Jaci Burton, Holiday on Ice

I love sports romances. I love holiday romances. I love Jaci Burton books. That makes this book a trifecta of Guppy happiness.

This was a quick read, which is a requirement of all my holiday reads. I don’t have a lot of time from Halloween until New Year’s Day, so they’ve got to be fast. I have 4 holidays, 4 birthdays, numerous holiday events, and a lot of holiday knitting to do. My holiday stories must be quick, entertaining, and emotionally satisfying, and this one fit the bill.

“Trick” had a casual thing (don’t call it a relationship!) with Stella previously. Because of their jobs (she’s a dancer on Broadway, he’s a hockey player), they drifted apart. They meet again in a bar after one of his games, and they remember how much they enjoyed being together. They both like each other a lot, and respect each other’s career requirements. There’s no jealousy because she’s at rehearsals until all hours. She’s not freaking out because he’s out of town with the team. This book is all about two people trying to make it work with all the outside demands on them. These are also two people who have commitment issues, especially Stella, so it was nice to watch her take a chance on Trick.

This was a nice addition to my Holiday Novella collection. I’ll be spending a lot of time with this one through the years.

Hope Flames, Jaci Burton

When I say I waited until the last POSSIBLE second to read this book, I’m not really kidding. It’s 1:30 am, I’ve JUST finished the book and I’m writing this review which gets posted in…carry the 2…4 1/2 hours. This one kind of snuck up on me. Whoops. LOL While I’m known for writing my reviews late, I’ve usually already read the book.

This book has some of my favorite things: Small towns, great family, fantastic animals (in this case 3 adorable dogs with some others making brief appearances) and a really great couple.

When we first meet Luke he’s kind of known for being a man whore. He’s been burned by the bitchy ex-wife and wants absolutely NO part of a relationship again. He’s got his job (small town cop). He’s got his dog (Boomer, a police dog). He’s happy as can be to be a love ’em for a night and leave ’em guy.

Emma, for her part, has some deep dark trauma in her past which makes her wary of relationships. She’s up to her eyeballs in debt starting up her vet practice in her hometown and has neither the time nor the inclination to get involved with anyone.

Now, for a lesser author, these two could have been very cardboard cutout. We’ve seen these characters in COUNTLESS books. Heroine needs emotional “healing” and Hero has got just the Magic Wang to do it for her. Hero needs to realize all women aren’t money grubbing bitches, and Heroine is the perfect, wholesome small-town girl to prove it. What I loved about this book is Ms. Burton didn’t take the easy way. She didn’t do these characters that disservice. She made them normal people. Yeah, Emma needs to get past the trauma of her past, but she’s doing it. On her own. She doesn’t need Luke or any guy’s Magic Wang to get her through it. And Luke, while he IS skittish about relationships (for that matter, so is Emma), he DOES realize what’s going on and he’s okay about it. For the most part. LOL.

There’s even a point in the book where Luke realizes he and Emma need to sit and TALK about the hard stuff. He knows they’re glossing things over, and he wants to go forward from where they are, and to do that they need to talk. Love it. So refreshing to see a couple like this.

There’s a couple subplots going on, one of which involves Emma and some trouble. My favorite part was this:

Someone was in her house.

So here was her independence. Should she take out her gun and go check it herself? Hell, no. She was independent. Not stupid. She needed to get out of the house now.

And let me just say for the record she was smarter than I was. When I came home a few years ago to find my house robbed, I not only went in, but I WENT UPSTAIRS before calling the cops. *sigh* Yup. I was THAT GIRL. If it was a horror movie, I would have been blonde and the first one dead. No, no. No need to tell me how stupid that was. My BFF did that already. Loudly. A lot.

ANYway…

Overall I liked this book a lot. There were a few areas where I think the info dump was a little heavy handed, and the dialogue seemed a little forced, but that was always with the peripheral characters. Where Ms. Burton really shined was with Emma and Luke. She’s created a couple who I not only enjoyed spending time with, but would love to just go and hang out with them and their dogs. Although I did notice a distinct lack of feline characters.

Lynda the Guppy
aka A Fish With A Cat
aka A Fish With Sticks

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Holiday Games, Jaci Burton

Ahhhh Holiday Stories. Is there anything better to read in November and December? I didn’t think so.

I’ve read the first three books of Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series, and have enjoyed them quite a bit. I love reading sports heroes. There’s just something so sexy about a hero so focused and athletic. *shiver*

And seriously, does ANYONE get men on their covers hunkier than the ones for these books? Because YOWZA. They’re the few covers I actually collect.

PlayByPlay

See what I mean? The first one, The Perfect Play, remains my favorite cover. Mmm.

With Holiday Games, Jaci Burton gives me what I consider to be an ideal holiday story. Lots of family, holiday festivities, a little angst, but not a lot, a look at favorite characters from past books, and a quick read. It’s the Christmas cookie of books. Sweet and tasty, and perfect this time of year.

I’ve always liked Liz. I know she was a total bitch in The Perfect Play, but her heart was in the right place, and she more than makes up for it in her book, Changing the Game, so I was excited when I saw she and Gavin would be the focus of Holiday Games.

Liz and Gavin are trying to have a baby, but they’ve been trying for a while and it hasn’t happened yet. Liz is getting a little discouraged, but she’s determined to keep her hopes up and tries to hide how she’s feeling from Gavin because she doesn’t want him to be upset because she’s upset.

What’s fantastic about this book is these two are totally honest with each other. I know. I just said she’s trying to hide her feelings, but she’s not successful. LOL And when he realizes she’s making herself crazy over their first time hosting Christmas at their house, he calls his mom for help. Yeah, he does it and doesn’t tell Liz, but she knows. They both act out of their great love for each other and they have each others’ backs at all times. When she isn’t sure if she wants to talk to the family about something, he covers for her without even thinking about it. These two are clearly A COUPLE and NOTHING will shake them.

I’ve found through the years that while I love books where the relationship is in jeopardy at various stages, my favorite books are usually the ones where the conflict comes from outside the relationship, and this one has the perfect amount of angst for me. It was a sweet, brief glimpse into the lives of the Riley family and a novella which will be added to my yearly rotation of holiday reads.

Lynda the Guppy
aka Can’t Stop Staring At Those Covers Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

Rating: 4 Stars