This was a really cool Christmas anthology. It contains six stories by three different authors with three 'nice' stories and three 'naughty' stories.
The Nice List:
'When She Sang' by Jae El Foster: This is perhaps the nicest and sweetest story that I've ever read. Ever. It's about a farm girl in old Mississippi who becomes awestruck by a handsome man and loses her singing voice. I don't typically read things this sweet, but I really enjoyed it. The ending made me happy and it brought a tear to my eye. I've read some of Jae El's 'harder' fiction before, so I was surprised to see this come from him. It seems out of character for him, but he did a really great job on it.
'Candy Cane Christmas' by Kristi Ahlers: This was the first story I've read by Kristi Ahlers and it's a splice of life contemporary romance with plenty of humor and the first steamy scenes to be found in the book. It's about an event planner who gets dumped by her boyfriend and then put in charge of an annual gala without any time to recovered. Fortunately, she's paired up with a really hot-sounding guy to get things done, and she ends up showing him the beauty of Christmas along the way. It's a really fun California story that was well written and had a very sweet ending.
'I See Christmas in Your Eyes' by Jennifer Patricia O'Keeffe: Jennifer is another author I wasn't familiar with, but her writing style is really fun and she implements a ton of comedy into this story of an aging mother who has to leave her apartment and move in with her daughter and grandchildren days before Christmas. At first, the protagonist feels older than she really is, but as she and her daughter start competing for the same guy, she becomes younger and more feisty. The ending was awesome and it almost made me fall out of my seat!
The Naughty List:
'Seducing Santa' by Jae El Foster: This was by far my favorite story in this collection. The title makes it sound dirtier than it really was, but it's totally worth the ride. It's about a woman with a love for Christmas and an even greater love for Santa Claus. She considers herself a 'Super Santa Soldier' and thinks it's her job to help people see the light and truth in Santa. When she becomes obsessed with a guy playing a store Santa, her obsession gets pushed a bit too far. This is definitely a romantic thriller with some aspects of horror and the kind of stuff that I'm used to Jae El writing. For me, it's the stand-out story in the entire collection, and that ending is just eerie.
'A Spicy Christmas to Remember' by Kristi Ahlers: Kristi's second story is about a woman who is 'forced' into agreeing to auction herself off for a night in order to raise money for charity. I love the premise. She literally falls into the man of her dreams, and the two run off together. Outside, their passion becomes heated and it makes for a really sexy story. There's a lot of turmoil, especially the appearance of an ex, but the ending was very cool. Yet, I didn't quite feel like the story had finished when I reached the end. I would have liked more in this, and that's not a bad critique, trust me.
'Hot Chocolate on a Cold Winter's Night' by Jennifer Patricia O'Keeffe: After reading her first story in this, this is the last thing I expected from Jennifer. It's about a stripper named Hot Chocolate who witnesses the murder of her boss by a Japanese mafia and has to go on the run. She uses her powers of seduction throughout the book in order to survive, and the shoot-out toward the end was really entertaining. It reminded me a little bit of Foxy Brown. What this story lacked that the other five in the collection had was a sense of romance, but that's okay. It's an action thriller and it definitely kept me reading to the end.
All in all, I give this four out of five stars. 'The Two Sides of Santa's Lap' is a romantic, kind, dangerous, and exciting collection of short stories that are more like stand-alone novellas. It's a really long book, and each story offers something different from the others to the reader. The first half had more of a genuine Christmas feel, while the second half offered more mystery, adventure, and thrillers. I'd expected a lot more erotica in this based on the cover, and that just proves you can't judge a book by its cover. If this is your first time reading works by these authors, you'll really enjoy seeing the different sides of their genre-writing ability. They all did a great job!
(reviewed the day of purchase)