Holiday Kisses Anthology
December 5, 2011
A review of the Holiday Kisses anthology with stories by Alison Kent, Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon and Shannon Stacey:
This Time Next Year by Alison Kent
All Brenna Keating wants to do is get to her beloved grandmother’s house for Christmas before she goes to Africa to use her nursing skills in a clinic, but Mother Nature has other plans. Driving in the Blue Ridge Mountains, she finds herself in a bad snowstorm. When she swerves to miss a deer, she hits a snow bank. Cold and a little disoriented, she is stuck in her car. But soon, a very big, sexy man wearing a Stetson and riding a horse rescues her and takes her to his cabin.
This sexy cowboy is actually Dr. Dillon Craig. Home from Afghanistan, he still lives with the horrors he saw on the battlefield and with the ghosts of the men he was unable to save. This small mountain town has taken him in as one of their own, and in return, he makes house calls to the elderly residents, as well as runs a medical clinic. He knows Brenna’s grandmother very well and has learned a lot about Brenna over the years, but this is the first time he has met her. Being stuck together in his cabin for a few days while the storm passes forces Dillon to talk about his past — and Brenna to re-evaluate her future.
I really enjoyed this story. Although this is the first time these two have met, they become familiar with each other quickly because Dillon knows Brenna’s grandmother. Brenna pushes Dillon to open up, something he is not used to, but eventually it starts to subdue some of the demons he brought home from Afghanistan. Likewise, he pushes Brenna to decide what is more important: family or work. Through this entire discovery, a romance develops, and it turns into some very sexy romance scenes indeed! I also really liked how things play out in the end. Overall, a nice job of making this relationship realistic (and sexy!) in a short story.
A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton
Wyatt knows that building an addition onto a day care center owned by his ex-wife’s sister is not the smartest thing he has ever done, but he refuses to let his competition best him. Since his divorce three years ago from Cassandra, Wyatt has become a recluse in his small town, refusing to let go of the anger that came with the bitter end of their marriage. Calliope, Cassandra’s sister and said day care owner, has always had a crush on Wyatt, never understanding what Cassandra and Wyatt ever had in common. Calliope is nothing like Cassandra, and when Wyatt starts construction on the addition, and she gets to see him every day, she makes sure to remind him that she is her own person. She pushes through his defenses, but is she ready to take him on?
This story has the best sexual tension and chemistry between Wyatt and Calliope. Wyatt is so angry, cranky and just kind of rude. But Calliope will have none of it. She knows she wants him, and she tramples over all of his deflections until she wears him down. Calliope is pushy, but she has such a wonderful attitude and sense of humor that she never comes across as annoying. She is quite charming and warm, and I adored watching her chip some of the ice off of Wyatt. Great romance scenes make this one very sexy and intense in the bedroom. Loved it.
It’s Not Christmas Without You by HelenKay Dimon
Carrie Anders has broken up with her on-and-off-again boyfriend, Austin, for the last time. Or so she thinks. Problem is, they both still love each other. It’s just that Carrie doesn’t want to be stuck in her hometown in West Virginia forever, doing domestic things. She wants a career and has found one working in a museum in Washington, D.C. Austin works for the family tree farm and doesn’t understand Carrie’s desire to branch out and have a high-powered job. But he is totally irresistible and knows it. So this Christmas, he brings his trees to D.C. and sets up a tree lot across the street from Carrie’s apartment.
Most of this story is Carrie and Austin dancing around each other trying to figure out how to make their lives compatible. They both love each other, they just can’t figure out the day-to-day routine without driving the other crazy. While I like the premise of this story, Carrie sometimes comes across a little brash. I also feel the plot is a little weak. I don’t know if I completely bought that these two are both ready to make a change in their lives and that they completely understand each other.
Mistletoe and Margaritas by Shannon Stacey
Claire Rutledge has been a widow for two years, and during that time, her friendship with her husband’s best friend, Justin, has grown even stronger. Justin loved Claire even before her husband died but has always kept their relationship platonic. Claire is now in a place where she might be interested in dating, if she could ever think of anyone besides Justin.
This is a really sweet friends-to-lovers story. The spark is there between these two — they just have the hurdle of Claire’s husband’s ghost to see through. Claire has made peace with her husband’s death, but Justin still has issues. He feels guilty for loving Claire while she was married and still carries that with him. But a little push from friends and family, a kiss under the mistletoe and some holiday cocktails get these two to try out the romance. We also get sex in a snowplow. Merry Christmas to us.
Note: This review first appeared at the HEA blog.
**Each story can also be purchased individually.