The Naughty List by L. A. Kelley
Murder, mystical artifacts, demons with anger management issues, interfering cupids…not your mama’s yuletide tale.
The holidays had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. Stephanie, her new manager at Penrose’s Department Store, is determined to make this season the most profitable in the store’s history, even if it sucks the life out of every employee. Introducing arbitrary rules and stealing the affections of Anthony, the cute temp Santa, were bad enough, but forcing Rosalie into the stupid elf hat was the worst. The worst, that is, until she 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 all Rosalie and David must do is dodge a murderous invisible demon and recover the missing artifact before hellhounds track them down. The couple race against time for without the magical guidance of the Naughty and Nice List, the world will tumble toward eternal chaos.
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.
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
Q: Romance readers have a lot of choices these days. What makes The Naughty List stand out in the crowd?
A: The holiday season brings tidings of good cheer–unless you’re in customer service. You don’t have to work retail to commiserate. We’ve all been in tough employment situations or know someone who has. Corporate management with no regard for workers, long hours, low pay, ungrateful clientele–it’s enough to spike anyone’s egg nog with a creamy dollop of bah humbug.
The Naughty List has love, magic, humor, and a satisfying comeuppance for anyone who’s been rude to overworked and underpaid employees. It’s enough to make you burst out in spontaneous fa-la-las. (Please restrain yourself.)
Q: We like to include our favorite quote in our reviews of the books we read. What is your favorite quote from The Naughty List?
A: My favorite quote from The Naughty List is:
“Your wardrobe seriously needs updating. You dress like the communist party leader on the local potato cooperative.”
About L. A. Kelley
I’m the palest person living in Florida, and will take air conditioned comfort over heat and humidity any day. Married with three kids, I spent most of my working life in higher education, but now concentrate on writing fiction. I never clean under my sofa.
The Author Wants To Know:
Admit it—everyone keeps their own Naughty List of people who tick them off. You secretly hope one day they’ll get their due reward. At the top of mine is a neighbor who lets her dogs out to mess on everybody else’s lawn, but never cleans up after them. I secretly hope all her dogs get suddenly hit with explosive diarrhea when riding in her Mercedes on the highway with no exit in sight. Who’s on your own personal Naughty List?