An off-key Christmas

Let me just preface this by saying, this has been a down few months for me. Those that know me know what's going on and why I'm not in my usual Christmas mood. :( So while I've never been a good fan of Christmas stories, they're touch and go on what I can take right now, some I can, some I can't. (and no, I can't say what lands ones on the "can" list, I don't know, myself, really). So this is undoubtedly coloring my reading of these "themed" books and stories this year, some I've been okay with, some not. That said, here's my review of this book.

Honky Tonk Christmas
by Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Sourcebooks
cover art: Sourcebooks, Randee Ladden, Aleta Rafton

my review copy came from Sourcebooks

Honky Tonk Christmas is the latest, and last, in Carolyn Brown’s Honky Tonk series. It concerns yet another owner of the Honky Tonk, Sharlene Waverly. This gal took over the Honky Tonk after a stint as a reporter, after returning from the Iraq war. She has been running the Honky Tonk successfully for a while, and so successfully, the crowds threaten the capacity limit of the bar. So Sharlene hires Holt Jackson to build on an addition. She’s immediately attracted to the dreamy Holt, but there’s the pesky thing of her Classified work in Iraq, that leads to nightmares. On a night out with her friends, women with whom she worked in Iraq, Sharlene has a little too much to drink and Holt, also in the same bar, ends up driving her home. From there, she spends the night in Holt’s arms—sleeping. Ah, but strangely, she had no combat nightmares, a sign the Honky Tonk’s charm is working, perhaps?

After that less than torrid encounter, there are a lot of awkward looks between Sharlene and Holt, and avoiding the nosy questions of Sharlene’s co-workers who seem bound and determined that she and Holt will be the next to fall under the Honky Tonk’s marriage charm. Sharlene wants no part of it. She’d rather get the bar addition finished, gear up for her book tour (she’s written and sold a romance novel), and not waste time on a man who’s raising his dead sister’s kids, even if he sends her hormones into overdrive.

And that’s before her family is introduced to Holt, where she and Holt spend a few torrid moments out in the family barn.

What happens? Well….I can guess it’s a happy ending (aren’t romances usually?) but, I hate to say this, though I thank the folks at Sourcebooks for sending me a copy to review, I couldn’t finish it. Whether it because of the incredibly annoying sister’s kids, the unnecessary introduction to everyone even remotely related to Sharlene, the lack of the charm of the previous book I’d read in this series…I don’t know. Undoubtedly, it’s just me (and I’m really, really sorry to say this), Honky Tonk Christmas just fell totally flat, and I couldn’t make it through the 368 pages that should have been a fun read. In any other situation I might have loved this as much as I loved I Love This Bar (the first book in Ms. Brown’s Honky Tonk series), and I do look forward to reading the new series she's got cooking, Spikes and Spurs, but I just couldn’t personally get enthused about Honky Tonk Christmas. I probably just wasn’t in the mood for it (see above). Still, if you are in the holiday mood, I can say I do love Carolyn Brown’s style, and recommend that you, my dear readers, to give it a try. If you’d like to, it’s on romance bookstore shelves now (Borders, Barnes and Noble, should definitely have a copy) or at online outlets like, Amazon, or

My grade for this one, though, is...well, let me say again,I loved her other book, so even though I didn't finish HTC,  I'm going to encourage you to give it a look. So...I can't accurately grade it. (If you read the review over at the Examiner (here), disregard that three stars. Their system demands a grade now, can't pub without it. To me, for this one, this time, the grade over there's meaningless. My huge apologies to Carolyn Brown and the folks at Sourcebooks about this.)

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