Reviewed by: Marlene
On the Naughty List, containing Christmas stories by romance writers Lori Foster, Carly Phillips, Beth Ciotta and Sugar Jamison is a lovely collection of sweet little holiday sugarplums, with just the right amount of naughtiness to give the stories the perfect bite of holiday spice.
I picked this one up for the Lori Foster story, but enjoyed the Ciotta story as well. And discovered that I read and reviewed the Jamison story Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas, last year at Reading Reality. I loved it for its heart, and the utterly hilarious banter between the two adults in the story, who bond over a child they do, and don’t, share.
In my review last year, I gave Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas by Sugar Jamison a B+. I’ll stick with that rating.
In addition to the Jamison, I particularly enjoyed the Foster and Ciotta stories. The Phillips story had its moments but didn’t stand out compared to the others.
In Lori Foster’s Christmas Bonus, we have a story that twists the long-term crush grows up with falling for for the boss in a naughty little story about a young woman who has always loved her father’s sexy second in command, and a man who has always been much too fond of the boss’s young daughter.
Having a crush on a sophisticated older man is a stage that many girls go through, this reader included. But in this story, something that would have been oh so wrong when Eric and Maggie first met is oh so right a half-dozen or so years later. Only now it’s wrong in a different way. When they first met, Eric was 27 and Maggie was 17. Her dad knew she had a crush on his associate, but also knew that Eric would never do anything about it – even if he wanted to. Which he definitely did. Fast-forward a few years, and Maggie has graduated from college. Their ten-year age difference is much less of barrier, but there’s a new roadblock in place. Maggie’s father has died suddenly and Maggie has inherited the company. The young woman Eric fell for is now his boss. And Maggie is much, much too aware of just how many men have developed a sudden interest in her as a way to get a piece of her dad’s successful business. It’s up to Eric and Maggie to get to know each other as adults, and figure out how to navigate their way past her father’s hamfisted attempt at matchmaking from beyond the grave.
I enjoyed the story of the woman growing up and into the love of her teenage crush, and I really liked the way that Maggie’s secret identity as an erotic romance writer worked its way into the sexytimes and the story.
I give Christmas Bonus by Lori Foster an A-
Beth Ciotta’s contribution to this collection is Some Kind of Wonderful. And it was some kind of wonderful for this reader. Marine Sergeant Zach has invalided out of the service with a career ending injury. While he’s definitely on the mend, his limp may be a permanent reminder of the IED that ended his career and the life of his buddy and spotter. Zach has returned to his family, and his best friend Maya. Maya and Zach were always each other’s besties, but there was never a hint of anything more. This is not one of those stories where Maya has been pining forever and Zach hasn’t seen the light (or vice versa.) But it’s been awhile since they have been together, and while their friendship clicks back into place, there’s a new sexual chemistry that just wasn’t there before. A chemistry that Zach isn’t willing to explore. Not because he doesn’t care about Maya, but because he’s dealing with a load of survivor’s guilt and doesn’t think he deserves the happiness that his dead buddy will never have.
It takes a freak snowstorm, a night alone together in a remote cabin, and more than a touch of Christmas magic from Zach’s own versions of the ghosts of Christmas past for him to wake up and grab the happiness that is waiting for him in Christmas present.
I liked the way that the callout to Dickens’ Christmas Carol worked its magic in bringing this story to its happy ending. But then, I’ve always been a sucker for that one.
I give Some Kind of Wonderful by Beth Ciotta an A-
The final story in this collection is Naughty Under the Mistletoe by Carly Phillips. A young lawyer who has been all business all the time at her job decides to play sexy elf and seduce her rather buttoned up boss at Christmas. Just before she is scheduled to move to one of the firm’s new offices in a new position. In other words, she’s just been promoted and will be leaving town, so her last semi-official act will be to act what seems like fairly unprofessionally at the company Christmas party. That Toni’s attempt at naughtiness goes just a bit sideways, so that she finds herself seducing (and being seduced by) her boss’s much wilder twin brother was probably the saving of her career, as well as starting a relationship with someone who could help her be a little less buttoned up away from the office.
This one just didn’t work for me. Toni’s background as written in the story made it seem particularly unlikely that she would publicly go quite this far at the place she depends on for her livelihood. Transferring to another office does not transfer one away from some pretty malicious gossip. My problem with this story isn’t about who seduces whom, or even why, but that the person described in this story would not jeopardize her professional reputation this way. And again, unfortunate as it is, there is no way in the real world that this stunt would trash her professionally.
So while I liked the characters, the setup for this story trashed my willing suspension of disbelief. I give Naughty Under the Mistletoe by Carly Phillips a very disappointed D.