A Naughty Noelle
by Ann Bruce, contemporary (2007)
Ellora's Cave, $2.99, ISBN 978-1-4199-1365-5

Poor Noelle Mason. Instead of jabbing her elbows at fellow shoppers in frantic last-minute Christmas shopping, she finds herself wandering on the cold lonely streets of New York City like a zombie in an urban fantasy novel. She's just caught her boyfriend in the act of testing out the candy cane with a floozy, you see, and her day can't get any worse when she finds herself about to be mugged. Fortunately for her, her knight in shining armor turns out to be hunky Sergio Ramirez. After beating the crap out of the mugger, he walks off like the mysterious hunky stranger that he is before she even gets to ask him his name.

Sergio is currently working undercover to infiltrate the Manetti clan and discover who the Manettis are working with. The Manetti clan are behind some of the biggest criminal rackets in town and Sergio is hoping to become the best buddy to the brothers Donnie and Jack Manetti. Only, things don't work out the way he planned. Injured - did I hear the mugger say something about karma? - our poor hero makes his escape only to find himself in the same cab with Noelle. Bedside nursing, some hot sex, and a gundown or two wrap up this story just in time for Christmas.

A Naughty Noelle is an Ellora's Cave Quickie, which means that it is a very short story. This one, however, is a very well-paced short story that has a decent build-up as well as a closure that doesn't let me feel as if the story has ended too soon. I have some serious doubts about Noelle wandering around town like a zombie, especially after nearly being mugged, or getting all hot and heavy for a man who nearly caused her harm twice in the story, but I suppose seeing one's boyfriend doing the lollypop bop with a floozy can do that to a woman. Still, the characters click pretty well together and the story is well-paced and entertaining enough to provide a quick but satisfying reading experience.

Rating: 79

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