Bait and Switch

Duets 77

The Misconception

One Hot Chance

Cole for Christmas
by Darlene Gardner
(Harl. Tempt. #955, $4.25, R) ISBN 0-373-69155-6
Anna Wesley is a sap for people who are lonely. It is Christmas and everyone should have someone! So when she discovers that her employee (and the person who states he wants her job) is going to work on Christmas Eve, she invites him to her family’s celebration. Cole Mansfield (the “Cole” of the title) has family, but they are off on cruises or vacations. He decides to take Anna up on her offer, but he isn’t sure why.

These two have a strange relationship and this Christmas just complicates everything. Cole, you see, is really the just recently discovered son of the owner of Skillington Skies, the company where Anna works. It seems that Cole’s mother and the owner, Arthur Skillington, had a short affair before Arthur went to war. She decided not to tell him about the baby, and married another man. Cole has been raised in a loving home, but suddenly discovers the secret by accident. He seeks out Arthur, who is thrilled to find him. When Arthur suspects someone is skimming off profits because the books don’t seem to be balancing, he engages Cole to go to work for the company and secretly try to find the answers. (The results of his “investigation” are never revealed).

Now Anna and Cole are enjoying Christmas together. Cole feels bad about his lie by omission as he gets to know Anna and finds he likes her. Anna, on the other hand, is very uncomfortable about dating an employee, so continually insists she only feels sorry for him. Her family jumps to major conclusions because Anna has never brought a man home for Christmas. And Cole decides for some perverse reason to encourage their thinking by acting the lovesick suitor. (I tried to warn you it was a strange relationship.)

Things are further complicated when Anna’s family decides to surprise Anna by inviting Cole to their lodge for a week of skiing. Cole accepts, again not sure why, but hey he does like Anna, and is attracted to her, so why not? And of course, the family assumes since they are dating they will share a room. (A pretty progressive thinking family).

So, Anna fights her feelings and tries to reconcile the Cole she thinks she knows from work and the Cole she is seeing on vacation, while fighting her attraction. Cole tries to enjoy his attraction while rationalizing why it is okay to not tell her the truth. The sexual tension builds very nicely and the scenes of lovemaking are hot. Hot tubs and showers will forever be viewed differently.

The fun of the story is this conflict, inane that it may be. The family is fun and loves to see Anna so obviously attracted. They don’t quite understand her reluctance, but figure it is just Anna. Cole, meanwhile does everything to get her hot and enjoys himself while doing it. He also lets her see his softer side, endearing him to all.

There are a few subplots thrown in. There is the unhappy marriage of Anna’s aunt and uncle and the full story of Cole’s relationship to his real dad. But to enjoy Cole for Christmas, the reader must just go along for the ride. If you start to analyze the tale, or even bring rational thinking to the whole episode, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. However, if you are looking for a hot romance (read that – good sex) and a quirky story, then this might just be for you.

--Shirley Lyons

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