"Unleashed" is the first story in this seasonal anthology. Emma Lafferty agrees to spend the Christmas holiday pet-sitting for a multi-millionaire who is spending the holidays in the islands. She expects the house to be empty, save for a slew of dogs, cats, and a talking bird.
Imagine her surprise when she bumps into a man who claims he's the millionaire's nephew, just in town for an impromptu visit. Emma's not sure if she can believe that Trevor's visit is really on the up and up since her employer didn't mention he was coming
- and more importantly, she finds him snooping in the den in the dark. But when the lights go out, instead of insisting he leave, she wants to insist
that he hold her close instead…
I don't always like Donna Kauffman's work, but I enjoyed this story. It's well-written, and I always enjoy cabin romances.
Even though Emma is drawn to Trevor from the start, she doesn't let the
attraction overshadow the fact that he's keeping something from her and trying to use his charm to distract her. Trevor
isn't as enjoyable, mainly because it does appear that he is trying to distract Emma from figuring out why he's at the house by flirting with her. I would have rather he had told her
that his reason for being there was between him and his uncle and none of her business, and
then commenced with the flirting. As it stands, it isn't always clear whether his motivations
are manipulative or not. I also would have preferred "Unleashed" without an epilogue
- it does nothing but set up readers' interest in Kauffman's upcoming book, not really what an epilogue
is supposed to do. These criticisms aside, I did like watching Emma and Trevor build a relationship.
"Finding Mr. Right" is Jill Shalvis' contribution. Genius chemist Maggie Bell
hasn't had a date with Mr. Right Now, much less Mr. Right, in a long time. Her sister decides that what she needs most for Christmas is some special time with a Mr. Wrong, and Maggie knows just who she'd like to fill those shoes. Jacob Wahler is the contractor working in Maggie's office building, and she hasn't seen him since high school.
He doesn't quite remember the geeky tutor she used to be - and that's fine with her if she's going to entice him now!
The chemistry between Maggie and Jacob in "Finding Mr. Right" succeeds. They really work well together and complement each other, even
if they couldn't be more different. Shalvis' trademark humor colors the
narrative, as well as a somewhat-suspenseful subplot that, while unnecessary, is well executed and doesn't interfere with the love story.
HelenKay Dimon's "Can You Hand Me the Tape?" is what brought me to this anthology to begin with. Natalie
Pritchard comes to Spencer Donovan's office to secure his help in getting back a tape she left in her ex-boyfriend's apartment. Based on how insistent she is on getting it back, Spencer can guess she's not talking about a roll of masking tape, if you know what I mean. The only problem is that Natalie's ex-boyfriend is Spencer's business partner, and the more Spencer thinks about what's on this tape, the more he wants to see what's on that tape in real life. But can Natalie ever think of him as more than just her ex-boyfriend's partner?
"Can You Hand Me the Tape?" was my favorite of the trio of stories, mainly character-driven
rather than conflict-driven. Yes, Spencer and Natalie need to work together to get the tape back, but there
isn't any villain or race against a clock - just the two of them trying to work together to reach a goal.
While they do, they get to know each other better and see each other in a different light.
To All a Good Night
is a fun way to spend a weekend. My only quibble: none of the stories is terribly Christmasy,
seeming as though the Christmas imagery was added as an afterthought. If I'm going to pick up a Christmas book, I want Christmas and the story to be intertwined, and
that doesn't happen here. Other than that, this is a strong anthology from three strong authors.