Holiday Folly Reviews: A Christmas Bride, Holiday Amnesia, A Christmas Proposition, The Decoy Date

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...WE STILL AREN'T DONE YET.

A Christmas Bride by Viveka Portman
title: A Christmas Bride
author: Viveka Portman
pages: 80
format: eARC
rating: 2/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas
Ellen is a spinster schoolteacher, slated to be the next headmistress. While she's glad for her position, the idea that she'll have to remain prim and proper for the rest of her life causes quite a pinch. When a student leaves behind a sumptuous gown by accident over the winter holiday, Ellen decides to wear it out for a night on the town, just this once. Except when she does, she runs into Robert, the single father of one of her pupils that she's been crushing on for years.

It was a cute premise and I really liked Ellen's general demeanor and outlook on life. But since it was so short...uh, there was an awful lot of sex. Which, I like reading some well done steamy scenes, but it just wasn't much of a plot-what-plot kind of set up so the over-reliance on the sex scenes really did it some detriment. The two lead characters barely had any time to interact or build a relationship outside of the physical, and yet all of the fallout relied on us believing in said non-existent connection. Without any of that, the whole story feels rather abrupt.

Holiday Amnesia by Lynette Eason
title: Holiday Amnesia
author: Lynette Eason
pages: 288
format: eARC
rating: 2/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas, Amnesia, Assassin
A woman gets attacked at her workplace after witnessing a crime, and though she manages to escape, her injuries leave her with amnesia that erases the previous six months of her life. A man who deceived her in the course of her FBI job is the first to find her, and even though she has no memory of him (or of the fact that she's mad at him) she lets him try to protect her from the people who are trying to finish killing her.

The story is, frankly, 1 - not holiday related, it just occasionally mentions Christmas decorations and 2 - not much of a romance? There's a lot of action, so much of it that our two leads barely ever have a quiet moment to spend together. Since he is already in love with her before the start and she doesn't even remember him for most of the book, there's no development or romance going on. They're just two people continually (and I do mean continually) on the run. Most of the page time is devoted to the characters discussing plans in excruciating detail, down to tracking each and every one of the 42398742 side characters who drop in to help, even if they're only there for a second. Talk about plan -> conduct plan -> bad guys screw up the plan -> talk about a new plan. Repeat ad nauseam for 288 pages. It was at least a quick read, and the action pretty fun.

A Christmas Proposition by Jessica Lemmon
title: A Christmas Proposition
author: Jessica Lemmon
pages: 224
format: eARC
rating: 4/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas, Fake Relationship
Stephanie is from a wealthy family and constantly beset by scandal, both made up and real. Now a new rumor hits, and right before her brother's upcoming re-election campaign for mayor. A rival is spreading the rumor that they're engaged, so Steph decides the easiest way to beat the rumor is to marry someone else! She convinces her brother's long time friend and body-guard to enter into a temporary (but very real) marriage, and they elope on Christmas Eve.

Short, sweet, and a very convoluted set up, but then again that's half the fun of these fake dating/marriage/etc stories. I really have no idea why Steph thought getting married would help, but after a certain point, I really didn't care, either. Emmett is very good as a gruff-and-silent-with-a-heart-of-gold type, and the two had some good chemistry as their personalities clashed. Once they did get married, though, there wasn't much in the way of conflict so there didn't end up being a lot of payoff for the "fake" (or at least, "intending to be temporary") aspect. It was more a way to get the leads together than a source of friction in and of itself. Also I really didn't care if Steph's brother stayed mayor, and since that was a major motivational factor...meh.

The Decoy Date by Mira Lyn Kelly
title: The Decoy Date
author: Mira Lyn Kelly
pages: 320
format: eARC
rating: 5/5
topics: Holiday, Christmas, Fake Relationship
Brody is tired of seeing his friend Gwen pine after the same guy, so he makes a proposition: they'll fake-date to make Ted jealous, and that'll finally get Ted and Gwen together. Brody thinks that once Gwen gets her man, she'll realize he's kind of an asshole and get over him. Gwen just wants Ted. Together they craft an elaborate fake relationship that quickly feels all too real.

I will never not be mad about that cover, given that Brody is supposed to be huge, stacked, and have long hair. Bah! But also I really loved this book. The two leads had some great chemistry together, and I absolutely adored all the flirting that Brody did, in the name of the "fake relationship," of course. Also, I think the premise was handled well, and it avoided falling into 'friend zone' rhetoric or making the jealousy angle too toxic. Some of Brody's insights were...extremely, conveniently on the nose, but meh, they made the story work so okay.

But the fake relationship lasted only half the book, and the second half...well, I still liked it because Brody and Gwen were in it, and their chemistry continued on, as well as Brody's unresolved issues coming into play nicely. But the storyline kind of got lost a bit when the conceit ended, and it showed. [SPOILER] Also I really hate how Ted turned out to be a 'nice guy' in the end, because setting him up as a selfish asshole was really well done and his niceness wasn't displayed *enough* to counteract that set up. Essentially he was exactly as the opening chapter described, but people just abruptly stopped calling him an ass after a certain point? Whatever, I'll just carry on hating him on my own, I guess, haha.[/SPOILER]

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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