Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Christmas Getaway - Anne Stuart, Tina Leonard, Marion Lennox (HQN - Nov 2008)

Claus and Effect by Anne Stuart

Take Eloise. First she's kidnapped by Santa, and now she's camping out in an abandoned lighthouse with the most infuriatingly intoxicating cop she's ever met. Is she sleeping with the enemy or the man destined to make her Mrs. Claus?

This is a three part book, with each part written by a different author. In the first, Ellie is in a bridal shop, wearing a butt ugly dress belonging to her fiancé, and having second thoughts. Next thing she knows, the shop has been evacuated and she's been kidnapped by a Santa with a gun. James is a cop who has been set up to take the fall for murder and a jewel heist. He thinks Ellie may have some information he needs, but instead she ends up saving his life.

This was face-paced from the first page, with only a short time to tell the story. I loved that Ellie doesn't panic when James takes her hostage, but instead gives as good as she gets. Once he gets away, he doesn't want to keep her, but now that she knows he's hurt, she refuses to be turned loose. Between taking care of him and dodging the dirty cops who are after them, they also try to fight the attraction that's sparking. I loved the back and forth snark at the beginning and how it turns to real conversation as they travel. By the time they reach their destination and hole up waiting for their chance to talk to James's friend, the blaze is too much to ignore. The ending is exciting and funny, as both Ellie and James realize their feelings. Loved James's uncle and his suggestions.

Caught at Christmas by Tina Leonard

Meanwhile Jean is abducted to a remote ranch, stuck teaching a handsome Texas Ranger how to enjoy a little sensual Christmas cheer.

Jean is the maid of honor for her best friend at a society wedding. She's trying to figure out how to tell Molly that her groom is a no-show when the shooting starts. She's immediately grabbed and rushed away by Sam, a Texas Ranger who is also Molly's brother. It seems that Jean overheard something she shouldn't have, and the dirty cop groom and his cohorts feel he has to take her out. Sam is determined to protect her, and Jean just wants to get home for Christmas with her family.

Jean has trouble believing that someone actually wants to kill her until Sam makes her see the truth. He takes her to his ranch for safekeeping. Sam is pretty much a loner except for his sister, but something about Jean has him acting out of character. Jean is a cheerful, look at the bright side librarian, and finds herself irresistibly drawn to Sam. I liked seeing her start to break through his self-protective walls by bringing some Christmas cheer to his ranch. It was also fun to see her talk him into taking her home for Christmas, even though it went against his better judgment. This was proven out when they were attacked on the drive and escaped thanks to a Santa like truck driver. The attraction between them really starts to burn hot, but Sam is intent on protecting and trying to resist the sparks. Jean really wants a chance to explore the feelings. I loved the scene at her parents' house when he sneaks in during the night and disappears by morning, only to return with the news that he has to get her away again. He fumbles through that explanation and his real intentions in a totally adorable way.

Candy Canes and Crossfire by Marion Lennox

And Molly? Her nuptials are shot up and her fiancé's a no-show, but when she arrives at a supposedly private Australian hideaway to recoup, she's not alone and the heat is enough to melt the mere memory of a white Christmas.

In the final section of the book we have the bride, Molly. She's ready to go through with the wedding, but the groom isn't there. Instead, there is gunfire and a hunky good Samaritan who tosses her out of the line of fire. Once all the excitement is over, she just wants to get away, so she heads off to an Australian hideaway - only to find it's already occupied.

Joe is an Aussie who came to the States to see his orphaned nieces and nephew, attendants at a wedding. After the trauma that occurred at the wedding, he takes them back to Australia to their parents' beach house. Joe is a bachelor uncle who has absolutely no idea what to do with the kids. He's relieved by Molly's arrival and hopes that she'll stick around and help.

Both Joe and Molly are commitment-phobic people. Molly's marriage was going to be one of partnership, not love, and she's now questioning her judgment in getting involved with him at all. Added to a dysfunctional family and childhood and a tragedy as a teen, she's not looking for any kind of involvement for her future. Joe grew up in foster care, without much experience of love (except for one foster mother). His closest relationship was with a foster sister (Ellie, from the first story). He knows that he's all that the kids have and is really afraid that he'll screw things up.

I loved Molly's arrival at the house. The kids are thrilled, Joe is relieved, and Molly just wants to hide. But she can't refuse to help the kids. The only fly in the ointment is the attraction to Joe, and his obvious interest in her. She doesn't want to open herself up to that kind of pain again. Joe was great. I felt bad for him being so overwhelmed by trying to take care of the kids. He wanted to make them happy, but he was clueless. He hadn't been able to forget Molly, and having her show up at the house was like a dream come true. I felt that he turned out to be a pretty sensitive guy, comforting her when she needed it and backing off when she seemed overwhelmed. It was sweet to see him realize that he was actually falling for her.

There was some intense excitement at the very end when the bad guy showed up, forcing Molly, Joe and the kids to run into the woods. While the actual capture was rather anti-climactic, I loved the ending with all three couples coming together. Fun scene with foster mother Ruby also.

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