Five Golden Rings by Jeffe Kennedy - 3.5 Stars
This is my first time reading anything by Jeffe Kennedy, and I've got to say I was pleasantly surprised! Tilda and Miguel had some smoking hot chemistry and I enjoyed seeing them both explore it together.
Miguel was creative and fun in his "twelve gifts" for Tilda. Watching Tilda let herself experience and enjoy - letting go of that control she maintains all the time in her normal life - was fantastic. I liked seeing that she was able to. Miguel I didn't feel like I got to know as well, but that was a conscious decision on his part. He kept things very much physical and his life separate from what was happening between him and Tilda.
I admit, this irritated me. I get that he was looking for some fun, no-strings, tension-releasing sex....but it doesn't really allow me to see why they end up thinking a relationship of more will work. Because Tilda is not who she normally is when she's with Miguel in Mexico. As she says, she's on vacation - of course she's uncomplicated. With Miguel not sharing anything of himself but the sexual aspect, I didn't really buy into their desire to continue seeing each other when they got back home.
Still, I thought this was a fun, sexy, Christmas novella and I'll definitely be looking for more from Jeffe Kennedy.
Ménage on 34th Street by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis - 2.5 Stars
I have really mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand the sexy times were seriously HOT. On the other hand, I was frustrated with the relationship aspect of the book.
Ménage stories are always a hard sell for me in the first place, because I think they take a lot of work and most of the ones I've read seem to gloss over that work. I can safely say that Emily Ryan-Davis and Elise Logan don't gloss over the difficulties of making a permanent ménage relationship work. Unfortunately, they didn't convince me.
Hunter's been running from his desires for Kat and Liam for TEN years. He joined the Marines. He loves his career, has aspirations and goals of going further in the military; he has no plans to get out anytime soon. He visits his best friend while he's on leave and suddenly ends up in the middle of Liam and Kat - right where he's been avoiding.
I don't think it's a bad thing for Liam to push Hunter a bit, especially considering he wants them both so badly. Where my problem lay is that I felt like Hunter was pushed too far, too quickly. He denied his attraction to Liam, a guy, but suddenly an hour after seeing him again he's having sex with him? Then one thing after the other - he's not sure about it, but pretty soon they're doing it.
I liked how the three of them would get together and talk about things - that's important in any relationship - what I didn't love is that each time they finished talking I was less sure of their ability to make it work between them. Then they just went straight to some more boundary and limit-pushing sex which apparently was going to solve all their concerns and problems.
The other thing I wasn't sure of was the "I love you"s - I get that they all cared about each other, but honestly, they haven't even talked in TEN years. Hunter joined the Marines and is committed to his life as one - you can't tell me they didn't all change. But twenty minutes together and the love comes out again. I didn't buy it and it made me even less sure of how things were going to work long term.
All in all, I was incredibly uncomfortable during this read. Partly because the sex was hot as hell and I kind of wished that it had just been a straight erotica, but mostly because the relationship didn't seem workable to me - at least not as they'd begun.
There is a note from the editor, Angela James, at the end of this novella that there's going to be a sequel showing how this relationship works in every day ways and I admit I'm somewhat curious about that. I think this story needed more page time to make me buy into it.
Naughty Nicks by Christine D'Abo - 3.5 Stars
Admittedly, Christine D'Abo is the only author that I've ever previously read in this anthology. I know she writes some great sexy times and I was looking forward to seeing what fun she had with Christmas in this one.
I loved Kim so much. She's outgoing, has an awesome sense of humor, finds life amusing, and knows what she wants. Blake was great as well, kind, smart, respectful - you wouldn't think that'd be such a sexy thing, but it so is - and able to laugh at himself and with Kim. The friendship between them was so gratifying to read about, and seeing them take the sizzling chemistry to the next level.
This was nearly a perfect Christmas story, because what I'm looking for generally is fun and happiness. Though there was the minor drama over Blake's concerns about the difference in his and Kim's age and the number his ex-wife did on him when she left him, overall it was all about how Kim and Blake could take things where they both wanted them to go.
I really loved that Blake valued her friendship so much that he was concerned about losing that. Friends-to-lovers is an especially fond story-line for me, so I appreciated how they made it work from the simmering (and sometimes not so simmering) attraction.
Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin - 4 Stars
I'm not sure if I just missed reading the blurb for this one, or if I forgot it, but I had no idea what to expect when I opened this book up. Another friends-to-lovers story and I was instantly hooked.
Becca was a great character. Strong and vulnerable at the same time. I understood what drew Jeremy to her. She has a great sense of humor, a backbone, and a playful personality. What I really liked about Jeremy is that he was fun - he liked to laugh and tease, not something I see in a lot of the Doms I read about, so it was a really nice change.
Speaking of, I had no idea there was going to be BDSM in this book. I'm pretty picky about how the lifestyle is portrayed in the BDSM books I read, so it was a wonderful surprise to find another author I can trust. I loved how she portrayed the relationship building between Jeremy and Becca - especially with Becca coming out an emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive relationship.
Though I did feel like things rushed a bit quickly, I was happy to let that go and be swept away by the story and the happiness these two were building.
I'll definitely be looking for more from Jodie Griffin soon.