Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Review: A Handful of Christmas Stars to a Reread and a New Read

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor
By Lisa Kleypas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 26, 2010


Mark Nolan’s strongest commitment is to his coffee business, not withstanding his long-term girlfriend. That changes when his sister Victoria is killed in an automobile accident and Mark finds that she has named him as guardian of her six-year-old daughter, Holly. Her happiness becomes Mark’s primary concern: “For the first time in his life he knew what it felt like to have his heart broken… not broken in a sad or romantic sense, but broken open. He had never known this before, the desire to surround another human being with perfect happiness.” But Holly, grieving for her mother, has stopped speaking, and Mark feels helpless to end her silence.


Maggie Collins is no stranger to grief. A widow, she has opened a toy store, the Magic Mirror, in Friday Harbor as one more step in building a new life. Even a mute child loves a toy store, and so it’s hardly surprising that Mark and Holly visit the Magic Mirror. Holly is enchanted by a fairy house that Maggie has made, and the two are clearly kindred spirits in their love for the imaginary world of fairy lore and other magic. Mark’s not happy about this departure from reality, but he tolerates it since, with Maggie’s encouragement, Holly begins to speak.


Both Maggie and Mark are quickly aware of their attraction to one another, but neither is ready to act on it. Mark feels a certain loyalty to his girlfriend, Shelby, and Maggie, two years after her husband’s death from cancer, is leery of opening herself to the possibility of more loss. So the two settle for friendship. They enjoy one another; they talk to one another, sharing the best kind of conversation: “As they continued to talk, it somehow slipped into the bonelessly comfortable, unstructured conversation of longtime friends, both of them letting it go where it would.”


But the attraction doesn’t disappear, and Holly’s letter to Santa adds a layer of complication. But Maggie has to be willing to take a risk and Mark has to learn to believe in magic before a little girl’s Christmas wish can come true.

More novella than novel, Kleypas’s first Friday Harbor book has less sizzle than her usual fiction, but it has the memorable characters the mix of sigh-worthy romance and real-life issues that characterized her Travis family contemporaries. Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is several love stories—the love of a child, the love of family (even dysfunctional ones), and the love between a man and a woman—all tied up in a Christmas bow.               

Reading it, or rereading it, is also great preparation for the next Friday Harbor book, Rainshadow Road, which will be released in February. I’m excited about reading a Lisa Kleypas book, especially after no new books from her in 2011. Rainshadow Road Sam Nolan’s story, and I’m already a little bit in love with Sam. You can read an excerpt here.


Note: I am one of "Lisa's Divas" - a group of select fans who share info and content related to Lisa's novels and get sneak peeks and swag in return.  

Once Upon a Winter’s Eve
By Tessa Dare
Publisher: Samhain
Release Date: November 15, 2011


Spindle Cove’s Christmas ball is in progress, and Violet Winterbottom, an experienced wallflower, has claimed a corner from which to watch the dancing when a stranger, wet and bloody, staggers into the room and falls unconscious at her feet.  The language he speaks is a strange one to the citizens of Spindle Cove; only Violet can understand him. She identifies his language as Breton, the language of Brittany-- “As in Brittany, France,” as Bram Rycliff (hero of A Night to Surrender) says. Bram and the other members of the militia are suspicious of the stranger.  He may be a spy or the scout for an invasion force.

Violet isn’t sure she trusts him either, nor is she sure she trusts herself. The last time she gave her trust to a man, she ended up with a broken heart and indelible memories of The Disappointment.  Should she listen to her excellent mind that tells her this man is a mystery and a stranger, and an enemy stranger at that, or dare she listen once again to her heart?

Broken heads and broken hearts, language games and a truncated letter, pistols and promises—Dare weaves them all into a story with humor and heat and heart-capturing characters. You can read an excerpt here.

I knew I’d love this book from the moment I read the tagline: “Some wallflowers bloom at night...” and I did.  I loved Violet’s intelligence, vulnerability, and courage. I loved her stranger in the night. And I loved seeing Bram and Susanna’s happiness continuing to grow. Spindle Cove has become one of my favorite fictional settings. My second visit there was a rare treat, and I look forward to returning with A Week to Be Wicked (March 27, 2012).

I want to share the love by giving away two ecopies of Once Upon a Winter’s Eve--one in honor of a terrific author and one in honor of an equally terrific editor. Winners will be chosen randomly from among those who comment. With apologies to international visitors, the contest is open only to visitors within the  U. S.

What’s your favorite Christmas novella? To what 2012 books are you most looking forward?




31 comments:

drgnys30 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
drgnys30 said...

Well, a personal fav for me is by Johanna Lindsey, about the Mallory family, it might actually be a book, "The Present"...come to think of it, it is a book (g)...I am always on the lookout for a new Christmas story to carry me through the holidays! I am really looking forward to "The Christmas Secret" by Julia London and "Once upon a Winter's Eve"....I love authors that have interconnecting stories and families...

Lisa said...

Hmm, I don't think I have a favorite Christmas novella. I did just finish Holly Lane by Toni Blake and it was an excellent holiday novel. As for 2012, obviously Tessa Dares newest as well as Sarah MacLeans newest :)

Chrisbails said...

There are a couple that I am looking forward to. Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr. A Bite Before Christmas by Lynsay Sands & Jeaniene Frost-already out, but have not got yet. Tied With a Bow by Lora Keigh, Virginia Kantra, and others. Those are the 3 top one I can think of. I really want the Jeaniene Frost/Lynsay Sands one. One my Christmas list of books I want.
I am a Lisa Kleypas fan and also would love to read Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor and would love to win and read Once Upon a Winters Eve. Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win.
christinebails@yahoo.com

Lisa said...

I am so looking forward to Tessa's new novella!

I agree with drgnys30 that The Present was a lovely Christmas stories and one of my favorites, and of course, I loved Lisa's Friday Harbor novella too. One of my favorite Nora Roberts is The MacGregor Brides which is a series of three Christmas novellas.

As for the books I'm looking forward to in 2012,
Anything by Lisa Kleypas, NR, Eloisa James, LLG, Tessa Dare, Katharine Ashe, About that Night by Julie James, Sarah MacLean's A Rogue By Any Other Name, The Tatooed Duke by Maya Rodale, and the list goes on..........

amieam said...

Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas and The Present by Joanna Lindsay.

I am looking forward to Grace Burrowes new book about Lady Maggie and Tessa Dare's A Week to be Wicked.

GzNKz4evr said...

Wow, I have quite a few that I enjoy. Johanna Lindsey's The Present probably has to be my favorite just because I have read all of the Malory Novels. I loved A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas and have been told that the rest of the series is wonderful. I just haven't had a chance to obtain copies of those books yet, but they are all on the list. Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor I read as soon as it released last year and really liked it. I just received Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish that I am looking forward to reading. And I have a couple of anthologies with McNaught and Deveraux that are very good as well which titles escape me. I want to say one is A Holiday of Love? and maybe A Gift of Love? Anyway, I love holiday themed books around the holidays and really enjoyed all of these.

2012: I am looking forward to anything and everything - especially discovering new authors. :)
kendraedens@gmail.com

Jena Lang said...

I don't have a favorite. I've never read a Christmas novella.

2012: I'm looking forward to My Cursed Highlander (Kimberly Killion), Heir of Darkness (Alix Rickloff), A Week to be Wicked and A Lady By Midnight (Tessa Dare).

jenalang(at)live(dot)com

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Janga, I am delightfully amazed at how popular THE PRESENT is by Johanna Lindsey, it's my favorite, too. I'm itching to get my hands on THE BITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS ... 2012 books, that list nearly doubles my already long TBR list. Thanks for the reviews. : )

http://unwrappingromance.blogspot.com

irisheyes said...

Hi Janga! I forgot how much I really liked LK's Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. I know there were a lot of mixed reviews on it but I think that had more to do with the length and not the content. I, too, always want more when I read her! LOL

For 2012 I'm looking forward to continuing on with Lisa's Friday Harbor series, continuing the Virgin Rivers series with Robyn Carr and picking up the new Julie James, Elizabeth Hoyt and Jennifer Ashley releases. Hart's story promises to be quite interesting.

I'm sure I didn't even scratch the surface but those are the ones on my brain today! I have Tessa's 1st Spindle Cove on my TBR pile and was going to wait until I had them all to start the series (a first for me), but now I may have to dive in a little earlier than expected.

LilMissMolly said...

I really enjoyed Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor last year about this time. I just loved the idea of fairies. I don't remember Christmas stories very often, but I remember Lisa's!
lvsgund at gmail.com

salvador said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
salvador said...

My favorite novella is "This Wicked Gift" written by Courtney Milan. Despite the short length of the novella, the story was well developed and for a historical novel it was unique for featuring characters who were not members of the nobility.For 2012 I am looking forward to new novels by my fave authors: Julia Quinn, Julie James and Sherry Thomas.

Betty Hamilton said...

The Present by Joanna Lindsay.

I am looking forward to: Sevin: The Lords of Satyr by Elizabeth Amber

Defiant by Pamela Clare

Haunted Warrior by Allie Mackay

Stud by Cheryl Brooks


bettysunflower@hotmail.com

cg_roda said...

I love Mary Balogh's Christmas books and anthologies. Christmas books are a little more glib than usual, but somehow it works anyway. Next year I'm looking forward to so many books, I couldn't name them all.

Sheree said...

I think the last Christmas-theme book I enjoyed was a Mary Balogh anthology.

I'm looking forward to Joan Swan's FEVER (droolworthy cover!) and Shiloh Walker's THE DEPARTED.

ironss [at] gmail [dot] com

Janga said...

drgnys30, I love Christmas stories too. Some favorites I've been rereading for decades. I think you have lots of company in your fondness for Lindsey's Mallory family.

Janga said...

Lisa, I loved Holly Lane, although I was really surprised by who the H/H are. I admire your taste. Both Tessa and Sarah MacLean are autobuy authors for me. :)

Janga said...

Christine, I enjoyed Robyn Carr's Bring Me Home for Christmas; I never miss a trip to Virgin River. And obviously, I'm a big Lisa Kleypas fan.

Janga said...

Lisa, it sounds as if we have many favorite authors in common. And I still long for the stories of those other MacGregor grandchildren. Anna and Daniel's book is one of my all-time favorites--even though it's not a Christmas book.

Janga said...

Amieam, I'm glad I'm in good company looking forward to the next Spindle Cove book. I need to catch up with Grace Burrowes's Windhams. I haven't read The Virtuoso yet, and I think she has two more in the series scheduled for release next year.

Janga said...

GzNKz4evr, you have a real treat in store with Kleypas's Wallflower books, especially Devil in Winter. I have A Gift of Love on a keeper shelf. McNaught's "Double Exposure" is a particular favorite of mine.

Janga said...

Jena, another Tessa Dare fan. Yay! I think you'll love "Once Upon a Winter's Night."

Janga said...

Hi, Amy! The Present does seem to be hugely popular. Your 2012 list sounds a lot like mine. I bet we have many of the same books too.

Janga said...

Irish, you're more disciplined than I am if you can delay reading a Tessa Dare book. LOL I'm not surprised that we share so many much anticipated 2012 reads. I'll add EJ's ugly duckling tale and JQ's next Smythe-Smith to the list. I'm guessing they are on your list too.

Janga said...

Molly, a Kleypas book is always memorable, isn't it? And as the first Friday Harbor book, CEAFH is doubly so. I'll probably reread it again before Rainshadow Road releases.

Janga said...

Salvador, I agree with you about the merits of "This Wicked Gift." I love that novella. And did you see that Courtney Milan's Unveiled is one of Amazon's top ten romances of 2011?

Janga said...

Betty, another vote for "The Present." I think Lindsey wins as author of the favorite Christmas novella.

Janga said...

Cg, ah, Balogh! Between her Christmas novels and novellas, she has written enough Christmas stories to keep readers busy for most of December. Perhaps only Debbie Macomber has written more.

Janga said...

Sheree, are you referring to Balogh's Under the Mistletoe collection? That's one of my favorites too. I especially love "The Best Gift" with its Jane Eyre-like heroine.

Janga said...

Thanks, everyone, for dropping by. Be sure to check back after midnight EST for the names Random.org selects to win the ecopies of "Once Upon a Winter's Eve."