AUTHOR: Vivi Andrews
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 33k)
GENRE: Paranormal romance
Sasha was born into Hollywood royalty, but being recognized isn’t exactly high on her list. The fact that her current boyfriend doesn’t seem to care is a bonus, but the way he’s stonewalling on meeting her famous mother on Christmas is not. She’s going to make one last ditch effort to convince him, even though she worries about his odd behavior the past few months. Little does she realize that Jay isn’t the goody-two-shoes she believes him to be, nor is he worried about meeting her mother. His fears are a little bit bigger than that, mainly how he’s going to tell her he’s actually half-demon and can’t spend Christmas on the mortal plane. Before he can explain it, however, he’s sucked into a vortex, and Sasha finds herself with a contract from the angels to rescue him from Hell before dawn…
I held off on buying the holiday anthologies that Carina put out last year, instead choosing to pick up a few of the individual novellas instead. Most of the time, I actually prefer this method rather than purchasing whole collections that often leave me more disappointed than not. This way, I can pick and choose what I want to read and better my odds at finding a gem. With this one, I came out a winner.
The story opens with Sasha on Christmas Eve, braving grocery store crowds to pick up a missing ingredient for the baking bonanza she has planned to surprise her boyfriend with. She’s running late because the store is a zoo, and has a less than pleasant experience when she’s recognized. See, her mother is considered Hollywood royalty, and though Sasha isn’t an actress, she’s treated in much the same way. It’s a role she’s tired of, since she can rarely be certain if someone wants to know her for her rather than her family connections. Her boyfriend is one of the few who doesn’t seem to care who she is. Jay is a good man, more low-key than the bad boys she usually dates, but Sasha is worried that his repeated refusals to spend Christmas with her family mean there’s bad news on the horizon. Especially since he told her they needed to talk. Little does she know that Jay isn’t exactly what he seems. He’s half-demon, and as such, isn’t allowed to be on the mortal plane for Christmas. In fact, he was supposed to be back in Hell months ago, but he’s ignored various summons in favor of staying with Sasha. Now, though, he knows he needs to tell her the truth, but before he can, a vortex opens in Sasha’s kitchen and sucks him straight to Hell. Sasha is then visited by an angel who lays upon her the responsibility of retrieving Jay before dawn, or losing him forever.
Comedy is always a tricky sell, because humor often translates so differently to paper. I’ve not always had the best luck when I’ve tried it out, but this time, I got lucky. Where most holiday stories tend to be saccharine sweet, this one was plucky, smart, and kickass.
The author’s voice is suitably sarcastic and sharp, befitting both of her leads, and the pacing is brisk and compelling. I could have easily read another 30k without batting an eyelash. Both the characters and the situation were that entertaining.
I especially loved the heroine. Sasha disdains the superficiality of the world she was born into, choosing to be a stuntwoman rather than an actress. She has a propensity for falling for bad boys, but her latest boyfriend, Jay, seems the antithesis of that. She met him in a library, and she often thinks that he’s actually too good for her. However, he sees past all the crap that comes with being her, and for that alone, he should be a keeper. Her reactions throughout the story reflect this front she wears like armor, when in actuality, she’s as scared and vulnerable as anybody else. It never gets in her way, however, and her consistent bravery and fast thinking made her incredibly easy to root for.
Jay’s a little harder to get a grasp on, but that’s due mostly to the duality of his nature, the fact that he’s kept so much hidden from Sasha, and the slightly sketchy world-building that doesn’t really provide all the answers I needed. My first perceptions of him are colored by Sasha’s thoughts, and it takes a while for those to smooth away to allow his real personality to shine through. When it does, he’s every inch the hero he actually wants to be, even if he’s just a little tarnished. It’s the tarnish that makes him so fascinating.
Knowing I can trust this author’s voice makes me eager to delve into her backlist. I know she’s published with Samhain at the very least. I’ll probably start there. Because when a story is this well-written, with characters that are real in spite of its supernatural setting and such excellent pacing, there’s no way I can stop at reading just one.
9/10 – Funny, intelligent, and completely absorbing
8/10 – I had less of a handle on him as his dual nature wasn’t very smoothly portrayed, but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying him
9/10 – Sassy, confident, and ready to kick ass
9/10 – This isn’t one of your saccharine holiday tales, it’s fun and spirited
7/10 – With the focus so much on the paranormal world, I needed either better clarification of how it all worked or more of it