Today we’re bringing you a couple of holiday reads I think you’ll enjoy: 1) Santa 365, a Chet and Bernie mystery e-short story by Spencer Quinn; and 2) Christmas in Good Hope, a heartwarming romance by Cindy Kirk. Both of these stories are fun in entirely different ways. I like to read short stories during the holidays because things feel so rushed that I know a short story will give me a brief respite from the chaos without tearing me away from holiday activities for long periods of time. I also tend to get sentimental during the holidays so I always include at least one heartwarming, romantic (but not over the top romantic) read in my holiday reading stack. Santa 365 and Christmas in Good Hope fit those criteria very nicely and not only caused me to chuckle but left me with that warm and fuzzy feeling I like in good holiday reads. See what you think…
Santa 365 is not the first story we’ve reviewed by Spencer Quinn. A few years back we reviewed A Fistful of Collars, a full-length Chet and Bernie mystery novel from this bestselling series. The link appears at the end of this article. I got such a kick out of this sleuthing man and dog duo that I planned to read all of the Chet and Bernie mysteries but somehow slipped up on that. Since then quite a few more have been published, including several bargain e-short stories like Santa 365. Before we dig into this story, there are a few things you should know. First, Spencer Quinn is the pseudonym for award-winning U.S. crime thriller novelist Peter Abrahams. You also need to know that in the Chet and Bernie mysteries series, Chet is the dog and Bernie Little is the man, and both work at the Little Detective agency. Oh, and Chet is our narrator.
“’There’s no Santa Claus,’ Charlie said.
‘Who told you that?’ said Bernie.
‘Well,’ said Bernie, ‘everyone has their own opinion.’
‘It’s not an opinion, Dad,’ said Charlie. ‘It’s a scientific fact.’
‘From a scientist.’
‘Any scientist in particular?’
‘Esme told you that?’
Santa 365 is a new business created by Plumpy, an ex-con Bernie knows. Plumpy’s business will take all the stress out of the holidays by providing the gifts on your list (all nicely wrapped of course), the decorations, your Christmas tree, jolly elves, and everything for your holiday party including Santa. Bernie’s in a bind because he’s worried about his son, Charlie, and the whole Santa belief thing. So he’s promised Charlie a special Christmas celebration this year and he’s got to deliver even though he’s really busy. That means his usual keen judgment is a bit lacking – in desperation and against his better judgment, he hires Santa 365 to make it all happen and then crosses his fingers that nothing will go wrong.
Amazingly enough, Santa 365 pulls the whole thing off without a hitch – well, except for Santa never showing up as expected. Still the elves were jolly, the food and drinks for all the guests was delicious, the decorations were beautiful and a wonderful time was had by all. What a huge relief – until Bernie and Chet discover later that one of those jolly elves must have helped himself to a bit more than holiday cheer at Bernie’s house. Now who would be stupid enough to steal from a dynamite detecting duo like Chet and Bernie?
I’ve greatly simplified what’s going on in this short story, which is jam packed with other issues that have to be sorted out in addition to the sticky fingers issue above. Santa 365 was a fun twisty read that I didn’t want to see end, and which made me renew my pledge to dig into the rest of this series at the first opportunity. Have fun with this bite-sized holiday read!
Christmas in Good Hope by award-winning romance author Cindy Kirk is Book #1 in the new Good Hope series and, if it’s any indication, this is going to be a series every bit as good as a few other popular town-centric heartwarming series I’ve read. I always gravitate toward this kind of series during the holidays and I become nostalgic and sentimental – yes, you caught me – I’m just a big ol’ mush-melon inside.
In Good Hope, Wisconsin, Ami Bloom could be called its ray of sunshine. No matter the weather, Ami always has a smile on her face and a cheerful attitude that makes everyone around her smile. No one knows the determination and strength it takes to keep that cheerful disposition or the dark secret it hides, a secret she’s determined to make up for with all the kindness she can muster.
Ami owns the local bakery and takes great joy in baking delicious mouthwatering treats that the townspeople can’t get enough of. She particularly loves baking for the holiday season and all of the town’s special events that occur that time of year.
Her business neighbor, Beck Cross, owns the local diner and has the reputation of being the local curmudgeon. Beck also has a past dark secret that’s running his life, a wrong he’s hanging onto for all he’s worth, even at the expense of his present and future happiness. He’s nice enough to people but he keeps his distance, a distance Ami is determined to close. It’s become almost a quest to get Beck to smile and to talk him into taking part in town activities instead of working 24/7.
“’You and Mr. Cross have quite the thing going in the mornings.’
‘It’s called being neighborly.’ Ami ruined the righteous tone by flushing like a guilty teenager.
That made her angry. At herself. At the gossipmongers. She had no reason to feel guilty…”
Beck is determined to not celebrate the Christmas holidays but to, instead, hoard his unhappiness like some miser. But Ami is a one-woman Christmas celebration magnet. He doesn’t know Ami very well if he thinks he’s going to get away with staying isolated, because she’s determined to draw him out of his shell enough that he can actually see the joys of the season.
“Ami frowned. While Beck could be a bit gruff at times, he wasn’t an unreasonable man. ‘Did you mention to him that touring the Spencer-Shaw home is a tradition in Good Hope?’
‘He doesn’t give a fig about traditions.’ Eliza flung a frustrated hand in the air. ‘He pops up here from God knows where, and not only buys the café but snatches my cousin’s home out from under our noses. None of the family had a clue Katherine was even considering selling it.
Maybe if any of you bothered to visit her, she’d have told you.
Ami kept the uncharitable thought to herself. She and the spry octogenarian met weekly for tea, and the sale had been as much of a surprise to her as it had been to Katherine’s family…”
Beck and Ami both need to heal from things that happened in their past and both have a lot of forgiving to do. Can they heal together or will that be impossible, given the circumstances of what happened to them? Both are very likeable characters for different reasons. There are a number of interesting personalities in this small town and some volatile dynamics. The good people of Good Hope are a fun bunch to read about to say the least.
The small town of Good Hope rings true on a lot of levels for someone like me who grew up in a small town. Some of those levels are wonderful but the author also doesn’t shy away from the petty power games and “shoulds” that often accompany small town life. Nope, this is not a simple boy meets girl story – it’s got depth. Yay! I think Christmas in Good Hope is a wonderful start to what I believe is going to be heartwarming series. The characters and the town have layers that I’m looking forward to exploring more in future novels, and I can’t wait to find out what happens to some of my favorite town citizens. Wonder if Ami and Beck are free for dinner next week, because I’d love to get to know them. If you’re looking for a heartwarming holiday read, Christmas in Good Hope could easily fit the bill.
Can’t wait to read one or both of these stories? Santa 365 and Christmas in Good Hope are both available from your favorite online bookseller below. Santa 365 is available only as an e-short story but it’s a bargain price at only 99 cents. Christmas in Good Hope is available in all formats. Just click on the link and you can still get these fun reads in time to enjoy this holiday season without having to venture out into the shopping frenzy.
I’d love to get your comments on Santa 365, Christmas in Good Hope, Spencer Quinn or Cindy Kirk and/or their other work, and/or this review.
Click here to read our review of A Fistful of Collars, a Chet and Bernie mystery novel by Spencer Quinn.