Please rest assured that I understand the incongruousness of specifically me reviewing Christmas-themed erotic novellas. I promise you, the impetus to do so was not born from a desire to use these books for their intended purpose (as it were) but from something more akin to that moment after you move to a city for the first time and are finally compelled to google “steam comes out of manholes in city why.” It’s not that you have a particular interest in the mechanics of sewers; it’s just that you begin to see it so often that the curiosity becomes too much.
I’m a librarian, and holiday erotica is my steaming manhole.
To be upfront, I must disclose that I did not even attempt to find “good” books for this article. I stayed away from Harlequins and other self-aware sexy novels and went straight to self-published ebooks available for free from my library. For the sake of our selection librarians, I should note that these books belong to an ebook platform whose collection we purchase access to in toto. In other words, we didn’t choose these books; they chose us.
As such, I will not be ranking the books I read for their writing quality, which is universally terrible, but I have rated them on a four-star scale for plot (amount thereof), steaminess, and festive cheer.
With apologies to my mother, let’s begin.
Chad vs. the Holiday Hoopla by Michael P. Thomas
Festive cheer: ★★★☆
Best line: “I hadn’t come out tonight for a game of Pin the Tail on the Doofus.”
Synopsis: It’s a Christmas nightmare: Chad was planning on using his platonic plus-one as an excuse to get close to the hunky Dr. Reynoso at the annual office party, but when she bails he’s left alone at the shindig. Worse yet, he’s partnered with the dorky Jarek for the city-wide, festive scavenger hunt! While completing a series of wacky and totally unfunny challenges, Chad and Jarek discover that the night’s true prize might be something more worthwhile than the promised Caribbean cruise (awww).
Verdict: This one made the list on the strength of its title alone. While it is one of the more festive offerings—involving a mall Santa and, for no reason, a dog named Blitzen (kinda) in a reindeer sweater—it was also one of the less steamy, with nothing but a chaste kiss at its conclusion and some underwear-related antics along the way. This is not necessarily a flaw, but also not what the cover (which features a shirtless ginger in a Santa hat draped alongside the title like the heroine in a regency novel) might lead one to believe.
Chad vs. the Holiday Hoopla does get points for including the phrase “Landon the Supertwink [sic]”, who turns out to be the junior member of a medical-themed throuple and tragically not my new favorite superhero, but still.
A Kiss of Winter: A Second Chance Christmas Romance by Scarlett King
Festive cheer: ★★☆☆
Best line: “He really has filled out nicely under those woolens—his body still lean but well-muscled, his treasure trail a little thicker but his belly just as flat.”
Synopsis: Andi Carpenter and David Delgado are paranormal investigators on a mission to bring to light a series of mysterious happenings in Phoenicia, New York before Christmas is ruined. But Andi and David are also former spouses who couldn’t make it work; is it too much to hope that solving this mystery will resolve the tension between them? Spoiler: It is not.
Verdict: Ghost hunters save Christmas and their marriage sounds like the plot to a stupid good time; sadly, this one is mostly boring and unexceptional. Our paranormal pair spend most of the story thinking about how their relationship failed because David was bad at sex, not chasing down whoever is putting up mistletoe all over town and giving a couple folks some minor frostbite (which is the “paranormal event of a lifetime,” apparently. This bit is not very well explained).
And that’s a real shame, because a sexy mash-up of Ghostbusters and A Christmas Carol with a side of Hope Springs would’ve been a slam dunk (or at least a beautiful disaster, which is kind of the same thing in this genre). As it is, the most paranormal thing that happens in this story is that Andi gets a bit cold because she kisses Jack Frost(?) and David has to warm her up… you can guess how.
The Naughty One: A Doctor’s Christmas Romance by Michelle Love
Festive cheer: ★☆☆☆
Best line: “Speaking of snake, put that incredible cock of yours back in me, boss.”
Synopsis: Romy’s last year of medical residency gets turned upside down when it’s revealed that her sexy supervisor, Dr. Blue Allende (yes, really), is her future stepbrother! Not to let a little thing like family get in the way of love, Romy and Blue begin a secret workplace romance. Everything’s perfect—until Romy’s dangerous ex-husband Dacre (again, really) rolls back into town with a plan to take revenge on the happy couple with the help of Blue’s psychotic stepbrother Gaius (do I need to say it).
Verdict: Where to even begin with this one? Maybe with the sex scenes, which are as frequent as they are repetitive (both mechanics- and vocabulary-wise) and dull. That’s something of a feat, considering that the rest of the book is wild. Not only is Romy’s ex a literal serial killer (with a body count upwards of ten by the end), he’s also weirdly Machevelian about it, killing girls in sequence so that the first letters of their names spell out “Romy” (which is both way too subtle to be effective as a scare tactic and much more trouble than it’s worth). One of those girls happens to be Romy’s sister’s new boyfriend’s daughter, who is, coincidentally, Romy’s biological sister (the daughter, not the boyfriend). Also Blue’s stepmother is a pedophile.
There’s no causal logic to any of this and the tone and timing of the “romance” is wildly out of sync with everything else that happens in the story (e.g. Romy and Blue’s first tryst takes place in the hospital “locker room” immediately after the two of them fail to save one of those serial killer victims). This is not sexy. It’s also not Christmasy, which is probably my biggest complaint. The only festive thing about this book is that Romy’s mother and Blue’s father get married on Christmas, which, for a book that bills itself as a “Christmas romance,” is blatantly false advertising.
Jury’s out on whether or not the author is in on the joke with this one, but she did use the phrase “diamond-hard” to describe male genitalia twice (which, like the word “milieu,” is one of those things you can only get away with once per book), so I’m inclined to guess not. Also, if any part of your man is diamond hard this holiday season, I recommend going to see a doctor—just maybe not Dr. Blue.