Holiday Spice by Samantha Chase
Series: The Shaughnessy Brothers, #6
Released: October 3, 2017
Reviewed by Sheena
Talented. brilliant. incredible. amazing. showstopping. spectacular. never the same. totally unique. completely not ever been done before. unafraid to reference or not reference. put it in a blender….- Gaga (and then me, after reading Holiday Spice)
So I really (really) enjoyed Holiday Spice. I am duty bound to tell you that while the sexual tension is delicious and the romance delectable, the door is closed on the peen action. I knew this going in. No stranger to the Shaughnessy Brother’s series, after reading book 5, A Sky Full of Stars, I mentally prepared myself; steeled myself against the smut slore that lives inside of me, rallied my defenses, and gave myself a stern talking to. Self, I said, there is no (observable) sex in this novel. You know this. But you enjoy Chase novels, so buck up and when she closes the door on the kink, do not kick the door.
So I didn’t kick the door.
Favorite Quote: “I know what you want,” he whispered huskily against her lips. “And I promise we’ll get to that, but for right now, I want to kiss you.”
“Can’t you kiss me in the bedroom?” she asked, gently nipping at his bottom lip.
“Sweetheart, I plan to kiss you everywhere.”
I pummeled the door. I squealed and cursed the romance gods who saw fit to test me this way! *cue bosom heaving* And then, in the next breath I thanked the romance gods for testing me this way- because Holiday Spice is everything nice! This installment features the littlest Shaughnessy, baby sister Darcy. Full of energy and potent spunk, Darcy was a fun heroine to follow. She wasn’t perfect by any stretch. She had deep-seated abandonment and attachment issues, rooted in the heartbreaking and untimely death of her mother when she was a young child. Born late to a family of five brothers, she never got to experience time with her mother, and blames herself for her mother’s death, this guilt was the primary influence on how she lives and manages her life. Unwilling and unable to imagine living far from her close-knit (huge) family, she is torn when she falls for Ben, whose own family tragedy drives him in his reclusive lifestyle. They couldn’t be more opposite, yet more perfect for one another.
Darcy Shaughnessy was lethal, and she was going to be the death of him. But what a way to go. The room was dark, and she was curled up against his side. Ben realized that for the first time in weeks, he felt relaxed and at ease and content. It only seemed to happen when she was with him. You’re falling hard and fast, he thought. And it was true. He was. He had. And there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. What about Darcy called to him so strongly, he couldn’t say. All he knew was that from the moment he laid eyes on her, it was as though everything made sense. She was his. The real problem was trying to figure out what to do about it.
Darcy is looking for work. She is a wiz at business organization and office automation. Armed with a mind with a knack for how to make things run smoothly and pitch great ideas, she is referred to Ben when her sister-in-law, Brooke, can’t make the trek to his Washington home to help him organize and write his professional book. Ben is an artistic wood-carver with anti-social proclivities, asshole tendencies and he likes his solitude. He’d prefer Brooke assist with his book, but when he sets eyes on Darcy and gets a load of her vibrant and magnetic personality, Ben is shaken by his attraction and starts to get- the feels! Darcy is equally attracted to tall, broody Ben, however, a big misunderstanding puts the breaks on her attraction and they slide into a comically adversarial relationship. Which confuses Ben and pushes him to the edge which ignites every bit of fun sized spunk in Darcy’s body- which all culminates in a humorous and adorable storyline that I was tuned into, hook, line and sinker!
Family ties were a significant back drop of Holiday Spice. Darcy and Ben both have wounds from lost loved ones that influence how they communicate and interact with their own families. Darcy immerses herself in her family dynamic. She has a love/loathe relationship with how intrusive and involved her family can be, yet has no balance. Ben is the opposite end of the spectrum, maintaining his own cool and distant relationship with his brothers and balks at being thrust into the chaos that ensues when all the Shaughnessys are up close and personal during a visit home with Darcy.
There was so much richness, delight and warmth to this novel and I enjoyed it from cover to cover. The pacing, and timing of the romance was near perfect. Predictable in ways romance novels often are, I relished watching these two characters move from the various stages in their relationship, enjoying their dust ups as much if not more than their heart-felt love declarations.
Fascinating. Again, it was the only word that came to mind when he watched her battling with whatever was going on inside her head. So many emotions played across her face as she towered over him and tried to look intimidating. He had no doubt she had honed this skill on her brothers, but he wasn’t buying into it. And he certainly wasn’t intimidated easily. If anything, he could probably teach Darcy a thing or two about the art of doing it properly. Slowly, he rose to his feet and watched as she refused to move except to let her head fall back so she could hold his gaze. So maybe he was a little impressed.
“I want to know what your issue is with me,” he said, his voice low and deep. He had to give her credit; she didn’t react. Hell, she barely blinked. “You can deny it all you want, but I’m not a moron, Darcy. You were fine with me when you first showed up here, but by the end of that night, you had a definite attitude, and I want to know why.”
…Her shoulders slouched a bit, and her expression fell. It was both rewarding and made him feel bad. Why couldn’t she just talk to him?
“Fine,” she finally said. “I have a problem with you.”
“Care to tell me what it is?”
“I’d rather not.”
He sighed as his head fell back. The woman was killing him.
There was much I adored about Holiday Spice. The character development was refreshing. After reading my fair share of cardboard, one dimensional heroes and heroines simply propped up against one another, with pop-up genitals useful for the rando sex that drove the plot nowhere (see, I have depth, I like my sex with meaning too! *wink*) – it was good to see two characters actually behave like real people and not grow and change overnight. Ben with his abhorrence for buttinsiky siblings and outsiders, thought he’d found his match in Darcy, only he wanted to pull her into his cloistered orbit. Darcy knew she’d fallen for Ben and wanted to yank him into her gregarious and extroverted existence. Both were initially romantically short-sighted and didn’t see the writing on the wall. Watching them do the work on themselves and then change the writing on said wall to create something better, something theirs, was fulfilling. I wanted to cheer when Chase didn’t take the easy way out and allow them to magically change the other. They had to be introspective and confront their own demons and only then could they join together and be a strong couple. Their relationship was quintessential compromise and it made their love affair all the more authentic.
Though the story felt puuurrrfect, it was made up of flawed and imperfect characters. Ben and Darcy both frustrated me at times, I did NOT like a high-handed slick move Ben pulled one night and I was ready to send Darcy to the corner for a time out on more than one occasion, but even in those moments, I was feeling amazing things and I didn’t want the story to end. There were brief interludes with Darcy’s dad that I could have done without, but on the whole even those scenes served their purpose to provide yet another dimension and layer to a smart and delightful romance.
Holiday Spice stands alone, I’ve only read the one previous book in the series, however, Chase does a swell job introducing all of the prior characters with enough detail that makes reading the earlier novels a bonus and not a necessity. Frankly, the only thing missing was a cock sighting. If Samantha Chase ever decides to open that door, holy cow, it would be ah-mahzing…you see, she’s mastered titillating to a *T.*