurricane.

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
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Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare

Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare
I have MAJOR author crush on Tessa Dare.
And she JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER.

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner
First in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series
by the author also known as Jennifer Ashley.
Wounded war hero becomes a reluctant investigator
– great secondary characters and a kick-ass
love interest who appears in a later book.
This first one isn’t my favorite, but the damn
series JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER.
AND…the other books are only $2.99 or less.

The Temporary Earl by Blair Bancroft

The Temporary Earl by Blair Bancroft
Really good Regency with a non-titled
hero and a smart-ass heroine.

Second Son of a Duke by Gwen Hayes

Second Son of a Duke by Gwen Hayes
Hayes is a noted YA author, but I
wish she would write more like this.

The Lesson Plan by Jackie Barbosa

The Lesson Plan by Jackie Barbosa
Holy CRAP, this novella is SMO. KING. HOT.
I’ve read this at least five times.

Her Sudden Groom by Rose Gordon

Her Sudden Groom by Rose Gordon
My favorite by this author because of
the deliciously nerdy and clueless hero.

First Impressions by Josephine Myles

First Impressions by Josephine Myles
Yeah, that author crush thing again,
because she makes the “strangers
on a train” trope work like magic.

Storming the Castle by Eloisa James

Storming the Castle by Eloisa James
I wish all her books were as romantic
and tightly written as this.