REVIEW: A Christmas Kiss by Caroline Burnes

When silver-wrapped chocolates began mysteriously appearing, Cori St. John knew they were messages from her husband. He’d vanished the same day Cori witnessed a brutal murder–an event that forced her to change her identity and introduced her to sexy federal marshal Joey Tio. Now only Joey can keep her safe–because he fears the woman he’s coming to love has been betrayed and lured into a deadly trap.

Warnings: action/violence, abelism

Category: M/F

A Christmas Kiss is an action packed harlequin romance novel, just in time for the holidays. It is very dramatic and full of intrigue, crime rings, love and betrayal. The first in a trilogy of harlequins novels following different eye witnesses to the same double homicide, it is equal parts crime drama as it is romantic love affair. While it isn’t very Christmas-centric at all for a novel with ‘Christmas’ in the title, its certainly a fun ride if you like a little action with your romance.

WRITING
The writing style is immediately engaging. I really found Burnes’s prose to be fun and easy to read, and it carries a lot of the action and the intrigue of the mystery. The story is very exciting if you like a good crime drama- Cori was a witness in a ghastly double homicide, after which her husband mysteriously dissapears. She spends the book trying to find him, and prove he’s alive despite everyone telling her that he is dead. She knows he’s alive because he’s been leaving her clues; little chocolate kisses which were their couples tradition before he’d disappeared. Now she’s trying to find him and is aided by a dashing cop who is quickly falling in love with her. There are various twists and turns in the plot, as the mystery begins to come together. Who’s backstabbed who, and what are the criminal organizations involved after? It’s all very dramatic and cinematic, the kind of thing that could be a big blockbuster action film. It’s a lot of fun to read! I will warn for some abelist language however, as the mystery of who is stalking Cori often gets dismissed as though she might just “be crazy” and that can be a bit uncomfortable to read at times.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
For a story as melodramatic and action oriented as this, it does have it’s quieter moments where the story and its characters are allowed to breath. The cultural exchange that takes place as the two leads tell each other about their childhoods and their family traditions is lovely, and the sense of fullness to the characters is excellently crafted. That said the chemistry between them is a bit rushed; the story takes places over a handful of days, and the speed with which both of them fall for each other gave me a bit of whiplash. Of course that is part of the fantasy of the genre as well, the idea that you can fall headlong in love with someone after knowing them for half a day, and the romance of it is very fun. Both characters were very interesting on their own, and if their relationship felt like it developed a tad quickly, I can’t really fault it.

WORLDBUILDING
This series does have a very interesting concept, in that this is book one of a trilogy which explores three different women who all where witness to the same crime. So while things are resolved as far as Cori and her love affairs are concerned, the murder mystery itself is still hanging at the end of the book. I think the concept is really a neat one and I wouldn’t mind reading the next two in the series. The drama of the underground crime rings is very nicely explored, and the action is all backed into this very fun little mystery. My only complaint is one I often have with ‘Christmas’ books- that is, that Christmas plays no role in this story, and it could have easily been set at any time of the year without changing a thing. I feel that if it’s going to be a Christmas title, it should centre the holiday a little more, rather than just incidentally taking place during December. But of course, that’s not a gripe with the book itself so much as one with how it was marketed.

STEAMINESS
Unfortunately I am very sad to say that there is no sex in this book. There is one scene where the leads do get together, but it’s a fade to black and never even gives us a glimpse at the characters in this private moment. I was disappointed, especially considering that I liked the characters a lot and their constant will-they-wont-they moments of teasing really set the stage for something steamy. I would have liked to see how both of them approached love making and I think the author could have written something very beautiful and emotionally compelling- the story was just the right balance of cheesy and exciting to make sex scenes work. Alas, this is not one of Harlequin’s steamier titles. Then again, if you like romance but don’t read the sex scenes, this one should please you well.

I picked this book up from one of those little free library boxes, and I am very glad that I did. It was a very fun story, and while I’m not usually one for purely vanilla romances, the story and characters were very enjoyable and fun to engage with. A great choice for the holidays for the romance aficionado.

Have you read A Christmas Kiss? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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