I love the Holiday anthologies from Carina Press, and the contemporary romance one is by far my favorite, year after year!!
First up: The Best Thing by Jaci Burton
Tori Lewis had a perfect working relationship with Brody Kent, until a year ago, when a flaming hot kiss changed everything between them. With passion dancing a wicked tease around them, they have to decide which direction their relationship is going. But Tori doesn’t want to risk losing her job and the only family she knows, while Brody wants to shake things up and make Tori his. Can he convince her he’s worth the plunge into the unknown?
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I think that this was my favorite novella in the anthology, and not just because we’ve been building up to this story over the course of the series. Burton does such an amazing job telling stories, and Tori and Brody had a lot to go through!
I love that Tori and Brody had to finally face the music of that kiss long ago. I liked that Tori was so cautious and worried that her relationship not just with Brody, but with his family as well, would be ruined if she pursued something further with Brody. I think it really spoke to her good common sense, and made me love her all the more. On the other hand, I adored that Brody was a little clueless about why Tori was acting so differently. And yet once he made the decision to pursue Tori, to make it work with her, he stuck to that decision with a single-minded focus.
I loved their romance. I thought it was so well done on Burton’s part. They eased into things a bit, and didn’t listen to anyone else about their status as a couple. I liked that. I liked that they already had a foundation of friendship to build on, so the quick fall into the sack was something believable and right on schedule. I was literally rooting from them since the first book in the series, and getting to FINALLY see them get their HEA was wonderful and amazing.
All in all I think this is my favorite story in the Burton series, as well as the anthology. I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for this book, and loved getting the chance to see Brody and Tori finally admit their feelings for one another and take a shot at romance. I hope that Burton will continue either with the series, or create a new series that will keep her in the Contemporary Romance Holiday Anthology, because her stories are some of the best.
I give The Best Thing an A
Next: We’ll Be Home for Christmas by HelenKay Dimon
No man likes having his bedroom skills described as forgettable, but that’s just what Lila Payne does when she runs into Spencer Thomas again. When she discovers that he’d lied about his name during their brief three-day romp a few months before, she’s so angry that she pretends she doesn’t remember him.
Spence regrets his deception, but not as much as he regrets that their time together didn’t last longer. When she shows up in his town, looking to revitalize her uncle’s mountain resort, Spence is determined to help. Maybe rescuing Lila from a hopeless renovation project will get him in her good graces—and back in her bed.
Lila has no interest in being rescued, and Spence is insulted by her stubborn rebuffs and her “faulty” memory. But when rehab work turns into an after-hours meeting, the two of them are in for a night that just might prove unforgettable…
*Blurb from Goodreads*
Dimon continues with the third novella in her Holloway series, and the broody and moody brother Spencer. I have to admit that Spencer really was never on my radar before, but now that we got his story… Loved. I loved him so much, and I think that he might be my favorite of all the Holloway heroes.
I wasn’t a big fan of Spencer lying about his name to Lila, especially since he didn’t really seem to want to admit it to anyone. But once he came clean with Lila, and gave her his reasons why, I fell for the guy. I adore the strong and silent type heroes, and Spencer had that down to a T. Not only was he the strong and silent type, but he also came across as somewhat shy, and willing to play hero (as long as no one would find out about it). There were so many qualities to Spencer that I just loved and adored.
I liked that Lila had such a hard time accepting help from Spencer and his family, but that she was immediately accepted into the town as one of their own. The town definitely redeemed itself in my eyes, especially after the horrible way they acted in the last book. I do wish that Lila would have been a little more accepting of everyone’s help, but I could see why she wasn’t. I liked that she was hesitant of starting anything up with Spencer – especially given their first encounter – but once she got to really know him, I’m so glad that she went along for the romance ride.
I thought their romance was great as well. They started on very rocky terms, but as they got to know each other more and more, they really figured out that they were perfectly suited for one another. I loved watching them fall in love, and hope we get to see more from the town of Holloway and these two in the future.
All in all I think this was my second favorite novella in the anthology, and mostly because of how awesome Spencer was. He was such a wonderful hero, and I adored him to the very end. Dimon really did redeem the town in my eyes, and I was glad to have this series go back to a high note for me.
I give We’ll Be Home for Christmas a B+
Last: Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth
Caitlin McIntyre’s heart stops when her best friend drops to one knee and proposes. Kyle Lockhart never once hinted over the years that he has any idea she’s in love with him. Not wanting to jeopardize their friendship, she’s never let it slip. Good thing, too, since it turns out he’s only practicing—he’s about to propose to someone else.
A business merger might not be the most romantic reason to propose to a woman he barely knows, but Kyle’s determined to win the respect of the dying father who’s never seen him as quite good enough. Kyle’s always depended on Caitlin’s friendship, while trying to ignore the physical response she arouses. So he turns to her when it comes time to craft his proposal, not realizing his decision will affect their relationship, forever.
This Christmas, Kyle and Caitlin get one last chance to admit their feelings for each other, and find a mutual happily ever after, before he commits his life to another woman and Caitlin leaves town and him…for good.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I read Barth’s debut novel with Carina Press earlier this year and absolutely fell in love. When I saw that she would be rounding out this years Holiday anthology, I couldn’t wait to see what she would come up with. Add the friends-to-lovers trope and I was halfway in love after reading the blurb.
I must preface this review with telling you that this novella is cliched and cheesy, and may not be for everyone. I, however, thought it was great. Kyle is completely clueless. Not only to Caitlin’s feelings for him, but to pretty much everything else around him. There were times I wanted to throttle him for being so oblivious. But it did just add to his charm.
And poor Caitlin. So in love with her best friend, and she gets roped into helping him plan his perfect and romantic engagement to someone he doesn’t even claim to love. Talk about pure torture. While I wanted her to smack him upside the head with a clue, I also loved watching her come up with so many different beautiful proposals. I’ve never been to New York City – at Christmas or any other time of the year – but I could SEE how beautiful it was from Barth’s descriptions alone.
All in all once I got past the over-the-top basis of the story, I adored this novella. I am such a sucker for the friends-to-lovers storylines, and Kyle and Caitlin proved just how close they were at every page. When Kyle finally came to his senses and formed the perfect proposal to the perfect girl, I just about melted!
I give Ask Her at Christmas a B
Overall I think this anthology is one that contemporary romance readers will want to pick up, especially if Christmas themes are a favorite. I loved that the Holidays played such a crucial role in all three stories, and think that Burton, Dimon and Barth all wrote beautiful stories with wonderful romances.
I give the Romancing the Holiday Anthology an overall B+