Here Comes Santa Claus
by Sandra Hill, Kate Holmes, and Trish Jensen; contemporary (2001)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4918-X


This is like an anthology, except that instead of having three novellas side by side, they have chopped up the novellas into chapters and slice them between each other, something like layers in a mega sandwich. It makes sense, though, because these three stories are supposed to be taking place concurrently.

Sandra Hill handles the story of Samuel Merrick. Trish Jensen handles the story of Kevin Wilder, and Kate Holmes handles the story of Stanley Kijewski. All three men are fellow orphans who have grown up and do good for themselves. Sam's a Blue Angels pilot, Kevin's an ex-cop turned PI with a part time life as a law student, and Stan is an ex-NFL footballer. All three men are making their way to their mentor George's wedding, but a terrible storm makes it such that all three have to board a bus filled with geriatric Santa Clauses and enough babes to go around. Love in a snowstorm is definitely on the agenda.

Sandra Hill is a definite name in comedy, and she doesn't disappoint here. Kate Holmes, whose works as Anne Avery I've mostly enjoyed, is the weakest of three, while Trish Jensen may just cement her reputation as a romantic comedy powerhouse with her story. Yes, I'm in love with Kevin myself, and I'm going to flash him so that he will book me ASAP.

Sam is reunited with his long-time ex-almost-girlfriend Rebecca "Reba" Anderson, who he has never forgotten. He was most disappointed when she got married, mind you. Aww. Reba is a more stereotypical playing-hard-to-get heroine, and there are more dotty old people in this story hogging the scene than I would have liked. Still, Reba and Sam rule with explosive chemistry and sexual tension.

An aside rant - I don't know, but seriously, do people really find all these dotty old people breaking into story, correcting youngsters' grammar, and generally acting like Estelle Getty on crack funny? As plot devices go, Dotty Old Biddies are getting old. The Golden Girls is so 20th century, so please, can we have some semblance of restraint please? Dotty Biddy Overkill = nosebleed.

Trish Jensen's Kevin stumbles upon a fashion designer on the run after he sees through her atrocious German accent and Amish disguise. Cassandra Brandt is also the rather dim and stereotypical "Stop saving me, I can take care of myself, dammihHHHEEEELLLPP ME!" heroine, but gosh, the chemistry, the sexual tension, and the banters and one-liners!

I almost bust a rib laughing non-stop. This one is prime time laff-stuff fun.

Stan is a bit more problematic, because the author overplays the lust at first sight thing at the expense of decent relationship development. Stan is taken aback when the forester woman friend of George he is meeting turns out to be a Renaissance Madonna instead of Paul Bunyan wearing a bra. Dana and he got off not exactly on the right foot, but they spark anyway.

This novella is not as funny as the other two, but it's not any more emotional either. Dana keeps making excuses for Stan, and both she and Stan are stock characters. Then again, the characters of the other two novellas are stock characters too, I admit, but at least they are funny. This one is a bit off and it bores me that I find the chapters of this novella more of a distraction.

What I love about Sam and Kevin is that these are two men with a less than happy past, but oh, they also have the courage to see the humor in life. Funny, manly, macho, and heroic, they're fine romance heroes to chase the blues away, and they come with fine wide shoulders too.

I do wince whenever there is a "male bonding" scene between the three guys though. No matter how good these authors are with male-female dynamics, their male-male dynamics description do come off... how do I put it? It's not even fun "eh, that's rather gay" slashy, it's more of a "hey, that's so girly" reaction. Guys hugging and crying and swearing friendship forever are best left to schoolgirls and nellies. I half expect Stan to give the other two guys friendship bracelets and all three of them to go "hee-hee" as they hold hands and gallop around in a circle. It can be quite amusing to imagine three muscle-bound pansies doing that, but come on, I'm sure we're not talking about the Mayflower Daisy Girls here.

Nonetheless, all quibbles aside, this is a fine anthology for laughter, sizzling chemistry (not much sex though - come on, sex in a bus filled with dotty old ladies is a nightmarish scenario I doubt even Clive Barker could pull off), and fun and sun. Prime time poppy fun, oh yeah.

Rating: 89


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