Sunday, December 29, 2013

Extending Christmas: Reviews of a Few More Christmas Books

There’s still a bit over a week before Twelfth Night marks the end of the Christmas season, just enough time to read one or more of the following Christmas books guaranteed to leave you smiling at the HEA.

Holiday for Two
By Maggie Robinson and Elyssa Patrick
Release Date: December 9, 2013

I love cabin romances, and I love Christmas books. Combine those two pluses with the fact that the authors of Holiday for Two are friends and former fellow Bon Bons, and I knew this one would be a winner. I was right. Both stories are delightful.

“All Through the Night”

This novella is Maggie Robinson’s first published contemporary romance. Thus, it seems particularly appropriate that the hero, Griffin Archer, is a viscount with an English accent and a likeness to Mr. Darcy that make him a fantasy come to life for the heroine. She is Carrie Moore, personal assistant to a successful mystery writer, who also happens to be the hero’s aunt.

The two miss the last ferry to an island off the coast of Maine where said aunt is expecting both her nephew and personal assistant. The snowstorm that closed the ferry makes travel hazardous, and Carrie and Griffin end up taking shelter from the storm in a carriage house conveniently winterized to protect a vintage Jaguar. A lot of chemistry and a bit of role playing make one snowed-in Christmas Eve a night to remember.

Both Carrie and Griffin are engaging characters. I found Carrie’s blend of pragmatism and imagination strongly appealing, and Griffin was a delightful mix of stuffiness and sexiness. I rank Robinson’s contemporary debut a smashing success, and I’ll definitely be among her eager readers if she writes more in this subgenre.

“While It Was Snowing”

Felicity Evans and Harry Walsh have been friends since they were children, but some looks Felicity has been receiving from Harry have her thinking there might be more than friendship to their relationship. Since Felicity is a confident, modern woman, she has no hesitation in deciding an intimate weekend in a Vermont cabin will be the perfect setting. But Harry, who has loved Felicity since he entered his teens, is a self-proclaimed geek who thinks Felicity deserves someone better.

Felicity is primed for seduction, and Harry wants to talk. Misunderstandings ensue, but the special connection these two have is strong enough to survive the awkwardness, the missteps, and the risks of friends becoming lovers.

A beta hero par excellence, a friends-to-lovers plot that is endearingly credible, and an opening scene that ranks with the funniest I’ve read make Patrick’s novella a standout.  The epilogue is the perfect finishing touch. The author says that this is a standalone work, but I bet I’m not the only one who would love to read Nora and Ben’s story.

The Wrong Christmas Carol
By J. A. Ferguson
Publisher: Belle Books
Release Date: December 28, 2013
(Reissue of 2006 novel from ImaJinn Books)

Mr. Shepard has spent two years doing his best to foster a match between his tenants Gabby D’Angelo and Dr. Mike Archer, but they have stubbornly resisted all his efforts. His last resort is a prayer that arrives at the heavenly Prayer Care Center at a moment when the angel in charge is distracted. He sends an answer only to realize too late that he acted too quickly.

Gabby is surprised when the police recover her stolen car so quickly, but not nearly as surprised as she is when the officers also return to her an infant born one minute after midnight on Christmas Day. Her name according to the hospital bracelet she still wears and according to hospital records is Carol D’Angelo. Gabby knows that the baby cannot be hers; nevertheless, she feels an instant connection with her.

Life with a new born is more exhausting than Gabby expected, but she manages with the help of her landlord, Mr. Shepard, who ransacks his attic where his granddaughter has stored all the baby paraphernalia an infant needs; with the cooperation of all the people, staff and residents, of the senior center where Gabby works, who christen Carol “CeeBee” for “cute baby” and eagerly offer to take turns providing on-site childcare; and with the assistance of good neighbor, Mike Archer, who provides take-out meals for the busy mother, expertise as the oldest of a large family, and kisses filled with tantalizing promise.

The baby accomplished what Mr. Shepard’s efforts did not. It brought Gabby and Mike together, but a union between artist Gabby who has no problem believing in angels and miracles and medical researcher Mike who trusts only in logic and empirical evidence proves fraught with complications. Meanwhile the angel who made the error is sent to earth to correct the problems he created, but he only seems to complicate matters.

If this were not a Christmas story, I would label it saccharine, but my tolerance for sweet stories increases tenfold or more at this season. I loved the premise of the story, adored the baby, and found the conscientious, awkward angel with a fondness for chocolate cake and the matchmaking landlord endearing. I’m adding this one to my holiday reread list.

The Surprise Holiday Dad
By Jacqueline Diamond
Publisher: Harlequin (American Romance)
Release Date: January 7, 2014

Private detective Wade Hunter returns to Safe Harbor as soon as he learns that the mother of his son has died. There is nothing Wade wants more than to be a real father to his son, and he is determined to begin immediately. He may not have as much to offer as the doctor aunt who has been young Reggie’s primary caretaker and is eager to adopt him, but he can be the father his son needs, the one thing the doctor aunt can’t give Reggie.

Adrienne Cavill, an obstetrician at the Safe Harbor obstetrical hospital, loves her sister’s son as if he were her own child. She has already begun the adoption process to make him hers by law as well as by love. She is shocked when Wade Hunter turns up demanding to be part of his son’s life. Frightened that she will lose Reggie to his father, she prepares to fight—only to discover Wade Hunter is quite different from the man she has been led to believe he is.

Given that the protagonists are both good people who genuinely love Reggie, the plot of this story is predictable from the first. But it is a pleasure to see characters who really do place the needs of the child first and who learn that compromise is possible. This is a sweet story, the twelfth in Diamond’s Safe Harbor Medical series—with three more in the works. I had no difficulty following the story, and I liked it well enough that I plan to check out others in the series.

This week I’m reading some spring 2014 releases and rereading some favorites by Georgette Heyer. What are you reading during the last days of 2013?

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