Santa Baby
by Jennifer Crusie, Lori Foster, and Carly Phillips; contemporary (2006)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 0-312-93976-0

Dang it, I've been bamboozled. The cover of the Christmas anthology Santa Baby says, "First time in print - a holiday novella by Jennifer Crusie". I rather foolishly take this to mean that the anthology features brand new stories. It turns out that only Ms Crusie's story is new. The other stories are taken from previous Christmas anthologies by this publisher. I am not happy when I discover this after reading the copyright page.

On the bright side, Ms Crusie's Hot Toy is too much fun to read. Trudy Maxwell courageously braves the madness of last-moment shopping on Christmas eve to get her nephew the elusive Major MacGuffin action figure (with extra toxic waste) only to find herself madly looking through the toy boxes in the store and running away from what seems like Chinese spies pursuing her for toys that contain secret coded messages. Luckily for her, the almost-boyfriend who never called, Nolan Mitchell, is at hand to help her rekindle a little Christmas magic.

This one is crazy enough to rival a Janet Evanovich madcap comedy as Trudy is dragged through an outrageously out-there adventure. Ms Crusie has plenty of one-liners and funny scenes here that have me laughing until my sides ache. Really, I adore this story the way I'd adore a bag full of hundred dollar notes. I am also amused at how the author has Trudy behaving like the most cynical romance heroine I've ever come across, doubting Nolan for everything and anything, only to fall back head over heels the moment he shows up again. Trudy is such a ditz sometimes, heh.

Lori Foster's Christmas Bonus is from the 2000 anthology All I Want For Christmas. I'll just cut and paste my review of that one here.

That one, by the way, might as well has Out Tonight as its theme song. It's about Eric Bragg who has been waiting for the boss's daughter Maggie Carmichael to grow up so that he can finally put the move on her. Unfortunately, the lady in question happens to inherit the company after Daddy croaked.

Now poor Eric is in a fix. If he asks her out now, wouldn't everyone think he's just in it for power? That won't do at all. But Maggie doesn't know what she is getting into when she asks him to help her plan a Christmas party as well as be her date. And when he discovers her secret life as a romance author, and better still, when he realizes he is the man in the story whose fingers are up the heroine's... whatever, he decides maybe it's time he breaks some rules a little.

Maggie and Eric are on equal grounds in this game of seduction, okay almost, which makes this seduction game fun. It's sexy, the sexual tension is cranked up to a fevered pitch that I am surprised these two fellows' clothes don't just explode in flames. Funny, exuberant, and absolutely chocolate-sexy, this romance makes me want to kick my legs up and sing, "Take me o-OOOOOOOHHHH-out tonight, baby!"

And trust me, I don't do that often.

And finally, I'll just repaste the review of Carly Phillips' Naughty Under The Mistletoe from my review of the 2001 anthology Naughty Or Nice?.

Naughty Under The Mistletoe suggests that Carly Phillips' non-stop low wage slave labor at the Harlequin sweatshop may be taking its toll on the poor lady. Don't they have some union to protect the authors? Virginal saddo Antonia Larson decides to lose her virtue by gifting it to her hunky lawyer boss. It's definitely Ally McBeal and not The Practice lawyer heroine we are talking about here, which is good. Everybody knows that if you have a romance heroine lawyer representing you, you may as well bend over to pick up the soap now. Best leave those romance heroine lawyers preoccupied with hunting down victims to inflict their neurotism on.

Maybe Carly Phillips should take a break, you know, and get some new muse?

Anyway, Monotonia here does the Santa McBeal lapdance on the wrong guy - the lawyer boss' twin brother - and they have lots of eeeeuw-look-at-that-sad-woman-moan sexy stuff. The sex takes up almost two-third of this mercifully brief novella, so Monotonia's squealings and hand-wringing nonsense are kept to a minimum.

To conclude, this is a very expensive anthology with only one out of three stories being new. If you haven't read these reprinted stories before, this anthology isn't bad at all. If you have, ask someone to lend it to you so that you can read Ms Crusie's story. As fun as it is, it's not worth $7.99.

Rating: 79

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