Saturday, July 27, 2019

#BookReview – “Studmuffin Santa” by Tawna Fenske


Brandon Brown is the unlikeliest Santa ever to don a red velvet suit. 
His abs are more cheese grater than bowl full of jelly, and deploying to Syria is the closest he’s come to the North Pole. But family drama sends the jaded Marine home for the holidays, and lands him an unexpected gig as a part-time Santa. 
Jade King is hustling to get Jingle Bell Reindeer Ranch off the ground, and she’s not thrilled her sister hired a Santa with sex-appeal. The last thing Jade wants is a beefcake circus, and guys like Brandon bring sleigh-loads of trouble. But Studmuffin Santa proves more popular than anyone dreamed, drawing hordes of happy kids, lusty moms, and a mystery foe hell-bent on wrecking it all. 
The threat has Brandon playing protector for the reindeer and their sexy keeper, which is risky for a guy who’s sworn off happy endings and the whole Christmas mess. But as Jade and Brandon bond over Santa suit malfunctions and risqué Christmas cookies, they find they have more in common than a craving for gingerbread. Can they find a way to mesh their wish lists, or will ghosts of Christmas past bring things crashing down like a fat man in a cast iron sleigh? 


Book one in the Ponderosa Resort series is a blast. Jade King and her sister Amber are determined to get their new reindeer business off the ground, but mysterious things have been happening around the ranch. Jade refuses to believe anything is wrong, but Amber hires a man to keep an eye on the property. As part of the ruse, he’s also playing Santa Claus, which draws all the flirty moms in town to Jade’s ranch.
Hometown football hero and decorated Marine Brandon Brown is back home to visit his ailing father, and he takes the job as Santa in an attempt to fight the demons in his past. Though he went to high school with Jade a decade earlier, he doesn’t remember her, but he’s determined to get to know her now. Jade, however, remembers him and his jerk friends very well, which hangs over their new relationship like a dark cloud.
I like the story, as well as the H/h. Jade was horribly bullied back in school, but grew up to be a strong, self-assured woman. Brandon had a bad home life, but put on a brave, cocky face at school to pretend he was fine. He’s now kind and honorable, fully aware of the mistakes he’s made, but he was pretty blind to Jade’s pain. On the flipside, she kept the pain to herself, so they’re both at fault for that.
There are few loose ends that I really wanted tied up. For example, after Brandon finally learns how his friends tormented Jade in school and how they still did to a lesser degree as adults, is he still gonna be all friendly and chummy with them? I hope not.
The secondary characters were really great, Amber especially. The reindeer were awesome, and I just love Tammy to death—such a good, protective Mama!
I normally don’t read romantic comedies or 1st person narrative, but this story was equal parts hilarious and heart wrenching, and I didn’t feel lost when reading all the “I” pronouns. Book two in the series is Sean (Brandon’s cousin) and Amber’s story, and I would love to read it.
4 Stars

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