I’m a fan of Kat Latham’s rugby series, and this Christmas novella is loosely related to it. The heroine of a prior book is the sister of this hero. But this book takes place in Montana, and there’s nary a rugby player to be seen. Basically, this can be a total standalone.
Lacey is just getting out of prison (my first ex-con heroine!). She spent three years behind bars because her boyfriend used her — and her job as a train engineer — to transport drugs. She’s learned a few lessons in prison, and now she looks forward to private bathrooms, hot coffee, and no more strip searches. She moves in with her brother on the family Christmas tree farm.
Austin is the forest ranger who arrested Lacey. He testified against her at trial. He didn’t know her personally, but her boyfriend was an idiot and she was a train engineer, so he didn’t buy her story that she didn’t know anything.
Now Lacey is back in Austin’s forest. They’re attracted to each other, but Lacey blames it on her sexual drought, and Austin blames it on her looking good while holding a chainsaw. They cautiously stay away from each other, until… Austin needs Lacey’s help! He’s restoring an old train engine for charitable reasons, and of course Lacey is the only person who can help him out in time. As far as plot contrivances go, it’s a big stretch, so I give the author credit for making it all work seamlessly.
Austin and Lacey now have to spend their evenings together in a train annex, sandblasting parts, getting all greasy. Then they go home and fantasize about each other. I have to admit that it was a stretch for me to believe that Lacey could get over her hatred of Austin so quickly. Admittedly, it starts out as just sex, and she justifies it as just needing anyone. For his part, Austin appreciates how hard Lacey works, and how smart she is, and how even her beige bra is sexy.
This is a novella, so the story gets to skip a lot of the angst that would usually accompany these circumstances, especially since the time frame is less than a month. Austin and Lacey adapt to each other and their preconceived judgments slip away. They do have a few bumps, because there’s that whole “you sent me to prison” issue. I would love to read this full-length, to see Lacey have more doubts and to have Austin be even more cautious. As it is, it’s a magical Christmas story with happy children, ugly sweaters, and hot cocoa.
*ARC provided by publisher
Click to purchase: Amazon
Three Nights Before Christmas
by Kat Latham
Release Date: October 25, 2015
Publisher: Tule Publishing