Sunday, December 1, 2013

25 Days of Christmas Stories: THE NAUGHTY LIST by LA Kelley



Something smells at Penrose's Department Store and it isn't sugarplums.

Christmas had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. The new manager introduces idiotic rules, steals the affections of the cute temp Santa, and forces employees into butt-ugly elf hats. Then Rosalie meets a real E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form) named David and gets lassoed into a desperate hunt for the stolen Naughty and Nice List. Now the couple must stay one step ahead of the hellhounds, dodge a murderous invisible demon, and retrieve the List before the world tumbles into chaos.

EXCERPT:
David sunk wearily into a chair in the break room, cradling a disposable cup in his hands. He appropriated the stale coffee from the pot someone forgot to empty out and clean. He barely noticed the bitter taste. Ten minute break…ten minutes was all he needed. The caffeine would keep him on his feet another couple of hours. He rubbed his eyes, willing away the crushing fatigue. Night after night David wandered Penrose’s four floors in a fruitless search, pulling open boxes, checking under counters. Although the nagging pull continued to graze his senses, The Book was nowhere to be found. He’d come no closer to pinning down the location than when he arrived. The mystical connection now appreciably slackened under his mental touch. David’s stomach knotted up in fear. Soon the link would disappear forever. Something alluded him—some special storage area, some door he hadn’t opened. Why couldn’t he find The Book?
In frustration, David drained the last of the coffee. He flung the cup to the wastebasket, overshot, and hit the corkboard on the wall. A clipboard crashed to the floor. He stifled a curse. Bending down to pick it up, his eyes strayed over the top sheet. “Motivation Memo from Stephanie Crowder to all Employees,” he read. “Below are daily reports from Sneaky Shoppers.” Oh brother, Stephanie is a real piece of work. She has her own secret police. He snorted in amusement scanning the list of ridiculous infractions.
“Now, now, Rosalie Thatcher of Customer Service,” he muttered. “Two transgressions—you’ll never get off the Naughty List with that attitude. Imagine, not remembering to say have a special holly jolly holly-day at Penrose’s. I see you were also caught without an elf hat.”
Elf hat?
His lips twitched in an involuntary grin. His dad would appreciate the joke. As David replaced the clipboard, he suddenly remembered Rosalie. She was the girl he followed to the security office. The picture of the young brunette with a friendly natural smile popped into his mind. A smile like that couldn’t be faked. She liked people. She liked her job. He wondered how she felt about Penrose’s now.
David experienced a rush of guilt. All around the atmosphere had changed. He was super-sensitive to the yuletide. Magic in the air, holiday spirit, whatever—there was always something indefinably optimistic about this time of year. Even as a kid, before he understood family responsibilities, he sensed the truth. As easily as he now sensed the diminished effect of The Book. Whatever goodwill the season stirred up rapidly faded. Hard-working people like Rosalie paid the price of his stupid mistake.
The young man slipped out of the break room. He had enough time left to make one quick circuit of the first floor before staff trickled in. He worked from the front of Penrose’s to the back corner, ending up at Customer Service. For an instant, his spirits rose. A large box stashed underneath the counter wasn’t there the last time he checked. He ripped off the top, pawing through the contents. Fingering the garish green material, David didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The oversize ears stuck out like a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong. The lining felt like steel wool. Had the holiday spirit been reduced to this?
A wave of despair enveloped him. “I’m so sorry, Rosalie.”On impulse, David reached into his pocket. He pulled out a gold-wrapped chocolate bar saved for later, swiped from a stash hidden in the store manager’s office. David scribbled on a sticky pad and pressed the note to the wrapper. He slipped the candy under the counter just before a sudden murmur of voices broke the silence. The staff had arrived. He ducked behind a rack of clothing in the back as a girl walked up to the counter, an elf hat tucked under her arm.
“Ears, Rosalie.”
She halted in mid-stride. A sharply dressed twentysomething in a skin tight pencil skirt swooped down on her. To get a better view, David carefully eased back the clothes hanging in front of his face. He saw Rosalie’s fingers clenched around the hat. He chuckled to himself. She’s pissed, but hides her aggravation well. Sadhri would definitely approve of her self-control.
“Stephanie,” Rosalie stated calmly, “the hats are extremely uncomfortable. Everyone hates them.”
“Nonsense, they’re fine.”
“If you simply try one on you’ll see—”
“I don’t have to. I know they’re fine. The hats put people in the holiday spirit and cheerful people spend more money.” Stephanie examined her perfect French manicure. “So close to Christmas is an awful time to be out of work.” Rosalie jammed the hat on her head without another word. “Excellent,” cooed Stephanie. “Keep that attitude up and your name will stop appearing on the Motivation Memo.” Without another word, she flounced off.
David knew he should dash-away. Every moment in the open was risky, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Rosalie in the idiotic hat. What would she do?
The young woman leaned against the counter glaring after Stephanie. She bobbled her head back and forth and spouted in a falsetto sing-song:
“I’m a special elf from Penrose’s
I wear the special hat
You are not a special elf
You’re a dirty rat
You don’t belong at Penrose’s
You don’t know how to play
Wiggle your tight ass out of here
Damn you, go away.”
David snorted. Rosalie stiffened and turned around.
“Who’s there?” she called.

Review by Cara Marsi



The Naughty List by L.A. Kelley is a cute, rollicking Christmas story that will get you into the holiday mood.



Rosalie Thatcher is a loyal employee of Penrose’s Department Store, but things are going from bad to worse at work. A new manager imposes silly rules, fires employees, and makes the others wear stupid elf hats. Rosalie’s boyfriend left her months ago and she’s a tad lonely. Even though Christmas is her favorite time, this holiday is turning into a bummer. Enter David, an E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form), who comes into Penrose’s looking for The Book, which contains Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. Seems The Book was stolen and it’s David’s job to find it.



Merriment ensues as Rosalie attempts to help David find The Book. We meet a cast of quirky characters out of mythology, some humorous, some scary, all fun.



I connected with Rosalie from the beginning because she’s feisty with a good sense of humor and a good heart. David wasn’t as strong a character at first, but he becomes stronger and more heroic as the story progresses. I liked him and Rosalie and found them to be an engaging couple, but I wasn’t sure what they looked like. There’s very little physical description of any of the characters.



The Naughty List is part romantic comedy, part paranormal romance, with a few wild fight scenes thrown in. The romance between Rosalie and David is very sweet and doesn’t progress beyond kisses. However, there is the promise of happily-ever-after, always a good thing.



Despite the hellhounds and assorted mythological creatures, it’s an uplifting story guaranteed to delight. Let your imagination take flight and enjoy the always entertaining The Naughty List.

BUY LINKS:

BIO:
L.A. Kelley is married with three children and lives in Florida. She was recently freed from the shackles of producing boring technical papers and now writes fiction with fantasy, romance, and a touch of Southern whimsy. She firmly believes every story should have a happy ending. The Naughty List is her first novel.

You can find her at home in air-conditioned comfort hiding from the heat and humidity or…
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18 comments:

  1. LA,
    Congrats on your first book. How exciting! Love the book cover. :)

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I love the cover, too.

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  2. The Naughty List sounds funny and sweet. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie. I hope you enjoy it.

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  3. Sounds like one I'll need to put on my Christmas list. Congrats on your first!

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    1. Thanks, Ellen. Head is still in the clouds about it. Or my medication may be wearing off--can't tell. Stay on the Nice List!

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    1. Me, too. I've always had a soft spot for odd balls. (Also, an odd spot for soft balls.)

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  5. Sounds like fun! Cute title too. Congrats!

    Best--Adele

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    1. Best to you, Adele. Appreciate the kind words.

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  6. The Naughty List sounds like a cute little holiday read. I'm with Brenda, I love quirky characters.

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    1. Me, too. Reminds me of all my holiday dinners with family.

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  7. The Naughty List is a fun story. I really enjoyed it and I recommend it for a cheery holiday read.

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  8. Congratulations on your first story. The Naughty List sounds like a fun read for this time of year. Best of luck!

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  9. LA, thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us. I apologize for the late comment. The last couple days have been pretty hectic due to company visiting with us. :-)

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  10. The Naughty List sounds delightful. Any story described as quirky and rollicking works for me!

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