Holiday Folly Reviews: Christmas Comes to Snowfall, A Season to Celebrate, A True Cowboy Christmas, Kiss Me at Christmas

So a little while back I was having kind of a downer day and then I realized that there were a TON of holiday-themed romances dropping on NetGalley and...let's just say this isn't the last post of "Holiday Themed Romance Mini-Reviews" you guys are going to get.

Christmas Comes to Snowfall by Erika Marks
title: Christmas Comes to Snowfall
author: Erika Marks
pages: 141
format: eARC
rating: 3/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas
Maggie comes to Snowfall, Vermont in order to redo the town's website and hopefully boost their failing tourism industry. While doing research and getting a feel for the place so she can accurately translate that into her web design, she meets handsome veterinarian Alden, who's great-grandfather 'cursed' the town and...yeah, I got nothing after the 'and,' that was a kind of weird plot. The two hit it off and start to date.

Short and cute, but a lot of the attempts at drama fell flat for me. If it had just been two people having a good time on holiday, that would be one thing, but they tried to spin out this 'curse' from Alden's ancestor that...just...made no sense to me? I don't even know what the result of the curse was supposed to be. Add to that, for all Alden gets mopey about the town 'blaming' him over it, we only ever see one negative interaction between him and any other towns-members. The two leads were pretty cute together and had some real chemistry, and if the story had just stuck to that I probably would have rated it higher.

A Season to Celebrate by Fern Michaels
title: A Season to Celebrate
author: Fern Michaels, Kate Pearce, Donna Kauffman, and Priscilla Oliveras
pages: 304
format: eARC
rating: 5/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas, Latinx Character, Sports, Veterans
A Christmas Homecoming - Two extremely well-adjusted people with positive outlooks on life move to the same town and make googly-eyes at each other for like 80 or so pages. Really. That's it. For the bulk of the story, the two leads don't even interact, it's all just other people trying to shove them together and/or discussing inane domestic topics. The story ends right after the leads realize the other is single and just smile across the room at each other. And there were so! many! exclamation! points! Also, I'm a veteran from Texas, and even I think the opening of this book went waaay overboard on harping that Kevin is a vet from Texas. Yeesh.

An Unexpected Gift - Widower Billy saves his old friend Bella from an altercation, and the two rekindle a friendship that quickly grows into a romance. Both leads are over 50, which is not something I encounter a lot in this genre, and it was really nice to see them discussing elder-oriented concerns. They were very cute together. Short, sweet, and uncomplicated, which is just about right for a short story like this. Might be frustrating to those who haven't read Kate Pearce's series; there are a LOT of characters mentioned as if the audience should already know them.

Christmas in Blue Hollow Falls - After her brother's wedding, Moira finds herself in a bar trying to drink her way through her blues, and winds up in an altercation with a smarmy jackass. She gets rescued by Hudson, and they hit things off. Much as I liked both characters, I feel like this short story really should have been a full novel. The bar-fiend and the altercation that resulted gets waved about as a villain, but then nothing comes of it. Both leads have a lot of issues and backstory, but instead of being delved into, the two just talk about it. A lot. In depth and with no hesitation. Because how else are you going to get through the whole arc in such a short time? A lot of potential here, but just not truncated well. Does make me want to check out the author's actual series, though, and see what she can do with the proper amount of page time.

Holiday Homerun - Julia is in Chicago, visiting from Puerto Rico, to spend time with family and help host a charity event. Unbeknownst to her family, Julia is hoping that the event will lead to an offer of full-time employment and she can move to Chicago permanently. Things get complicated when the emcee of the event, a very handsome baseball player, takes an interest in her. I liked Julia's relationship with her family (both the family she's visiting and the family back in PR) and her concerns about moving and breaking the news. However, when it comes to her and Ben...the tension felt a little forced. She doesn't want to get involved...because he's a baseball player? And bad? There was definitely the beginning of a conflict there, as his job tied back to her emotional history with the sport, but it wasn't followed through because, well, because it's a short story. The focus was on her job/moving drama. So when sports drama came up, it was mentioned and then they just kept going on dates anyway. Another case of "I can see good ideas here and I'm curious to check out the author's full length work," I guess. :)

A True Cowboy Christmas by Caitlin Crews
title: A True Cowboy Christmas
author: Caitlin Crews
pages: 352
format: eARC
rating: 5/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas, Cowboys
Immediately after the death of his father, a stubborn and taciturn rancher Gray decides that he needs to make some changes in his life. Namely, he needs to get married again, but to someone eminently practical who won't cause the same complications as his late wife. So he proposes to Abby, the literal girl-next-door. Abby has been in love with Gray since she was a teen, but resolved to pine after him from afar, until he proposes out of the blue. Convinced it's her only chance to get married at all, she accepts, and of course feelings develop anyway.

I was a little iffy on the premise, not because I'm against arranged marriage stories (I'm not, I love them) but this thoroughly modern setting all of Abby's friends and family were like "yeah, great idea, go for it!" Erm. Weird. Abby herself had some great internal waffling on the subject, and I loved her and Gray's discussion around the surprise!proposal, but all the side characters were...hrm. After they got married, I did very much enjoy all of the emotional entanglements going on. There was a lot of subplots about toxic family and about emotional scars that one might not even realize they're carrying around. All of the main characters (Abby, Gray, Gray's 15 y/o daughter Becca) have a terrible parent that leaves issues for them to work through. Except for the weird cheer-leading squad, I found the emotional parts of the story very compelling.

Kiss Me At Christmas by Valerie Bowman
title: Kiss Me At Christmas
author: Valerie Bowman
pages: 320
format: eARC
rating: 5/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas,
Lady Regina is about to turn thirty and about to be engaged to a peer she doesn't care for, but before she resigns herself to a dutiful marriage she wants to make one choice just for herself: take a lover of her own choosing. Unfortunately, Daffin doesn't go along with her request. And immediately after her rather embarrassing proposition, he moves in to serve as her bodyguard following a series of mysterious accidents. Over the weeks they grow closer while trying to figure out who is trying to hurt Regina.

So, right in the first couple of chapters we find out Daffin is kinky, and I have THINGS TO SAY about that. Which is mostly 1) I want more historical kink, please, yay! and 2) oh, uh, that...uh, was an interesting way to do it. It's mentioned early in the book but nothing comes of it until near the end when the couple have sex at last. Which happens right after Regina was kidnapped. As much as I liked aspects of the scene, it felt really self-contained, like it was dropped in from a different draft, and nothing about it connects to the rather traumatic event she just went through (either positively or negatively) and that just...I guess could be considered rather minor, but it really bothered me.

Outside of that one scene, the two are great together and I really loved their flirting and banter. There were a lot of characters to keep up with since it was #10 in a series, but that's mostly only a factor near the end of the book and by that point I was well engaged with the main characters so the new ones didn't throw me out of things. I really liked the way Regina and Daffin had such frank and open discussions about their situation without coming off as either clinical or losing their interpersonal tension.

Note: I received these copies from the author/publisher in exchange for honest reviews. The price of the books and their origin in no way affected my stated opinions. 

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