Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: Her Naughty Holiday by Tiffany Reisz

Cover of Her Naughty Holiday. A dark-haired, bearded, shirtless white man stands in front of a lake with a mountain behind it.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

HER NAUGHTY HOLIDAY [Amazon | Kobo | The Book Depository] is the second book in Tiffany Reisz’s trio of holiday romance set around Lost Lake, Oregon, but please don’t think you need to read HER HALLOWEEN TREAT before you can dive into this Thanksgiving-focused offering. The books take place in the same general location and feature characters who’re at least casual acquaintances, but this is a series of standalones. If you’re no longer in a Halloweeny mood but Thanksgiving drama sounds perfect, you can leap in without the slightest reservation.

Clover Greene has just learned her family is set to converge on her place for Thanksgiving. Eep. She can’t stand to spend yet another holiday listening to everyone snark about how she’s still single, so she lets her teenage assistant, Ruthie, con her into asking Ruthie’s father, Erick, to pose as Clover’s fake boyfriend for the day. Clover and Erick have been fighting their attraction for close to a year, and the ruse gives them the perfect excuse to get to know one another better.

Things escalate. Quickly.

And awesomely.

I’ve long maintained that Tiffany Reisz is the funniest romance writer ever, and this book clinches it. (As if her body of work wasn’t proof enough.) I started it right before bed--a common mistake with me and Reisz--and had to stay up quite a bit longer than I intended because I was laughing so hard at Clover and Ruthie’s exchanges, then Clover and Erick’s exchanges, then Clover and/or Erick’s recollections of awesome stuff Ruthie said before the book began. Reisz’s characters appreciate banter, puns, and dirty jokes both as full contact activities and as spectator sports. The laughs keep on a-comin’; a hell of a great hook for the wider story.

Fear not, devotees of steamy romance--emotionally resonant sexy times run alongside the jokes. Clover and Erick already have a strong bond because of their shared love of Ruthie, but they don’t know each other especially well going into their fake relationship; something they take as an excuse to spend lots and lots of time together in the days leading up to the holiday. And hey, if sex happens during this getting-to-know-you period--

It’s an allosexual romance. OF COURSE SEX IS GONNA HAPPEN.

It’s hot, respectful sex, of course, as per the Tiffany Reisz brand. Clover and Erick are both clear about what they want and what they don’t, and they’re keen to experiment. Clover has minimal experience in certain areas, so there’s also a super hot discovery component to their bedplay. They aren’t just getting to know one another; they’re also trying new things together and building deeper bonds in the process. It’s awesome.

Reisz delivers fascinating relationships outside the romance, too. I love love love love love what passes between Clover and Ruthie. They’re tight, and it shows in everything they say to one another and everything Clover thinks about Ruthie when she’s not around (which is most of the book, thanks to Ruthie's Thanksgiving trip to visit her mom). Hurray for strong female friendships!

Clover’s connection to her parents and siblings is equally interesting but far less healthy. She’s the family outsider for many reasons, but most especially because she left college to accept a job she used as a stepping stone to start her own business, and because she’s unmarried at thirty. To her academically-minded, child-endowed family, her life is the very height of unacceptable, and they never waste an opportunity to passive aggressively remind her she doesn’t live up to their standards. It’s painful to read, but the text makes it clear that while it’s completely unacceptable for them to treat Clover this way, their actions are rooted in love rather than malice. Clover’s family is terrible, but they think they’re being supportive by challenging Clover to do “more” with her life. I’m thrilled with how Clover ends up handling it, and the impact her actions have on her relationships with her family and her romance with Erick.

I also adore how large a role Clover’s business plays in the story. She owns two gardening centres that do so well another company wants to buy her out--for five million dollars. Go Clover! It’s a fabulous offer, but Clover loves her job and isn’t sure she wants to walk away from it, let alone agree never to start another company under her own name. The business has also brought Ruthie into her life, and with her Erick. And it’s something she’s built, despite heady derision from her family. (Clover does manual labour for a living. Gasp!) She has until the Monday after Thanksgiving to decide whether or not she’ll take the offer, and it remains a prominent question throughout the story.

Clover’s many different relationships blend together to make this an intense, sweet, multi-layered romance. I laughed, I gasped, I shared Clover’s frustration with her family, and I had a fabulous time getting to know these characters. I’m gonna be raving about it for weeks to come, and I strongly encourage the romance readers among you to pick it up. The paper edition drops on October 18th, with ebooks to follow on November 1st.

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