Devil Under the Mistletoe
Holidays Are Hell, #1
Sam Cheevers
Electric Prose Publications, Dec 2015
Ebook, 72 Pages
Only available in Digital Format
Genre(s) Paranormal Romance, Holiday, Christmas
Source purchased at current price

Other books in this series
Devil May Care, Esther Egg Hunt, Trick or Devil

My Disclaimer:
I purchased a copy of this book at the current price. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about...  
The last thing Amanda Wright remembers is having a drink with a co-worker during the office Christmas party. So how did she end up here in Hell accused of killing an old man while driving her car? And why is this handsome, but irritating demon trying to help her escape her death-long sentence in Hell?

Damian Noire is supposed to be on vacation at the boiling sea. But the assembly came up with a task for him two minutes before his shift was over. So here he is trying to figure out how this virgin ended up in Hell when she has never done anything wrong. This is so not his job and he will pay for this when the assembly finds out.

Will Damian be able to gather enough evidence before he has to have Amanda in front of the assembly? Will the assembly accept all the evidence and send Amanda to Heaven where she belongs? Will Damian survive losing Amanda when she goes to Heaven?

Amanda has a card up her sleeve and a connection with a guy in white that may change things before the end.

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is colorful and Christmas-y alright. The hunk is really scruffy as you would expect a demon to be, and he is hunk-y. What is it with these books with mistletoe in the title but not on the cover? There should be some mistletoe there somewhere. Oh well...

The story line is great! It's fun and the subject is unusual.

The characters are not too deep, but I wouldn't expect to get too deep in a book such as this. We got what we needed to understand the characters and stay with them through the story.

The pace was fast. Really fast, but it suited the story really well. Everything was happening on a fast-forward type schedule trying to get all the evidence before they had to be in front of the assembly.

The tension was incredible. Once you picked up on Amanda's confusion at the accident scene and then got into the argument between the angel and demon, it was tense from there on out. No let up until the end when Damion finally got his vacation at the boiling sea.

And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰⭒

This was super fun! Damion is disgruntled about missing out on his vacation, so he's not in the best mood when he takes on this assignment. And when he gets topside and sees Paul, an angel, trying to get Amanda to go to Heaven, he's not too happy either. Well, except he's in the mood for a fight. But once he's gotten a good look at Amanda he's in a much better mood. She's gorgeous, of course! And she's so confused about what's going on. She's still not fully cognizant of the fact that she's dead. She doesn't understand about the accident. She only remembers being at the party with the office workers. She doesn't know how she got here. So Damian has to explain what's going on. Then he starts reading the file and listening in on things and taking a really deep look into her and things don't add up.

Damian takes Amanda back to the office party and they listen in on what people are saying and it's not good. Everyone is making comments about her and Paul and how she's going to hate herself in the morning. Also how it was so not like her to do that. People were a bit worried about her for leaving with him because of his reputation with women. Amanda was puzzled about what they could be talking about. She couldn't imagine that she and Roger could possibly be going home together to do anything like what they were referring to. Roger could only have been giving her a ride because she was too tipsy to drive. But that didn't make sense with her accident. And why had she been crying? Roger had always been so polite and nice to her. This is one naive woman! It's one thing to be a virgin in your 20s or even 30s, but to be so innocent that you can't even imagine that someone would try to take advantage of you is dangerous!

This virgin is running around with a hunky demon! He's perfectly willing to change her status! And when they get to Amanda's apartment so that Damian can absorb the vibes of her life, Amanda decides that this is her last chance to change her status before she goes to Hell for what she did. She's still convinced she killed the old man in the accident. So she asks Damian to make love to her! There goes her status! And, of course, Damian is more than happy to help her with that.

Then, after she's had her status changed, and there's no going back. Then they go to the morgue and find out the truth of the accident. The drugging. The heart attack. No fault. They stop off at the boiling sea to mull over the information and try to put everything into perspective. And that's when the assembly loses its patience with Damian and demands their presence.

This is a fun and funny read. Damian and Amanda find humor in things and find a way to have fun together during their hunt for evidence to clear Amanda. And, of course, there is their time spent in Amanda's apartment changing her status. Damian thoroughly enjoyed that, as did Amanda! That's what made her change things for the ending. She and Damian were well matched. It's a great Christmas read.

Recommended

1058 wc

Mistletoe Cottage
A Harmony Harbor Novel, #1
Debbie Mason
Forever, Oct 2016
Ebook, 284 Pages
Also available in paperback, audiobook, and audio CD
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance, Hometown Romance, Firefighter Romance, Christmas, Holidays, Ghost
Source purchased at the current price

Other books in this series
Starlight Bridge, Primrose Lane, Sugarplum Way, Driftwood Cove

My Disclaimer:
I purchased a copy of this book at the current price. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about...
Sophie DiRossi was the "bad girl" who got pregnant by one of the boys from the manor when she was young and left town. She and her daughter are back in town and Sophie's working at the manor again. Her daughter, Mia, was traumatized in a fire and doesn't speak. Sophie's got secrets she's protecting with her life.

Liam Gallagher is a son of the manor, a firefighter, who's taking a break after a traumatic fire that caused the death of a friend. He can't seem to get past the trauma of the fire, but he doesn't want anyone to know. He was once in love with Sophie DiRossi when they were younger.

Colleen Gallagher, the family matriarch, dies at the age of 104. She has been a strong hand on the helm for so many years. She has been the keeper of the secrets as well. In fact she wrote all the secrets down in a book, but she can't remember where she put it. But everyone wants to find that book before someone else does so that their secret doesn't get out. Because Colleen knew everyone's secrets.

Can Sophie and Liam work out their own secrets before someone causes any more harm? Can they admit what everyone else already knows about them? Can Mia speak up in time?

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is beautiful with all its rich color and Christmas theme. The red boots with snowflakes are right out of the book, too! Nicely done and not overdone!

The story line is a familiar one with the young woman with child returning to town and meeting her childhood love. They both have to deal with all the secrets that a small town has as well as the secrets they each have before they can come together and be a happy couple.

The characters were outrageous! These people were so real that you felt like you knew them from somewhere. Colleen as the matriarch was familiar as she went through trying to do the best for each of her family members. She was a delightful character. The two primary characters, Sophie and Liam were so well written, too. They were exactly what they should be. Two young people caught in a situation not quite of their own making. They each had their own secret to reveal and pain to deal with before they could come close enough to really fall in love. And Mia! Wow, what a dynamite little character she was even when she wasn't speaking. She was a strong presence and made herself felt in every situation perhaps especially because of her silence.

The pace was smooth and brisk. There was no choppiness here. You moved from one event to another rapidly, but the transitions were fluid.

The tension, perhaps due to the smoothness of the transitions, built nicely. A slow, steady building of pressure as events unfolded.

The writing quality is wonderful. Ms. Mason has a style of writing that invites you in and takes you for a ride. She writes wonderful dialog as well as colorful description. And yet, her action scenes make you feel that you are part of the action, too. No stilted conversation here. Everything sounds just like you would expect it to really sound if someone were speaking. You can hear the accents of the butler greeting a guest compared to the tones of the Italian grandmother scolding her adult grandson. She can create a playful character and a depressed character just with the way she describes them and makes them speak. You can actually feel the emotion of the character.

And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰✰

I already said so much up above, is there more to say here? Well, let's see what my notes say. There's Colleen Gallagher, the matriarch of the family. She's so cool! She has managed her family for her whole life, 104 years. Now she has a heart attach and dies. But she resists going to heaven, so she ends up haunting the family while they work out who's going to be in charge now. Kitty is the grandmother, but she has her issues and not everyone would follow Kitty. Kitty wants to be in charge at the manor and bring it back to its former splendor. Kitty's ideas haven't been successful so far. A number of the grandchildren, Liam included feel that the manor should be sold and the money divided throughout the family. They see the manor as a drain on the family resources and not something that they want to be involved in. Their lives aren't focused on Greystone Manor. Liam, for instance, is a firefighter up in Boston. He's only at home currently resting after the traumatic incident of his buddy's death. Liam's still having flashbacks, which is his secret. Or so he thinks. His father, Colin, is the local fire chief. And his best friend, Marco DiRossi, works as a firefighter under his father's command. They both recognize what's going on with Liam. But for Liam, the manor doesn't play a large part in his current future the way he sees it. At least not until he reconnects with Sophie.

But even the town isn't necessarily all of one mind about the manor. The mayor and a real estate agent seem to be in cahoots with a developer who wants to buy up the manor and tear it down to built condominiums there or something. The retailers are all for the manor getting itself pulled together and doing business as it has in the past or as Sophie and her team foresee, as a location for weddings and other special events. With that solution, everyone wins because the manor would use the unique local retailers as their resources and everyone would prosper.

I always love a book that has a cat in it that plays a special role. Simon is a black cat with blue eyes. He was with Colleen when she died. And he keeps her company on her haunts after she dies and does small things for her. He also likes Mia, who seems to see Colleen, also.

Michael Gallagher is Liam's cousin. He's the young man that Sophie had been seeing before she left town seven years ago. Now, he's engaged to Bethany and it's their wedding that's supposed to save the manor by providing some great press! So what does he do at the rehearsal party? He stands up to give his speech and tells them all, Bethany included, that he no longer wants to be a Senator or a lawyer even, but that he has applied to the Police Academy. His future mother-in-law is the first one to react with the vitriol she is famous for. Then Bethany seems to finally wake up and realizes what he's said. She whips off her engagement ring and flings it at him with her by now famous vitriol. He makes a comment about it's a good thing he found this out before they got married and had kids. And, of course, her comment is, "What kids?" And with that, the wedding is off for Michael and Bethany. But never fear, there's always someone willing to step into the spotlight. This was the only wrong note for me. Liam goes down on one knee and proposes to Sophie and they get married in Michael and Bethany's place. Not that we get to go to the wedding, but I just thought it was a bit hokey. Oh well. I suppose it had to happen.

This book left us with some questions. Who is Dana? Through the whole story she's an older woman who changes wigs and such to change her appearance. She's obviously been around the upper crust as she's very comfortable with them and they don't ruffle her at all. She has a wonderful knack for decorating beautiful homes and planning events. And she has an extensive wardrobe with beautiful clothes. So, who is Dana?

What is Julia's secret? Julia wins Mistletoe Cottage in the drawing. Simon put his paw prints all over he tickets when she was filling them out. Then Mia made sure she got one of those tickets at the drawing so that Julia won. Then Julia read the tag on the key that said "to Mia" and knew it was from Santa. Since she's a Santa's Helper and has taken the pledge, she has to give the cottage to Mia. She and Mia whisper back and forth a bit and Julia leaves. But Colleen knows that Julia has a secret that has to be revealed. What is her secret and why does it have to be revealed? What does it have to do with her shop Book and Beans?

And last of all, where is Colleen's book? In her video message to the Widow's Club, she's just about to tell them where her memoirs are when she leans against the TV for support and falls into it instead. That destroys the video and no one knows where the book is. They do know what it looks like because she was holding it in her hand in the video before it went all static. But Colleen knew everyone's secrets. And everyone has a secret. So, now everyone wants to find that book so that they can hide their secret before it gets out. So, someone has it, but who? And what will they do with all those secrets?

Highly Recommended

1699 wc
Must Love Mistletoe
Holiday Duet Series, #2
Christie Ridgway
Self-Pub, Sep 2011
Kindle, 383 Pages
Also available in paperback
Genre(s) Christmas, Holidays, Contemporary Romance, Hometown Romance
Source purchased at current price


Other books in this series
Not Another New Year's #2

My Disclaimer:
I purchased a copy of this book at the current price. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review


What it's about...  
Bailey Sullivan had left home after high school hoping never to have to come back. Now she was back in town to help out her folks with the family business, The Perfect Christmas. For a woman who has always hated Christmas, this couldn't be worse. Or could it?

Mrs. Jacobson, next door to her folks, has a grandson Bailey knew when she was growing up. He was a bad boy type and she couldn't resist him then. He's staying with his grandmother while she recovers from an illness. It appears he hasn't forgotten any of their time together and might like to spend more time together. Can she resist him now?

Two battered people holding their secrets tightly tucked away so no one will see. Especially not each other. Will these two damaged lovers be able to uncover all the secrets and find the love they once shared?

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is very attractive with a nice saturation of color and a cute couple. You can tell there's heat between the couple, too. But I'd like to see some mistletoe there somewhere.


The storyline is great. The golden girl and the bad boy are childhood sweethearts. She takes off before things can go bad, advised by her father's heartfelt advise. "Get out before things get ugly." So she goes to college and law school and runs a law office that specializes in family law. And she never visits home. The bad boy has gotten his GED, gone to college, and now works for the Secret Service. They're on equal footing now. And they still have feelings for each other. Those feeling keep getting in the way as things work out leading up until Christmas. And neither one can say "I love you" until all the secrets have been revealed.


The characters are well explained and seem to be nicely developed. The two main characters are totally developed to the point that you can almost think along with them.


The pace in the beginning almost caused me to give up on this book with its back and forth between the present and what she remembered from their shared past. Once it picked up and things stayed in the present, then it was much better.


The tension was a nice easy pull from the beginning with a couple of sharper tugs towards the end.


And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...


The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰⭒


If you have a title like Must Love Mistletoe, then why isn't there some mistletoe on your cover especially when you have a young couple in a clench on there? It would have been just fine to put a small sprig of mistletoe in one upper corner or at the top center above the couple. Or put a bunch of it down below the whole thing. But no mistletoe!

There was a nice balance to this book between regular scenes and love scenes. And the love scenes were done very well. I had to laugh at the one between Tracy and Dan. She was so surprised at herself afterwards. And so pleased, too! It's great to see an older woman who has thought herself totally unwanted and beyond all that suddenly realize that she is still a sexual being. Kudos to Ms. Ridgway for writing the role for the mother this way.

I always love when the secrets start getting unwrapped. This time was no exception. With Finn, it was all that angst from the assassination attempt he'd been involved in when the young, female agent had been killed and he had been injured. He felt that somehow he should have known she would react that way because she was in love with him. That somehow he should have been able to prevent her death. He also kept trying to convince himself that he didn't love Bailey anymore because he knew she would leave on the 25th and there was no point in carry a torch for her. As hard as he tried with that one, he just had to accept it in the end that he loved her and it was a permanent situation.

Bailey's secret went much deeper than anyone's. It was one that everyone else really felt they already knew. But Bailey had denied it to herself for so long that she couldn't very well admit to it now. What she really hated was not Christmas, but December the 26th. The day after Christmas when she had to go into the store, The Perfect Christmas, and see what was left after the whole Christmas rush. The broken things. The unpopular things. The beginning of the down-time. And knowing that this was her life. Her family business. This was the ugliness that her father seemed to have warned her about in her mind. It was what she was running away from as much as anything else. That and deep emotional attachments. Something her father really was not qualified to advise her on, he being the one to cheat and leave. But that saying had become her mantra. "Get out before things turn ugly".

So here she is on December the 26th and she has a burned down store and a big decision to make now that her secret is out. What do you think she'll do? Will she get back in her car and continue on her merry way to her law firm? Or, will she stay in Coronado and with Finn rebuild The Perfect Christmas and make it her own? Who know?


Recommended

1028 wc
Christmas at the Contraband Cafe
A Year in Rum Cove, Winter
Liberty Bell & Scarlet Brodie
My Cup of Tea Press, Oct 2016
Kindle, 149 Pages
Available only in Digital format
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance, Christmas, Holiday
Source purchased at current price


Other books in this series
None at this time


My Disclaimer:
I purchased a copy of this book at the current price. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review


What it's about...
Chloe Charlesworth has a degree in fashion journalism and wants to put it to good use. She’s at the end of a grueling internship and the decision will be handed down today. Suddenly, she finds herself accused of theft of the boss’ dry cleaning and fired on the spot.


Out of a job, and with no job, out of a place to live, Chloe agrees to go check on her Aunt Fenella before looking for another fashion journalism job. She can’t seem to convince anyone she’s only stopping in to check on Aunt Fenella and get back to the city to look for another job. And she still hasn’t heard anything from her boyfriend, Marcus about moving in with him while she looks for a job.


Lottie is holding down the fort right now for Aunt Fenella, but Lottie needs to be writing papers for her college classes so she can get her law degree. Lottie cheerfully shows Chloe how to do things and Chloe gradually gets the hang of it all after some mistakes. Some mistakes are worse than others and really upset the local vet, Luke. He just happens to be Lottie’s brother, too. But Chloe means well and Lottie seems to understand her and points her in the right direction.


The townsfolk seem to like her. And Lottie really likes her. Aunt Fenella’s pulling for her. But can she change the young vet’s opinion of her? Or has she already?


Technical Tidbits...  
The cover wasn’t terribly eye-catching with that water-color type of coloring to it. The drawing underneath did relate to the story in a way. But I really wasn’t impressed with the cover at all. It was not why I bought the book this time.


The storyline was pretty good. City girl loses it all and goes off to help sick relative. Ends up staying longer than expected and liking it. Falls in love with local boy.


The characters were good. Of course, we got to know Chloe really well as we spent so much time with her, especially in the beginning. Lottie was explained to us by a lot of people. Mom and Aunt Fenella were just caricatures, but that’s all we needed. Luke was who he seemed to be and who Lottie explained him to be. If this were a more serious type novel I would expect more depth to their characters, but for this story, this was fine. The rest of the folks were characters we could pick up on easily from something they did or said or a comment someone made, so that you had a brief shot of them.


The pace was steady and at times brisk. It was well-done.


The tension was built up over each incident and allowed to drop down a bit afterward. It really tapered off at the end for a quiet ending.


The writing quality was good. I was wondering about a book written by two people whether or not you could actually tell it had two authors. How do they do that? Do they actually write different parts of it? Or is it more a brainstorming sort of thing and then one actually does the writing? I don’t know about actual writing, but I think you can sense two different brains in the story. A little bit of “push-n-pull” in parts of it. I think that may be why I felt the tension didn’t quite hold up throughout.


And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...


The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰


I really liked this book and felt very comfortable, almost familiar with it. Then I was reading the reviews on Amazon and discovered this review by Gordon A. Long that clarified all of that for me. Here is a small part of his review.

“If you’re a fan of English Sitcoms like Doc Martin and Heartbeat, you’re going to like this one: definitely written with a TV contract in mind. Picture a small, close-knit village in Yorkshire. Picture a wannabe fashion journalist from London whose life is falling to pieces, suddenly transferred there by a series of coincidental events.


Does she fit in? Of course not. Does she meet a man she finds obnoxious? Of course she does. Do circumstances keep forcing her to prolong her stay? Of course. You know the format.


What makes this story work is the characterization. The village is filled with individuals, coexisting with all the up, down and completely sideways relationships of people in small towns everywhere. “


On Amazon: Gordon A. Long Dec 2016

He’s quite right, too. This story fits that format perfectly. Come to think of it, a lot of stories do. The ones that have someone coming back to their home town or someone relocating to get away from a disaster and start over. The Cowboy Firefighter story from yesterday could fit into that format easily. I guess it’s a format or formula that we see a lot of. We probably see a lot of it because it works so well, too!


Well, it worked well for these two authors. This book is entertaining and you get hooked on the characters and care about them. I could see this town becoming part of a series and getting to know many of the "regulars".


Recommended


994 wc