The first Christmas romances I remember reading were Harlequins. My all-time favorite contemporary Christmas romance, A Carol Christmas (1989) by Muriel Jensen, is a Harlequin American Romance, part of their first Christmas Is for Kids promotion. Each year I eagerly check Harlequins Christmas offerings and almost always find a few to add to my collection of Christmas keepers.
A Gift for All Seasons
By Karen Templeton
Harlequin Special Edition
October 16, 2012
This is the second book in Templeton’s Summer Sisters series, following September’s The Doctor’s Do-Over.
April Ross, a beautiful, blonde widow with an effervescent spirit, a healthy purse, and a heart three times her size has had the old Victorian house where she and her cousins Melanie Duncan and Blythe Broussard spent their summers with their grandmother renovated and the once-popular Rinehart Inn is scheduled to reopen in mid-December. Before that opening, she has three acres that desperately need the attention of a landscaper. Sam Howell at the garden center recommends Shaughnessy and Sons.
Patrick Shaughnessy, a veteran of the Iraq War, has been working at St. Mary’s best landscaping company with his father and brothers since he recovered from his injuries. His large, loving Irish family provided the stability and security he needed when he came home visibly and invisibly scarred by his war experience. His wife couldn’t handle the changes in him and walked out, leaving the couple’s young daughter with her father. Patrick sees himself as “a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and Dorothy’s Scarecrow,” pieced together by the best efforts of surgeons, burn specialists, physical therapists, and psychologists, but four-year-old Lilianna only sees him as Daddy, and his main purpose in life is to cherish and protect her.
Patrick initially sees April as a beautiful, wealthy ditz. She may stir his slumbering libido, but he’s convinced there’s little substance beneath the appealing surface. But he soon discovers that April is filled with surprises, and she may be just what he needs to bring him fully back to life if he can let go of his fears.
Templeton, who is one of my favorite category writers, says in a letter to her readers that the character of Patrick Shaughnessy was inspired by J. R. Martinez, the former soldier turned actor who was severely burned during his service in Iraq. Templeton was beginning April’s story as Martinez was winning Season 13 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and the idea for her hero was born. Of course, Martinez is eons ahead of Patrick in self-acceptance and the courage to live life. These are the lessons Patrick learns over the course of the book, lessons that his family, Lili, and, most of all, April have to teach him.
April was just a bit too loving and self-sacrificing for me to believe in fully, but her cousins add spice to her sugar and she becomes more assertive. I was rooting for her to have her HEA. Lili is adorable, the Shaughnessys are wonderful, and Patrick is a heart-stealer. A Gift for All Seasons is a sweet Christmas story with lots of family, a kid who believes in Santa, and a sigh-worthy holiday ending that promises happily ever after for two deserving characters. I can’t ask for more in a Christmas romance. And Book 3 in the series, The Marriage Campaign, Blythe’s story, will be released in February, in plenty of time for a Valentine read.
Among other things, I like family and children in my Christmas reads. What are the ingredients you require in a good Christmas story?