Today I am participating in a very exciting blog tour for Avon Romance, hosted by Tasty Book Tours! Below you will find details on the book and author, my review of each story in the anthology (courtesy of Avon via Edelweiss), an excerpt, and the grand finale of a giveaway of a print copy of the book. Let's get started!
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When a snowstorm pummels the western half of the country, three couples find once off-limits love just in time for Christmas. An unforgettable holiday anthology from bestselling authors Jennifer Ryan, Maisey Yates, and Lia Riley.
Close to Perfect: A Montana Men Novella by Jennifer Ryan
At sixteen, Abigail gave Dex the gift of a lifetime, but the cost of it was more than he ever knew. Now she’s back in town with a secret that has been ten years in the making and this time it’s Dex’s turn to make the ultimate sacrifice or risk losing her forever.
Snowed in at Copper Ridge: A Copper Ridge Novella by Maisey Yates
Mia Landry has always had it bad for brooding cowboy Devlin Grayson. Too bad he’s her best friend’s older brother. But when they find themselves snowed in at Copper Ridge Lodge, Mia finally has the chance to tell the man of her dreams exactly what she wants… him.
Hot Winter’s Night: A Brightwater Novella by Lia Riley
While Brightwater is being covered in snow, Goldie Flint is stuck in her flower shop. She never expected her hero to be Kit Kane, the former love of her life. Kit knows that what he had with Goldie isn’t just in the past and with the help of a little bet, an ornery grandmother, and a lot of snow, he’s ready to show her that what he really wants for Christmas is a second chance.
Jennifer Ryan - Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Maisey Yates - Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Lia Riley - Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
This was a great collection of Christmas stories! Usually novellas are frustrating, because they leave me wanting a lot more than what I get. Basically, things go too fast and end too soon. Not the case with these novellas! I'll go over each one in its own little paragraph, a smaller version of my usually long reviews.
Close to Perfect - Jennifer Ryan
Jennifer Ryan is the only author of the three whom I have read before, so I had high expectations of her! She did not disappoint. The story highlights two characters, Abigail Swain and Dex Manning, who were childhood sweethearts ripped apart by Abigail's parents. Ten years later, they are reunited and a secret is revealed that is long overdue. The question will be this - can they heal their broken hearts and find love again? Jennifer did a great job of packing a lot of emotional turmoil into a short bundle of a story. While I did feel that things moved a tad too fast at times, considering all that both characters had been through, I greatly enjoyed seeing their love rekindle. The author also threw some more drama in there, because there wasn't enough already, with an old girlfriend who really takes the gold for holding a grudge. That really clinched the story for me, because in the end, Dex didn't let anyone put Abby down, not even herself. It was cute, charming, and absolutely heartwarming.
Hot Winter's Night - Lia Riley
Lia Riley is an amazing writer! If she talks like she writes, we would get along great. It was one joke, one pop culture reference, after another, and I was laughing the whole way through the book, even when laughter may not have been the emotion I should have had at the time. The story goes like this - Marigold Flint hates Kitredge Kane's guts. Ever since he left to join the military during the worst time of her life without a word of warning, she can't even smell cinnamon without remembering him and feeling the burn of betrayal. When she finds herself in need of rescue during a snowstorm, Kit arrives to be the hero, but Goldie wants none of it. It will take a Christmas miracle, and a snarky 80-year-old grandmother, to bring these two together again. I loved reading about these two! They were the cutest couple, and Goldie stood her ground, which I love! Too many times the guy gets let off the hook for being a jerk, and even though Kit had good intentions in what he did, I was still happy to see that he was held accountable for his mistakes. Goldie and Kit were a meant-to-be couple, one which we all wish we could aspire to be (perhaps without the ten year absence though). This author is definitely one to read again!
Snowed in at Copper Ridge Lodge - Maisey Yates
Another new writer for me and one that did not disappoint! I loved the realistic approach to a virgin heroine and an experienced hero - it immediately allowed me as a reader to connect with the characters and understand their challenges. Mia Landry has loved Devlin Grayson since she was 13 years old. But the eight-year age difference, and the fact that he is her best friend's older brother, has kept her from making her feelings known. When she drives up to a lodge to meet the Grayson family for Christmas, she finds herself snowbound with none other than Dev himself. Things quickly heat up and their feelings for each other come out to play, but Dev's insecurities may come between them and a happily ever after. I enjoyed reading about these two lovebirds. Dev comes across as such a player and, as Mia calls him, a "manwhore," but you find out that he truly does care for Mia and always has. She, being anxiety-ridden with zero experience whatsoever, comes across as a nervous wreck, but she soon finds her bearings and takes control of the situation. It was good to see her break out of her shell and help Dev see the light. It took him a bit too long for my taste...but he did eventually find it.
Excerpt (from Close to Perfect by Jennifer Ryan)
Ten years ago…
Dex sat on the hard bench outside the Sheriff’s office knowing he hadn’t done anything wrong, but shaking in his Converse just the same after a deputy showed up at the high school batting cage, cuffed him, and brought him down to the station. They charged him with stealing a car, drinking and driving, and in a drunken stupor, ditching the car in Crawford Pond.
The car had been pulled out of the murky water, a case of beer in the back seat—mostly empty cans—along with his baseball cap with the MVP pin the team awarded him last season.
How the hell did it get there?
Laurie walked out of her father’s office and turned the butterflies in his stomach into hummingbirds.
Oh God. I’m in deep shit.
He’d thought landing Laurie as his girlfriend made him big shit. Hell, he was seventeen and she had a hot body he wanted to get his hands on, even if she never let him past second base.
Then he met someone...different. Interesting. Nice.
Abigail Swain was barely sixteen and in the senior class. She was that smart. Really smart.
Paired together for a science class project, he’d gotten to know her and wondered why he’d never really noticed her. Small town, small school, still, she kept under the radar. Her parents believed school was more important than friends. Instead of spending her free time playing sports or hanging out at the diner downtown with other girls, she spent every spare minute at church or studying.
Abigail might come off weird and brainy, but really she was shy...quiet. And genuinely nice. A perfect target for Laurie, who made it known she didn’t like him spending time with Abigail, even for a class project.
Five days into working with Abigail something inside him shifted while she explained the intricacies of photosynthesis right off the top of her head. The way her eyes lit up. She planted her chin in her palm and looked right at him. Open and filled with kindness, she did something to his insides. He moved without thinking about it, leaned across the coffee table in his living room, and tentatively pressed his lips to hers in a soft kiss. He didn’t know why he had to do it until their lips touched and the wonder and softening in her eyes undid him. To his surprise, she kissed him back, and if he hadn’t been sitting on the floor already, he’d have hit his knees.
That kiss changed everything and put a lot of things into perspective. Like he’d rather be with someone he liked and enjoyed spending time with. He and Laurie had more fights than good times and it wore thin. Quick. Despite Laurie’s many protests, he ended things with her with a promise that he wouldn’t back out of taking her to the dance so she wouldn’t be humiliated and have to go alone.
From that moment on, he secretly spent more and more time with Abigail, though they kept their relationship hidden. Something about the way her overprotective father hovered nearby when they worked on their project at her house warned him that she’d get into deep trouble if her parents knew about them. Abby never said so, but he got the sense she feared her own dad.
As the mayor of their town, he had a reputation for advocating strict morals. A lot of people outside their church congregation found him judgmental. Including Dex.
He might not be valedictorian material, but he made better than good grades, was the best pitcher and hitter Crystal Creek High ever had, and he planned to take his team to the championships this spring. He had baseball and college to look forward to over the next couple of years and still Mayor Swain looked at him like he was nothing but a thing.
His dad sat beside him, ready to do battle, and nudged him with an elbow in his side. “Laurie’s here. She probably told her father the two of you were at the dance all night, and you couldn’t have stolen that car.” The hope in his father’s voice destroyed Dex.
I am so screwed.
Laurie walked right past him, smiling that sweet smile he and the other guys she’d caught in her web knew hid her devious side. She was out for blood. Since her dad was the sheriff, he had a feeling she was going to get it. Every last drop she thought she deserved because he’d had the audacity to dump her and ruined her plan to get back together at the dance.
The sheriff waved them into his office. “Let’s go, Dex. You’ve got some explaining to do.”
“Listen, Sheriff, Dex had nothing to do with the theft of that car, or how it ended up in the pond. Dex was at the dance with Laurie last night.”
Dex wished he deserved his father’s devotion and unwavering confidence. He wasn’t guilty of the charges, but he wasn’t innocent either.
“Step into my office, Steve. We’ll just see what Dex has to say about what really happened last night.”
His father turned and gave him one of those dad looks, telling him without words that Dex had better have a good explanation for not telling the whole truth this morning over breakfast about how great the dance was last night.
Dex took a seat in front of the Sheriff’s desk and refused to say anything. Not until the Sheriff gave up whatever he thought he knew. Or rather, what Laurie wanted her father to believe.
Dex stared up at his father, standing with anger flashing in his eyes after the sheriff laid out the evidence against Dex.
“Why didn’t you take Laurie home?” his father asked.
“She didn’t want to leave with me, said she’d get a friend to take her home, so I left.”
“And you can’t account for your time after leaving the dance,” the sheriff pointed out, an angry I’ve-got-you gleam in his eyes.
“I drove around in my truck for a while to cool down after the fight with Laurie.”
The sheriff snorted and rolled his eyes. “I suggest you call a lawyer and come up with a better defense than the bullshit you’re feeding your father.” The sheriff stood and waved them out of the office.
Dex walked out behind his dad in a daze. Even his father seemed at a loss for words. Dex wanted to explain what really happened, but couldn’t give them the whole truth. If Abigail’s strict parents found out he was seeing her behind their backs, she’d be in deep shit.
His father pulled out his cell and dialed.
“Who are you calling?”
“A lawyer,” he snapped, then moved a few steps away.
The sheriff stepped out of his office ready to process Dex and lock him up.
His dad glared and bit out, “Sheriff, you don’t have any proof he was in that car. I could drive a truck through the holes in that story. It’s Dex’s word against Laurie’s.”
“His hat was found in the vehicle. He claims he’s never been in the vehicle, nor does he know or associate with Mr. Fowler. Laurie, along with her friend, saw him on their way home.” The sheriff turned on Dex. “We’ll book you for DUI, grand theft auto, and destruction of property. You’re looking at three years minimum.”
Abigail stepped through the door and stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes wide with shock as the sheriff’s last words sank into Dex’s head. He’d spend the next three years in jail. No scholarship. No college education. No life as he’d planned it. This charge would follow him the rest of his life.
He’d lost everything.