Married for Christmas by Noelle Adams

*Note: So, I have a thing for reading holiday themed stories.  The thing is, I generally lag behind by a month or so.  So, here I review a great story set at… Christmas.  Enjoy! ~Anne
Grade: A-
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, Marriage of Convenience
Series: Willow Park #1
Published: 12/1/13
Reviewed by Anne
140 ebook pages

Jessica and her best friend Daniel agree to a friendly marriage.  Jessica has had a long time crush on Daniel (unbeknownst to him) and is pretty reserved socially and is despairing of finding someone to start a family with.  Daniel is a pastor who is being considered for the job to lead their small town church, but his unmarried state is a bit of a drawback for the church considering him.  Jessica talks Daniel into this marriage between friends.

So, I was really intrigued by a non-inspy book that featured people for whom religion was a large part of their life – a pastor!  I was lucky enough to get a copy from NetGalley and fired it up on my iPad one night at 11:30.  I was immediately hooked, and very emotionally involved in this book!  I was near tears – and HATE to cry while reading – but I loved it.  So I stayed up until 1:30am finishing the book, despite the fact that I’d be home alone with my four children the next day!  And I don’t regret it!

The thing that had me near tears was watching Jessica truly love Daniel.  He loved her back, but it was more of a friendship love, and he seemed to be working hard to keep a boundary between them.  Then they’d have a moment where they truly seemed close, and he’d pull back and distance himself again.  Even though the story is told solely from Jessica’s point of view, it seemed clear that he was developing feelings for her.  It wasn’t too clear why he was sabotaging those feelings, though!  It was especially painful because his unintentional hurts seemed to pile right on top of some insecurities she was holding onto.

As a character, Daniel was very interesting.  Jessica was almost too perfect.  She was shy and not good at cooking, but, really, who cares?  She was emotionally perfect and a bit of a martyr.  It was believable to me because they were trying to apply logic to a very emotional situation, so I’ll give her a pass on being an emotional Mary Sue.

There was a drawback to the single point of view of the book, and that was that some revelations about Daniel’s character caught me off guard when I read them.  I really did feel like there was much alluding to them.

Despite these drawbacks, the story really worked for me.  And as the cherry on top of this emo romance, there was really well written explicit sex!  What?  Religious people who have on page sex?  I loved it!  I recommend this book and I’ll be watching for more in this series!  (I’m rooting for a book about Daniel’s brother, Micah!)

Snowbound with the CEO BY Shannon Stacey

Snowbound with the CEO

Grade: B
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, Novella
Published: 11/4/13
Reviewed by Anne
66 pages

Rachel has a crush on her boss, Adrian.  Adrian owns and runs a very successful construction/rehabilitation company, and unbeknownst to Rachel, he has a crush right back on her.  When they get snowed in together at a mountain resort, they spend some non-working time together, which leads to a weekend fling.
If I had a crush on my CEO boss and decided to have some no strings sex with each other, but then ended up falling for him, I think this is exactly how it would go down.  It’s emotionally messy.  They work very well together, but when it comes to personal stuff, they stumble around and try not to step on the other’s toes.  That was a little frustrating, but it felt so real!
The story was still that great Shannon Stacey mix of sweet and funny.  It’s a quick and enjoyable holiday read that I recommend.

Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas by Sugar Jamison

Grade: B
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, Secret Baby(ish), Holiday, Novella
Series: Perfect Fit, 1.5

Published: 10/1/13
Reviewed by Anne
111 pages
After reading Dangerous Curves Ahead, the first book in this Perfect Fit Series, I looked to see if Sugar Jamison had other books.  It turned out she’d already written this holiday novella.  I immediately requested it from NetGalley and was delighted to receive a copy of it.  When I realized it was about Dina, the toxic older sister featured in the first book, I was thrown off.  She was a total villain – someone I had no interest in seeing redeemed.  So I put off reading it.  My mistake!  It was good!
So, I read these two stories in order, but this novella really stands on it’s own quite well.  
Dina is off to find her baby daddy.  She had a fling with him and when she told him she was pregnant he disappeared.  She’s travelled across the country, on a bus, with her 10 month old son, to his home town.  To his family estate and mansion to track him down.  She’s done a lot of maturing and changing of her ways since her baby, Dash, was born.  She wants his father to provide some security for him.
She’s shocked to be shown in to see her ex-lover’s brother and find out that her party boy baby daddy was killed in a drunken skiing accident.  Not only is the man she was looking for dead, but she’s left with his brother, Ben, who she really didn’t get along with the one time they met.  So it’s a huge shock when Ben immediately offers to help her and Dash out.
“You are not taking my nephew to a cheap motel.  You will not be traveling with him on a bus.  Your destitution ends here.”
“You’re shitting me?”
“I shit you not.”  (Kindle Loc 199)
This is the start of a wonderful holiday season.  (Did I mention this all happens in December?)  Dina agrees that she and Dash will stay with Ben until after Christmas, in order to give Ben and Dash time to get to know each other, and for her and Ben to work out an agreement for raising Dash.
I really enjoyed the humor in this story.  The relationship felt rushed, and not just because of the novella format.  It takes place over a couple of weeks, which is not a lot of time for them to get to know each other and fall in love.  Some things were a little too perfect – like their built in housekeeper/babysitter, but I really enjoyed the story.