After a messy breakup, Leigh Holloway is ready to start her life over. Until her parents put the family home on the market and call her back for one final, memory-making Christmas. The last thing she wants to do is deprive her mom of the perfect holiday, so she’ll lie her way through the visit and worry about her future in the New Year. Too bad the only bar in town is owned by a guy she seriously wronged in high school.
Leigh’s best friend broke Croy Dawson’s heart, and Croy knows it was Leigh’s fault. They’ve never liked each other, but Croy isn’t cruel: he’d never turn away a pretty woman in need of some family-Christmas fortification. He doesn’t expect her to drink just enough candy-cane martinis to tell him her secrets—and he definitely doesn’t expect to get caught up in her holiday madness.
Despite the surprising love and laughter, Croy and Leigh can’t escape the truth: he can’t walk away from his family obligations and she has a life and career to reboot. But anything is possible if your holiday comes with a twist… (Goodreads)
This Christmas short is all about Leigh Holloway, who has returned home for the holidays to help her parents clear out the family home before they move. She is also returning with a secret, as she has broken up with her fiancé and quit her job, without saying a word to her family. She fears that if she tells them her parents might delay their move and not put themselves first. Instead, she intends to tell them after the holidays and put on a front while she’s at home.
However, coming home also means coming face to face with Croy Dawson, an old face from school who will be less than pleased to see her. He held her responsible for breaking up his first love with Leigh’s best friend, and the pair haven’t seen each other since. Croy now runs the only bar in town, and with Leigh gasping for a drink she has no choice but to step into his territory. He is surprised to see her, but has realised that the past is past and no longer holds a grudge.
Before long (and a few too many drinks), Leigh has unwittingly told Croy about her falsehood regarding her fiancé and her job. He is willing to keep her secret, but senses a spark between them that he never expected. Leigh can feel it too, and is keen to spend more time with Croy to see how it plays out. However, Leigh is supposed to be an engaged woman and shouldn’t be seen to be spending too much time with another man for fear of rousing suspicion. Will their connection survive the holidays, or will Leigh have to make a choice and come clean?
The plot of this novella is surprisingly simple and yet works well with the added details thrown in about Leigh and Croy’s history. Their past is not so serious that it can’t be overcome, with both now contemplating a relationship they never thought possible. The festive setting adds a touch of magic and more than a few excuses for secret rendezvous’ here and there, such as Christmas shopping or present wrapping. At the same time the relationship is not developed too quickly, with neither one wanting to rush in despite the sexual chemistry.
As a female protagonist, Leigh was level headed and sensible, although I wasn’t sure her determination not to reveal the truth was entirely thought out. Nevertheless, it gives her a great starting point to share a secret with Croy, as he becomes her only confidante for the holidays. She also lets slip early on that she likes kissing and that her fiancé was terrible at it, giving Croy an extra incentive to sweep her off her feet and take her breath away with some steamy stolen kisses. I think that during this book she realises it’s okay to rely on someone else and that she doesn’t need to tackle everything on her own.
She finds a great partner in Croy, with their shared history making everything seem so much more comfortable between them from the get go. He is easy going and family centred, wanting to look out for those around him whilst waiting for his own happily ever after. Croy is also honest and straight talking, meaning he hates lying to both of their families about what they’re really getting up to. He doesn’t like being thought of as the ‘other man’ leading Leigh astray, and feels guilty about asking her to stay in town after the holidays, knowing she has a whole other life in the city. He feels overwhelmed by the whole thing and wants to make the most of what time they do have together.
I really enjoyed this romance between Leigh and Croy, as the festive setting helps add that extra touch of magic and also gives an urgency to the plot. Both realise that Leigh is not in town for long and that they should take advantage of the chemistry while they can. Even with this short time scale, the novella never feels rushed or unbelievable, with there being a tenderness to their connection as well as the sparkling attraction. I think that Stacey does a fantastic job of creating such well rounded characters within such a short space, and I’d very much like to read some of her other novels – I don’t think I can wait until the next festive season!
A pleasurable winter read with a homecoming romance, this Christmas novella flows smoothly and is easy to devour in one sitting. The characters are well rounded given the short format, and have a steamy chemistry that leaps off the page and leaves you willing them to get together. This is a great one to get you in the festive mood if you don’t have much time to spare for a full novel.