ARC Review: The Naughty or Nice Clause by Kate Callaghan

Book: The Naughty or Nice Clause

Author: Kate Callaghan

Pages: 258

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Callaghanwriter – Self Published

Genre: Romance, Christmas, Magic, Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: November 8, 2022

Goodreads Summary:

Being Naughty Has Never Been So Nice!

When Lyla’s father retired as CEO of the toy company which has been in their family for generations, she was meant to receive his shares. Instead, she discovers the company is bankrupt and her father has given her shares to Mason Klaus, an investor known in the corporate world for his cold and callous nature. Much to Lyla’s frustration, her only option is to run the company with him, despite their evident loathing for one another.

When Mason cancels the annual Christmas party, Lyla throws it anyway – only for the event of the season to result in a terrible fire. With the offices and Lyla’s credibility ruined, Mason offers her a deal: he’ll forget her part in the disaster, but she must join his family for the twelve days of their Christmas holidays.

Taken to a fantastical winter wonderland, Lyla hopes that she might discover some of the secrets Mr Klaus is hiding, and maybe even a way to get her company back. However, when Mason introduces her to the secret village as his fiancée, she is horrified to realise she has no choice but to go along with the pretence – because the cost of bringing an outsider to their magical land is far too high.

Can Lyla resist the devilishly handsome Mr Klaus and the enchanting village to win back her company, or will she give into temptation?

Readers! Please note: this is an adult low fantasy romance with mature content and not suitable for those under 18. This is a stand-alone novel with a guaranteed HEA.

My Review:

I received an advanced reader’s copy of The Naughty or Nice Clause by Kate Callaghan from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In the past, I haven’t been much of a romance reader.  That’s been changing in the past few years, though.  So, I went digging around for some Christmas themed romances last month because after finally escaping over a decade of retail work, I was ready to embrace the holidays again.  I’m happy to say that The Naughty or Nice Clause definitely helped with that wish, and while it had a few issues, it was still a fun read.

The Naughty or Nice Clause takes place in Dublin, Ireland just before the Christmas holidays.  Lyla Smurfit, the female main character, co-owns and manages her grandfather’s toy company with Mason Klaus, the male main character.  Lyla is not a fan of this arrangement or for Klaus and his cold demeanor.  She’s convinced that rather than trying to save the struggling company with effective and necessary cost-cutting measures, Klaus is instead trying to force her out of her family legacy.  It doesn’t help that the whole reason Klaus is CEO is because Lyla’s own father sold him the majority of the company’s shares.

So, when Klaus not only cancels the company Christmas party and eliminates everyone’s holiday leave but also expects the employees to work on Christmas Day, Lyla decides to revolt.  She throws the party anyway, paying for it out of her own pocket in defiance.  When the party ends in disaster, though, Lyla is forced to comply with a compromise Klaus comes up with.  She will accompany him home for the holidays (since everyone is forced to be out of the office for repairs now anyway), and he will forgive her transgressions.  When it turns out there’s a lot more to Klaus and his family than Lyla ever imagined, however, she begins to question if she made such a good bargain after all.

This book has a few typical romance tropes.  The first being the enemies-to-lovers trope, and it’s executed well.  Lyla and Mason really don’t seem to like each other in the beginning of the book.  As the story progresses, we learn that was entirely true, at least on Mason’s part.  However, Lyla was determined to dislike Mason from the start simply because she didn’t want to give up running the family company.  It was nice seeing them both grow to love each other and learn more about each other throughout the story. 

The other trope in this book is the fake relationship.  Mason takes Lyla home and forces her to pretend to be his fiancé.  Naturally, Lyla baulks at this, but when she learns the reasoning behind it she decides to go along with it anyway.  This forced proximity definitely helped the story along since Mason and Lyla were forced to learn about each other.  It didn’t hurt that they were both attracted to each other physically either.

I usually don’t enjoy overused tropes in stories, but this book used them as a framework effectively.  It also helped me understand where the story might be going without giving away how exactly the end goal would be achieved.  I knew all along that Mason and Lyla would end up together, but there were just enough points of uncertainty throughout the story that I wasn’t sure how that would happen until the end.

Now on to the stuff in this book I didn’t care for so much.  The most obvious thing being Lyla’s last name. Come on. Smurfit. What kind of name is that?  If anyone has that last name for real I am sorry, but I was not expecting a name like that at all.  Every time I read her last name it completely jolted me out of immersion in the story.  I don’t know why it was so jarring, but I wish she had any other last name.

Another thing I’d like to have seen more of was world-building.  I know it’s a romance book, but when that book takes place in the literal magical North Pole (called Yule in the story) I need more information please.  I really enjoyed learning about the magic and what really gets delivered on Christmas, but I really wanted more.  In fact, if this could be a book series a la Bridgerton where we have more love stories from the other siblings or even the parents that would be amazing.  Just flesh out that world some more with those, and I’d be happy.

Overall, I liked this book pretty well.  It was a nice story with a very interesting setting.  I also liked the character development, and the growth the characters experienced was realistic.  I just wish they had better names.  I also wish I could’ve learned more about the world.  The focus was very heavily on the couple and little else.  With a broader scope, this story could’ve been more interesting, but it’s definitely still worth reading for the holidays.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I gave The Naughty or Nice Clause by Kate Callaghan three out of five stars.  It’s a nice, cozy holiday romance with a new take on the Santa Clause lore and story.  The main characters were realistic in the midst of all the magic.  I just had a few personal issues with character names and world-building that kept it from rating higher for me.  Give it a read if you’re looking for a holiday romance.

Do you like to read holiday romance books? Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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