While Kallum Lieberman was part of a successful boy band, he always knew he was the least popular member. Still, he had his moments of fame. Now, Kallum owns a pizza chain and occasionally still thinks about the limelight. When an older sex tape of his goes viral, Kallum decides to capitalize on this moment and takes a starring role in a steamy holiday film for the Hope After Dark channel. His costar is his long time crush, Winnie Baker, and Kallum has to figure out how to rein himself in.
Winnie has always done everything that was asked of her. She was a child star when her parents pushed her, she married her childhood boyfriend at the age of 18, and she went along with her parents’ wishes and promised purity until marriage. Now divorced, Winnie is no longer a virgin, but she has never been satisfied and trying to pretend on camera what she has never felt isn’t going so well. Despite Winnie’s prior meetings and issues with Kallum, she is willing to do research for her part and Kallum knows he can’t possibly say no. Remaining professional is important to them both, but now that they’re catching feelings, all of the lines are blurred. Their relationship takes an unexpected turn and Winnie and Kallum will have to navigate what they both want for their future and decide if their attraction to each other is enough for forever.
A Holly Jolly Ever After is the next book in the Christmas Notch series and follows the same theme as the previous books, where the plot is centered around a company that produces more racy Hallmark-style movies. The series so far has been a mix of M/F and M/M pairings. This story is also similar to A Merry Little Meet Cute where Nolan, one of Kallum’s former bandmates, stars in one of the movies and falls for his costar. The idea in that book felt fresher and this book is too similar for me and not nearly as much fun as book two, Snow Place Like LA.
The book has two parts to it and I liked part one better than part two. Kallum and Winnie had met years ago at an awards ceremony, as Winnie was a child star and Kallum was in a successful band. They have a tie in that was the catalyst for Winnie’s “downfall” in the press and Winnie has always thought she didn’t like Kallum, but Kallum always crushed hard on Winnie. Now being costars in an intimate movie, they have some issues to work out. Or they should have some issues to work out, but communication is not their strong point. The main conflict in the first part is that Winnie doesn’t know how to have good fake sex, because she has never had any good real sex, and the pair have great chemistry and work on that part just fine.
There is a lot going on in this book below the surface, but much of it is never fully addressed. I was excited to see that Kallum was Jewish, but that storyline doesn’t really go anywhere and it just comes up a few times that he’s Jewish. Kallum now owns a successful pizza chain and all Winnie can think to ask him is if the restaurant is Kosher. Winnie has a medical condition that is disclosed in the beginning of the book, but for the sake of potential spoilers I won’t name it. However, it has had a huge impact on her life, it always will, and she never tells Kallum about her condition and I have no idea how or why that was overlooked. There is also a storyline with Winnie’s ex-husband that appears and then vanishes and Winnie’s parents then came off to me as two-dimensional characters. The pair get their HEA, but I felt a lot of the fabric holding their story together wasn’t as well constructed.
The book, like the previous stories in the series, opens and closes with Teddy, head of the movie production company, pining over his deep crush and sometimes hook up, Steph, the talent manager, as they have a very short story within the story. Kallum’s other former band mate, Issac, appears here as well, and there may be a story for him or Winnie’s best friend, Addison, that I would be interested in checking out as well, so I do hope there will be more books to return to this series again.