Disclaimer: I received an ARC of Gift Wrapped from Karla Doyle as part of her release day blitz, but I also purchased a copy of the book (it’s that good!). As always all opinions and recommendations shown here are my own.
After catching her boyfriend cheating two weeks before Christmas, Brinn is seriously lacking in holiday spirit. So when she looks into the eyes of a last-minute shopper after closing on Christmas Eve, she’s sarcastic rather than sympathetic. But Brinn is ever the good girl and her conscience wins out. She offers the handsome stranger ten minutes to select a gift and ends up with a present of her own—a date. On Christmas Eve.
Davis hates Christmas. Especially this year, since a neighborhood heist liberated him of his hard-earned belongings and the few gifts he’d purchased. But the robbery led him to a cute store manager with a sense of humor, smokin’ body and no plans for the evening. Mistletoe might be in order after all.
Their Christmas Eve date is like gift-wrapped, sexy satisfaction. But the best gifts keep on giving, and one naughty night may not be enough—for either of them.
I’m a huge fan of Christmas-themed romances, and I’m also a huge fan of Karla Doyle’s work, so Gift Wrapped had quite a legacy to live up to. I was hoping for a light, fun and sexy story but what I got was so much more than that. Gift Wrapped is a super sexy, slightly kinky story that was incredibly fun but also had some serious depth and fantastic plot points. I guarantee, even if you hate Christmas stories (one of the characters is very anti-Christmas so you two will get along great!), Gift Wrapped will jingle all your bells. Yeah I went there, it was an opportunity too good to miss!
So often, romance features conventionally attractive people with jobs that most people salivate over. One of the many things I love about Karla Doyle is that she writes characters that are so real they could be people you know. But they’re characters you don’t ordinarily see in standard romances. She’s had a red-headed hero, a heroine who photographs erotic scenes, a very complicated threesome with a teacher, a tattooed labourer and a businessman, and now, with the smokin’ hot Davis Rourke, she’s featured a hero who is huge and bald, and Brinn, a retail manager who is kind of short, kind of curvy, kind of snarky, but also sexy and cute, which I’m completely delighted by! They’re not convention, but together they are so sweet, so sexy and so incredibly real that you can’t help but to fall in love with them.
Davis is a complicated guy. He comes from a long-line of stuffy people with sticks up their butts (not literally, of course). Growing up, his family didn’t do fun, they didn’t do delightful Christmas celebrations or silly things and while he’s bucking family tradition, those years of un-funness coloured his world and made him kind of a Grinch. He’s a head chef at a great, but not top-tier, restaurant and he does some really amazing things with food throughout the book. I adored Davis! Everything about him is so real and organic and I can picture a guy just like him acting just the way he does. I loved that he was kind of grouchy about the whole Christmas thing and that he’s wary of getting involved with women long-term because he’s dealt with a whole bucket of crazy in the past. But he’s hilarious, he’s protective and sweet and so, so cute with Brinn and as his roughness slowly melts, your heart will too. On top of all that goodness, he also has a penchant for very hot, unconventional (read: kinky and sexy but not whips and chains kinky) sex that is so hot it’s likely to light your Christmas tree on fire.
Brinn, our sassy heroine, is incredible! She’s the kind of woman I want to be friends with because in spite of having copious amounts of crappy relationships, she’s still forging ahead and making her life as fabulous as she can. She’s stubborn, she knows what she wants and she’s kind of snarky. She’s bright and funny and has a love of Christmas that is infectious, but it’s balanced with her wariness over letting another man dictate her life choices. She’s hopeful and sassy and incredibly sweet but she more than matches up with Davis’ dark and kinky side. I loved her interactions with her family, watching them all together way heart-warming. I also loved the choices she made, they were realistic and I could see myself making the same choices in similar circumstances, though there was a scene in Chapter Eleven that broke my heart and made me want to smack her upside the head. They fit so well together and they way they sort of melt into each other’s life is adorable and heart-meltingly sweet.
Karla Doyle has done a great job balancing these characters’s personality attributes so that they come across as achingly real but also, not too silly and bubbly and not too grouchy and wary. The character progression feels organic and natural and completely makes sense and the plot flows beautifully around these two characters. The story happens in a relatively short period of time, but it doesn’t feel too short, and a lot happens within the 13 chapters to make it a wild ride you’ll want to sink into and never come out.
The dialogue is on-point, realistic and each character has a very unique voice. It can be tricky for female writers to convincingly write gruff, sexy masculine dialogue but Karla Doyle completely nailed it! The background characters are rich and inviting, and I definitely want to know more about Brinn’s brother. The plot, as I mentioned above, is realistic and flows so organically that it’s very easy to lose yourself in the book. There are enough plot points to keep you hooked and none of them come across as silly or contrived and they all flow together well.
Now, I’m going to be honest with you here…I absolutely loved this book but I have one teeny tiny complaint that is completely personal and has nothing to do with the brilliance of the book. And that complaint is that Brinn went home with Davis the first time she met him, without knowing anything about him except that he was a seriously sexy guy and his flirting was practically smoking up the pages. Within the book it felt organic and natural but it tweaked all of my Girl Safety 101 triggers. But to be honest with you, if I was faced with a real-life Davis, I probably would have gone home with him too…especially if it involved pudding!
Overall, this book is absolutely fabulous. It’s endearing and sweet, smokin’hot, kinky and sexy, it’s light and fun but still tackles some pretty deep concepts and issues, it’s fast and snappy but flows so well that you’ll sink into it and never want to come back out. The dialogue is phenomenal, the characters are incredible and the plot is organic and natural and I guarantee you, it will jingle all your bells AND light up your Christmas tree.
Purchasing Information and Social Links
Gift Wrapped is available from a bunch of online retailers, so there’s bound to be one that tickles your fancy, and you can find all the purchasing information here: www.karladoyle.com/gift-wrapped/
If you’ve read Gift Wrapped and loved it, I recommend all of Karla Doyle’s books and there are plenty of ways to keep up to date on Karla Doyle's other upcoming work below:
Karla’s Website: www.karladoyle.com
GW on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23247211-gift-wrapped