Welcome Home for Christmas by Annie Rains

Blurb:
31349355The bestselling Hero’s Welcome series continues with a juicy Christmas romance, a short novel set in Seaside, North Carolina, where the bustling military base keeps this small town stocked with dedicated, lovable heroes.

Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days a year, Allison Carmichael doesn’t mind being single. It sure beats dating another loser, and it keeps her heart safe. Then there’s that three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth day: Christmas Eve, the traditional time her entire family gathers together—and gangs up on her, demanding to know when she’s going to get married. This year, she swears, is going be different. And that’s why, at a charity auction she’s throwing on-base, she buys herself a man.

Sergeant Troy Matthews insists that he’s not for sale. His time is, though, and he’s happy to donate it. Happier still when he learns the identity of the winning bidder: the redhead with the killer good looks and smart mouth who runs the veteran’s center. Allison needs Troy’s help to fool her family into believing they’re an item, and he’s all too happy to indulge her. But by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, their little charade is working a little too well . . . because Troy’s falling head over heels.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This was a good Christmas romance, but for me personally it was just missing something to give it that extra punch.  I think I just wasn’t that drawn in by either Allison or Troy.  Allison felt kind of stiff, and I tend to be more attracted to heroines with a bit of sass.  She just felt kind of dry or something.  And could be a little…uppity? or something.  I don’t know, she just occasionally rubbed me the wrong way with her reactions and things.

And Troy may have had a bit more sparkle to his personality, but I couldn’t always get a handle on who he was.  He’s supposed to be this playboy, but I’m not sure I really felt it.  It felt like I was told that he broke a lot of hearts, but I didn’t really get why.

It wasn’t all humdrum.  I enjoyed some of the memory sharing they did about their pasts, and Troy’s reluctance to go home for Christmas was a pretty good side story.  And the chemistry was pretty good between them.  *sigh*  I guess it was all just good, not great you know?

So yeah.  It was entertaining, but left me a little underwhelmed at the end.

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Wrong Brother, Right Match by Jennifer Shirk

Blurb:
32613784Matchmaking guru Kennedy Pepperdine’s life is perfect. Perfect job. Perfect friends. Perfect boyfriend. Except…when she gets trapped in an elevator with a handsome stranger, she accidentally confesses a secret: maybe her perfect boyfriend, Justin, isn’t so perfect for her after all. But a matchmaker should be able to successfully match herself, right? Thankfully, she’ll never see the handsome stranger again. Until she heads home with Justin for the holidays and learns that the sexy stranger is none other than Justin’s older brother, Matt.

Matt Ellis is trying to be on his best behavior for his mother—it is Christmas, after all. But when he recognizes the beautiful woman from the elevator—the one he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about for months—his best behavior is being held by a thread. Matt’s always sacrificed for his family, and nothing is more important than their happiness, but the more time he spends around Kennedy, the more he wonders if her supposed “right match” might just be the wrong brother.

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My Review:
3 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OK, let me preface this review by saying that I’m not sure why I requested this from NetGalley…the entire premise should have given me a big clue.  Perhaps I was thinking that it was only going to be initial circumstances, but that they would change quickly?  Perhaps I was just going Christmas happy at the time?  But seriously people, cheating is one of my button issues, so why in the world would I request a book whose very PREMISE is based around cheating.  And no, there’s no big physical cheating moment (minus the elevator kiss at the beginning, but she tells Justin about that).  But it’s the emotional cheating.  That counts for me too.  It’s the whole “if you’re this interested in someone else, perhaps you should end your current relationship first or figure out what to fix in it.”  I’m just not a fan.  It’s a personal taste thing, I totally get that, so this review is only going to be useful to others who feel similarly.

So a lot of my meh feelings for this book may be related to that one little (big) issue surrounding the cheating.  I just honestly could NOT fall in love with our couple.  Particularly b/c Kennedy’s relationship with Justin dragged on so fricking long!  I just kept waiting for something to happen with Justin, waiting for the moment it would all blow up, and so I just didn’t get invested.  The chemistry between Matthew and Kennedy was pretty good, but again, I was distracted by the circumstances.

I really did not love Kennedy.  I didn’t dislike her so much as just have no feelings about her whatsoever.  She just rubbed me the wrong way b/c of the decisions she was making in her relationship.  And I didn’t buy how her Mom influenced her relationship hangups.  I get what the author was trying to do there, but it wasn’t enough.  Justin was just so unbelievably wrong, and it was so obvious, that I just couldn’t accept that because of her Mom’s flighty relationships, she would grab hold so tight.

And I could not get a feel for Matthew.  I don’t know if we just didn’t get enough time in his head to get a good feel for who he was or what.  At the very beginning we’re almost given this impression that he’s a playboy, but that didn’t feel quite right you know?  Like a trait that was tacked on.  It’s hard to fall in love with a hero that you just don’t know.  And I just felt like I couldn’t empathize with him at all.

And the ending just really started feeling cheesy to me.  Honestly, at that point I was almost skimming just to see what would happen.  Quite frankly, this was probably more of a 2.5 star, but I’m writing this review off of notes, so I’m going with my initial gut feeling.  I must have enjoyed the few good parts enough to give it that solid 3 stars.  The reality is this wasn’t a bad book, it was just a TERRIBLE fit for me personally.  Oh well.

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More Than Friends by Jody Holford

Blurb:
33245968Owen Burnett planned on a quiet, easygoing Christmas, hanging out with his best friend and neighbor, Gabby Michaelson. So when his mom pressures him to come home for the holidays, he tells a little white lie…that he’s spending the holidays with his new girlfriend. But when his family shows up unexpectedly, Owen pulls the best friend card and asks Gabby to play his fake girlfriend.

Gabby’s been hopelessly in love with her best friend Owen for what feels like forever, but playing his “fake” girlfriend when the entire boisterous Burnett clan visits is easier said than done. The more she tries to deny the attraction between them, the more obvious their chemistry becomes. But even though she’s not the only one feeling it, putting their friendship on the line is a risk she can’t take.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

So I’m the kind of reader that loves to get absorbed into a book, and read in a pretty short time period.  And thus this read kind of suffered for me b/c I read it with a big interruption in the middle (I was on vacation).  So on a different occasion, this might have been a solid 4 star read, but I’m going to stick with my gut on this one anyways.

First of all, I will say that the cover is completely misleading.  I totally thought this was going to be a small town type of Christmas read, and this one was actually set in Boston.  Not really a big deal, but it’s nice when the cover actually gives you a feel for the book, and after reading it, I just don’t feel like this one is accurate at all (doesn’t really represent the characters either).

Gabby was pretty freaking adorable.  I was torn on Gabby’s background with her parents.  It gave me tears sometimes when she was enjoying Christmas with Owen’s family and missing hers, but the whole not wanting to lie because of it felt tacked on as more of a plot device.

Owen was pretty awesome too, if a bit oblivious.  And he made some monumentally stupid decisions, but I still thought he was pretty awesome overall.

I was surprised by the short length of their best friendship.  Usually when I think of best friends to lovers stories, it’s with friends who have been friends for a LONG time, and these two only knew each other for like 2 years.  Made me wonder more about how the friendship developed and what it was like before this wrench was thrown in.  I almost would have liked a bit more background or something.

They definitely had great chemistry, though this was a sweeter book than I had been expecting…which isn’t a bad thing, I just hadn’t anticipated that, so I was kept on tenterhooks for most of the book.  But I will say I loved the ending I love you scene!!  So many feels.  It was just perfect.

Owen’s family was da bomb.  Truly.  I loved them in all their quirkiness.  Made it a bit hard to understand Owen’s reluctance to spend Christmas with them, but then I had to remind myself it was all the strangers that he was mostly opposed to.

Definitely some intriguing secondary characters in the building….made me want to read both Wyatt and Brady’s books, assuming they both have them.  But at times it did feel like some of those secondary plot lines didn’t fit with the rest of the story, and were mostly there to drive intrigue for the next stories.  The whole Jake (his name was Jake right?) stealing thing and the police just felt so out of place…it didn’t add ANYTHING to Owen and Gabby’s story.  I don’t mind learning about the other tenants so I’ll want to read the next book, but I prefer it when it’s more seamless with the main storyline so it doesn’t feel tacked on.

All in all a great Christmas read.  One I probably would have enjoyed even more if I had been able to stay absorbed in the story, but alas, Disney was calling.  🙂

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Falling Softly by Maria Duffy


32599365Blurb:
 Holly Russo couldn’t be happier.
Christmas, her favourite time of year, is only seven weeks away and her boyfriend has just popped the question. David is steady and reliable, and Holly knows he’ll give her a wonderful life. The kind of life she’s always wanted. Right?

Then her new neighbour moves in.
Josh O’Toole is also approaching the festive season with joy. He loves his teaching job. He’s about to have a baby with his adored girlfriend Stephanie, and they’ve just moved into a new home to begin their life as a family.

But as Josh and Stephanie settle into their new house across the road from Holly and David’s, things begin to get complicated …

Falling Softly is a sparkling, heart-warming story about first love, and how life has a habit of turning out in the way we least expect it to.

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2 stars

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

I’m sorry but I did NOT like this story. It started out slow and only dragged on. There was not enough showing, too much telling. And the flashbacks didn’t really give us a look into how happy they were so the chemistry was non existent for me.

It showed how unhappy they were in their current relationships but I failed to see how them getting together was better.  It had been too long and they didn’t know each other anymore.  We never really knew them in love so when they ‘fell’ it didn’t seem genuine at all.

The end was too fast, not flowing cohesively like the slow beginning and middle. The transition of the story seemed a bit choppy throughout honestly.  I had to keep stopping because the scenes kept changing abruptly and I was like, “Wait, how did we get here?”

Honestly, I almost DNF’d this book but wanted to give it another chance. I regret it. I should have gone with my gut.

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Christmas with the Sheriff by Victoria James

Blurb:
32812717After fleeing her beloved small town five years ago, Julia Bailey is back to spend Christmas with her family. Returning is hard, but keeping the devastating secret about her late husband is even harder. Her place isn’t in Big Sky Country any longer…but the more time she spends with the irresistible Sheriff who saved her once before, and his adorable little daughter, the more Julia starts wishing she could let go of the past and start a new life.

Single dad and county Sheriff Chase Donovan had been secretly in love with his best friend’s wife for years. But after her traumatic loss he knew Julia needed to get away from Shadow Creek, even though helping her leave was the last thing he wanted to do. Now she’s home and he doesn’t intend to lose her a second time. Chase is going to prove to Julia just how good they can be together this Christmas…and forever.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Well that started off with some crying!  Or maybe, more like bawling.  😉  It was an emotional prologue, that’s for sure.  And there was definitely a sorrowful thread throughout the story, but there was also lots of great romance and laughs.

I was drawn to both of our MCs right from the beginning.  My heart broke for Chase knowing he had this unrequited love, and seeing him want desperately to make a try for a romance with Julia.  He was just so sweet and caring and GOOD.  Definitely book boyfriend material.  I just wanted to hug him.  And I kind of loved how he knew when to step things up and call Julia out on what he wanted for them near the end.  My only problem with Chase was with his past…I loved that he had this past, but I didn’t understand it.  If he left his parents, where did he go?  I got the impression this happened in high school, so how did he meet Michael, Jack and Julia?  How did they not know of this past?  It kind of felt like maybe it was added in afterwards, but the author didn’t think it all through and provide continuity.

Julia was pretty fabulous too, with a good mix of sass and sweetness.  Unfortunately her indecisiveness started to wear on me.  She was so back and forth, and I didn’t really get to see the growth I was hoping for with her.  It was like I thought she was deciding things were worth it, and then she would revert to fear.  And quite frankly, I don’t understand what was so different at the end…*shrugs*  So that kind of sucked.  Almost had me thinking 3.5 instead of 4, but I really did enjoy the sweet romance otherwise so whatever…I’ll do what I want.  🙂

I’m not always huge on kids in stories, and occasionally I couldn’t help but feel a bit disbelieving of the age of Maggie, but despite that she was pretty adorable and incorrigible all at the same time…even if she didn’t seem 7 most of the time.  😛

The other aspect that makes me convinced of a full 4 stars is the secondary characters.  I really loved the in-laws, from Edward and Cassy to Gwen.  And I enjoyed seeing glimpses of future stories in this series — maybe Jack and Lily?  Gwen?  I will probably be keeping my eyes peeled for them, I enjoyed this author’s writing style and am intrigued by the different personalities.

So all in all this was a great book to finish off my Holiday Read-a-Thon.  It had some good Christmas magic, some heart, some laughs, and delicious romance.

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The Holiday Gift by RaeAnne Thayne

30813474Blurb: With two kids and an active life, widow Faith Dustin only wants peace and quiet for Christmas. But her snowy Pine Gulch ranch is nothing but chaotic. All that keeps Faith going is her helpful neighbor, cowboy Chase Brannon. He’s always been “good ol’ Chase,” her faithful friend. Until he kisses her under the mistletoe…

Years ago Chase blew his chance with the woman he’s loved since childhood. Now he’s determined to step out of the friend zone…and into the role of husband. But the scared and stubborn Faith won’t let herself fall. With Christmas just days away, Chase will need all the magic of the season—and the help of her two matchmaking children—to unwrap a second chance at love.

 

 

Pre order Available November 22nd on Amazon

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3 stars

I don’t know whats wrong with me lately, but this book has left me wanting in the romance department.  I have never read a Harlequin book before.  And I must admit, I’m a bit disappointed.  I was expecting more romance, possibly some explicit scenes but this one was kinda blah if I’m being honest.

I found Faith to be a bit cowardly, and needy. This did not endear her to me.  I get that she was scared but she almost let fear keep her from something that could have been great.  I just found the trip took sooo long I couldn’t enjoy the destination when I got there. She tested the patience of a saint with her wishy washy ness.

Its a good thing Chase was a saint.  He took her indecision and her back pedaling in stride.  Waiting her out, I mean I get it, he loves her.  But what did she do that was so awesome to capture his love?  It felt a bit one sided to me since he did so much on her ranch but she didn’t seem to reciprocate the help on his.  I mean, yeah, she got him groceries once in a while, but in my eyes it wasn’t enough.

IDK, maybe my expectations were so high on this that it was doomed to fail. But this one just wasn’t the right fit for me.

I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

 

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Maybe This Kiss by Jennifer Snow

Blurb:
31560190Love is always worth the risk . . .

Neil Healy was happy to be promoted to Air Force Lieutenant, but he’s less than thrilled that the new job has brought him back to his hometown. The memories alone could kill a man, to say nothing of actually seeing the woman he never got over. Neil knew avoiding Becky Westmore would be impossible, but he didn’t expect the chemistry between them to be as strong as ever.

All Becky wants this holiday season is to get through the month of December with her sanity intact. Not helping? Her ex-boyfriend’s return to Glenwood Falls. Even after a decade apart, Neil still makes her feel in ways no other man has. But Christmas is a time for miracles, and maybe Becky’s will be a second chance at first love.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Well hmmm…so this one didn’t hit it out of the park with me.  I’m still trying to figure out why.  I think I just wasn’t totally enamoured with the characters, you know?  Like on paper they were both good characters, but I didn’t feel that connection with them at the start.  And so it was slow to hook me in.  I think I wasn’t big on how frazzled Becky was, but how she wouldn’t ask for help…she made me feel tired.  I was missing some sass there too.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that is a guaranteed love thing for me personally as a reader, and I wasn’t feeling it.  I thought her daughter was pretty hilarious, and her brothers intrigued me, but she was missing some sparkle.  And unfortunately my opinion of her went down before it went up.  I wasn’t really impressed with how she dealt with her relationship with Neil in the past, I couldn’t understand what drew them together if they were so very different.

It was kind of the same for Neil.  He didn’t get my book boyfriend juices going at the beginning.  He was kind of blah.  He didn’t seem to like Colorado or the snow at all, and as a Northern girl who has to deal with people complaining about the weather all the time, I often wonder why they don’t just move.  So I wasn’t sure why he came back, unless he didn’t have a choice in where he was based out of?

And even their initial chemistry…I mean, I felt some of it, but it was sooo…reluctant?  So much past clouding over, that I couldn’t hop on the train you know?  Which is not a bad thing, just not a thing that this particular reader enjoys as much.

BUT.  But.  The book picked up.  I started to see more dimension in both characters.  I got some sweet moments.  I got to see more expansion on what drew them together.  And the steamy scenes drew me in more.  There was still conflict, but I was ok with how that all played out in the end — not too much unnecessary drama or dragging things out.  It ended a bit abruptly (there’s a teaser for the next book at the end, so be warned it ends sooner than you think), and I would have ideally liked an epilogue or something, but I was still happy with how things played out.  I was worried it was going to go one way, but it didn’t.

So yeah.  It ended stronger than it started for me.  And I will say that reading the teaser of the next book, I think I might enjoy those characters more…I was already more intrigued.  Good thing I have that ARC burning a hole in my pocket as well!!  I’m going to be hard pressed not to move on to it right away…I have to decide now.

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The Christmas Project by Maxine Morrey

32306652Blurb: Professional organiser Kate Stone has never – NEVER – been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O’Farrell is the most obnoxious – and heart-stoppingly gorgeous – man she has ever met. If he weren’t her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour.

Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home.

But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen…

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3.5 stars

I found the cover to be super adorable.  I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

I was a bit lost on this one.  The chemistry didn’t seem there and it reads as if its supposed to be funny.  I don’t know if its cause I’m american but the humor went over my head.  And I found that Christmas didn’t really play as big a role as I expected, like it wasn’t emphasized except as a deadline.

It took a LONG time to get to the point and I found myself losing interest towards the middle when the story stagnated for me.  Maybe I’m an impatient reader, but there wasn’t enough good bits to last me through the blah ones. I couldn’t picture them as a match, and I tried real hard but their snarky banter didn’t read as foreplay to me.  It felt more like they should have had a fling but I didn’t see their relationship lasting .   Am I making sense?

I did love the dialogue. They didn’t beat around the bush and just went for it. Brutal honesty mixed with a touch of chagrin made me want to finish the book.  IDK, maybe I was expecting more in the romance department.  Maybe I just didn’t get the romantic undertones right.

I did love the supporting characters to no end.  They brought some great comic relief just when my attention would start to wane.  All in all it as decent book.  I would definitely give this author another try as I loved to see how their writing progressed as they continue to do it.

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The Christmas Challenge by Sinclair Jayne


32913182Blurb:
 Prodigal daughter, infamous flirt and fiery-haired champion barrel racer Tucker McTavish blazes back home to Marietta with both a secret, and a personal challenge. She will keep a low profile at her twin sister’s Christmas wedding. Which means no whiskey. No kissing. No scandals. No fun. What she needs is a miracle, so it’s too bad when she visits the legendary Miracle Lake to plead for inner strength: a tall, dark, and handsome bad boy is waiting with a challenge of his own.

Extreme sports guide Laird Hunter doesn’t do boring. And he thought he didn’t have secrets. He thrives in carving his own trail through tight and dangerous spots, but when he finds out his entire life has been built on a lie, he heads to Marietta for answers. But when he meets the redhead with the killer smile, laughing eyes and body with more curves than a mountain road, he finds himself asking a whole new set of questions.

Will these two daredevils – with more than a few secrets between them – find the one person from whom they don’t need to hide ?

Pre order Available November 15th 2016

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5 stars

I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased opinion.

I floved this book.  This is a Christmas novel I can get behind!  In my experience Christmas books tend to be fluffy, fast reads but this one wasn’t like that at all.  These characters had depth and complex personalities.  Their problems were not just as simple as ‘boy meets girl, they fall in love’  No no no.

Tucker was a whirlwind of self-doubt and insecurity mixed with a blend of out-spokeness and simple pleasures, such as ice skating and hot chocolate.  But she wanted to change on the inside.  You could read how much she wanted to get that connection back with her twin sister.  How every time she was judged for her past, she shook it off and kept trying to prove herself.  It was humbling to read for me.  She forgave others so easily when they read her wrong.  Even when they didn’t ask for it.  I wish I could do that.

And Laird has his own inner demons to face.  He was definitely a lost soul, armed with only a starting point of Marietta.  He set out to find himself.   He was a little harder to read.  Strong, silent type, a perfect match for the fast talking Tucker.  Their chemistry was amazing!  You could see how they both struggled with the importance of facing their inner challenges and the attraction they had for each other.

All in all a beautiful read.  And since this is the third in the series I’m definitely going back to read the first two!  Happy reading.

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Once Upon a Royal Christmas by Robin Bielman

Blurb:
32325012Colliding with a prince while dog walking isn’t how Rowan Palotay pictured meeting royalty, but then lately her life hasn’t gone according to plan. With one teensy tiny mistake, her job as a news reporter took a turn for the worse and now she’s lucky to have a small pet column in the local newspaper. Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and magic, but she feels like she’s forever stuck on the naughty list.

Prince Theodore Chenery is in Marietta shortly after the death of his mother to meet his grandparents for the first time. When an accidental run-in—literally—with Rowan leads to an unexpected friendship, he finds himself enchanted with the outspoken, feisty country girl. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever met and her special brand of kindness and honesty make it harder and harder to remember his obligations back home.

Rowan can’t afford one more mistake, and Theo’s future is already mapped out, but when they find it impossible to fight the passion and deep-rooted emotions between them, they discover what matters most. Until their relationship makes worldwide news… and Theo must decide whether to follow his heart, or his royal duty.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OMG, this book is already in the running for favourite Christmas read this year, and I’ve only just begun!  But it was just…I don’t know…just Lenore perfect, you know?  Like there are certain things that just make for a perfect Lenore read, and this one hit soooooo many of them.  I have a weakness for royalty books.  I don’t read them much, but I do enjoy them (and that probably comes from all my Harlequin reading in the past).  But this one turned out to be less about the Royalty aspect, and more about…I don’t know, just a freaking fabulous love story with lots of romantic tension, and laughs, and goofy grins, and not a lot of moments where I wanted to bang my head.  It had the kind of climax and tension where I got what was happening, even if I already knew that they were thinking about things all wrong.  But don’t worry, they got there.

I wondered how the whole reporter thing was going to play out, but it didn’t really play that big a factor.  And her mistake didn’t either.  It was kind of glossed over.  But that was ok, b/c by that point I was so sucked in to the sweetness of their romance, that I didn’t even care.  Both of these characters on their own were my kind of characters.  Rowan was really rather hilarious.  I loved that she could be kind of bold, goofy, a wee bit insecure, but stubborn and still really kind and sweet too.  Sassy and sweet, I love that combination.

And Theo.  Oh Theo.  I want Theo for myself.  He was…AHHH!!!  So sweet, and sexy, and a bit sassy in his own right.  I just adored him to pieces, and I’m not even going to be able to do justice to why….

But the winner for me was them together, and how their romance progressed.  For what was a pretty short novel (or a long novella, depending on how you look at it), I really felt like we got a fabulous romance out of it.  I really believed the progression from lust and infatuation to friendship to more.  I loved watching them get to know each other, asking questions and really developing that base of connection.  And OMG the tension.  I can’t even tell you.  So many butterflies in this book for me.  And the steamy scenes fulfilled on the tension promise.

And all that set in a great holiday atmosphere, with lots of great family and secondary characters.  It made me want to read more Marietta stories, and definitely more stories from this author.  And it obviously got me feeling the magic of the season.  So yeah, success.  Gonna be hard to top.

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