Ratings: 4.5 stars out of 5
Scottie Monk came out of the womb angry at the world. He’s selfish and bitter. “Bah humbug!” rolls off his tongue far easier than “Happy Christmas.”
Gray Baird has dedicated his life to public service as a Marine Corps officer and later as a police chief. The decorated hero finds it impossible to ignore autistic twins in desperate need of holiday spirit. He’ll be the grumpiest Santa in the world if it puts a smile their faces. And he’ll drag a reluctant Scottie along for the ride.
This December, Gray and Scottie collide while unexpectedly playing Santa.
The Unexpected Santa (The Sin Bin #5) by Dahlia Donovan is more like a prelude to the next story, a setup really, to the much anticipated full blown clash that’s coming between Scottie Monk and Gray Baird in The Lion Tamer.
However, taken within that context? It’s a wonderful anticipatory delight of a short story. For all of the previous four novels, Scottie Monk’s atrocious behavior within the close group of ex rugby players has gone from extremely annoying to using hate language, stalking, and throwing punches. He’s constantly drunk and when sober, his behavior is sometimes even worse. One by one his former teammates and friends are excluding him from their circle and events. His reaction is anger and self pity.
I’ve wondered what Dahlia Donovan was going to do with Scottie. An unflattering character in the first book, he’s progressed to a horror of self indulgence and denial, certainly not someone a reader could connect with. When we last saw him, he was being thrown out of a wedding by Gray Baird (laughing…yes love that name). The Unexpected Santa picks up directly after that incident.
The autistic twins in the story come from The Royal Marine (The Sin Bin #4, one of my favorites in the series. They worked then for Akash Robinson, a baker. It’s he who is marrying his former marine, Hamish Ross, friend of Gray Baird. Yes, the two groups are now deeply intertwined and no story within this series is a standalone. Like a rich tapestry, the narrative threads run heavy through each tale and couple, twisting and twirling about, tugging the groups closer until they are forming a mesh of relationship dynamics that can’t really be separated out from one another.
Gray is a fascinating character, he has his hidden needs and has been wondering if he will fit in within this group and new location. Once he sees Scottie Monk, Scottie’s pain, and his actions that seem a cry for stability as well as a cry for someone to take control of his life, well, Gray responds to Scottie with his corresponding need to do just that. Yes, there will be hot kink involved…most likely in their story The Lion Tamer. Again, this is just the beginning.
Here we start to see just how badly messed up Scottie is and what has brought him to this state. But it’s clear that for Scottie and Gray this is but the tantalizing first dance. There are so many lovely scenes between Gray and the twins here, (they now work for Aled the Botanist). The author contrasting the delicacy of paper cranes with the fragility of the twins. In many ways it is a Christmas story.
The Unexpected Santa is a terrific Christmas prelude for all fans and readers of Dahlia Donovan’s The Sin Bin series. It’s that delicious taste of what’s to come, combined with the sweetness and joy of the holiday season when the twins come into the picture.
I highly recommend this entire series. I have listed them all at the bottom of the review. Read them in the order they were written, enjoy the characters and the men they love.
Cover art by Claire Smith again works beautifully. Love the coloration and the single snowflake that stands for the book.
Published November 11th 2017 by Hot Tree Publishing
SeriesThe Sin Bin #5
1. The Wanderer – BC & Graham
2. The Caretaker – Tens & Freddie
3. The Botanist (short story) – Aled & Wyatt
4. The Royal Marine – Hamish & Akash
5 The Unexpected Santa (short story) – Gray & Scottie
6. The Lion Tamer – Gray & Scottie
7. The Haka Ever After (short story) – Tens & Freddie
8. TBD – Zeb & Silus