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REVIEW: White Hot Christmas by Serenity Woods

Dear Ms. Woods:

I’ve developed a deep appreciation for New Zealand/Australian set books and when I saw this in the Samhain ARC listing, I requested it immediately. It is the first story of yours that I read.

White Hot Christmas	Serenity WoodsThe Christmas story set in New Zealand immediately caught my attention. Merle Cameron comes to visit her sister and begins an affair with her brother-in-law’s best friend and cousin, Napoleon (Neon) Carter. It seems like a perfect setup. The affair’s end is a date certain when Merle returns to England. This provides both of them with the luxury of enjoying themselves without the attendant messy emotional feelings. This a lighthearted, sexy read but a totally enjoyable one.

Merle is a university lecturer (and I’m really not sure what that is in the UK as opposed to the US or even New Zealand). She has been caring for her mother who underwent a bout with breast cancer and has had little time for frivolity. Merle is spending a vacation with her sister, Bree, in New Zealand. She’s a bookish woman, having spent much of her life focused on trying to fulfill her very needy mother’s every whim. This vacation is as much an opportunity to relax and unwind as it is to visit her sister, Bree and Bree’s new husband, Jake.

Neon Carter is a firefighter who isn’t ready to settle down. He’s not opposed to getting married and having a family and is somewhat envious of his cousin Jake’s newlywed happiness. He complains to Jake that every woman suffers from tinnitus (ringing in their ears). “It just seems that with every woman I’ve been out with recently, we get to the third date and they start discussing the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses.” Neon is sure that finding the right woman will take more than three weeks of dating even though Jake reports spending all of thirty minutes before realizing that he wanted to marry Bree.

My favorite part of the book was the realistic but funny dialogue between the characters whether it was Bree teasing Merle or Jake and Neon trading quips or sly interchanges between Merle and Neon. There were travelogue portions of the story which I found a bit dull. I also thought that the story could have delved deeper into the emotional conflicts such as the differences in intellect or social status. Merle delivers a slight insult to Neon early on when she is surprised by a Shakespeare reference. Neon is a firefighter and Merle is college professor (or something like it). Merle is puritanical compared to Neon and lacks self confidence of the women whom Neon dated in the past. Despite these issues, the largest looming emotional issue was Merle’s relationship with her mother. I wished I had seen more of how the mother had her hooks into Merle and why because the mother dictated the course of much of Merle’s life and I didn’t see Merle as a woman without backbone.

The dueling bets that Neon and Merle made with Jake and Bree over whether one could seduce the other were silly and if the genre wasn’t so replete with the “bet” perhaps the inclusion of the bets wouldn’t seem so stale. It could have been used as a joke throughout the story and that would have been a nice insider nod to a romance staple, but instead the “bet” was used unevenly throughout to cause minor emotional flares or provide a reason for the two to be indecisive about the relationship.

While Merle may not have had a lot of experience dating hot firemen in the past I was glad that the story didn’t dwell on that type of insecurity. That would have been a common and easy path instead, it focused on the geographic differences. No matter how easy it is to resolve the class or societal differences, Merle was from England and her sick mother, manipulative, neurotic mother, needed her. I liked the upbeat, modern tone of this book with the fun dialogue topped off with steamy love scenes. Christmas on the beach is irresistible. B-

Best regards,


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. SFT
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 04:08:41

    A university lecturer is basically a college professor.

    In Australia, when you go to university you have lectures (where you sit in an auditorium of sorts and the lecturer talks and shows diagrams and stuff) and tutorials (classes where everyone sits and talks and does activities).

    Lecturers always give the lectures, and they often teach tutorials too.

    We go on holiday – not vacation – if you want to be a real Antipodean!

    I might check this out. It’s nice to finally have some romances from my neck of the woods.

  2. Bronte
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 04:12:45

    @jane A university lecturer in NZ and AUS is an academic at the equivalent of one of your colleges. Essentially a lecturer is usually responsible for research and teaching of university students. Lecturer is usually an entry level academic position and you then move up to senior lecturer, associate professor, professor etc.

  3. Ros
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 05:25:36

    I read this last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m always a sucker for bookish girl meets totally sexy hero. And a fireman. Come on! I wanted less of the mother, really, and more of Neon and Merle talking about stuff. It felt like quite a lot of what was keeping them apart was failure to have a decent conversation about what they both wanted. But did I mention, he’s a fireman?

  4. Maili
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 10:37:29

    Last year, I was asked for an UK equivalent of ‘professor’ (US), but I didn’t know, so I gave out this link of a basic Wikipedia guide instead – Academic Ranks: United Kingdom and United States.

    For this review, here are the ranks for Australia and New Zealand you could use to compare.

  5. Emily
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 14:46:22

    “Merle Cameron comes to visit her sister and begins an affair with her husband’s best friend and cousin, Napoleon (Neon) Carter.”
    Just so we’re clear Merle isn’t married. It’s her sister’s husband’s cousin. When I first read that sentence I thought of adultery which is kind of turn off for me and probably other readers, but from the rest of it that’s not what this book is about. I know its unlikely you recommend a book with adultery; I was just a little confused.

  6. Judi L
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 15:38:07

    I’ve got this one on the TBR – may have to move it up based on your review.

  7. Lilian Darcy
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 16:25:29

    @SFT Not sure about the “finally.” There are heaps of great NZ romance authors, from the classically old-fashioned and wonderful Essie Summers, through Harlequin stars like Robyn Donald, Daphne Clair and Susan Napier, to Alison Roberts in Medical Romance.

    I’m sure others can help me out with more names, here. These are just top-of-head.

    And if you extend the search to Australia, there are so many fabulous writers I can’t even start listing them.

  8. Jane
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 16:34:37

    @Emily Whoops. I must have deleted sister in the editing.

  9. Ros
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 17:18:11

    Oh, also, you might be interested to know that Serenity Woods is starting to publish under her real name of Faye Robertson. She has a Christmas novella coming out tomorrow from Entangled under that name. (So do I.)

  10. Ruthie
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 19:47:02

    So happy to see this review! I really enjoyed this novel, and I think Serenity (who is a friend) is a very talented writer. She does indeed write great dialogue, snappy and fun, but she does heart-wrenching equally well. And the New Zealand Christmas setting is just the icing on the cake.

  11. Rita
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 07:17:00

    Picked this up yesterday based on your recommendation and loved it. Great dialogue. Fun setting. As soon as I finished it I actually started looking for more books from this author.

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