Holiday Romance Mini-Reviews: Santa, Baby, Lovelight Farms, and The Geek Who Saved Christmas!

Santa, Baby by Eliza McLane

Santa, Baby (Holiday Nights #1)
Pub Date: 12 November 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

She’s the intriguing and utterly lust-worthy little sister of his best friend. He’s the adorably hot guy she’s crushed on for a decade. They’ve never crossed that line, but now they’re snowed in together on an adult film set–and the cameras are rolling.

Nick has always wanted to check playing Santa off his struggling actor bucket list. But when he arrives at the gig to find people, well, filling each other’s stockings, it’s obvious he missed the small print: the job is Christmas porn, and he’s the grand finale. And his director and co-star? The off-limits sister of his best friend.

Holly lives a double life: quiet and conservative at home, brassy and bossy at her secret work in adult films. When Nick shows up on set she expects disaster, but there’s a hunger in his eyes as he watches her take charge on set, and they’re both eager to let their attraction take fire–for the sake of work, of course.

When an approaching snowstorm sends the crew home, it’s up to Nick and Holly to save her movie, and they agree to indulge for just one night. But when dirty talk and a decade of longing lead to deeper conversations and cozy cuddling, they’ll start to wonder if the Christmas miracle they make together can last all year long.

Author’s note: Santa, Baby is a steamy and sweet novella (about half the length of a typical romance) full of big feelings and filthy, dirty-talking sex. In its pages you’ll find a brother’s-best-friend romance full of sex-positivity, a totally besotted hero, and lots of sparkling Christmas spirit–all with an empowering HEA.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Toxic family relationships (controlling and close-minded parents), parental abandonment recounted, parent with depression and addiction

This was a cute, sexy and sex-positive holiday romance with plenty of fun tropes including brother’s best friend romance, grumpy/sunshine, getting snowed-in and staying stuck together (oop, we love it)! 😉 It was a take on romance featuring the adult entertainment industry that I’ve never read before and I found that refreshing. If you’re looking for a steamy read to add to your holiday romance list, this should definitely get on there!

I thought the story was well-written and the characters were well-developed for a novella. Nick is the happy-go-lucky Christmas-loving guy spreading holiday cheer everywhere he goes and in contrast, Holly is a bit of a quiet grinch who dislikes the holiday because of her toxic relationship with her close-minded and controlling family. There has always been an attraction between them that they’ve never acted upon as her brother is Nick’s bestie, so it’s a major shock that the quiet girl he’s always been curious about is directing the adult film he’s been hired for. It’s clear that their perceptions of each other are so different to what they’re like IRL and I loved seeing Nick and Holly get to know each other away from the connection that ties them together, Holly’s douchenugget of a brother. He is so encouraging and supportive of Holly and I loved how he showed her that she deserves to be surrounded by people who appreciate her and make her happy. The way he gave her the kind of Christmas she’s always dreamed of was so swoony and their steamy scenes were fire—there was definitely no lack of chemistry between them! But mixed in with the dirty-talking sex scenes were plenty of heartfelt and intimate moments that were very sweet and balanced the romance nicely!

Lovelight Farms by B.K. Borison

Lovelight Farms (Lovelight #1)
Pub Date: 10 November 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Where the lovelight gleams…

A pasture of dead trees. A hostile takeover of the Santa barn by a family of raccoons. And shipments that have mysteriously gone missing. Lovelight Farms is not the magical winter wonderland of Stella Bloom’s dreams.

In an effort to save the Christmas tree farm she’s loved since she was a kid, she enters a contest with instafamous influencer Evelyn St. James. With the added publicity and the $100,000 cash prize, she might just be able to save the farm from its financial woes. There’s just one problem. To make the farm seem like a romantic destination for the holidays, she lied on the application and said she owns Lovelight Farms with her boyfriend. Only… there is no boyfriend.

Enter best friend Luka Peters. He just came home for some hot chocolate, and somehow got a farm and a serious girlfriend in the process.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Parental abandonment, parental infidelity recounted, alcohol abuse mentioned, grief & loss depiction, death of a parent recounted

This would be a great addition to your holiday romance reading lists because it’s perfectly atmospheric and the romance is sweet with a little bit of steam. This is for those who enjoy soft friends-to-lovers romances with cute heart-fluttering fake-dating moments! Though I didn’t end up loving this as much as I thought I would, I still thought this was a solid debut from Borison and I get why it’s so well-loved. 😍

The small-town and Lovelight Farms setting was great and the atmosphere perfectly captured the transition from fall to Thanksgiving to full-blown winter! Borison also did a great job of capturing little bits of small-town life full of nosy but well-meaning neighbourhood friendlies and though I wanted a bit more of it, I still really enjoyed the interactions we got between them and our MCs! I adored the side characters and what they brought to the story, especially Beckett, Layla and Dane. I think the difficulty I had was that I didn’t fully connect with either Stella or Luka and I didn’t feel the stakes of their fake-dating romance. The story is told from one POV, which already isn’t my favourite, but I was also pretty on the fence about Stella. She’s hardworking and ambitious but she’s also incredibly stubborn, gets in her own way and made frustrating decisions. I understood her fears but she also kept putting herself back in toxic situations, and not to sound too harsh, but I thought a lot of the sadness she felt was of her own making. This was especially true when it came to Luka and the “conflict” really frustrated me! 🤦🏻‍♀️ Sadly, while I thought Luka was adorable, and I loved his gleeful geekiness and how he would do practically anything for Stella, he felt flat and it made me wish even more that we got his POV!

The Geek Who Saved Christmas by Annabeth Albert

The Geek Who Saved Christmas
Pub Date: 09 November 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance/LGBTQIA+

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

His grumpy neighbor needs some holiday sunshine…

Gideon Holiday is the perfect neighbor. Need a cup of sugar? Spare folding chair? Extra batteries? He’s always ready to help. And he’s waited years for his hot, grumpy, silver fox neighbor, Paul, to need him. For anything. But this December, Gideon would be happy if he could just get the Scrooge-like Paul on board with the neighborhood holiday lights fundraiser.

Paul Frost has no intention of decking his halls or blazing any Yule logs. Even if his spunky bowtie-clad neighbor does look perfect for unwrapping, Paul would prefer to hide away until December is done. But when his beloved younger brother announces an unexpected visit, Paul needs all the trimmings for a festive homecoming—and fast.

Luckily, Gideon is there with a color-coded plan to save Christmas. Soon Paul’s hanging lights, trimming trees, and rolling out cookies. And steaming up his new flannel sheets with Gideon. How did that happen?

It’ll take some winter magic to preserve their happiness and keep these rival neighbors together longer than one holiday season.

The Geek Who Saved Christmas is a low-angst m/m holiday romance with a guaranteed happy ending. This grumpy/sunshine, neighbors-to-lovers, found family tale features two heroes in their forties figuring out that maybe their sexily-ever-after was right next door the whole time. It stands alone and is not connected to any of the author’s other universes. However, it does contain a heaping helping of the same emotions and steamy moments readers have come to expect!

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Death of parents recounted, off-page, childhood family trauma recounted, toxic family relationships

This was a cute, sweet and festive grumpy-sunshine MM romance and it was absolutely full of holiday activities and spirit! There’s so much shopping, sentimental talks about holiday memories, and of course, all the Christmas decorating! As much as I enjoyed this one though, I didn’t feel particularly strongly about much of it—it was well-written and enjoyable, and I liked our MCs but I also didn’t feel an abundance of chemistry and at times felt a bit bored, which made the book seem very long.

I loved that Gideon and Paul are in their 40s and that the story delves into the aspects that make it a tough time of year for both of them. I think it’s a good reminder that not everyone has good memories and experiences of the holiday season for various reasons, but it’s also a heartwarming story about finding happiness and showing appreciation for your loved ones. Despite their personality differences, Gideon is the sunshine to Paul’s grump they’re both lonely and don’t have big or caring families to spend the holidays with. Both of their stories broke my heart but it was put back together again by seeing them allow each other into their lives by being emotionally vulnerable. I think one of my main grips would be the communication aspect. They eventually get it together, and I appreciate that there was no major blowout (this is a low-angst romance after all!), but they were so open with everything else and I wished they’d been straight about their feelings too. This book was like a Hallmark romance but with steam (not overly explicit) and the HEA was sweet and satisfying!

Do you read holiday romances and have you read any of these or are they on your TBR? If you have any holiday romance reccos, please share!

Romance Mini-Reviews: The Charm Offensive + The Missed Connection

Note: these reviews were originally posted on my Goodreads in June and July 2022 (oldest first)

The Charm Offensive
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: 07 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to open up to the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Anxiety, panic attacks, mental illness (chronic depression), homophobia, OCD, racial micro aggressions

Dev and Charlie absolutely charmed me! 🥹 They have an almost instant connection that slowly develops into a heartwarming romance. My heart hurt for Charlie as he struggled to believe that he deserved love because all his life people have treated him as “less- than” due to his OCD and anxiety. I loved watching him slowly learn to not be apologetic for being who he is. Dev is a hopeless romantic who is scared to accept love out of fear of being abandoned or rejected. He puts on a “Fun Dev” persona pretending everything is fine despite suffering from chronic depression. Not only did I love the diversity and LGBTQIA+ representation in this book, but I thought the mental health, OCD and anxiety rep was also really well addressed and handled sensitively.

Their romance was incredibly soft and sweet with super swoontastic moments that had me reading with heart-eyes. 😍 There’s a forbidden romance element which really upped the stakes and increased the tension. I appreciated that they did what they needed to do for themselves first to have a healthy relationship. As much as I enjoyed this though, I admit that I expected to love it much more than I did. There were moments when I felt disconnected from the characters and romance. It was enjoyable enough but when I had to put it down, I also didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up again immediately! Still, I did enjoy this a lot and I would definitely love to read parts of it again because they made my heart very happy!

The Missed Connection (Airport Novellas #2)
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 21 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Two strangers share a romantic night together only to discover months later they’re professional rivals in this grumpy meets sunshine romance novella from the acclaimed author of How To Fail at Flirting.

Gia loves her job as a professor, even when it means dealing with an elusive rival academic who’s made it his mission to criticize her work. When she meets him for the first time, she’s shocked to learn they’ve met before. Months earlier, they shared a perfect New Year’s Eve together in an airport during a weather delay.

After months of working together, Felix still can’t believe the person whose research he’s been challenging is the same captivating woman he kissed that night. The two couldn’t be more different. Gia is bubbly, friendly, and extroverted and drives ordered, serious Felix nuts.

Now the two have been assigned to embark on a five-school tour for work. Gia and Felix can’t imagine a travel partner they’d enjoy less until they feel the sparks fly over their shared armrests, security mishaps, and a shared hotel room. They’ll need to decide if they can manage their professional tension, or risk missing the connection of a lifetime.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Workplace misogyny, sexism

This wasn’t anything particularly special but it was exactly what I wanted when I went in search of a fast in-between read this morning. This was my first Denise Williams book so I didn’t have any expectations going in but I’m happy to say that I enjoyed her writing and characters!

Gia and Felix are your typical grumpy-sunshine trope in a work-nemesis-to-lovers romance situation. Their meet-cute on NYE at the airport is like what those romantic dreams are made of only for those fantasies to crumble to dust a few months down the line when they meet again and realise they’re enemies in the professional field in real life. These two have a clear attraction to each other that I really enjoyed seeing grow as they spend more time together. Felix is a pretty closed book and I felt the win alongside Gia every time her sunshine personality managed to elicit even the smallest of grins from him. Despite their opposite personalities they clicked so well and I loved how Gia encouraged Felix to be more relaxed and open, and I loved the way he grounded her. They were so accepting of each other and it was really sweet!

I’d have loved to read more about them but even with this being a novella, I still really enjoyed seeing how they evolve and grow together. This also served big on that happy ending. Was it a little cheesy? Heck yes but it was so perfectly Gia but I loved that it was Felix who came up with the idea for her 😂 They’re so cute!

Have you read either of these contemporary romances or are they on your TBR? If you did, what did you think of them?

#WWWWednesday: 04 May 2022

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last week I’ve managed to finish six books. It was a bit of a mixed reading week with mostly “okay” reads and a few that I really enjoyed!

Gallant by V.E. Schwab ★★★★☆
I buddy read this with Leslie and sadly, she didn’t enjoy it like I did but I totally get why! This was very slow-paced but I connected with Olivia and was invested in what happens to her cousin and those living in Gallant. It’s beautifully written, haunting and bittersweet. Check out my review!

The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle #1) by Nghi Vo ★★★★½
I get the hype! Nghi Vo’s writing was captivating. It’s lyrical, poetic, full of vivid imagery and flowed effortlessly off the page to hold me in rapture. This story was deceptively easy to read but is full of deeper meaning just below the surface. For how short this is, Vo still paints a stunning landscape of deadly politics and clashing cultures but also magic, fortune tellers, and mythology.

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#WWWWednesday: 27 April 2022

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last week I’ve managed to finish five books. It’s been a pretty great reading week with a good mix of genres and ratings. I’m so behind on my reviews (yikes!) but I’m hoping to get caught up soon.

We Free the Stars (Sands of Arawiya #2) by Hafsah Faizal ★★★★★
I buddy read this with Leslie & Julie and this had us feeling all the feels. Oof, why is the romance between Nasir and Zafira not talked about more often? Holy wow, it was so angsty, so swoony and ugh, I love them so much? 🥹 I still need to write my review but far out this was an amazing conclusion to the duology!

(ARC) Tanked (Eastside Brewery #3) by Mia Hopkins ★★★½
I’ve been keen to read Angel’s story and it didn’t disappoint. It was sweet, swoony and steamy and I loved how the stories are brought together for a great conclusion to the series. Check out my review!

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#WWWWednesday: 20 April 2022

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last week I’ve managed to finish four books. While one of them didn’t work for me, two were enjoyable and fun reads and one was a clear favourite for me!

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan ★★★½
I initially rated this 4 stars but brought it down cos even though there was a lot that I loved, the more I thought about it, the more the ending disappoints me. It was still a great read though and if you love Pan’s beautiful writing I’d still recommend it! Check out my review

Josh and Gemma Make A Baby by Sarah Ready ★★½
While this had a lot of elements I tend to love in romances, the execution was lacking and I ended up being sorely disappointed especially because as the story progressed, the “heroine” became increasingly unlikeable and I couldn’t find anything redeeming about her by the end.

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#WWWWednesday: 13 April 2022

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Wow, since last week I’ve managed to read one book. I know I’ve spent more time with friends and gaming since I came to Bali, but I also didn’t realise I was barely reading! 🙈 Maybe I also didn’t realise it because I was reading something I was just doing it uncharacteristically (for me) slowly!

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia ★★★★½

I buddy read GoJaS with Leslie and I’m glad that I can finally knock it off my TBR. It was a bit of a rocky start (for both of us) but we ended up really enjoying it! The world-building was lush, the mythology was fantastic, the characters were compelling, and THE ROMANCE. OML talk about angsty but absolutely EPIC—it truly had me in a chokehold! It was swoontastic, heartbreaking and so forking good. 😮‍💨 I’ll be posting a gushing semi-coherent review soonish, lol!

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#WWWWednesday: 06 April 2022

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last week I’ve managed to read five books. March has ended on a high note and I’m hoping that means that April’s gonna be a great month for reading!

Kiss and Don’t Tell (The Vancouver Agitators #1) by Meghan Quinn ★★★★½
I don’t know what took me so long to read this one but I’m glad that I finally did because this was so good and this series is looking like it’s gonna be a favourite of mine! The banter, the chemistry, THE STEAM! 🥵 Wowow, so freaking good!

(ARC) Those Three Little Words (The Vancouver Agitators #2) by Meghan Quinn ★★★★½
This was slightly angstier than the first book but no less delicious when it came to everything I love in a romance. I wasn’t wrong when I said this series is becoming a favourite… I already can’t wait for the next one. This book is out now (and on KU btw) and my review will go up on Friday! 😉

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#WWWWednesday: 30 March 2022

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last week I’ve read five books. Romances continue to dominate my reads but I managed to finish two fantasies as well, one of which has become one of my favourites (so far) this year!

(ARC) One-Timer (Carolina Comets #3) by Teagan Hunter ★★★¾
Hunter never fails to make me laugh and gave me the good vibes I wanted when I read it. It wasn’t perfect but the overall chemistry and banter were fantastic! 👏🏽 Check out my review

The Beast of Beswick by Amalie Howard ★★★★☆
I saw Beauty and the Beast retelling and immediately scooped it up cos I’m a sucker for them! This engaged me right from the beginning and I was invested in both their stories. The chemistry between these strong-willed opposites was explosive—talk about steamy! 🔥

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#WWWWednesday: 23 March 2022

Hello, hello and welcome back to another episode of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

Since last week I’ve read four books. This past week has been hellacious and all I’ve wanted to do is take my sleep-deprived and anxious self and retreat into a cave and never come out. When I’m not playing my new Breath of the Wild save (what’s more de-stressing than slaying Lynels?) romances have been my go-to and even then my anxious mood has made it hard to fully get into the stories…

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater ★★★½
I buddy read this with Leslie and I’m glad that I finally read it. It’s very hyped and I can see why but it took a bit of time to warm up to it. It was also very different to what I expected which was both awesome but very much threw me off 😂 We’ll read the next book in May and I can’t wait!

Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score ★★★★☆
This was my first book by Lucy Score and I loved it! This had so many tropes including hate-to-love, grumpy/sunshine, single parent with a dash of fake-dating and forced proximity, and all set in an awesome small town. I want more stories set in Knockemout, please!

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