Tag Archives: Christmas romance

The Holidays Series: The Stocking Was Hung, Cupid Has a Heart-On, The Firework Exploded, & The Bunny is Coming by Tara Sivec

Tara Sivec caught my eye on a romance newsletter with a book called Zed Had to Die. I started with a sample and got sucked into buying the entirety of The Stocking Was Hung because I am a sucker for fabulously cheesy titles* and I had no idea what the writing would sink to. Sivec’s bailiwick looks to be romps and I’ll just say that I’m glad I got the rest of the books in the series on loan from Amazon Unlimited (or whatever it’s called). There were sufficient cheap laughs and just enough sincere romance to hold my attention for the first two books before I resorted to sliding through the last two.

The Holiday Series Set Up: A thirty-three year old woman, Noel (Noelle) Holiday, has run screaming from her boyfriend’s pre-Christmas proposal, lost her job, and is en route to Ohio for the holidays. Having to face her loving, intrusive, and judge-y family in her current state of disaster is something she dreads. Sitting in an airport bar feeling sorry for herself, she spills her beer on the man sitting next to her and discovers he is hot with a hotness that is hot and, since he, Sam Stocking, feels the same way about her, he agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend for Christmas. A marriage of convenience ensues which is, I admit, my favourite romance trope. They end up engaged by the end of book one, The Stocking Was Hung, officially engaged at the end of book two, Cupid Has a Heart-On, get married in book three, The Firework Exploded, and you can guess what happens with the fertility symbol in book four, The Bunny is Coming.

The four books progress from the marriage of convenience in The Stocking Was Hung through Big Understandings in the last three books. Noel’s family is much more than promised in the set up and the forced frivolity gets ramped up and progressively more ridiculous. There’s a lot of literal and metaphorical flouncing and door slamming. When I started the series, I told myself to lean in to the farce. It’s not like the books took themselves seriously, so it wasn’t my job to either, but there was just so much nonsense; such as,

  1. Noel’s deranged, over sexed transgender aunt who immediately grabs the junk and then continues to sexually harasses every man she meets, offers everyone drugs, or provides unsolicited sex advice.
  2. Noel’s judgemental and over sexed mother who is either criticizing Noel or providing unsolicited bedroom antic advice and details about her own love life.
  3. Noel’s overprotective father who takes that old chestnut about not buying the cow when you can get the milk for free and turns it into a litany of dairy-based “keep your hands off my daughter” threats.
  4. Noel’s parents obsession with their daughter’s sex life and their own with a bizarre level of detail. It’s not romp-y, it’s creepy.
  5. Sam’s dudebro sexism and gay paranoia.
  6. Noel’s dudebro sexism and generally high-strung nature.

There was too much over-reaction from protagonists in their mid-thirties and her obnoxious family in order to drive the plot and it descended into ridiculousness that became painful. Or I’m a humourless cow. One of the two. Given the titles, I may have been expecting too much .

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

*My review of Scrooge McFu*k is still pending.

The Stocking Was Hung (The Holidays #1) by [Sivec, Tara]

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I Will by Lisa Kleypas

An addendum to Lisa Kleypas’s Capitol Theatre series, I Will is a very bad Christmas novella that my friend suggested had been lying in a drawer at the author’s house for years. Dated in many elements, I had at first suspected it was ghost written, but a long abandoned manuscript makes more sense. Shortly after I began reading, I found myself wondering how I would feel about the book and quality of the writing if it didn’t have the Queen of Romance’s name on it. Admittedly, Kleypas’s last couple of historicals have not lived up to her very high standards, but I Will is a mess.

From Amazon: Andrew, Lord Drake, has been cut out of his father’s will because of his dissolute manner of living. To be reinstated, Andrew decides to pretend that he has changed his wicked ways. As part of his plan, he wants to convince his father that he is courting a respectable woman with the intention of marrying her. The problem is, he doesn’t know any decent women, except for his friend’s spinster sister, Miss Caroline Hargreaves. He blackmails the reluctant Caroline into helping him, and so the charade begins …

In addition to the extortion plot, which is disappointing, the rest of the story feels either cobbled together or shoehorned in. It’s as though significant gaps that were to be filled in later were never revisited. I’ve read virtually all of her books and the writing doesn’t even come across as Kleypas’s style, it has almost none of her spark or smolder. But these shortcomings pale in comparison to issues I had with the love scene late in the book. After a period of estrangement, the hero is delivered to the heroine handcuffed to a bed. In order to convince him they should be together, this completely inexperienced, naive young woman decides she will seduce the hero back to her. It’s an attempted rape and I found it extremely distasteful to read. Had it been written by anyone else, I would have stopped reading then and there, if I had not given up on I Will already.

Despite this effort and since she is indeed one of the best romance writers in the business, please visit my complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue for recommendations, including two classics and a few of my personal favourites.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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You Had Me At Christmas: A Holiday Anthology by Karina Bliss, Stephanie Doyle, Jennifer Lohmann, and Molly O’Keefe

That’s right, I was reading Christmas novellas in October (and reviewing them in November). You Had Me At Christmas: A Holiday Anthology with contemporary romances by Karina Bliss, Stephanie Doyle, Jennifer Lohmann, and Molly O’Keefe also included a Laura Florand novella called Snow-Kissed which I reviewed separately. The anthology let me try four new-to-me authors and while I’m not sure I’ll be racing out to buy more of their books, in a genre with this much choice and so many writers to wade through, this collection appealed to my research impulses.

Romance novellas generally strip the story down to its bare essentials and focus on just the relationship between the main characters which is what I enjoy so much about them. If you like them too, I have a list of Ten Great Romance Novellas you can draw from.

 Play by Karina Bliss

From Karina Bliss’s Rock Solid series, this novella focuses on a couple that has been together since high school, but whose lives have taken a sudden turn when his long sought after dream of becoming a successful professional musician/rock star comes true. Having moved their two children to a new city and recently completed a European tour, Jared and Kayla are trying to find their way back to each other.

The prosaic reality of daily family life is quite a change from being a rock god. To compound this, in what I assume was a key element in one of the Rock Solid books, Jared joined the band through a reality show competition which would have created a steep learning curve. Suddenly, he’s a sex symbol and, while he has always been devoted to Kayla, she’s trying to cope with her new life and the ordinary insecurities of getting older feel magnified next to the glamour of their changed life.

Kayla and Jared work things out around failed dates, laundry, and sick children. I quite enjoyed the ride and may follow up with the other books in the series. Rock stars aren’t really my cup of tea, but as contemporary leads go they certainly beat all the billionaires, former elite military members, and billionaire former elite military members so thick on the ground in romance.

One Naughty Christmas Night by Stephanie Doyle

From Amazon: Workaholic Kate never expected to find herself looking for love online on Christmas night. Then John appeared on her screen and her whim to escape loneliness turned into the hottest sex of her life – even if it was via text. John knew Kate was too classy for his ex-con ass, but he was about to learn that Kate knew how to fight for what she wanted. And she wanted more of him.

Two very lonely people who find each other for one night and decide to turn it into more.I didn’t buy it.

Twelve Kisses Until Christmas by Jennifer Lohmann

From Amazon: Escaping her abusive father and small hometown to follow her dreams takes money Selina Lumina doesn’t have. After a millionaire software developer offers her a ride out of town, she has to decide whether to follow her aspirations or take a chance at love. Could a snowbound night on the road turn into a Christmas miracle?

While I deeply sympathised with Selina’s plight and was relieved when the kindness of others was enough to put her on a more hopeful path in life, I was unconvinced by the love story. It was sweet, but I didn’t believe that the two characters were a good match or made sense as a couple.

Christmas Eve: A Love Story by Molly O’Keefe

From Amazon: Growing up in the mountains of Wyoming Trina and Dean had been childhood friends until the bitter feud between their families drove them apart. When the magic of Christmas Eve tips the star-crossed lovers together year after year, will they be able to make sure this holiday is not their last?

Following the pair as they bounce through a series of Christmas time encounters over several years, Trina and Dean eventually get to a place where they are ready to be together and act on the attraction they always felt. O’Keefe did well at setting the scene and tone for each encounter, but the book never really caught my attention.

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Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.