Sunday, December 23, 2018

Week at a Glance: 12/17/18 - 12/23/18

Sunday's Short Stack: Too Hot for Santa by Helena Stone

Jonah Walsh’s fledgling acting career in Dublin comes to an abrupt end when a video of him in a compromising position goes viral on social media. The offer of a part in a Christmas play in Sydney, Australia arrives at exactly the right time, although he isn’t sure about celebrating Christmas in the scorching heat. Nick Claseman isn’t happy that the actor he and his sister have hired will be occupying his granny flat. As for Jonah’s enthusiasm for Christmas, Nick doesn’t get it. He hasn’t decorated or celebrated in years.

When Jonah turns out to be anything but a stuck-up starlet with delusions of grandeur, and Nick proves he’s not usually grumpy and borderline hostile, the two men gravitate toward each other. Their attraction morphs into something more when Jonah reacquaints Nick with the pleasures of Christmas and Nick shows Jonah the beauty of Australia. But Jonah is only Down Under for a few months. It would take a Christmas miracle for them to have a future together.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2018 Advent Calendar "Warmest Wishes."

When a video of Jonah Walsh in a compromising position surfaces, his acting career takes the hit so when an offer for a Christmas play from Australia comes to his door he jumps at the opportunity.  The idea of celebrating the holiday in the heat and sun down under is a little off-putting but not enough to turn the offer down.  To say Nick Claseman isn't happy with his sister when he learns the actor they hired will be staying in his granny flat, is an understatement, but it is what it is.  Their differing ideas on Christmas is not enough to squash the growing attraction between Jonah and Nick but with it only being a temporary gig, what happens when the play is done?  Will this holiday fling be more?

I have not read everything Helena Stone has written but what I have read has never disappointed and Too Hot for Santa hasn't either.  As a born and raised Wisconsinite where the possible snow season(and yes that is real thing here in the frozen tundra) is about 240 days out of the year and only July and August is physically impossible to get snow, the idea of spending Christmas in a climate that sees no white stuff is just unimaginable.  HOWEVER, Miss Stone does an incredible job of putting Jonah in just such a Christmas that I felt if I looked out my window I wouldn't see the white stuff in my yard or the leaf-less branches swaying back and forth.

Nick and Jonah may not have the standardized-cutesy-Hallmark-ish first meeting but personally I thought it was even better.  Watching these two navigate the holiday as well as each other was a pure joy and delight.  Too Hot for Santa may be a short novella that we all know will end in a HEA but riding along on Nick and Jonah's journey discovering that HEA is long on fun and holiday cheer that I never wanted to see end.  And getting a glimpse of the boys' future is like finding one more gift under the tree after you've bagged up all the torn wrapping paper.  Helena Stone serves up a true holiday treat from beginning to end.


“ARE YOU still here?”

“Obviously.” Nick glanced up from his tablet and studied his sister’s face since her tone of voice didn’t give him any clue whether she was bemused or exasperated.

“You realize his plane is scheduled to land in less than an hour, right?” She quirked an eyebrow. “And that it will take you at least that amount of time to get to the airport?”

“Yes, Jen. I’m very aware of both those facts. Just as I know that even if the plane lands on time—”

“It will. I just checked the website. There are no delays.”

“Even if he does arrive on time,” Nick continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted, and without admitting he’d been checking the airline’s website too, “he will still have to get his luggage and make his way through customs and to the arrivals hall. I’ve got better things to do with my time than hang around in airports waiting for some spoiled star to make his appearance.”

Jenny’s sigh signaled loud and clear she was about to lose her patience with him. “Really? We’re going to have this discussion again?”

Nick shrugged. He’d made up his mind, and it didn’t matter what she said or how often she repeated it, he wouldn’t be swayed.

“How do you even know whether or not he’s spoiled? Did you read up on him? Watch him in action? Did you negotiate with him and make all the arrangements?”

It was Nick’s turn to sigh because she was right. Until half an hour ago, he hadn’t so much as looked up Jonah Walsh on the internet. Still…. “If he wasn’t spoiled before, he’s bound to be now that you’ve dealt with him. Even the most humble person would get a huge ego boost out of being flown halfway around the world in order to join the cast of a Christmas play. It’s not as if we have a lack of actors in Australia.”

Jenny’s features tightened. “You know why I asked him. That part needs to be played by someone who is actually Irish, rather than an actor who can do a reasonable imitation of the accent.” She glared at him. “As you well know, he’ll be paying back the price of that ticket from his wages. Besides, it’s not as if you’ve been busting your balls to find someone else to replace Ciaran.”

Unfortunately Nick had no comeback against that last accusation. In fact, he’d been as relieved as Jenny when Ciaran had mentioned that he knew the perfect actor to replace him and had gone as far as setting up the initial contact between Jonah and Jenny. Of course the possibility this Jonah might have delusions of grandeur was not what really bugged him.

Jenny wasn’t finished. “You’ve dealt with demanding stars before. I refuse to believe that’s the reason for your hostility toward someone you haven’t even met yet.”

Nick cursed the fact that she appeared to have read his mind. Not that it surprised him; it was an ability she’d had since the day they were born—Jenny half an hour before him.

“Are you going to tell me why you’ve been acting narky for days now?”

“Don’t pretend you don’t know why I’m upset, sis.” Nick glared at her. “Of course you can cast whoever you see fit in your play. What I would like to know is what possessed you to tell him he could stay with me while he’s under contract?”

Jenny laughed, visibly relaxing while Nick’s annoyance increased. “That’s what’s got you all upset?” She made an obvious effort to get her mirth under control again. “What else was I going to do at such short notice? It’s the height of the holiday season. There’s no affordable space for rent this time of year. And paying for him to stay in a hotel for three months, or expecting him to cover those costs, would be lunacy.”

“Whereas forcing me to put him up for that length of time is just dandy. Right?”

“Nick.” Jenny lowered her voice and took his hand, as if trying to placate him. “He won’t be staying with you, not really. The reason I thought it would be a good solution is because you have that granny flat. You won’t have to see him at all if you play your cards right.”

Nick gave up. The sensible part of him had long since agreed her arrangements made sense. Just because that was true didn’t mean he had to be happy about having a stranger living on top of him. Granny flat or not, the guy would be his guest as well as an employee of sorts, so he’d have to be agreeable to him at the very least.

“Don’t you want this play to succeed?” All lightness had disappeared from Jenny’s voice.

“Of course I do,” Nick growled. He knew all too well that if the play failed, it would put their production company in a very perilous situation. While they would be able to overcome the financial loss if the play bombed, their reputation probably wouldn’t survive a fiasco. He glanced at the screen in his hands, shocked to discover the plane would land in half an hour. “I’d better go and get him.” And pray I don’t get stuck in traffic.

“You do that.” Jenny kissed his cheek. “And Nick?”

He got up and returned her kiss.

“Be nice.”

Author Bio:
Helena Stone can’t remember a life before words and reading. After growing up in a household where no holiday or festivity was complete without at least one new book, it’s hardly surprising she now owns more books than shelf space while her Kindle is about to explode.

The urge to write came as a surprise. The realisation that people might enjoy her words was a shock to say the least. Now that the writing bug has well and truly taken hold, Helena can no longer imagine not sharing the characters in her head and heart with the rest of the world.

Having left the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam for the peace and quiet of the Irish Country side she divides her time between reading, writing, long and often wet walks with the dog, her part-time job in a library, a grown-up daughter and her ever loving and patient husband.