Her Holiday Man, Shannon Stacey

I have a New Year’s Eve tradition. Every year, at some point I make myself a cup of my beverage of choice, cuddle up somewhere comfy with the cat, and I read Shannon Stacey’s holiday novella. This tradition started with Holiday Sparks in 2010. It was my first Shannon Stacey book ever, and I was hooked. In 2012 she did a summer novella instead of a holiday one and New Year’s Eve felt very strange.

Of course I pounced on the opportunity to review Her Holiday Man. A holiday novella?! And from a favorite author?! Where do I sign up?!

In this story, Will is returning home after living a semi-nomadic life the last few years. His wife and unborn child had been killed in an accident with a drunk driver right before Christmas a few years earlier, and he left town so he could try and get through his grief. He’s returned home because his father had a heart attack and died, and he wants to be closer to his mom.

Christina and her son Nathaniel are living across the street from his mom. Christina’s ex was very wealthy and ended up swindling lots of people and losing everyone’s money, including his own and his wife’s, and going to prison for it. She’s now working for the first time in her life, and learning how to build a good life for her and Nathaniel.

Shannon Stacey’s holiday novellas are something I look forward to all year long. They’re the perfect holiday treat. This one was no exception. She has a way of making a short novella feel like you’ve spent years with these characters. We really felt Will’s struggle with all the reminders of his wife and child. This is the first time he’s been home for the holidays, and there’s a lot for him to face. As for Christina, this is the first Christmas where she’s out on her own. There’s no designer Christmas trees and no extravagant gifts. They both know how fickle life can be, and it’s lovely to see these two enjoy each other and all the love in their lives. There are struggles, sure. It’s a romance of course. But watching these two learn to open their hearts and trust again, and take risks again, was a beautiful thing.

I can’t wait to reread it on New Year’s Eve. Review or not, it IS a tradition, after all.

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Ho-Ho-Holiday Novella Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

Baby Be Mine, Vivian Arend

The biggest problem I have with Vivian Arend’s books are reading them in public without someone reading over my shoulder and being scandalized by all the hot sex. LOL  I’m all for it, but sometimes it’s best if I don’t read her stories in public, IfYaKnowWhatIMean.

If you’ve read the Marked anthology, you’ve seen glimpses of certain parts of Baby, Be Mine, but it can absolutely stand on its own. This book starts out with Gage finally seeing Katy Thompson as a grown woman and not just little Katybug. Things progress rapidly, as she’s finally dumped Simon, her asshat of a boyfriend. The problem being Gage leaves the next day for six months in the middle of nowhere working in the oil fields. They have a narrow window of time and they’ll take it!

Then disaster strikes. And the fates conspire to keep Gage and Katy apart for a little while. Just long enough for her to be injured, get amnesia, and not remember how she got pregnant. WHOOPS!

I love Vivian Arend and her writing. She writes people you just want to sit around and have a beer with, maybe play some pool, have a barbecue. The romance is always wonderful and the sex…*fans self*…Well. Let’s just say she doesn’t need any pointers on how to write sex scenes. LOL. For that matter, highly emotional scenes don’t seem to give her any problems either.

If you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time, you know I LOVE Novellas. LOVE them. They’re like my book crack. I have a ton of them and I am an absolute sucker for a novella of any kind, but the good ones are SO AMAZINGLY GOOD. J.D. Robb’s Midnight in Death was so intense I remember having to put it down and walk away to literally catch my breath. Shannon Stacey’s Mistletoe and Margaritas makes me sob BUCKETS when I read it. I think this book will stay pretty high on my list of favorites, along with those.

Ms. Arend has made me fall in love with Gage, and then she broke my heart. Gage is amazing and supportive and wants nothing more than to love and protect Katy forever, and there comes a point in this story where it becomes…difficult…for him to do so. But it doesn’t stop him completely. He just gets creative to do whatever he can and as much as he can because Gage’s love for Katy won’t let him do anything else. Even when confronted physically, he only uses his strength to protect, and never to deliberately inflict harm. On anyone.

And what can I say about Katy? After everything that has happened to her, it’s amazing she has so much trust and faith in Gage. She loves him and trusts him and nothing shakes that faith, even when she can’t remember details. She and Gage end up doing something so difficult, so incredibly heartbreaking and difficult, and they do it because they know at the end, it’ll be worth it. It totally broke my heart for Gage and Katy, and I’m not sure I’ll forgive Ms. Arend for making me cry like that.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a total slut for her books. We all know I’ll be back as soon as she has a new ARC for me to pounce on.

Lynda the Guppy
aka A Fish With An Arend Addiction
aka The Fish With Sticks

Rating: 4 Stars

Snow Day Anthology

If you’ve been reading my reviews at all, you know I’m a huge Shannon Stacey fan. What you probably don’t know, however, is I’ve been a Jennifer Greene fan from WAAAAAY back in the day. Like back in the 1989 Night of the Hunter day. She’s written some of my all time favorite books over the years and I will buy anything with her name on it. Barbara Dunlop is new to me, as far as I know, but I’ll be keeping an eye on her in the future.

I was really looking forward to these three stories. A snowed in anthology? Two of my all time favorite authors writing in a short story format? A format in which they both excel? How could I lose?

Well, I didn’t LOSE per se, but it wasn’t a home run either. The first two stories, Heart of the Storm by Shannon Stacey and Seeing Red by Jennifer Greene were good. Both Ms. Greene and Ms. Stacey did the Exes Reunited tropes with some success, but here’s the big problem I had with both stories.


These guys both broke their ex-girlfriends’ hearts when they walked away, and they both did it suddenly and without any reasonable explanation. Without even so much as a conversation. Then they come back years later and decide they want their women back and they’re just going get what they want? Oh, HELL no. These guys, ESPECIALLY Brody in Ms. Stacey’s story, needed to crawl naked over broken glass in the town square in the snow uphill both ways. And they needed to do it NOW and A LOT. And I wouldn’t say no to a good swift kick in the junk just for old times’ sake. (Bloodthirsty? Me? No. You’re thinking of a different guppy)

Brody didn’t seem to really care at first about Delaney and her feelings. He KNEW starting anything with her in front of the whole town would make it uncomfortable when he left (and he WAS leaving), but he did it anyway. Red at least acknowledges his mistake to himself and tries to make it right with Whitney as soon as he can. He DOES grovel a little bit (especially with the duffel bag) but still. As I’ve said MANY times, There Can Never Be Too Much Grovel. Ever.

The last story, Ms. Dunlop’s Land’s End was my favorite of the trio, I think. There were some quirky characters and I still wanted to smack Tessa’s brother Barry into a snowbank, but overall I enjoyed it. It was less about exes getting a second chance and more about a couple just figuring out where they stood with each other and really taking the blinders off to see each other as they really are and not as they want to be seen. I wish we could have had a little more closure with Colton’s father, but I was still happy with the resolution.

Overall, I give the book 3 stars. I’d still probably read it again when I need a quick fix of an entertaining winter story, but, honestly, if I’m looking for a Shannon Stacey book, I’ll always start with Mistletoe & Margaritas or any of the Kowalskis (of DOOM). Honor Bound Groom or Kiss Your Prince Charming are my go to books for Jennifer Greene.

In fact, I think I’ll just curl up with Kiss Your Prince Charming right now. I could use a little friends-to-lovers, ugly-duckling-to-Prince-Charming, injured-hero romance right about now.

Lynda the Guppy
aka Burrowed Under the Blankets Guppy
aka Fish With Sticks

Rating: 3 Stars


Love a Little Sideways, Shannon Stacey

Oh, Ms. Stacey. I love your books so much. The Kowalskis are a family I want to just hang out with and play dirty scrabble and water games of DOOM. And if Leo and Mary could adopt me, that would be great. Get on that for me, would you? Thanks.

Seriously, though, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday with Liz and Drew and the rest of the Kowalski clan (both branches!) reading Love a Little Sideways. While I wish I had been able to re-read the series so as to refresh my memory about who is who and what happened in which book, this book absolutely stands by itself, and it is quite the achievement. To thrust a reader into a family this large and rambunctious and make us feel right at home immediately is the mark of a talented writer.

Yup. Can you believe it? I was worried for a minute there might not be any DOOM. Boy, was I wrong!  There was Water Ball of Doom and mentions of Romance of Doom and Baby of Doom and of course the “Annual Kowalski Volleyball Death Mach Tournament of Doom.”

“It’s going to feel unreal to go back to work tomorrow. I’ll be adding ‘of doom’ to everything.”

“You can give speeding tickets of doom. Those are way more fun than regular speeding tickets.”

I know how you feel, Drew. I find myself adding “of doom” to many things after spending time with the Kowalskis, too.

One of my favorite thing about the Kowalskis is how much fun they are. These books are sweet and sexy, but also funny and fun. The family all gets up in everyone’s business, as a close family likes to do, but if the chips were down, you couldn’t find better people to have your back. And even though half the family married in and some are really just Kowalski Adjacent (like Drew), they’re all treated like Leo and Mary’s kids. or Rosie’s kids. They may all be treated differently because they’re different people, but they are all loved the same. Without exception. That sense of family is comforting and lovely, especially now when the holiday craziness is upon us. It was also nice to read about a summer vacation when it’s starting to get cold here.

There were so many parts of this book which made me laugh out loud. The reason Drew loans Liz his car. And why she accepts. The post-it note in the shower. The scene with Bobby and the handcuffs made me laugh so hard my sides ached and the cat ran into the other room. I had to put down my Kindle because every time I picked it up to start reading again, I’d laugh even harder. Why Liz gets “middle named” during dirty scrabble. The RULES for dirty scrabble! LOLOL.

So go pick up Love A Little Sideways. You won’t regret it. Well, until your boss asks you why you just scheduled a Conference Call of Doom. That might get you a few looks.

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Fish With Kowalski Sticks of DOOOOOOM
aka The Fish With Sticks

Rating: 4 Stars

Snowbound with the CEO, Shannon Stacey

This review was original posted
at www.wickedlilpixie.com

One thing you need to know about me. I am an absolute SUCKER for holiday stories. Holiday novellas, especially. They’re usually short enough to be quick reads between family holiday…excitement…and yet long enough to be satisfying romances. They’re sentimental and sappy and I love them like you would not believe.

Back in 2010 when I was just beginning to figure out this whole Twitter thing, I was following Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and she was raving about a short story titled Holiday Sparks by an author I’d never heard of: Shannon Stacey. I took a chance, (and, hey, Holiday story!) and bought the novella. I remember I sat at my dining room table while my mom was getting ready for us to go to a New Year’s Eve party at my aunt’s house and read the entire thing. I. Loved. It. The next day I went to Amazon and bought her entire backlist.

In 2011, Shannon Stacey published Mistletoe & Margaritas. Another holiday story! Yay! I continued the tradition and read it on New Year’s Eve. Loved it even MORE than the last one.

So imagine my disappointment when I found out there would be no holiday story from Ms. Stacey in 2012! But…but…but…WHY?!?! Turns out she wrote a summer short story. Well, okay, at least I got a story, but it just wasn’t the same. Rumors of pouting, whining, and throwing myself on the ground kicking and sobbing are absolutely true greatly exaggerated.

This year Ms. Stacey is OBVIOUSLY making it up to me, because I get not one, but TWO stories this holiday season. YAY! I haven’t read Snow Day (yet), so I’m not sure if its actually a holiday story or not (I don’t really care. Snow. Novella. Shannon Stacey. I’m in), but Snowbound with the CEO most definitely IS and it’s a fantastic way to kick off what I like to call “Holiday Novella Season.” It may be too early for Christmas lights (Staring at you, neighbor down the street) or Holiday displays in stores, but as soon as Halloween is over, I start hoarding ALL THE HOLIDAY STORIES. I store them like a squirrel stores nuts, keeping them to help me through the bleary winter days with too much food and WAAAAY too much family togetherness. LOL.

In Snowbound with the CEO, Adrian Blackstone is a handsome and successful owner and CEO of Blackstone Historical Renovations, and he wants his executive assistant “more than he’d ever wanted a woman in his life.” Rachel Carter wears sensible heels, professional clothes, has been working for Mr. Blackstone for 16 months, and is trying to remember seducing her boss will end with being unemployed.

They’re at one of Adrian’s former renovations to meet with and impress a potential client. As the title suggests, they get snowed in and hijinks ensue. They’re snowed in at a luxury hotel with guests and a full staff, so its not like they’re roughing it. The nice bit about this (versus the usual “stranded by ourselves, whatever will we DO until help arrives?!” plot) is it gives Ms. Stacey the ability to focus solely on Adrian and Rachel and their interactions with each other, rather than having to spend precious novella pages rescuing themselves in some way. That kind of thinking and paring a story down to focus on its most important elements are things Ms. Stacey excels at and is part of what keeps me coming back book after book.

After discovering they’re snowed in, Adrian heads to the bar and sees a woman at the bar whom he is instantly attracted to. She laughs and he’s entranced. When he sits down next to her he discovers…its Rachel.

Number thirty-two, or thereabouts, on Rachel’s list of one hundred and one ways to seduce her boss was to pretend to be a stranger in a bar. Being mistaken for a stranger in a bar was close enough to send a little sizzle down her spine.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh like that before,” he said, and it wasn’t in his Mr. Blackstone voice. It was definitely a picking-up-a-woman-in-a-bar voice.

“You’ve never told me a joke about two elves, a reindeer and a candy cane.”

He swiveled his stool a little toward her, so their knees almost touched. “Let me buy you another drink and I’ll think of a joke.”

They share their first kiss after a dance, and I melted. A good sexy dance scene is nearly as romantic and sexy to me as anything that happens in the bedroom.

…since I’ve only heard you call me Adrian in my mind— sometimes when I’m dreaming and sometimes when I’m in the shower— I want to hear it from you more often.

Although a conversation like this while dancing ups the Sexy Quotient drastically. fans self*

This was a fun and (not to be to redundant) a sexy read. They spend the better part of a weekend in bed in a lodge only to come home and have a misunderstanding or two which keeps them apart for a little while. There is some angst, and there are some supportive family, a Stacey trademark, and a Merry Christmas and Happily Ever After, of course. It IS a Holiday Novella.

I’m thrilled to add Snowbound with the CEO to my Shannon Stacey Holiday Novella Collection. I’ll be reading it every year just like I do Mistletoe & Margaritas and Holiday Sparks. Reading these stories has become one of my favorite holiday traditions.

Lynda the Guppy
aka No Grinch With Sticks
aka The Fish With Sticks

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars