Holly Gordon's estrangement from her family makes loneliness of the Christmas season hit close to home. Volunteering for the annual Ashton Falls Secret Santa Program is more than a comfort, it's a blessing. Just knowing she's able to help another hurting soul experience the joy of a heartfelt Christmas makes her own reality a bit sweeter, that is, until Marcus Jenner ends up on her list.
Marcus Jenner is more than a bronze, muscled looked. This Chickasaw loner isn't happy being placed on the town's Secret Santa list. Suffering from the blow of a devastating loss, he had chosen to withdraw from living almost completely. For the life of him, he can't figure out why this pretty little blonde keeps bumping into him, calling him by name, and insisting on giving him presents. Unfortunately for Marcus, every time she does, a billowing cloud of havoc seems to ensue. Why can't this uninvited vixen leave him alone?
They say time and fate have all the answers. Holly, in all of her innocence, is drawn to Marcus like a moth to the flame. But Marcus has no intentions of submitting to the threat of his newfound feelings. A painful exchange pushed their lives into a pendulum chaos. His demand for privacy is granted by Holly's hidden illness. Her sudden absence hits him hard, especially when the arrival of a stranger delivers the rest of his gifts. Right away, he knows something is horribly wrong.
Love and selfless giving can rouse a wounded, sleeping heart. But sometimes a Secret Santa gets a few unexpected gifts of her own. (Goodreads)
I downloaded this book (on my new Kindle! Eek! There goes my paycheck.) because all I've heard from Tammy and Mel is, "Her books are fantastic!" and "Kristine is such a sweetie!" so I just had to see what all the hubbub was about. I recently downloaded all of her books, actually, but this is the first one I picked to read - I was in a "human" mood.
When I started it, I didn't think it would live up to the hype. Just because I'm a disbeliever like that. But I started it this Friday morning, and I finished it Friday evening. I was captured from the very first page and simply could not put it down! Holly is such a cute character, and Marcus is a dick with a backstory, has such a miserable reason for being a jerk I couldn't make myself hate him. The background characters are well developed and the chapters flow seamlessly from one to the other. I found myself laughing like a maniac one moment to sobbing openly in a public space the next.
I also like how Marcus and Holly were not behaving innocently at some points of the novel and I wasn't wincing while reading it, nor was I flushing beet red because, hello, I was in public when I read this baby. It let me know exactly what was going on and what these two were thinking without becoming so overly-graphic I wanted to shoot myself. It is insanely well written and I wish it was longer!
Which leads to my complaint. The only problem I had was how quickly Holly and Marcus fell all over each other. I mean, it would make sense if they were teenagers who didn't know any better, but they appear to be full-grown adults, who think they're bunnies. I know, I'm picky, but I love long, drawn-out love-stories that get you to the point of wanting to strangle a character because they're so flipping oblivious, and this story could've been drug out to at least 300+ pages.. And the only reason I bring this up is because I think it was so good, I want more. But oh, well. It's good either way.
Only other thing was when they were behaving like bunnies (or just doing some very nice leave-it-to-my-imagination touching and looking and thinking, which I find quite *swoon*esque), words got repeated a lot, and there was a lot of "masculine" and "feminine" said. I found it a little odd, as if we needed to be reminded which one was which.. That's all, though, I suppose. Just my personal taste.
All in all, I think this was a marvelous little story! It made me laugh, cry, shake my head and smile at all the right times, and made me feel like I was right in the story, watching these characters interact! Delightful!