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Carina Press

REVIEW:  Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham

REVIEW: Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham

mine-under-the-mistletoe

Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night. But in the light of day, Ashley can’t help but wonder if Santa has delivered early…

Game designer Oliver Stansfeld can’t wait to leave dreary London—and all its difficult holiday memories—for sunny San Diego. But a freak ice storm and a grounded plane have forced him back to his already-occupied flat. To make up for the mix-up, the least he can do is show his pretty houseguest where to get the perfect Christmas tree before he leaves.

The more time they spend together, the more their attraction grows, and soon Ashley is tempting Oliver to give in to the spirit of the season and snuggle up for the rest of the winter. As the ice melts and flights start taking off again, he must choose between giving in to the past or risking his heart on a chance at love.

Dear Ms. Latham,

While drumming my fingers as I (impatiently) wait for the follow-up to “Knowing the Score” (hint, hint), I decided to see if you had any other offerings at Carina. Yay, you did and I caught it just in time to add to our holiday novella reviews. Christmas in London – what could be better? Well, as it turns out, falling in love during Christmas in London.

The opening set up is reminiscent of the film “The Holiday” wherein international house swapping goes awry. Oh, if only a super gorgeous, single, nice English guy ended up naked in bed with all visiting super cute, single American women – I think the British Tourism agencies need to look into this pronto. It’s not exactly a meet cute since there is a bollocks kicking as Ashley isn’t a helpless female and poor Ollie was so knackered from a fruitless wait on the tarmac at Heathrow before they called it a day that he didn’t realize there was a Goldilocks in his bed. Things just had to improve from there.

Ashley’s efforts to achieve a picture perfect Dicken’s Christmas seemed a tad schmaltzy at first, though hints are provided for the reason, until the grand reveal at the end but Ollie goes along with it and decides to help show around the pretty American whose knickers he’d like to get into. His reasons for trying to avoid the holiday cheer also make sense and they’re are a bit more fleshed out earlier in the story. I liked that the fact that both characters actually open themselves up and tell these dark, past issues to each other is used as a step forward in the relationship.

What seemed trotted out from angst plotting central is Ollie’s almost split second relationship panic leading to his decision to bolt just when the plot required it as was his change of heart and reversal a short time later. If Ashley and Ollie had more time together before this happened, I wouldn’t be quite so nitpicky but it felt more rote than real.

I did enjoy the virtual experience of Christmas in London which managed to avoid all the tacky tourist traps. The flower market would be wonderful to wander through as would the stalls of arty knickknacks. And Panto – well, who knew? Are there any youtube entries of this because it sounds like something I just have to see. Also thank you for letting Ollie be a commoner. Sometimes I get the impression that every other Brit is a Sir or Lord Something.

The wait for the next entry of your rugby series might seem endless but this helped it go by a little faster. The trip to London and English holiday traditions was fun even if the romance didn’t quite hit the spot. C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Starting from Scratch by Stacy Gail

REVIEW: Starting from Scratch by Stacy Gail

 

Christmas is the perfect time to start from scratch

Lieutenant Sully Jax saved his unit during an IED attack, but he couldn’t save his marriage. He can’t even remember it. Recovered from his injuries, he’s come home to the family and friends he knows—and an ex-wife who’s a stranger to him.

Lucy Crabtree was heartbroken last Christmas when Sully announced his plan to go on one last tour of duty, and devastated when he asked for a divorce after he awoke in the hospital with no memory of her. She’s finally moving on from her hurt and from losing the man she loved more than anything, and her cookie-baking business is taking off just in time for the holidays. But now Sully’s back, and she can’t deny she still loves him. But how can she trust her heart to someone who breaks it every time she sees him?

Sully might not remember Lucy, but something inside won’t let her go. With every bite of her cookies, he finds a new love for Lucy, and he soon realizes he wants to rebuild his life…with her by his side.

Dear Ms. Gail,

I’ve mentioned in other reviews that amnesia books usually give me hives because they’d done so poorly. KONK – memory lost. 2nd KONK – whew, I’ve got it back now! just when the plot demands it. So my skeptical self picked out this book just to see if I’d be able to get through it. And to see if you could pack all this book into a category sized book. When I realized it’s actually a novella, I thought, “No way in hell can she do all this and make me believe it in 36,000 words.” Well, I stand corrected. The hell you certainly did.

Starting from Scratch by Stacey GailThe book is packed with well drawn characters. True, some of them don’t take up as much story space as others but I get a clear picture of them all and would love to meet some of them including the owners of the bakery where Lucy creates tempting sugar yummies to her best friend growing up with whom she has grin inducing dialog.

When Lucy gripes about not wanting to celebrate Christmas this year – understandable given the story – Coe shoots back that every time she says that, one of Santa’s elves explodes. Coe also has an awesome Christmas wish list. How can you not like someone who asks Lucy to get him a ukulele, sidewalk chalk and a light saber pen just because he knows it will take his friend’s mind off the horrible memories of her last Christmas? I hope you have further plans for Coe. .

And speaking of horrible memories, Lucy certainly has more than her fair share. But at least she has them while Sully seems to have none of her. Their separation before his last deployment – where he suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and now has Retrograde Amnesia – was horrible for both but when Sully came home in a coma and then not only didn’t remember anything about Lucy but actively screamed at the sight of her, then wanted a divorce – that would about kill me too.

Poor Lucy’s heart has been breaking for a year now and just when she thinks she might be coming to terms with the ashes of her life, Sully arrives back in their hometown from his rehab. Talk about awkward meetings. Right about when I’m about to throw things because I hate how much she’s sacrificed as a military wife only to not lose her husband to death but still lose him due to the amnesia anyway, you toss in casual reminders of how much Sully has lost – not only mentally but physically as well. He truly is a wounded warrior. Life has not been kind to either of them though only Lucy remembers the awful secret he dropped on her without warning before he left on his deployment and how terribly she reacted.

There is a lot to process here including background information on the people, the town, the circumstances, military life and a bit about the type of therapy the doctors recommended for Sully. Yet I never felt info overload or that I had missed something important. Wow, seriously well done.

Yet could these two find some common ground or better still was there a chance for Sully to regain what he’d lost? I had my doubts at times as to how you’d pull it off or if it could be done in a way to satisfy me. And hot sex – would there be any physical stuff? You managed it all even if the denouement came down to the wire. Is there a happy amnesia ending? I think as well as could be with hope for more. Is the sex smoking? I thought so. Does Sully manage to make up for all the hurt he – even inadvertently – caused Lucy? Gawd, that letter had me crying as I read it, never mind fictional Lucy. Do I wish I’d read this in time for it to be a November rec? Sure do! But it will be a recommended read anyway and might just make my end of the year Top Reads as well. A-

~Jayne

 

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