The following review is part of my being in the authors’ review team, which ensures that you can read it before the book comes out.
This is my first Laughing Hearts ARC review and I cannot be happier than to tell you all spoiler free fun about Jingle Bell Hell, the second of A.R. Casella and Denise Grover Swank’s Bad Luck Club book, which will be released on 7 October.
If you haven’t read Love at First Hate and don’t want to have anything spoiled for it because you intend to read it, then I suggest that you wait until you’re finished with the first book to read the second. This review will not spoil the fun for you, since I will not talk about Molly and Cal in this one (duh, it’s Mary’s and Jace’s story!), so you can read it in peace.
I know, I know, it’s barely fall and I am writing about a Christmas story. Bear with me, because this book can be read at just about any moment of the year, and you will laugh, love, feel, and everything in between just the same!
What the book is about
Jingle Bell Hell
Series: Bad Luck Club, book 2
Authors: A.R. Casella and Denise Grover Swank
Publisher: Laughing Heart Press
Date published: 7 October, 2021
She’s a sexually repressed control freak. He’s a muscular ex-con with heavier baggage than Santa’s toy bag. They’re everything each other never wanted.
I’m usually the first person on my block to decorate for Christmas. This year? Humbug.
My six-year-old son, Aidan, just had a meltdown after learning some hard truths from a drunk Santa impersonator, and I can no longer deny we both need help. Change is hard for Aidan, and right now he’s dealing with several big ones, including A) his father abandoning us, B) our move to Asheville, and C) the Santa snafu.
And me? I’m a control freak, and my life is more out-of-control than a sled on ice.
That’s why I agree to let Aidan join Butterfly Buddies, a group that matches kids with adult mentors.
It’s also why I agree to a mentor of my own—terrifying, pink-haired Nicole, who wants to help me live life on the wild side. Her advice is strangely compelling, especially after I meet Aidan’s new “buddy,” a gorgeous tattooed hunk of a man who makes me wish there weren’t cobwebs in my…well, you know.
Mary O’Shea is sexy as hell, but she doesn’t know it.
She also doesn’t know I’m an ex-con, and if she finds out that I served three years in prison, extenuating circumstances won’t matter to her.
The last thing I should do is get attached to her kid…or her, but I didn’t get in this position by making good decisions.
Mary and Jace might be the main protagonists of the story, but my favourite is definitely little Aidan, Mary’s special six-year-old. And I dare you not to want to adopt that child!
Rare are the novels where one of the characters is on the spectrum, and when it happens, they are often so full of clichés that it becomes staggeringly insulting and, for me, a definite “DNF” (did not finish).
None of this is the case in Jingle Bell Hell, where Aidan is exactly the kind of autistic child that we see in the real world, so much so that I had to question the authors to find out which of them knew a child on the spectrum. It’s Angela (A.R. Casella, a mention that I am making with her consent).
From his quirks to his coping mechanisms, Aidan is one of those high level autistic kids that I have had the chance to meet many times over the years (as a mainly sub teacher, replacing short to medium-term in special classes, including autistic kids classes, is something that I have done often, and that I enjoy doing every time I have the opportunity, because these kids are seriously special and awesome). And his reaction to a certain “pink rabbit” had me howling with laughter! That is without mentioning his alphabet song singing, which I taught my first-graders, last year, for the exact same reason (well, the last part, that is).
All the more reasons to hate Glenn with all my might, and the more you will read in the book, the more you will want him to just get what he deserves for being a, pardon me, complete farking bastard.
Here’s a little gift for Aidan:
Repressed and then some, but for a reason
To say that Mary O’Shea is sexually repressed is an understatement. At first, so until I got to know her a little more, she reminded me of those pearl-clutchers who read only non-sexual romance, if they read romance at all, or those who skip the sex scenes in romance novels because they are “dirty” (not my word!).
However, getting to know and understand her, and learning about her past in more detail than in the previous book, had me changing my mind big time. And that is mostly the pre-Nicole influence Mary!
Yes, she is one who sticks to her routine, but everything is well explained and instead of finding her a total bore, as was my first impression of her, Mary quickly became someone who I could relate to in some ways. In fact, after reading Jingle Bell Hell, I found myself liking her more than daredevil Molly.
May I have a Jace, please?
He is an ex-con, there is no mystery there, but Jace Hagan is everything a woman could ask for: reliable, loyal, steadfast, and one who treats the woman in his life as an equal. And I love his name! Gosh, when I read the blurb, I had the biggest Jude Deveraux vibe! (That’s because Jace Montgomery is one of my favourite of Jude’s men, for the same reasons except the ex-con part.)
His sister, on the other hand, made me curse a blue streak for a long while. Keeping Jace from his autistic nephew, Ben, angered me to no end.
The “Elderly folks club”
Yes, Dottie makes very noticeable appearances in the book, and some that had me crying from laughing so hard. However, she isn’t the only member of the “Elderly folks club” in Jingle Bell Hell, as Jace’s neighbour, Roger, is a man that I seriously took a fancy for, in a grandfatherly way. The love he has for his cat, and his hilarious discussions with their other neighbour, Mrs. Rosa, the illegal baker of the building, made him the grandfather figure I have been missing to see since my own grandpa passed, when I was a teenager.
As for Dottie, I would like the O’Shea sisters, especially Molly, to get off her case and want her to replace Beau in her life. Although Bear Reynolds… (I stop, I stop!) P.S.: The book she gives Aidan really does exist; I looked it up.
Quite the unexpected team
There is one pairing I hadn’t thought I would see: that of Mary and Nicole. Both had me laughing so hard, especially when Nicole tries to have Mary starting to curse! Hilarious, you say? But it’s for Mary’s own good.
Unexpected team, perhaps, but one I wouldn’t trade!
The more I read, the more I love Asheville and A.R. Casella’s and Denise Grover Swank’s characters, and Jingle Bell Hell only makes me love them more. I am looking very much forward to Fraudulently Ever After, Tina’s story, which is scheduled to come out on 18 November, for this very reason.
A bright and shiny five stars!