Carina Press’ Holiday Anthologies have become a tradition for me. This year they published three: Erotic, Sci-Fi and Contemporary, which is the one I’m reviewing today. To be honest, this is my least favorite of all their anthologies, although it still is a fairly competent set of novellas.
The first story is We'll Be Home for Christmas by HelenKay Dimon. I loved her previous novel, Lean on Me, and this novella is part of that series, so I was really happy to read it.
Lila and Spencer had a three-night stand months ago. When Lila, whose ex-husband left her broke and humiliated, moves to a new town to restore her uncle’s inn, she reunites with Spencer. The thing is that he used his brother name instead of his, so she’s not happy to see him. At first she pretends not to know him, which bothers him a lot, and he decides to pursue her and make her remember.
I didn’t connect with this story, and I felt like it was trying too hard to be funny and cute. There’s nothing wrong with it; the romance was sweet, there was some character development and the main couple was likeable, but the charm and freshness that were a big part of her previous book didn’t make an appearance in this one. It reads like a generic small-town Romance, instead of an interesting take on the dynamic of the towns, something I thought her previous book explored. I didn’t connect with it, but I think fans of small-town romances will enjoy it.
Next we have Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth. This is my first time reading Ms. Barth, and if this is anything to go by, I probably won’t read her again.
Caitlin has been in love with her best friend Kyle for years. He, of course, doesn’t know that he’s also in love with her, because all those feelings are unrecognizable, right? So he dates an evil woman just because his father and her father are business partners, or interested in becoming business partners, or something. So of course he plans to marry her, and fake-proposes to Caitlin so she can give him some pointers. In the meantime, the evil girlfriend tortures Caitlin, who silently but stoically suffers in silence and dies of unrequited love, until Kyle gets some clarity, realizes his love, and proposes to the right woman. The end.
This is a plot I have seen before, and it doesn’t work well in a contemporary setting. But the real problem is that everything feels forced and there’s no chemistry whatsoever between the protagonists. When I read the description I felt like this story was written specially for me. I love friends-to-lovers stories, and if we add unrequited love and evil girlfriends, I’m in Romance heaven. I can’t resist the promise of delicious angst and emotional payoff, but I have to feel the love between the main couple, something that didn’t happen here. And the fact that Kyle and Caitlin were idiots and vapid, didn’t help.
The final novella is The Best Thing by Jaci Burton. At this point I didn’t have many expectations left, and Ms. Burton’s novels haven’t worked for me in the past, so I was dreading this one. But surprisingly, it turned out to be the best of the bunch, and it actually made me want to give her books a second chance.
This is another unrequited love story, but here the chemistry was undeniable. Tori has been in love with Brody for years, but he’s a player and she doesn’t want to be another notch on his bedpost. A year ago they shared a smoking hot kiss, and they haven’t been able to forget it. She’s been avoiding him and grumpy, something that everyone is noticing. So when they finally decide to confront their feelings, sparks fly and he has to work hard to convince her of his feelings and intentions.
Tori and Brody make a great romantic couple, and I thoroughly enjoyed their uncomplicated love story. I don’t think The Best Thing is good enough to carry the whole anthology, but I think it’s worth reading and it was my favorite of the bunch.
Overall, Romancing the Holidays was a disappointment, and not up to par with what I’ve come to expect from Carina Press’ anthologies. The only novella I recommend reading is Jaci Burton. Fortunately, you don’t have to buy the anthology; instead you can get each novel separately.
Review by Brie
Overall Grade: 3
Purchase Anthology: Amazon
We wish you a merry Christmas…and a happily ever after!
A memorable three-night stand gets rekindled in a cabin in West Virginia. An office romance is sparked by an impulsive holiday kiss. And two best friends scout locations for a marriage proposal and discover that they make a perfect match. 'Tis the season for laughter, love and a lifetime of happiness.
Romancing the Holiday: We'll Be Home for Christmas\Ask Her at Christmas\The Best Thing by HelenKay Dimon, Christi Barth and Jaci Burton
Carina Press. December 03, 2012.