Once Upon a Holiday

Holiday Heat\Candy Christmas\Chocolate Truffles

I enjoyed reading this anthology of holiday related romance shorts from Kumani Press, a Harlequin imprint. The three stories are not interrelated and can be read as standalone stories. The stories are by three different authors and I’ve done a mini –review for each below. Both Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Byrd used African –American couples, while Ms. Terry used an inter-racial couple. The stories are all on the spicy side.

Holiday Heat by Beverly Jenkins

Eve Carter, an ATF agent out of the Chicago office, and Leyton Palmer, a Detroit cop and arson investigator, share a rare night of passion at a masked costume party that both were coerced into attending. Their attraction towards each other is immediate and combustible; however they know nothing about each other, not even their real names.

Arson brings them together professionally the next day. Eve is a physically stunning woman; she’s beautiful, tall and has a fantastic figure. Most men make the mistake of under-estimating the agent and see her just as a beautiful face. Eve is smart, career driven and feels a burden to contribute to society; yet, she’s also a woman and recently has been experiencing feelings of loneliness. Leyton is a well rounded hero; he’s smart, strong and fair. He understands that women need to be taken seriously at their jobs and yet he’s attracted to Eve even when he can’t see behind her dark sunglasses. During the investigation, Leyton discovers Eve’s butterfly tattoo and realizes that she the woman with whom he had an unforgettable night of passion.

I really liked how Beverly Jenkins made Eve’s character both physically and mentally strong proving that woman can be effective in what were perceived as male driven careers and how she dealt with the fact that physical beauty can get in the way of being taken seriously. I also liked how she wrote Leyton’s character proving that a man can work with a powerful woman and not feel threatened at doing his own job.

Both Eve and Leyton understand that their careers will get in the way of any romance and they have to decide if their attraction and passion is worth the price that it will cost. The author made both of these characters responsible and mature enough to realize that sometimes love exists but relationships can’t bear the cost. I was pleased with the ending of the story, the plot’s pace and look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

Candy Christmas by Adrienne Byrd

Candace “Candy” Lahane, a successful businesswoman, has been the top sales person at her company for the last several years. She’s beautiful, sexy and known for being a demanding boss. She’s facing the toughest competition for top sales person this past year from Montel Starks, a new salesman with whom she has a secret past. This year the stakes have also gotten higher because the top salesperson will get a coveted promotion at the beginning of the next year.

Montel Starks is a very attractive man and he knows it, the female office staff practically salivates at the mouth when he walks in the door every morning. Montel works hard at being charming and is somewhat of a flirt. He’s determined to win the salesperson of the year award and is willing to do whatever it takes to win, even letting his secretary feed him information that she obtains by secretly spying on the other assistants in the ladies room.

When the company’s president announces that both Candace and Montel are tied for sales figures and that it has been decided that a one month contest to see who can bring in the most business at the end of the year will decide who gets the promotion, both Montel and Candace are shocked. Candace is understandably upset that all of her years of service aren’t enough to give her the coveted promotion. Her only one option left to win the job is to sign a client that has been impossible to track down. Of course, Montel’s spy overhears the information that Candace is given for this potential client’s location and both Candace and Montel end up on the same flight to Paris, France. The race is on to see who can get the client to sign on the dotted line, never mind that they have to crash the man’s company Christmas party without an invitation. What happens in Paris between the two characters will change their lives forever.

The author set a good pace for this story and used “flashbacks” to give us insight into “Candy” and Montel’s past. The dialogue between both characters was sharp and smart.

As the author provided the flashbacks, the emotional feelings between the two characters became understandable and I was able to appreciate the characters more. Montel went from being a character I didn’t like much at the beginning, to one that I really liked at the end. I also liked the character growth that takes place in the story, we learn why “Candy” is so distrustful of men and watch as she realizes that Montel is different than what she expects and that he’s not the type of man to abandon a woman after he makes a commitment. The ending to the story is a happy one and the spicy scenes heat up the story.

Chocolate Truffles by Kimberly Kay Terry

Camille “Cami” Jackson has just received a fantastic promotion at work that will require her to move from Seattle to Houston. She’s so excited about the move into upper management at Silverman Department Stores that she doesn’t see the handsome man in the corner of the elevator as she starts to dance. Gideon Taber had seen Cami in her office and heard her laughing on the phone, he thought she was the sexiest woman he had seen in a very long time and was sorry when business dragged him away before he could get a chance to meet her.

Gideon talks Cami into having a drink with him in the lobby bar which turns into a night of unexpected passion for them. Gideon is surprised the next morning when Cami sneaks out of his hotel room; he realizes that he doesn’t know her whole name or who she works for. Both Cami and Gideon are surprised a week later when Cami is in his management class in Houston, his company’s home base. They have to decide if their night of passion was just a one-night affair or if there is more to their attraction.

The characters for this story were very well written; Cami has been driven to succeed by her father’s early death and hasn’t thought about love in a long time. She’s forced to recognize that there is more to life than getting ahead at work and that maybe it’s time to take a gamble for her own benefit and not just her employer's. Gideon has been just as driven but has known for some time that something has been missing in his life, he even knew that it was a significant relationship but everyone woman that he had met prior to Cami was more interested in his success than in his person. When Cami realizes that her mom is ready to move on in her own life and find someone special for herself, she realizes that it's time for her too and that Gideon is a good thing. She has to admit that he’s already in her heart. Gideon realizes that no matter what, he doesn’t want to lose Cami and that he just has to convince her that she loves him as much as he loves her.

The secondary characters are well written and make a good contribution to the plot; the author also added a light touch of humor. The plot moves at a good pace and the author addresses the fact that since the characters are from two different races there will have to be some adjustments by their families, but that if everyone works at it, they can succeed in having a blended family. This was my favorite story of the anthology and I can’t wait to read more of Ms. Terry’s work. 

Book Blurb for Once Upon a Holiday

No matter what the thermostat says, the holidays can be the hottest time of year when you’re curled up with these unforgettably sexy stories from three of romance’s most sizzling talents…

Holiday Heat by Beverly Jenkins
For Eve Clark, winter usually means long cold nights spent alone, until she’s persuaded to attend a masked ball. Abandoning her inhibitions, she shares a blissful tryst with a mysterious partner. Though she runs from their hotel room the next morning, Leyton Palmer is determined to track Eve down and show her that the night neither can forget was only the start of something sensational.…

Candy Christmas by Adrianne Byrd
Peace on earth and goodwill to all men? Not if the man in question is drop-dead-sexy Montel Starks, Candy Lahane’s competitor since he started at their ad agency a year ago. But on a business trip to Europe, rivalry gives way to a red-hot, explosive affair that makes Candy realize that what she really wants for Christmas is right in front of her, just waiting to be unwrapped…

Chocolate Truffles by Kimberly Kaye Terry

It started as an innocent drink with a stranger to celebrate her promotion. It turned into the most erotic night of Camille Jackson’s life. But the man she was sure she’d never see again is now her instructor in a two-week managerial workshop, and Gideon Taber is making it clear that he’d love to relive every delicious detail of their encounter, again and again…

’Tis the season to make merry with three new super-sexy stories!


Night Owl Reviews Aug, 2010 4.25