Christmas in Snowflake Canyon
By RaeAnne Thayne
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
October 29, 2013
Genevieve Beaumont, Hope’s Crossing’s spoiled princess and former Bridezilla, and Dylan Caine, war hero who left a few missing parts in Afghanistan, have only two things in common. They both ended up at drinking at the Speckled Lizard on the Friday after Thanksgiving and they both really dislike the Christmas carols some patron with lousy taste in music keeps playing on the digital jukebox. When Genevieve decides to make her objections to the music known, she ends up in an altercation with a redhead with a fondness for Christmas carols and a job as assistant district attorney. The altercation turns physical, and when the redhead’s obnoxious male companion gets involved, Dylan can’t sit there and watch him manhandle Genevieve, even if she is a spoiled brat. By evening’s end, they have something else in common: they are handcuffed together in a squad car on their way to the police station.
Genevieve is in Hope’s Crossing only under duress. She’s spent the last two years in Paris spending money and enjoying time with people who know nothing of her family or the humiliation of the perfect wedding that never was. Her parents sent her a ticket to fly home. Genevieve thinks she’s home for the holidays, but once she’s in Hope’s Crossing, she learns that her indulgent daddy has had enough of his extravagant princess spending money as if there is no tomorrow. Genevieve’s tomorrows for the foreseeable future will be spent in Hope’s Crossing. Her father has canceled her credit cards and blocked access to her trust fund. All Genevieve has is the ugly house at the mouth of Snowflake Canyon that she inherited from her grandmother. She has hopes of selling it, but it will take some work first. And work is a new experience for Genevieve. It’s enough to cause a girl to drink.
Dylan Caine lost an eye and an arm in Afghanistan. He almost lost his life. The youngest of Dermot Caine’s six sons, Dylan knows his father, his five older brothers, and his sister Charlotte, the baby of the family, are thankful that he survived and eager to see him integrated back into the close family life of the growing Caine clan and into the Hope’s Crossing community. They are troubled and worried by Dylan’s drinking and the seclusion he clings to in his isolated cabin deep in Snowflake Canyon with only his dog Tucker for companionship. Dylan hates to hurt them, but there’s no way he can make them understand that he just wants to be left alone to face what his life is going to be with a shattered body and a shattered soul.
That one night at the Lizard changed the lives of Genevieve and Dylan. Thanks to a little interference from Dermot and Henry Lange, the only man in Hope’s Crossing richer and more powerful than Genevieve’s father, Mayor William Beaumont, Dylan’s lawyer brother Andrew arranges to have their “crime” wiped off their records if, before New Year’s, they serve one hundred hours of community service at the Warrior’s Hope, the new recreational therapy facility for wounded veterans that is the brain child of former baseball star Smoke Gregory and his beloved, Charlotte Caine (Willowleaf Lane). Dylan thinks their dream of helping traumatized vets with recreation is foolish and has already refused to have anything to do with it. Now he has little choice about spending time at The Warrior’s Hope or with Genevieve, who proves to be more human and far more tempting that Dylan expected. Dylan and the Warrior’s Hope are both new experiences for Genevieve, and they are making her believe she can be different—and better—than she ever dreamed. Reason says two such different people are all wrong for each other, but the heart is no organ of reason. And Christmas is the season for proving love offers greater gifts than the mind can conceive.
Christmas in Snowflake Canyon is the sixth book in RaeAnne Thayne’s Hope’s Crossing series, which has been one of my favorite contemporary series since I read the first book, Blackberry Summer, in the spring of 2011. Each book has offered a rich emotional experience that evoked laughter and tears and earned a spot among my keepers. This one is one of the best, as emotionally wrenching in a different way as Maura McKnight’s healing from her grievous loss and first steps into a new life in Sweet Laurel Falls (2012).
It is all the more remarkable because Genevieve and Dylan are not likeable characters. Dylan, of course, is a hero, and he sacrificed enormously in service of his country. It is impossible not to feel sympathy for him, but it’s also difficult to really like him when he is all wounded animal who snarls and tears at his loving family who are brokenhearted over his losses but whose gratitude that Dylan’s life has been spared is even greater. However, with Dylan, readers familiar with the series recognize from the opening scene that his psychological healing has begun, albeit in infinitesimal increments. The Dylan of earlier books would never have agreed to meet his brother Jamie at the Lizard.
No mitigating factors exist for Genevieve. She was a snob, and still is, though less of a one than readers might have supposed. She did behave horribly to some of Hope’s Crossing’s most noble characters. About the only thing she has going for her at the beginning is that readers of the earlier books can appreciate that she had the good sense to dump her rich, cheating, no-good political heir boyfriend. But Thayne shows her readers the family forces that have molded Genevieve into the pampered, petulant beauty she appears to be; she shows us that there is something worthwhile in Genevieve. She may be ill-equipped for transformation, but from the moment she has an epiphany that allows her to see herself as “small, selfish, and stupid,” she begins a journey that will bring her, the hope’s Crossing community, and readers to the understanding that can be great-hearted, giving, and smart in all the ways that matter most. This may be the best contemporary heroine redemption story since Susan Elizabeth Phillips gave the world Sugar Beth.
Dylan’s journey to health and wholeness is more complicated and more fraught, fittingly so, and he fights it with weapons honed in a hard school. But love works its miracle within him, love in so many facets—not just the love he and Genevieve share and finally confess, although that is central, but also his family’s love for him and his for them, the love he sees in the lives of other wounded veterans who have come to the Warrior’s Hope, and his community’s love for the many who need healing, helping touches. This is a Christmas book, and it has a plenitude of Christmas trappings: decorations, lights, gifts, and music. But it is most deeply Christmas at its heart, and I loved everything about it.
Thayne has said that there will be one more Hope’s Crossing series, the story of another Caine brother, Brendan, in the spring of 2014. I hate to see this series end, but I know I it will be one of those series that I revisit again and again. I highly recommend Christmas in Snowflake Canyon. You can read it as a standalone, although Genevieve’s redemption will not be as meaningful as it will be for readers who have seen her in her rich bitch incarnation.
Are there series that you are sad to see end? Or do you belong to the company who thinks series should be limited to trilogies and quartets?