Yesterday we dissected a Steampunk-themed holiday e-anthology to help busy readers figure out which of the short stories in the collection perfectly suits their reading tastes. Today we are doing the same with four contemporary tales that make a familiar romance trope fresh again. Are you ready to be stranded in a snow storm or maybe try your hand (and heart) at some long distance love? Read on to find out which of the novellas in Carina Press' newest digital anthology, Holiday Kisses, is the perfect gift to give yourself!
“This Time Next Year” by Alison Kent
The Trope: Stranded in a snowstorm. Brenna, our seemingly resourceful heroine, is in a car accident that leaves her in a ditch. But no worries, she is saved by a man on a horse and taken back to his cabin where they are promptly snowed in.
The Characters: Brenna Keating is one of those women we all aspire to be. She is thoughtful, charitable and just plain good. In fact, she is making one last trip to her grandmother’s house before taking off for Malawi, Africa where she will be volunteering as a nurse. Dillon Craig is also in the medical field. He was a military doctor that has returned, broken and heartsick, from the battlefields.
The Christmas Factor: Very high. Brenna is worried that this could be her last Christmas with her elderly grandmother and she wants to make it a good one. So when Brenna is stuck at Dillon’s, she is more than ready to get him in the Christmas spirit with gift giving, cookie baking and decorating. Then the festivities begin all over again when Brenna finally makes it to Granny’s house, with Dillon in tow.
The Romance: Neither character dates often, so they don’t exactly know how to go about starting a relationship. But this turns out to be a good thing because with Brenna leaving the country for a year, their romance promises to be unconventional to say the least.
A Fun Fact: Bored by the snowstorm, the heroine pulls out an e-reader with “hundreds of books” on it. I think this might be the first time I have encountered such a blatant reference to an e-reader while reading a story on an e-reader. We’ve come full circle, people.
“A Rare Gift” by Jaci Burton
The Trope: Her sister’s ex. Okay, so I'm not sure if this plot device has been used enough to be considered a trope, per se, however, the idea of the guy falling for the wrong sister only to find true love with her sibling is something we have all definitely seen before.
The Characters: Calliope Andrews is just the kind of woman that you want to be friends with. Smart, sweet and hardworking, she maybe puts others ahead of herself a bit too often, but as flaws go, this is a nice one to have. Wyatt Kent on the other hand is a bit harder to like. Callous and bitter, he is completely unable to get over his divorce and vilifies his ex-wife for no good reason. However, with Calliope’s love, Wyatt finally emerges from his Scrooge-y mood to become the man she always knew he could be.
The Christmas Factor: Mild. There is a holiday party at the story’s end, but the couple is so wrapped up in will-they-won’t-they and worrying about what their families will think that there is not a whole lot of time for merry-making.
The Romance: The author creates a very realistic relationship in this story. It is not all hearts and flowers, there are real life problems that her characters must face — mainly dealing with the fallout from family members that watched Wyatt’s previous marriage to Calliope’s sister crash and burn. So while it is not all touch and feel-y between the couple (and even though Wyatt makes a bunch of mistakes along the way) there is an authenticity to the story that readers will definitely respond to.
A Fun Fact: Calliope's best friend Tori and Wyatt’s brother Brody are so hot for each other that it is palpable. If these two aren’t the next on the list to get a story then I'll eat my hat (you know, if I actually wore a hat).
“It’s Not Christmas Without You” by HelenKay Dimon
The Trope: Long distance love. Coming from a small town myself, it is easy to understand why Carrie Anders left West Virginia to fulfill her dreams of a big time career in Washington D.C. But the decision is especially difficult for Carrie because it means leaving behind her longtime love, Austin Thomas.
The Characters: Austin is a terrific hero. I found it oh-so-romantic that he follows Carrie to the big, bad city to hopefully win her back. But while he is a bit of a dreamer and spontaneous type of guy, Carrie is a thinker. She weighs pros and cons and makes long-term plans. It breaks her heart that those plans don’t include Austin … or so she thinks.
The Christmas Factor: Considering the fact that Austin, who is a partner in a tree nursery back in West Virginia, opens a Christmas tree pop-up shop in the middle of D.C., this book is packed full of holiday cheer.
The Romance: Love has never been Austin and Carrie’s problem. Even as teens these two knew they had found that special someone. In fact, Austin is so convinced that he and Carrie belong together that he suggests she go on a date with another man — for compare-sies.
A Fun Fact: There is some great guy humor between Austin and his somewhat obnoxious cousin, Spence. Lots of man-speak and insults fly, which is sure to get a chuckle out of even the most hard hearted reader.
“Mistletoe and Margaritas” by Shannon Stacey
The Trope: Unrequited love. Justin McCormick knew from the second he saw Claire Rutledge that she was the only woman for him. However, it was Brendan, his best friend, who won the girl's heart. Claire had a wonderful marriage with Brendan until an accident left her a widow. But, thankfully, Justin was there to pick up the pieces. However, two years later Justin’s patience has reached an end. He cannot keep his own life on hold while secretly pining for Claire.
The Characters: While reading this story, I had the overwhelming urge to give Justin a hug. The poor guy loves Claire so much, yet she is completely oblivious. Still mourning the loss of her husband, Claire is also a sympathetic character, but clueless. There is this great guy, totally in love with her and it takes her the longest time to realize that they would be perfect together.
The Christmas Factor: It is the season of yule-time around the Rutledge household. There is snow, festivities, parties and mistletoe. Get ready to be taken over by the Christmas spirit with this story.
The Romance: To say that these two are best friends is an understatement. They spend the night at each other’s house (platonically), have standing dinner plans and tell each other EVERYTHING. Well, in the case of Justin, almost everything. So it is not a stretch that such a close relationship would work well when taken to the next level.
A Fun Fact: Claire and Justin have a Christmas Eve tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which I am pretty sure is a ritual held by more than half of all Americans (including myself).
Want another fun fact? Each of these short stories is available for individual sale at Carina Press for under $3.00 per novella. Or you can pick up the entire collection for for $8.99 here. And for more great holiday reading, make sure to check out our Everything Romance pages!