Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Book Reviews: The Holidays are Coming...

In the spirit of getting ready for the Christmas season, I devoured a few Christmas themed books this Thanksgiving weekend (as well as a few others) and offer two Christmas tale reviews here, but also a few general thoughts:

ONE. A good cover is really important for a Christmas story. Readers looking for a warm holiday story are even more swayed than usual by the promise on the cover, even if the blurb is less than stellar. (Or maybe that's just me.)

TWO. A good Christmas story should stand on its own and not leave a reader hanging. It's Christmas. I want my HEA more than ever during the stress leading up to holiday week.

THREE. A fun title can suck a reader right in, especially when the cover isn't Christmas-y enough. Yes, I usually dislike gimmicky book titles, but Christmas seems to be the exception to many rules.

Now, on to my reviews for the week (yes, I added an extra since I skipped last week. Enjoy.)

 Must Love Mistletoe, by Christie Ridgway
Published 2011

About the Book:
Bailey Sullivan can't stand Christmas, even though her family's business is a store specializing in the perfect holiday. But now her hometown's chief supplier of rooftop Rudolphs and treetop angels is in danger of going under--and it's up to Bailey to save the shop.

She has it all planned: She'll arrive on December 1 and be gone by Christmas. Plus there's always spiked eggnog to ease the pain. But "Humbug" Bailey's not the only one home for the holidays. Finn Jacobson, legendary local bad boy turned Secret Service agent and Bailey's long-lost high-school boyfriend, is once again the boy next door. Only this time he's all grown up, and the sparks are flying faster and hotter than ever!

Bailey believes in true love about as much as she believes in Santa Claus. But as the holiday draws closer, she's starting to think about one thing she'd like to find under the tree...

As I said in my intro, so many sins are forgiveable in a Christmas story. This book is a fast read and rather sweet, even though we get too many points of view, endless flashbacks and what seems like a bit of a rushed ending... and the blurb really doesn't let us know what all to expect. But I loved the title, which doesn't go with the blurb now that I read it. Right. I bought this because of the power of the title alone. Crazy, right? That's what Christmas does to people.

Bailey has trust issues stemming from her father's careless abandonment of their family. She watched her mother fall apart when her heart was broken and vowed to never love again. Finn, the bad boy next store was her first love but when things got serious she ran away from the relationship before he could break her heart, in the process hurting them both anyway. The story begins when she's forced to come home to care for her mother at the same time Finn is forced to return to care for his sick grandmother. Sparks - and misunderstandings - fly fast and furious, with both characters flashing back in time to their hot and heavy high school romance. 

The dual storyline not mentioned in the blurb is between Bailey's mom Tracy and her second husband Dan, whose separation provides the catalyst for Bailey's return to her hometown. We get chapters in each of their POVs as well, which show us the misunderstandings that arise from lack of honest communication in a marriage (mixed with a hefty dose of mid-life crisis.) Another good storyline, but it kind of felt stitched together to make the story long enough to be a standalone instead of a novella.

Will Bailey and Finn find a way through their walls? Will Tracy and Dan throw away a great marriage based on empty-nest syndrome and a few grey hairs? Will all the storylines wrap up neatly with a bow in the December 1st-through-Christmas timeline? Yes, it all wraps up but I won't tell you how. If you're looking for a holiday read that's mostly sweet and filled with family angst, and you don't mind multiple POVs and flashbacks, try this novel. The paperback has a cuter cover, but the Kindle cover is catchy enough. The title is great even if the blurb doesn't tell you the whole story.

Grab a copy on AMAZON.

Unexpected Gifts (Castle Mountain Lodge Book 1), by Elena Aitken
Published 2011

About the Book:
Christmas represents everything Andi Williams is supposed to have, and doesn't. Running away to a remote mountain lodge in the Canadian Rockies, sounds like the perfect way to escape, until a mix-up finds her sharing a villa with sexy, rough around the edges, Colin Hartford.

Colin's determination to enjoy the holiday he’s missed for the last five years, sweeps Andi into a season of joy that she’s not sure she’s ready for. Can Andi open herself up to everything the holidays have to offer... including love?

I actually love this cover, and really like the blurb, even though after reading the book I'd write a different blurb. And probably choose a different title as this one is not descriptive or catchy in the least. Colin is not a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy. He's sweet, sophisticated, successful, thoughtful... all around yummy. And "remote mountain lodge" is a poor description of the purposefully rustic over-the-top resort complex just a few hours drive from the city.

If you suspend disbelief for a few of the plot points - including the crucial one where a guy who can afford a 3-bedroom villa at this expensive resort is a nice enough to offer to share it with a perfect stranger - and just go with it, this is a fun, fast read that will leave you smiling through most of it. A sweet story with just a little steam, this was a nice holiday story with wonderful descriptions of the snowy Canadian mountains and little special touches a resort can conjure to make holidays away from home pretty magical. Having spent many Christmases working at my family's Vermont inn, I enjoyed all those little touches the author added.

This is the first in a multi-book series about this particular resort, and is currently free on Kindle (or was when I wrote this.) Grab your copy on AMAZON today for a holiday smile.

P.S. If you're an author with a holiday book you'd like me to feature or review, feel free to contact me.


  1. So true Christmas books are special and different. I agree with all of your points especially the second about HEA.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Charlotte! Standalone and HEA are Key. Glad you agree!

  2. I really enjoy holiday books, and I look forward to reading this one.


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