Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Review: Short Takes (More Christmas Books)

A Fool’s Gold Christmas
By Susan Mallery
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: October 29, 2013

A Fool’s Gold Christmas was released as a hardback in September 2012; it is being released as a mass market paperback and in digital format this month. It is the tenth book in the Fool’s Gold series, and it combines the two genres, romance and women’s fiction, in which Mallery has deservedly earned scores of fans.

The story centers on the romance between Evie Stryker, half-sister of Rafe (Summer Days), Shane (Summer Nights), and Clay (All Summer Long) and Dante Jefferson, Rafe’s business partner. Both Evie and Dante are in Fool’s Gold reluctantly: Evie because her brothers, guilty about the emotional distance between Evie and her family, insist on her recovering from an injury where they can see that she receives the care she needs; and Dante because when Rafe fell in love, he insisted on moving his business headquarters to Fool’s Gold. Both carry scars from their pasts. Individually, they are appealing characters, and together they are wonderful! I particularly enjoyed watching their relationship develop from strangers to friends to lovers.

Also important to the story is Evie’s estrangement from her mother. Romance fiction has good mothers and bad mothers in impressive numbers, but this may be the only good mother to three sons who is a very bad mother to her only daughter. May Stryker has her reasons, but my sympathy was all with Evie.

I wrote a full review of this book for the Romance Dish last year. You can access it here. I’ll just add that if you are a Fool’s Gold fan and missed this book last year, you will definitely want to read it this time. If you are just in the mood for a lovely Christmas read with seasonal themes and a sweet and sexy romance, I recommend A Fool’s Gold Christmas.

A Family for Christmas
By Winnie Griggs
Publisher: Harlequin (Love Inspired Historical)
Release Date: October 1, 2013

In 1895, Eve Hendricks, with little enthusiasm, is on her way to a job as a milliner’s assistant when she befriends Leo, a young boy traveling alone. When the train conductor, a man who lacks the milk of human kindness, finds that Leo is a stowaway, he ejects him from the train and leaves him at the train depot in Turnabout, Texas. Eve cannot bear to see Leo left with no one to care for him, so she leaves the train too. A Turnabout resident, Chance Dawson, observes the incident and is filled with admiration for Eve. He offers Eve and Leo refuge in his home, suitably chaperoned by an older friend, Dotty Epps.

As the name suggests, Turnabout is a place for new beginnings. All three primary characters have things in their past that cause others to see them as lacking worthiness, but Turnabout is a town of hardworking, neighborly people who are filled with the quality sadly lacking in the train conductor. Chance has already found a home in Turnabout, and he makes it possible for Eve and Leo to do so as well. With a little growth on all their parts, they find a family as well.

This is not a perfect book. The symbolism lacks subtlety, and the prose is sometimes pedestrian. But, framed by two holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and filled with faith, hope, and love and charming characters in a charming town, it is a sweet and heartwarming tale. Readers should be aware that A Family for Christmas is an Inspirational romance, and the characters are people for whom their faith and its disciplines of prayer and service are integral parts of their lives. It is also the third book in a series, but I have not read the earlier books and had no difficulty following the story. 

A Kiss Under the Mistletoe
By Jennifer Basye Sander
Publisher: Harlequin Nonfiction
Release Date: October 29, 2013

This is not a novel but rather a compilation of twenty-six true stories collected by Sander. The stories range from the sweetly romantic to the bittersweet to the heartbreaking, but each has something to share about Christmas and about love. There are all the things we associate with Christmas—Christmas gifts, Christmas trees, Christmas cards, Christmas songs, Christmas ornaments, Christmas stockings, Christmas food, Christmas kisses, and Christmas miracles. There are babies and blind dates and grinches and grace. There are white Christmases and green Christmases and Christmas with surprises like Frisbees and enchiladas.

Some of the stories are of idyllic Christmas moments, and others are of moments that would never inspire a Hallmark movie. Some stories will make you laugh, and others will make you cry. There are first Christmases and last Christmases commemorated in these stories. And the wonder is greater because these are all true stories woven from the memories of real people.

The very first story “Two to Tango” by Love Inspired author Teri Wilson is my favorite. It is a story to delight any romance lover’s heart, and the final story, “Love Never Dies” by Norma Jean Thornton, required nearly a full box of Kleenex to soak up all my tears. From first dates to final goodbyes, all the stages of love and romance are covered in these stories, and they all carry a Christmas seal.

This is not a book for everyone, but if you like your Christmas reading rich in sentiment, rooted in the real, and mindful that the holiday is about the heart and the soul, I can promise you will find stories you’ll love within these pages.

By my count, I have now reviewed seventeen Christmas books this year, and I still have a couple to go. I think it’s clear that I love Christmas stories. How about you? Do you have a long list of favorite Christmas books, or do all these Christmas books elicit only a “Bah! Humbug!”?


irisheyes said...

I do love Christmas books. I used to like the historicals better because they really seemed to immerse you in the time and place. I've gotten a real feel over the years of how Christmas was celebrated back in the Regency period in England, as well as other historical periods throughout history. Now, the contemporaries that I'm reading seem to do that as well. For a while there I was reading Christmas themed contemporaries that just threw in a tree and an office Christmas party and called it good. I like the books to get me in the spirit of the season.

Pulling out old favorites is becoming a yearly tradition for me. One that I really look forward to. I know I'm in store for hours of great reading!

Quantum said...

I have the audio of 'Fool's Gold Christmas' so that's my Christmas reading sorted!

I will not touch it until the festive season begins so guess its Bah! Humbug! for now. LOL

Janga said...

Irish, I so agree. Just adding a few decorations doesn't make a Christmas book anymore than just putting a wreath on the door means the people inside are celebrating the season. I do think it's a difficult balance to give a real Christmas feel without producing a saccharine tale. And there definitely is something special about rereading a favorite Christmas story.

Janga said...

Q, you'll enjoy A Fool's Gold Christmas. It's a good one. But I can't believe that you are a bit Scroogy--even in October. :)