The Drifter

Falling For April

Honeymoon Hoax

Making Over Mike

Outlaw

Perfect Together

 
Holiday Affair
by Lisa Plumley
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-4201-0569-8
*****
Lisa Plumley's latest holiday novel delivers. Holiday Affair has everything a woman would want out of the holiday season. It has warm gooey holiday moments complete with happy children, Christmas traditions such as caroling and decorating Christmas cookies and, oh yeah, hot and steamy romance.

Karina Barrett is a recent divorcee who is trying to give her children the best Christmas she can on her own. Her husband jumped ship to have the mother of all mid-life crises which included shacking up with a woman in her early twenties, wearing skinny jeans and eyeliner, and generally acting like a teenager.

Determined to give her children the ideal Christmas, Karina's prayers are answered when her sister asks her to take her place as an anonymous evaluator for Edgeware, a hotel franchising company Karina's sister works for. In return for secretly evaluating the inn and seeing if it is fit to franchise, Karina gets an all expenses paid vacation to Kismet, Michigan, a quaint town which boasts a Christmas-themed bed and breakfast called The Christmas House.

Reid Sullivan is a super-dreamy, globe-trotting divorced father of two who makes a living as an adventurer for hire. He's conquered the Outback, the Arctic, and pretty much everywhere else. With his two girls in tow, he is nomadic and likes it that way. However, his wayward life is put on hold when he receives a call from his grandparents asking him to come home to Kismet to deal with a mysterious 'emergency.'

Once home, he discovers that his grandparents are trying to sell the family business, The Christmas House. They're going away for Christmas so that they don't become sentimental and cancel the sale. They want Reid to take over running the inn for the season, as he is the most unsentimental person they know. Reid begrudgingly agrees and gets to work trying to run an inn that is all about the Christmas spirit, which he knows nothing about anymore.

Steeling himself for what he perceives as the most grueling Christmas ever, he is pleasantly surprised when he meets one of his guests, the sexy Karina Barrett. The two immediately hit it off and things go from zero to steamy quite quickly.

However, a kink is thrown into Karina's plans to have a wild holiday affair once she finds out that Reid is in charge of the inn and not a guest like she had thought. Could she really give a fair evaluation while she's sleeping with the man running the inn? Or is the potential for love and steamy holiday sex more important?

I really liked Holiday Affair. Set against the backdrop of a winter wonderland like Kismet, the story invokes that lovely warm fuzzy holiday feeling, which is impressive since I read this novel in September.

The Christmas House is lovingly crafted and sounds like heaven on earth for the diehard holiday crowd. Complete with a horse-drawn sleigh, fluffy Michigan snow, lights, garland, tinsel, baking, eggnog, Christmas trees, carols, and one sweater- wearing Daschund named Digby, The Christmas House has it all, including romance. I found both Karina and Reid to be very well crafted. Reid's stubbornness and Scrooge- like tendencies are fun to watch get melted away by the wonders of the season, and Karina's determination to work through her own feelings of inadequacy and to give her children the best Christmas ever is endearing.

All of the Sullivan and Barrett children are solid, each with a very distinct personality and each with their own hang-ups and issues. The children do, however, play a very minor role for a good chunk of the novel as they are more or less banished to the basement 'Fun Zone' at The Christmas House, giving Karina and Reid some time to themselves. The occasional sentence is dropped in about them caring for their children and spending quality time, but little of that quality time is actually shown. To be fair, when the children are brought to the forefront of the story, they shine, as do their parents. There are a few rather touching scenes peppered in amongst the courtship of Karina and Reid. It's really sweet watching Karina and Reid help their children and each other's children work through the pain of a divorce, the struggles of puberty and life as a nomad.

Loaded with fun pop-culture references (If I could give out bonus stars, Plumley would get one for having Nathan Fillion as Karina's 'television boyfriend.') and witty dialogue, Holiday Affair delivers on entertainment.

All in all, I would highly recommend this holiday gem to anyone who wants a dose of the warm-fuzzy Christmas feelings.

(Warning: Book should be accompanied by hot cocoa, a plate of gingerbread or shortbread cookies and a polar fleece blanket in front of a roaring fire for maximum enjoyment.)

--Lindsey Seddon


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