Monday, October 15, 2018

Tour Book Review: Lone Star Christmas, by Delores Fossen

Lone Star Christmas
(Coldwater Texas, Book 1)
Delores Fossen
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
September 25, 2018
Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance
Holiday Romance

A family crisis brings him home...Just in time for Christmas.

Cattleman Callen Laramie has no intention of returning to his hometown of Coldwater, Texas, until a Christmas wedding and a family secret convince him he has no choice. And when he's reunited with his childhood crush, the girl who'd always been off-limits, Callen knows leaving might not be so easy this time. 

Shelby McCall is as pretty as a Christmas snowfall, and Callen wants to kiss her under the mistletoe...and the Christmas tree...and the stars. But once Shelby knows the whole truth behind this homecoming, will their holiday fling come to an abrupt end? Or will she accept the gift of his heart?

I received a complimentary copy of this book 
from TLC Book Tours, in exchange 
for an honest review.
All opinions are my own.

Although it's a bit early for Christmas romance novels, I eagerly signed up for this tour, as I think there's something extra special about such romance novels! So I was really looking forward to diving into this one, especially after reading the synopsis.

In the final analysis, however, I find that I'm really torn about this book. I wanted to love it wholeheartedly, but unfortunately, I can't say that I do. There were things I did love, but then there were others that took away from my full enjoyment of the novel. I'm aware, because I've read other reviews, that some readers have, indeed, totally loved this novel. Since I am firmly committed to providing honest reviews, though, I have to say that I am not among those who have raved about this book.

I will start with the positives first, and there were definitely a lot of them!

The story did turn out to be a great one! The themes were perfect for the Christmas season -- romance, strong family connections, and the fostering of troubled children. All the ingredients that lead reviewers to use the adjectives of "touching", "emotional", and "heartwarming" were very much present. And the characters were very real people to whom any romance novel fan could easily relate; their joys and sorrows definitely made me empathize with them. I desperately wanted things to work out in the end for everyone, including the secondary characters!

Callen and Shelby were a wonderful couple! They had spent part of their childhood together, in the small town of Coldwater, Texas. Callen and his three brothers -- Kace, Judd, and Nico -- were foster kids who had come to live with Shelby's family. They subsequently developed a warm relationship with Buck, Shelby's dad, who was like a real father to them. 

Even back then, there was an attraction between Callen and Shelby. When Callen left Coldwater, at the age of eighteen, he had to leave that attraction behind, as Shelby was off-limits to him then. When they were unexpectedly reunited due to an upcoming family wedding, fourteen years later, the smoldering ashes turned into a raging fire. The question remained, though: would all that passion eventually turn into something lasting?

Callen was a great guy! He was not only very easy on the eyes (the author described him in a very appealing way), but he also had integrity, honesty, and a good heart. Even before he had fully committed to his relationship with Shelby, he was concerned about not hurting her, since she had already had a romantic disappointment in the past.

Shelby was a very sweet, yet assertive, woman. I liked how she "melted" around Callen, while not allowing him to control her in any way. I also liked the way she dealt with Gavin, her former love interest. 

Both of these wonderful protagonists also had one thing in common, which helped to bond them together: their love and concern for Buck, the man who had played such an important part in their lives.

Callen and Shelby were, paradoxically, conflicted about their relationship, for different reasons. They were initially only interested in a holiday fling, although Shelby did want it to be so much more than that. So this was the typical "lust to love" romance that is a frequent romance novel trope. Fossen dealt with it very skillfully, though. Besides, we romance fans love to read about obstacles to romance being overcome by the couples in these novels!

The secondary characters were also wonderful, with the possible exception of Havana, Callen's assistant. But more about that later.

Buck, the foster father, was one of those wonderful secondary characters! As I mentioned above, he was a real father figure to Callen and his brothers, as he was to every foster kid he took under his wing. He was a totally dedicated family man, a strong, yet gentle, caring, authority figure whom his foster kids could love and look up to. And he was crazy in love with Rosy, his longtime girlfriend, whom he was planning to marry around Christmas. There were several scenes in the novel that beautifully depicted just how much he loved her. It was so touching, too, to see how he put his family's needs ahead of his own at all times, even when his health had recently become a matter of concern for all of them.

I also loved Rosy! She was a quirky, lovable person with a wacky sense of humor. In addition to this, her devotion to Buck was so sweet! She was truly there for him, and her loving care for the foster kids was part of her devotion to this man who was the world to her. 

This secondary romance was nicely contrasted with the main one between Callen and Shelby. There were differences and similarities, but the similarities definitely outweighed the differences. Both couples were just wonderful together!

Going back to the story, I loved the way Fossen wove all of the several elements together to create a wonderful holiday tapestry! All loose ends were firmly tied together in a very satisfying way by the end of the story. I love happy endings! 

In spite of all of the positives I've mentioned so far, I did have a couple of problems with this book. It wasn't that "Christmasy", except toward the end, but that's not the main issue I have with it. It's the overall tone of the novel that bothers me.

I've read "lust to love" romance novels before, so they're nothing new to me. I've read romance novels with somewhat graphic sex scenes, as well. These things are not that much of a problem for me, as long as the descriptions don't get TOO graphic. But I'm well aware that, unless a romance novel is described as "a clean read", sensual elements will definitely be present in it. 

So what was it that bothered me so much? It was the unfortunate fact that this particular novel was -- IS -- peppered with so-called "sexual humor". There were numerous instances of this throughout the story, and I found them vulgar and offensive. Some people would not be at all bothered by such things, but I certainly am. So this is why I am unable to give this novel the solid five stars it would have otherwise deserved. As I stated above, the story and characters were wonderful and compelling. But, the author's constant sexual innuendoes and outright, explicit sexual "jokes" constantly interfered with my enjoyment of what was obviously a great story. I just feel that there was no need for this type of thing.

I can cite numerous examples of this "sexual humor", but I won't provide actual quotes, as I find them too embarrassing to post publicly. I will simply explain them without using the actual language employed by the author.

First of all, there are two instances in which Shelby encounters old men who are obviously mentally unbalanced perverts, and this happens in two of the beginning chapters of the book. One of these men is dressed as Santa Claus, and she comes across him when she drives from Coldwater to Dallas, where Callen lives, to attempt to persuade him (Callen) to attend Buck and Rosy's wedding. The other man is known as "Gopher", and lives in Coldwater. 

Both of these men exposed different parts of their sexual anatomy to Shelby. Both men were drunk, too. In the case of the Santa Claus, he was arrested right away. In Gopher's case, he was not. From the context of this incident, it was abundantly clear that his behavior was long-standing; yet, nothing was being done about it. He was not arrested when he accosted Shelby, even though the sheriff was a witness to his actions. He could have exposed himself to a child, for Pete's sake!

The author treated both incidents as funny, and used vulgar language to describe them. I found nothing funny about these incidents at all. I especially disliked the Santa Claus incident, just because it referred to that beloved Christmas character. To me, this was just tasteless and offensive. 

I referred briefly to Havana above. When the reader first meets her, she is greeting Shelby shortly after the latter arrives at Callen's office building. Havana introduces herself, and then escorts Shelby to Callen's office. On the way there, she confidentially tells Shelby, "Callen moans out your name during sex." Then she laughs at Shelby's shock, and says that she was just "kidding". Again, I fail to see the humor in this. Had Havana said that to ME, I would have replied, "Excuse me, I forgot something," and promptly left the office. And, I would NOT have returned. Instead, I would have called Callen to complain about his assistant's inappropriate remark, and requested to meet him elsewhere.

Throughout the novel, whenever she appeared in the story, Havana continued to engage in such vulgarities. Although she was a sweet person, I found it very difficult to like her because of these comments.

There are more instances of this type of "humor". Callen refers pretty often to his memory of Buck's threat to castrate any of the boys who dared to touch Shelby, when they were all teens. Of course, this wasn't meant literally, but again, this is treated as funny. I could have tolerated ONE mention of this standing family "joke". But there were quite a few mentions of it, which I thought was overkill.

There are frequent references to the sex act with vulgar words that I prefer not to repeat here. At one point, Callen tells Nico, his younger brother, to keep his (insert vulgar word) in his pants whenever he (Nico) is around Callen's assistant, Havana. Callen then tries not to conjure up an image of his kid brother (insert vulgar word) his assistant.

In addition to these things, the relationship between Callen and Shelby starts off as an entirely lustful one. Again, I've seen this type of plot before. I just haven't seen so many comments made by the characters in such a relationship, that explicitly comment on the sexual act in vulgar terms. Also, at one point, one of Callen's friends comments, "Hard to have sex when you're three hundred miles away." There's sexual innuendo obviously involved in this remark.

Then there's the case of the wedding cake topper.... Rosy is trying to choose which one of three she will buy, and one of them happens to be a rearing stallion, who is very...... well, I think you get the picture.

I have only referred to a few of the instances of tasteless "sexual humor" included in this novel. Again, I don't see the need for any of this stuff. The story was just fine without it! Certainly I'm not at all against using humor in a romance novel. I just don't like the vulgar variety.

In short, I would have enjoyed this story a heck of a lot more, had these elements not been present. I feel that they partially ruined the story for me. I reiterate that I am not new to sensual romance novels; I've read such books before, but not with so many inappropriate comments and references included on nearly every page.

I was especially disappointed to find these elements in a Christmas-themed romance novel, too. Christmas is such a wonderful, special time of year! I would never have expected to find anything objectionable in a novel set during this beautiful season. Christmas is a family holiday, after all. So I was expecting Fossen to focus on such things as joyful family events (which she did, to some extent), the fun of decorating for the holiday (she also did this, but not frequently enough), and sweet, romantic moments between the main and secondary couples (these moments were all sexually charged, to the near exclusion of any tender, romantic feelings).

I would still recommend this novel for the wonderful story and characters, with the caveat that it's only for those who don't mind raunchy comments and "jokes" mixed in with their Christmas romance. 


Purchase Links

USA Today bestselling author, Delores Fossen, has sold over 70 novels, with millions of copies of her books in print worldwide. She’s received the Booksellers’ Best Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and was a finalist for the prestigious Rita ®. In addition, she’s had nearly a hundred short stories and articles published in national magazines.

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  1. A very fair review! I have to admit, I’m not a great fan of romance fiction, though I do sometimes enjoy a novel, SF, fantasy, mystery, etc. that has some romance in it.

    Don’t blame you for enabling moderation, BTW. I did that for the same reason. You still get some spam, but you can check it out beforehand.

    1. Hi, Sue!

      THANK YOU!! <3 <3 I did try to be as fair as possible. The story and characters were great, but unfortunately, all that sexual "humor" got in the way of my enjoyment of this novel. As I stated in the review, I've read plenty of romance novels containing sensual elements, but NEVER anything like this. And this is supposed to be a sweet Christmas romance! (Scratching my head here.....)

      I LOVE romance novels!! I also love the other genres you mention, with or without romance in them. Well, except that I'm not that much of a mystery reader. I've been wanting to start reading cozy mysteries, though.

      As for the comment moderation, I've never liked it, but it became necessary to enable it, and I've decided to make that permanent. This was because, on 9/23/18, I came across the same SPAM comment on FIVE of my posts. It was advertising for an ESCORT SERVICE, would you believe? And this "escort service" (aka prostitution ring) was based in some Middle Eastern country. Well, I tell you, I saw RED. NO WAY am I going to tolerate THAT kind of garbage on my blog!! So, the comment moderation is DEFINITELY here to stay!

      It's also very useful to have it in case I should get an offensive comment from another blogger!

      Thanks for the nice comment!! <3 <3 :) :)

  2. Great review, Maria! It sounds like a pretty decent read but not the best either. I love Christmas books but they have to be just right for me, if that makes sense.

    1. Hi, Steph!

      THANK YOU SO MUCH!! <3 <3

      You put it very well! That's the whole problem right there -- it IS a great story, and the characters are WONDERFUL! But then the author had to throw in all of that sexual "humor", which is just not appropriate for the Christmas season.

      I can understand where you're coming from, in regards to Christmas books. I'm the same way! There are Christmas books that don't have all that much of Christmas in them, and I don't like them much. But, if they don't have inappropriate in them, then that's okay.

      Thanks for the nice comment!! HUGS!!! <3 <3 :) :)

  3. I have read one romance by Fossen and really enjoyed it. That one had a Santa in an objectionable position too. I wonder if that comes up in more of her books. I love the idea of Santa, but guys in Santa suits have always given me the heebie jeebies. So imagining them as perverts isn't so hard for me to do. I tend to like my romance to be on the sweet side, with a little steam--but sometimes I am in the mood for more steamy. I can take vulgarity and sex jokes up to a point, but I do have my limits. You have me wanting to read this one to see where I fall with it. :-)

    1. Hi, Wendy!

      Oh, you have? Well, as far as I'm concerned, I'm NEVER going to pick up one of her books again! I'm not surprised to find out that the one you read also had a Santa "in an objectionable position". I would say that this is probably a running theme in Fossen's books. That's why I'm not going to read any more of them! Heck, Santa Claus is a beloved Christmas figure for children. To do this type of thing with Santa Claus is just not acceptable -- to me, anyway.

      So guys in Santa suits give you the heebie jeebies? Who knows, there might be some real-life pervs out there who dress up as Santa, and REALLY do this type of stuff. Like, I used to love clowns, but not anymore, because of the bad things I've heard they've done in recent years.

      I can take steamy novels up to a point. But I definitely CANNOT and WILL NOT take vulgarity and "sexual humor".

      As I stated in the review, I've read novels containing sensual elements before. For instance, the novels of Mary Balogh. Her characters have sexual relationships out of wedlock. But I've NEVER come across any sexual garbage in ANY Balogh novel! Everything is tastefully done, including her sex scenes. And they're not too graphic, either.

      Bottom line: this novel is, as I said in my review, only for those people who don't mind this type of thing, especially in a Christmas-themed romance. But I VERY much mind!

      I'd love to get your take on this, if you do decide to read it, so let me know if you review it!

      Thanks for the WONDERFUL comment!! <3 :)

  4. Oh dear! What a shame the author saw fit to overlay was looks like a sweet Christmas romance with such a lot of salty language and sexual references - especially as the cover gives NO indication that this book contains such material.

    1. Hi, Sarah!

      Yes, it's indeed a shame.... As you say, this did look like "a sweet Christmas romance". And, as you've so accurately pointed out, the cover gives NO inkling that this type of stuff is to be found inside! I should have mentioned this in my review. The cover makes it look like this will be a beautiful, sweetly romantic Christmas story. And, in fact, in many ways, it is just that, as I wrote in my review. It's very unfortunate indeed that the author chose to sprinkle the whole book with sexual "jokes" and vulgarity. It just ruined the whole story for me....

      I'm glad you agree with my observations! <3

      One thing's for sure: I won't be picking up any of Fossen's books ever again!

      Thanks for the great comment!! HUGS!!! <3 <3 :) :)


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