Title: Montana Secret Santa
Author: Debra Salonen
Series: Love at the Chocolate Shop #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: Short novel
Available: 1st Dec
Ad exec Krista Martin, while feeling more Grinch than elf, still jumps at the chance to co-chair Marietta’s Secret Santa Society. Why not? Especially since brilliant, attractive, and innovative tech wunderkind Jonah Andrews has agreed to help. He’s well connected and Krista’s hoping for some advice on rebooting her career.
Jonah knows Krista has a not-so-hidden agenda, but sparring with her over cocoa at their Secret Santa meetings is the most fun he’s had since returning to his old hometown. Krista may come across as all business, but Jonah’s positive he’s glimpsed a little girl inside her who wants to believe in Santa… and in love.
Source: ARC from Tule Publishing via NetGalley
This is an odd one, because while I enjoyed the characters and the romance between them, especially the build up over the first half of the book, in the second half everything sort of breaks down into snatches of scenes and flashbacks that I might otherwise have liked to have experienced in full.
Take Krista. She starts off the book in determined mode because her business partner isn’t pulling her weight. She has a plan, she’s going to implement it, but somehow all her starch goes out of her and she’s suddenly offering to play Secret Santa, even though she hates Christmas. She hates it mostly because of constantly being letdown by her family over the years, but also because her last serious boyfriend dumped her over the holiday. She’s also pretty cynical about selflessness and giving.
Yet somehow, over the course of the book, all of this changes. But we don’t see it. One moment she’s sneering about someone’s request for their sister to have a spa day (which of course they have to go along on too), the next she’s practically an elf, full of the joys of giving. Not that we actually see any giving either. I was pretty disappointed about the lack of Santa-ing, be it arranging gifts or giving them. Krista’s family also add stress and trouble throughout, but we don’t get to see her with them either. It happens in flashback. Which left me feeling a little flat.
Jonah is more straightforward, without too much trouble in his past. I enjoyed reading about him and Krista growing closer and I did think they (and the dogs) were very cute together. A bit more insight into what he was thinking towards the end might have been nice, but since this book’s focus is firmly on him and Krista, we do at least get most of the important relationship moments between them.
So overall this was okay. I like Debra Salonen’s writing and have really loved some of her Marietta/Big Sky Maverick books, but this one felt a bit too short and light on details beyond the romance. It’s still an enjoyable, easy read, but the episodic nature of the second half meant I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped.
Montana Secret Santa is out December 1st.
Visit Debra Salonen for more details.