Saturday, October 13, 2012

Christmas in October:Week Two--A Gift for All Seasons

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
Release Date: 
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?


quantum said...

I like the sound of this story and if the voice is as good as the plot it could win me over. It needs to be very very special to eclipse Virgin River in my Xmas story TBB though. Perhaps I will relent and read 2 Christmas stories this year. Like Scrooge coming in from the cold! LOL

If I was commissioning a Christmas story it would have children suffering from a deep loss, possibly a missing parent or deeply loved friend. The story would then have to resolve the problems through the power of love without seeming contrived. The solution would be triggered by a mistletoe kiss which evolves into something much deeper. The spirit of Christmas with carols, midnight mass, presents and Christmas pudding (possibly a ring buried in the pudding) must all be involved. The HEA will be achieved on the night after Christmas when Santa delivers a day late.

Am I asking for too much? LOL

irisheyes said...

I'm with you, Janga. I love children in, not only my Christmas stories, but in any romance I read.

I like everything about this story. I'm going to have to hunt down the first one in the series and do it right. :)

Janga said...

Oh, Q, I like the sound of your story. It has terrific ingredients.
That favorite Christmas book I mentioned in the post has wounded protagonists, a big family, kids, nuns, and a curmudgeon all wrapped in the season. I reread it every year.

Janga said...

Irish, it really is a sweet story, and the first one is even better. I find Karen Templeton's stories consistently ones I enjoy.

And I like kids in books during every season too, so long as they are neither generic characters or incredibly precocious. I do have a problem with two-year-olds who reason and talk as if they were ten.

The Romance Dish said...

Let's see...

I'm a huge fan of J.R. Martinez, have read just about everything Karen Templeton has written, am known among my family and friends as the Christmas Elf and adore stories that are populated with big families and kids. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Thanks, Janga! I needed a boost today and you've given it to me!

PJ Ausdenmore said...

Oops! Sorry, wrong hat. The Romance Dish comment was me in disguise. ;-)

Janga said...

PJ, I knew TRD was you. Your voice is distinctly your own, even in a short comment. :) I think you'll love this one.