This anthology features stories by three different authors: “Where there’s smoke…” by Donna Kauffman, “The Gingerbread Man” by Kate Angell, and “Sugar and Spice” by Kimberley Kincaid. I liked all of the stories in this anthology, but my favorites were probably the stories by Kauffman and Angell. The book starts out with three friends – Clara Parker, Abby Denton, and Lilly Callahan – participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Cookie Swap in the little Blue Ridge town of Pine Mountain. The cookies people provide are auctioned off with the proceeds going to charity. Abby confides to her friends that her donation – thankfully anonymous – is a container of little gingerbread men with candy canes to make them anatomically correct. Her cookies are a big part of her story later on. You get a brief introduction to each of the three women before they leave the auction and go their separate ways, before reuniting at the end. I loved how strong the friendships between the women are. Just before the ladies leave, a well-dressed, handsome stranger shows up, asks for directions and bids and wins Abbey’s gingerbread men.
The Kauffman story focuses on Clara. Clara is not in a good place. She recently had a public dumping, which (in a very “I Love Lucy” way) led to her being fired from her job as a relationship columnist, and subsequent immediate re-hiring as a cookie columnist. Unfortunately for Clara, while she is a good writer, she is not a good baker. She does a quick run to snag a cookie baking made easy book and winds up running into an old friend. Will Mason is a firefighter and signing copies of a racy calendar he recently did for charity. He is delighted to run into Clara (whom he always just referred to as “Parker”). They never knew it, but back in their younger days when they were science buddies, they both had a mad crush on each other. Circumstances caused them to be apart for years but this meeting gives them a second chance to finally take their relationship to another level. I loved this story – it was sweet and sexy at the same time. Will was such a great guy and was so good to Clara.
The Angell story focuses on Abbey. On her way home, Abbey happens upon a car accident. The man in the crash is Lander Reynolds – the man who bought her gingerbread men at the auction. Abbey drags him to the safety of her home and tends his wounds. She has also injured her big toe in her rescue mission. She feels worse when she finds out what distracted Lander before he crashed. Apparently he was hungry, opened the cookie box and did a double-take after seeing the candy cane accessories on the obviously very male gingerbread. I was happy that, when she finally confesses to being the erotic baker, Lander doesn’t react badly. Over the time the two are snowed in at Abbey’s cabin they have heartfelt conversations, interrupted by steamy sex, and have fun getting to know each other. This story might have been my favorite of the anthology. I loved the scenes with Lander helping Abbey decorating for Christmas (both the house and the cookies), and the scenes with Abbey’s cat.