Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: Jingle Spells: Naughty or Nice?\She's a Mean One\His First Noelle\Silver Belle

I loved this book. Such a cute and different take on Christmas. This anthology contains four stories about the Evergreens, the winter clan of witches who are in charge of Christmas. The stories focus on three brothers and their little sister and how they manage the Christmas industry from the town on Gingerbread in Colorado.

The stories contained in this anthology are written by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair and Andrea Laurence.

I liked each of these fun, steamy romances. In the first story, Naughty or Nice?, Cole's college girlfriend hacks into their security system, forcing a reunion. He left her ten years earlier when he left college due to a family emergency and never returned. He felt that he could never tell her the truth about his family. But when he brings her back to Gingerbread to strengthen the security system she hacked into, he realizes he won't be able to leave her again.

In the next story, She's a Mean One, Ethan Evergreen, is the figurehead for the family business - which to most of the world is a successful ornament making company - but in reality is keeping the Christmas spirit strong. His biggest adversary has published a book trying to convince people that allowing children to believe in Christmas is a bad thing. It's up to Ethan to convince her there is value in Christmas magick. Along the way he also falls in love with this woman who he believed to be his enemy.

The third story, His First Noelle, is about Dash. His world is turned upside down when his ex-wife, Noelle, returns. A former CIA agent, she's back to take her father's place in security while he's ill. Noelle never felt like she belonged with the winter clan, her mother having been from the summer clan, and this caused a strain on her relationship with Dash. But they've both grown up some over the years they've been apart, and now they're willing to work through their communication issues.

The last story, Silver Belle, is about the sister of the family, Belle. For months she's had standing coffee date with Nick, a sexy construction worker (he does own his own business building Christmas-themed cottages.) He has no idea Belle is a witch, until she approaches him to fill the role of Santa (after Santa and Mrs. Claus disappear on a beach vacation a week before Christmas.) Belle is afraid Nick is giving up his whole life simply to be with her, and she doesn't feel she's ready or even wants to be the next Mrs. Claus. What she doesn't realize is the depth to which Nick has truly embraced Christmas magick.

While the stories aren't especially deep or profound, they're fun, and they're romantic and they're all about Christmas magick, and that's what makes these stories so enjoyable. I like that it's such a different and original depiction of how Christmas happens. 

Beginning around Thanksgiving, I try to read as many holiday themed stories as possible.  This is my second one of the year, and already I think I've found a favorite.  Hope we get more stories about this family in the future.

Highly recommend to anyone wanting a lighthearted paranormal twist to their holiday romance stories.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: Christmas with a Billionaire: Billionaire under the Mistletoe\Snowed in with Her Boss\A Diamond for Christmas

Holiday romances are my indulgence during this time of the year.  I read as many as possible beginning around Thanksgiving.  This was my first of the season.

The common theme in these stories is a billionaire.  I usually avoid stories in which a character's main identifier is that he's a billionaire.  That just seems so boring and overdone.  That isn't to say I don't read my fair share of stories about rich men (I love Harlequin Presents) but I don't like for the most important thing about the person to be how much money he has.  I'm more interested in powerful and successful rather than simply, rich.  But this collection included a story by Maisey Yates, so I was anxious to read it.

But darn these romance novelists for giving false hope and allowing us to imagine that the handsome man in the suit at the airport might for a moment have a passing interest in the weird girl with purple hair, wearing a leather jacket and Doctor Who tshirt.

That's the thing about the billionaire stories, the gorgeous, successful, rich man is drawn to the awkward, quirky, creative girl who is short and a little chunky with crazy hair, not the statuesque blondes he's spent most of his life dating.  That's why weird girls, like me, enjoy these stories.  But my goodness, they are so very far from reality.

Anyway, the first story is Billionaire Under the Mistletoe by Carole Mortimer.  I didn't like this story all that much.  The writing bothered me with exclamation points at the end of almost every other paragraph.  The exclamation points weren't part of dialogue either, but rather describing the characters thoughts or impressions.  That seems more fitting for text messages, not a book. That should have been edited out of there.  Also, I didn't pick up on any strong chemistry between the characters.  I never felt any sort of connection to them.  Their attraction just happened without any real explanation.  I found it very difficult to believe a guy would be so attracted to the woman he hired to decorate and cook for the holidays, and after hardly knowing her at all, want her to join in with his family celebrations.  I didn't hate the story, but didn't love it.

However, I did love the second story, which is Maisey Yates' Snowed in with Her Boss.  Loved the couple in this book.  Even in a story this short, I felt like the characters were well-developed, and from the beginning, they had great chemistry.  The two had a history together, Amelia has worked as Luc's Personal Assistant for years.  He's used to her quirks, and tolerates things like her constant singing because she's an invaluable employee.  When they go to Colorado together to check out a property he's considering purchasing, they're mistaken as a couple.  Luc decides to go along with it, hoping to get a better deal on the property.  But a snowstorm hits and the two find themselves spending a lot more time together than expected.  The time trapped together, pretending to be what they aren't, results in them exploring the attraction they've had for each other and tried to deny for too long.  Very good story.  (Maybe because I'd just watched Homeland, I immediately pictured Raza Jaffrey as Luc when his "mocha" skin was mentioned.  Later it is mentioned that he's part African, so I realized my image was wrong, but it was already set at that point.  Also, this story would work well as a Hallmark holiday movie, granted some elements might not be appropriate for Hallmark, but they could figure it out.  It would be adorable.)

I also very much enjoyed the third story in this anthology, A Diamond for Christmas by Joss Wood.  Riley has been in love with her best friend's big brother, James for most of her life.  They have a history of three one night stands, with several years between each of them.  After the latest though, Riley's had enough.  She currently works for the family designing windows at their store in New York City.  She's planning to leave as soon as the Christmas windows are revealed.  But James isn't ready to let her go just yet.  I loved the history between these characters, and learning how they've drifted in and out of each other's lives over the years. Very nice story.  There seemed to be so much going on in this story, besides just the love story.  I'm curious as to whether there are or will be more books about this family.

Overall, I liked this anthology quite a bit.  The last two stories were great, perfect way to begin my holiday reading for the year.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Moon Kissed by Michele Hauf

Moon Kissed was included with my copy of Forever Werewolf, but I wanted to give it its own review.  As I've probably said many times, I am not a huge werewolf fan.  I simply don't find them as sexy as vampires or as mysterious as witches.  But I've enjoyed the books I've read by Hauf thus far, so I figured this was a pretty safe bet.  

I did enjoy this book.  I liked the character quite a bit.  They're interesting, complex, funny, smart and sexy, something I've come to expect from Hauf's writing. This story begins with Bella running from vampires (though she doesn't realize they're vampires at first) right into the arms of Severo (who happens to be a werewolf.)  At first, he seems to be not much better than the vampires, but he is trying to keep her safe.  He's just a little hostile and aggressive in his methods.  For a while in this book, Severo walked a fine line between creep and hero.  But he got better as the real bad guys became clear.

Bella (who based on her description, I pictured as Clara from Doctor Who) is in danger because a close friend of hers has gotten involved with vampires.  Her friend's vampire lover is jealous of the friendship.  Severo has a long history with the vampire and will do anything to make sure Bella isn't hurt by this vampire.  This book has plenty of danger and action and hot sex.  

However, I have to admit that this book didn't do anything to change my general feelings toward werewolves.  I found the werewolf sex to be kind of icky.  I cringed reading some of those scenes. I found it very disturbing that Severo had no recollection of what he did while he was the werewolf.  It's almost like he isn't the werewolf but rather becomes possessed by this creature for three days out of every month.

I love the world that Hauf creates, with all the different creatures and their traits and histories.  I find myself wanting to read all of the books in her Beautiful Creatures world.  (I think there are almost 40 of them, so that's a lot of reading to do.)

This was included as the second story in Forever Werewolf, which I received via NetGalley.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Review: Forever Werewolf by Michele Hauf

I am not usually a fan of werewolf stories, as I tend to prefer vampires and witches, but I am a huge fan of Michele Hauf's writing, and I wanted something to go along with my Halloween mood, so Forever Werewolf seemed like a good choice.

For a werewolf story, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  Trystan, part wolf, part vampire, is sent to Castle Wulfsiege to deliver a package for his father.  While there, an avalanche hits, and he throws himself into the rescue mission, which impresses those around him.  The avalanche results in his having to remain at the castle much longer than expected.  Trystan has always been a lone wolf, not part of a pack, and he finds himself enjoying being with a pack.  He's also falling hard for the Alexis, princess of the pack.

There's quite a bit happening in this story, with the pack leader suffering from a mysterious illness, and the rivalry between the princesses and Alexis' secret.  Trystan is thrown into the mess, and proves he can hold his own against angry and jealous wolves who feel threatened by his presence.  Plus Trystan has his own issues, ashamed as he is about his vampire blood.

I very much love the world Hauf has created.  There are so many characters with so much back story and connections.  Every time I read one of her Beautiful Creatures books, I find myself searching out other books that feature characters mentioned in the one I'm currently reading.  In this case, I want the story of Trystan's parents because I know those characters were also mentioned in The Company of Vampires books I read - and loved.

As is always the case with these books, there is a lot of action, plenty of danger and some steaming hot sex scenes in this.  Hauf is easily one of my favorite paranormal romance writers.

This copy of the book also included Moon Kissed.  I reviewed that book here:

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.