Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Naughty List - Donna Kauffman, Cynthia Eden, Susan Fox (Brava - Oct 2010)

Naughty But Nice by Donna Kauffman
Series: Hamilton (Book 3)

Businessman Griffin's never believed in luck...until sassy-sweet small-town baker Melody turns his world around. Except there's a catch: There's no way he'll be able to build his empire and hold on to her. His new "lucky charm" could destroy all his dreams...or make this Christmas better than he ever imagined possible...

Good story about a man who is all business until he meets a woman who teaches him how to enjoy life a little. Griffin is an Irishman who has come to the US to build a resort that is set to change the character of the small town where it will be located. Not everyone is pleased with his plans, especially bakery owner Melody.

There's more to Griffin than first apparent. He has concentrated on business and shut off his emotions because of the things he went through growing up. He never felt like he fit in and was bullied and abused by various family members. It was recently revealed that his father was adopted and Griffin has come to Hamilton to get to know his "real" family and learn about his inheritance. 

Melody grew up in Hamilton, then left to become a lawyer in Washington DC. She came home to support her best friend who was dying of cancer, found she liked being a baker, and took over the bakery when her friend died. She has done her research on what happens to towns after Griffin's company "helps" them, and she doesn't like what she sees.

Griffin and Melody strike sparks off each other from the beginning. There is a definite attraction between them. I loved their first meeting, as Griffin was in search of coffee. She made her displeasure with him and his plans quite obvious there and again at the town council meeting. I liked the way that Griffin went to her shop that evening to talk to her about it and ended up staying to help. Griffin was amazed by the desire he felt to tell her things about his past, things he doesn't share with anyone. Within a short time the two of them find themselves giving in to their attraction. It was interesting to see the two of them get closer, obviously falling for each other, while agreeing to disagree on the plans for the town. Melody believes that their relationship will last only until Griffin moves on to his next project and wonders how she'll handle it when he's gone. Meanwhile, Griffin comes to realize that what he feels for Melody is much deeper than he had ever expected. I loved seeing his big moment at the end, and how his feelings for Melody had changed his views of his family. While the story never had the big conflict that I expected from the opening scenes, it ended up being a pretty sweet romance.

All I Want for Christmas by Cynthia Eden

Good girl toy inventor Christie takes a walk on the naughty side when she sparks a no-strings fling with Santa -- actually, sexy cop Jonas in a Santa suit. She loves her new "bad girl" persona, except as the holidays approach, she starts falling, and hard, for this known' "love 'em and leave 'em" ladies man...

Very good story. Christie is tired of being the good girl and waiting for things to happen for her. When the office party Santa asks her what she wants for Christmas, she tells him. Santa is being played by her brother's best friend, Jonas, a local homicide detective who is stunned by Christie's wish.

I loved Christie. She's a highly intelligent woman who hasn't had the best of luck with men. She's always been well behaved, keeping her wilder impulses under control, but she's had enough. After overhearing a couple women talking about her and her recent breakup, she's going after what she wants, and what she wants is Jonas. She's known him for years and has had a mad crush on him the whole time. She knows that he doesn't do commitment, but she'll take what she can get.

Jonas was terrific. He's a great cop with a rough background. What he has seen has kept him from getting involved with anyone. He's wanted Christie ever since he'd known her, but at first she was too young and after that he felt that he wasn't good enough for her. Since she had never shown any interest in him, he kept his desires to himself. But when she makes her move, he isn't about to say no, though he does insist "just sex, no strings".

I loved that first encounter, and how Jonas followed her after she ran in embarrassment. He wasn't going to lose out on getting his fondest wish granted. The kiss and more that they shared was a lot hotter than either expected, and if they hadn't been interrupted... I loved Jonas's protectiveness during that interruption. 

When he goes to see her, I loved their surprise that both had been attracted for years. Neither will admit to the other that there's more than lust to what they feel, so they continue with their "for the holidays" plan. I loved seeing them grow closer, with Christie showing him that his past makes no difference to her feelings, and Christie discovering that Jonas knows the real her much better than she ever suspected. It was great to see the effect that Christie had on Jonas's life. I loved seeing Christie get the courage to tell Jonas about how she felt. I hurt for Jonas and his fear of losing her before it sank in what she was really saying. I loved the ending. I really enjoyed the various reactions of family and friends to their relationship.

There's a bit of a mystery going on also, as Christie's office and home are broken into. I liked Jonas's determination to keep her safe. There were a couple possible motives and suspects and it was interesting to see how it worked out. It was a little bit of a surprise.

Tattoos and Mistletoe by Susan Fox

Charlie returns to her hometown to fix up her aunt's B&B, but she doesn't count on LJ handling the renovations. Nerdy LJ pined for her in school, but now he's grown into the town's hottest bachelor. Charlie's been burned before and won't let him get close. But LJ's determined to break down her walls and make her dearest Christmas wish come true.

Very good story. Charlie had grown up in Whistler as the daughter of two alcoholics. Her childhood consisted of trying to stay out of their way when they were drunk, and dealing with their erratic behavior. The people of the town looked down on her because of them, and to protect herself she acted like she didn't care. She went out of her way to be as outrageous as she could. When her parents died in a fire she blamed herself. Her judgmental aunt was the only family she had left, and rather than live with her, Charlie took off on her own.

Ten years later, her aunt has died and left her B&B to Charlie. She is determined to sell it and return to her life in Toronto, where she is a sought after tattoo artist. She arrives in Whistler to discover that the renovations her aunt had begun will take longer than she wanted, and the contractor in charge is an old high school classmate. Back then LJ had been the class nerd with a huge crush on Charlie, but he's grown up to be the hottest bachelor in town. His goal is to show Charlie that she can come home again.

I liked Charlie in spite of her pissy attitude. She had made something of herself after she left Whistler and she has a plan for her future. I enjoyed seeing her surprise when she finally figured out who LJ was. She freely admits her attraction to him and wants to enjoy what they can have together while she is there. 

LJ has never forgotten Charlie and is determined to get to know her while she is in town. He really wants her to see that Whistler isn't so bad and does his best to show her how things could be different. I loved the way that he could see past the hard surface she shows to everyone else to the vulnerable woman underneath.

I loved the progress of their relationship as LJ uses their attraction to ease her back into life in Whistler. He gives her good memories to replace the bad ones. Charlie knows she's starting to care for him, but she's afraid to risk her heart. I loved seeing him finally tell her how he feels and force her to see the way she's been running away. Their big moment at the end was sweet and romantic.

I did understand why Charlie felt the way she did after how she had been treated. Her biggest problem was that she couldn't see that things may have changed in the past ten years. I liked seeing that there were some people who could see the new Charlie. I felt really bad for LJ and Emily with the problems they had with their parents. LJ still had some problems with his old insecurities showing up, and they didn't help anything with their attitudes. I loved seeing how Charlie's attitude helped him stand up to them.

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