Dec 20, 2011

Posted by in Reviews | 6 Comments

Holiday Kisses by Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, Helenkay Dimon and Alison Kent

Contemporary Romance Anthology
December 5 2011
313 pages
Carina Press

Received from NetGalley

This Time Next Year by Alison Kent

From Goodreads –

Brenna Keating is on her way to spend Christmas with her grandmother when treacherous roads and a skittish deer put her car in a ditch. Riding to the rescue—literally—is Dillon Craig, a reclusive doctor who insists she weather the storm in his cabin.

Since returning from Afghanistan where he treated wounded soldiers on the front lines, Dillon’s made it a point to avoid any emotional involvement. But his unexpected guest has him dangerously close to breaking his own rules.

Brenna has a plan for her life—until she’s stranded for three days with Dillon. Soon, the chemistry sizzling between them forces her to reexamine her priorities. The man is gorgeous, if taciturn, and a true hero in every sense of the word. No woman in her right mind could resist him, and so Brenna doesn’t—even though she can’t stay…


This was a very emotional story.  Dillon is a doctor who served time with the military in Afghanistan.  He is haunted by the memory of the soldiers he couldn’t save.  Brenna is a nurse who is about to follow in her family’s footsteps and go to Malasia to help a charity for one year.  She is nervous and has doubts about going and these feelings are just made worst after she meets Dillon.  There is no need to go into the story because the blurb tells it very well.  I liked the premise of the story – a lady stranded in a cabin with a yummy yet damaged man during a snowstorm with no way of going anywhere…let’s not think about the serial killer stories that could start too.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the chemistry between Dillon and Brenna.  These were well written characters and I think they make a good match, but the ‘heat’ wasn’t there for me.  And the story was a little more emotional than I like in my contemporary romances although there were some cute lines in here.

Overall, not a bad story.  I only wish the couple connected more with me.

3 stars

Giggle worthy quote

“’Bad dreams keep you awake?’

‘Not dreams.  Memories.  They’re worst than the nightmares.’

‘The war?’

He shrugged.  ‘Yeah, but not really.  It’s hard to explain.’  …

‘Mother Nature’s made sure I’m not going anywhere.  I’ve got time.’

He turned, leaned against the table, crossed his arms.  ‘Next you’ll be telling me you’re a good listener.’

‘I’m female.  We specialize.’

‘So tell me more about nursing.’

‘Are you changing the subject?’

He gave her a wink.  ‘I’m male.  We specialize.’”

A Rare Gife by Jaci Burton

From Goodreads –

With a disastrous marriage behind him, Wyatt Kent has no interest in getting involved with any woman, let alone his ex-wife’s younger sister. But when Calliope Andrews hires him to build an addition onto her day care center, Wyatt can’t help but notice she’s a desirable woman, as warm and funny as his ex was cold and aloof.

Calliope fell hard for Wyatt the first time he walked through the door of her family’s home, and can’t believe her sister let him get away. He’s still the star of all her fantasies, and she’s determined to prove to him she’s nothing like his manipulative ex. Wyatt may be all business, but Calliope sees the way he looks at her when he’s supposed to be working…

It’s not long before Wyatt and Calliope are keeping each other warm on cold December nights. But it’s going to take a Christmas miracle for Wyatt to put his trust in love a second time.


I wondered about this one.  The dude (Wyatt) is totally scarred by his failed marriage to a woman he was crazy in love with.  Now her sister Calliope, who is nothing like the ex, is in the picture.  Hmm….can an author make this scenario work and be believable?  Sort of, yes.  The story was good.  I loved Calliope but I may have been a bit biased seeing that she runs a daycare center.  *g* She was cute, quirky and fun.  She also had a Great “You go girl!” moment that had me becoming her cheerleader for a bit.  Wyatt was true to his character but I did want to shake him a bit once in a while.  But that was how he was supposed to be after all.  He is a man who is having trouble letting go of the bitterness that comes along with a marriage gone wrong.  I do think the author made this premise work, but once again, I didn’t feel the smokin’ heat with this couple.  There were sparks, but the ‘OMG I love this person so much’ didn’t sink in with me.  And I was a little surprised by how quickly Wyatt’s ‘issues’ were resolved.

Overall, the heroine saved this story for me.  There was a good romance but no super sparks.  But it did make me smile quite a bit.

4 stars

Giggle worthy quote

“Her lips curved.  As an apology, it kind of sucked, but it was honest.  She couldn’t ask for more.  ‘It’s okay Wyatt.  I understand.’

He cocked a brow.  ‘That’s it?  I’m forgiven?’

‘That’s it.’

‘You’re too easy.’

She laughed.  ‘Not the best thing to say to a woman.’

It’s Not Christmas Without You by Helenkay Dimon

From Goodreads –

Carrie Anders officially broke up with Austin Thomas when she accepted a dream job in the city. Unofficially, she misses him and is tempted to sneak back to her West Virginia hometown to see him. That’s why this year, she’s not going home for the holidays. Her heart can’t take any more mornings-after where nothing has changed—and Austin has made it clear he’s not interested in relocating.

Austin’s been waiting for Carrie to realize she can’t live without him. But when he hears she’s not coming home for Christmas, he decides to take action. If Carrie won’t come to the country, he’s going to bring a piece of the country to Carrie—in the form of a Christmas tree lot just minutes from her apartment. He’s certain daily meetings will entice her to come home with him, this time for good.

Their attraction is as hot as ever, but with such contrary Christmas wishes, can either of them get what they really want this year?


This story frustrated me.  No, that’s not true.  The hero and the heroine frustrated me.  Especially the dude.  He acted like such a…man!  I had trouble understanding why the heroine would be so attracted to him.  Yes, I did feel the heat with this couple as their chemistry was really well written, but still.  Okay, let’s go back a bit.

Carrie has left her small town in order to work at her dream job in DC.  She loves her job and she is good at it.  Before leaving she asked her boyfriend Austin to go with her.  He said no.  Now Austin is the ex-boyfriend.  Austin believes that Carrie just needs to get this ‘out of her system’ then she will go crawling back to their small town and to him.  He doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t get her.  He is so focused on him that he can’t see the larger picture.  So after a few months of Carrie not going back to him, Austin goes to DC to see her.  I suppose the things he does and says to ‘impress’ can be seen as funny, but for me they were just frustrating.  And on top of that, Carrie kept telling Austin that she loved him but that they just couldn’t be together.  No wonder he’s an idiot with mixed messages like that being thrown in his direction.  Eventually, things work out (of course) but it was just too late for me.

All in all, not my favorite story of the bunch, but it was the first story in this anthology where I felt real chemistry between the characters.

2.5 stars

Giggle worthy quote

“’How about this?’  Spence turned around, blocking Austin’s view of the building.  ‘Why don’t you go up to her apartment, apologize for being a giant ass and end this torture?’

‘She needs romance.’

Spence’s eyes widened.  ‘What the hell are you talking about?’

‘Women like that shit.’  It made Austin’s head pound, but a guy had to take a hit now and then to make his woman happy.  Maybe this was the price he had to pay for being so flippant when she asked him to move to DC with her.

Spence folded his arms across his chest.  ‘Define romance.’

‘Yeah, that’s where my plan gets a little fuzzy.’”

Mistletoe & Margaritas by Shannon Stacey

From Goodreads –

Claire Rutledge still believes in love, despite losing her husband. So, after two years, she’s not surprised by the steamy dreams telling her it might be time to start moving on. But she didn’t expect her friend Justin to have the starring role.

Justin McCormick has loved Claire since the moment he first saw her, but his best friend got there first. Now that Claire is ready to move on with her life, Justin is finding it harder than ever to hide his true feelings. And when they both get caught up in the holiday spirits at a party, their simmering mutual attraction boils over into a night neither of them can forget…


Now THIS is the kind of Christmas story I want to read.  Still not a happy-go-lucky fluffy-fluff story but the characters were wonderfully written and the story was solid.  I really felt for Justin and his predicament.  He is in love with his deceased best friend’s widow.  He’s loved her since before his friend passed away but he can’t sense the same feelings coming from Claire.  Claire is only now starting to see that her feelings for Justin have grown but is afraid to do or say anything about it because she doesn’t want to ruin their amazing friendship.  Then of course there’s the ‘What would Bendan think’ that floats with them in the room.  It’s been two years since he’s gone but it’s still a difficult subject for both.

Now, you are probably thinking that this isn’t a new premise for a romance story, and you would be right.  There are a few stories like this one out there.  But the emotion of the characters was really well captured in Shannon’s rendition.  I liked these two and really wanted them to be happy.  And even though the emotion was heavy, not once did I feel like reaching for a bottle of wine and chugging it back.  And the happy ending was sweet.

Overall, a wonderful little Christmas time story with lovely characters I wanted to know.

5 stars

Giggle worthy quote

“Having a girl for a best friend was challenging enough.  They didn’t have the upper-body strength to help a guy change out an engine.  They cried during movies.  They needed blenders and umbrellas for their drinks instead of just a cold bottle of beer.  Hell, he’d even bought a box of tampons once.  Claire had been sick and thank God she’d texted him a picture of the right box or he’d still be standing in the girl aisle because, holy crap, women had options.”

In conclusion, I had forgotten how schmaltzy and emotional Christmas stories tend to be.  I thought I would be happy while reading these stories but instead I found myself happy that it wasn’t me.  Yes, HEAs were everywhere, but man getting there sucked for the characters in the book.  lol The stories ranged from really good to okay.  This was an okay anthology for me, unfortunately not one I think I’ll re-read next Christmas.  Except maybe for Shannon’s story.  I liked that one.

3.5 stars

  1. cutesy/ tnx 4 your thought ful review

  2. great review, Julie! smiles…

  3. It seems to be an anthology like all the rest. Some good, some not so good. How i wish I could find one where they all rock

  4. Awe! The premise might not be the most original, but Mistletoe & Margaritas sounds good. Thanks for the reviews, or I might not have known about these stories. 🙂

  5. roro – 🙂

    Christi – Thanks Christi! One day I’ll learn to love schmatlzy stories. Really I will. 😉

    blodeuedd – I know what you mean…

    Missie – 🙂

  6. Glad you liked it 🙂 perhaps I’ll put it on my list when next I see it 😉

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