I'm a fan of Jill Shalvis, have recently read and enjoyed Helenkay Dimon, so figured I had a two out of three chance of loving this anthology.
Lock, Stock, and Jingle Bells by Donna Kaufman
Holly Berry Bennett, a late-in-life Christmas baby, has been surprised by her mother, who was crazy about all things Christmas, with the "gift" of her boutique Christmas store in small-town South Carolina. She's free to continue to operate it, or sell it, her choice.
I simply didn't find Holly a compelling or passionate character; more of a jellyfish, swept along by whatever tide. She paints, but has made a life for herself in London in an ad agency, which she doesn't love, doesn't hate. She doesn't WANT the store, but she doesn't want to work proactively at closing it and moving the stock, even though it is the middle of the Christmas season. She always had a mad crush on Sean Gallagher, who now owns the restaurant across the street, but it's not like she's going to even cross the street.
Sean, on the other hand, is hot and sexy and SOOOO interested in Holly that he'll cross the street, 2-3 times a day, bringing her food and making speeches. He spends about three pages trying to convince her that he had a crush on her way back when, which I found totally unbelievable; sexy, experienced thirty-something guys don't MAKE long rambling high schoolish speeches like that. There's a side plot about an illegitimate heir who's not too closely related to Sean which adds nothing to the story. The sex scenes were well-written, but since I didn't feel emotionally invested in the characters, it was hard to have more than a clinical interest.
Bah, Handsome! by Jill Shalvis is now also included in her "Merry and Bright" anthology. Since I really liked this story, I suggest going in that direction, instead of this collection.
Holly O'Brien owns a struggling B & B in Colorado, which is CLOSE to turning the corner and making a profit, allowing her to pay back her Grinchly stepbrother, from whom she took a loan. But the Grinch has even sent his accountant, Danny Shaw, to make sure she pays up. Danny, sexy guy even with his glasses, finds his sympathies - and his libido - are strongly with Hope; she doesn't want to acknowledge it, since he represents the enemy. It's cute and funny and sexy, and there's mistletoe and snow and bears.
It's Hotter at Christmas by Helenkay Dimon
Ted Greene is a detective in Kauai, assigned to investigate robberies happening to a particular tourist, Marissa Brandt. Problem: he wants to boink her lights out. Problem solved: chief of police gives him a green light to go ahead, and DOESN'T take him off the investigation (would this really happen, even in a small town?). Ted is an appealing enough character, but I didn't get much about Marissa except that she was peeved enough to kick a TSA officer in the shins when he wouldn't let her board the plane without ID (cute? not so much). I got more personality from Ted's sister Nicki, the hotel manager. What I wanted was to see Marissa falling in love with Kauai, and Ted, not necessarily in that order, as well as Ted lusting for her, but I wasn't feeling it. Well-written sex scenes, but again, I wasn't invested, so meh.
I hate to bah humbug any book, let alone a holiday one, but this is one I kept putting down and struggling to pick back up, except for the Shalvis story.