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REVIEW: Don’t Open ‘Till Christmas by Leslie Kelly

Dear Ms. Kelly

037379226301lzzzzzzzI’m not big fan of holiday stories so one featuring two Christmas haters is probably perfect for me. There’s something deliciously ironic about the self referential nature of the story and the characters attitudes toward the holiday. It seems to me that they would hate Christmas themed stories.   

Noelle Bradenton overhears a man and a woman in a dressing room having a very provocative conversation and assumes that they are having sex. Then the man with the sexy voice exits the dressing room and accidentally falls into her room. Their eyes meet and a zing occurs; they kiss but the saleswoman interrupts their interlude and before they know it, Noelle and the sexy dressing room guy are separated without getting the others’ name.

Mark Santori, the aforementioned sexy dressing room man, is a Chicago detective, and by happenstance meets Noelle again when the youth and woman’s shelter where she works is robbed by a Santa and Mark is sent to investigate.

Despite the seemingly ridiculous dressing room setup which is actually addressed by both Noelle and Mark (i.e., Mark confronts her with about kissing him if she really thought he was having sex next door with another woman, telling her that she was “really twisted.”), their meet and greet works. There are other, far fetched concepts in the book that required larger leaps of faith – much of it having to do with the whodunit aspect of the story.

In the beginning, I thought that the sex scenes read very exaggerated. I think that the slow motion way of describing the scene worked to make it more clinical than hot. I didn’t find this to be true toward the end of the story when the couplings tend to appear more spontaneous.

I found Mark’s character to be described inconsistently. He self maintained that he   didn’t want to be in a relationship (thus furthering the conflict) but his internal narratives were belied by his near constant pursuit of Noelle and his quick movement from “I want to have an affair” to “I have feelings for you” stage.   

Noelle, having been hurt badly from a previous relationship, wants to only have anonymous sex with a stranger (no thought to how dangerous this might be). Mark plays that role for her, trying to ultimately convince her to give up the artifice.  Nicole struggles to remind herself and Mark of the purely sexual nature of their encounters when her nature is to nurture and to nest.   This was the more interesting part of the story.

As I said previously, the latter half of this book worked better for me than the first half.    C+

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or from the Sony eBookstore.

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. Jinni
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 17:00:36

    I may have given this a higher grade. I thought the sex was pretty good, and this is the best of the Santori brothers/sister series, I thought.

    There’s one with the sister that reads slightly like a gothic romance – a little weird (especially that bathtub sex), and one with an oddly named XMas themed town that was just a little weird as well (unless that’s this one, I don’t remember that well).

    Ok, I’m now a little freaked out that I have this kind of memory of Blaze books.

  2. Jane
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 17:33:02

    @Jinni: I thought the sex in the latter half was good. I haven’t read any of the other Santori books.

  3. GrowlyCub
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 18:18:11

    Jinni, yes this is the Xmas themed one. I also thought Lottie’s story was plain peculiar, but it’s also part of another series that has that more gothicky feel.

    I liked ‘Overexposed’ the best and the short story about the oldest Santori in the ‘5 Encounters’ book.

  4. Leslie Kelly
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 22:08:57

    Hey Jane–thanks so much for reviewing the book! This one’s so old, it totally shocked me to stop by today and see it.

    Jinni & Growly…Lottie’s story was part of the “It Was A Dark And Sexy Night…” miniseries, it was supposed to be a Blaze take on a gothic. I loved doing it, sorry it didn’t work better for you!

  5. Jinni
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 22:39:26

    @Leslie (not really, more @Harlequin)

    Thanks for that explanation. When I read a Blaze I expect straight contemporary romance with a sexy kick. I wish their take on gothic, or historic, or whatever were set apart somehow so my expectations would be adjusted in turn.

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