Christmas is my favorite holiday, which I feel like despite not really talking about too often (I don’t think), you probably could have guessed somehow. I’m writing this while I should be getting ready for bed so it’s possible I’m delirious. But I have been so excited about getting into the Christmas spirit early this year thanks to these advanced copies so I really want to tell you about them! Especially since now that they’re all out or coming soon, you can pick them up when you’re ready for them and not, you know, prior to playing “All I Want for Christmas is You” even once yet.
Thanks to Netgalley and the various publishers, I was lucky enough to receive and read four Christmas ARCs this year. From Gallery, I read In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren, which you can officially find in stores today! From Sourcebooks Casablanca and also in stores today, I read Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Sarah Morgenthaler. From Avon, I read A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday, out on October 13th. And finally, from Carina, I read Sweet on You by Carla de Guzman. Now, let’s talk about them!
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
I was really loving In a Holidaze until the bleak moment hit and I was like, “um, for real? Over this?” And it just kind of plummeted my enjoyment a bit. Then the epilogue brought it back so I landed on three stars.
Essentially, this book is about 26 year old Maelyn, who has kind of just been letting life happen to her. She’s working a job she really doesn’t like, she’s had a crush on the same man since she was 13, and last night she let her childhood friend (and her crush’s brother) kiss her and now things are awkward. She makes a wish on her way to the airport that the universe would show her what makes her happy and then there’s a crash and suddenly she’s reliving her vacation all over again.
I liked a lot of aspects about this story. Namely, I was, as usual, totally here for Maelyn figuring out her way forward. There’s just something I love about a character who has allowed herself to get stuck, getting dramatically unstuck and into new and difficult situations. I thought her love interest was perfectly fine. I even liked him most of the time, right up until he had the biggest overreaction and I was like, “?????” Yeah, that bleak moment, y’all. It just kind of ruined this book a bit for me.
But, like I said, the epilogue brought it back around for me, so I think YMMV on this one and I’m not even totally sure how to give you guidance on whether or not you should pick it up. The bleak moment isn’t even really a miscommunication. It’s just… dumb? I don’t know. Anyway, if you like Christina Lauren, I would certainly encourage you to give this one a shot.
Mistletoe & Mr. Right by Sarah Morgenthaler
Lana is the rich heiress who works impossibly hard and may or may not be a sometimes crappy friend and sometimes incredible one that we met in The Tourist Attraction. This book follows her as she is attempting to make the condominiums happen to “save” Moose Springs. Probably I shouldn’t have quotes around “save,” but that’s certainly the attitude the locals have about it. Moose Springs’ economy is really centered on tourism now as much as the locals don’t want to admit it, which is a thing that rings pretty true for me, a native West Virginian who grew up with politicians resisting progress at every turn. However, they also have excellent points.
One of those points stems from the small town trauma of a drunk driving incident killing Rick’s ex-wife’s sister, husband, and daughter, leaving him and the ex-wife to raise their nephew. The driver was a tourist, of course. Rick is not like Graham from the last book though, in that his irritation with the tourists does not contain the same level of vitriol AND he’s kind of already absolutely fascinated by Lana when the book opens. He’s really sweet and very anxious about the idea of making a move on Lana.
If I’m being honest, my rating winds up at a 3.5 because this book was very slow in too many parts. It definitely could have used some tightening. It also seems like it’s trying to straddle the women’s fiction/romance line, which is fine, but if you’re going to include that much about Lana’s work, I need it to be a resolved thread. Although maybe (probably) I’m being too sensitive to that.
Lana is actually a really fascinating character. She’s very much the bubbly, sunshiney one, but it seems like that’s more of a mask than anything else. I really liked some of her inner monologue and the way that Rick seemed to want to know the real Lana. I also liked Rick, even if he’s a little bland in some ways.
This book is also full of some of those over the top rom com moments that boggle the mind a bit and to be honest, just never quite ring true for me the way they didn’t in The Tourist Trap. But now I feel like this review is making it sound like I didn’t like the book, but I did enjoy it. So let me just leave there with the positive of, I really enjoyed the characters and the town and am absolutely looking forward to continuing in this series.
A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday
As someone who usually really likes Jenny Holiday’s works and Hallmark movies, I was expecting to love this one. Unfortunately, I thought it was actually pretty boring. I seemed to lack some of the sparkle that her other novels have and Hallmark movies are a little too light on the conflict to make good books apparently? I’m not sure what was missing, but I never really had the drive to finish this one. That said, obviously, your mileage may vary so I hope if you pick this up, it goes better for you!
This is about Leo Ricci, who has custody of his younger sister, Gabby, because their parents died in a car accident a few years ago. One day they’re driving around in NYC and see Marie, aka a princess, standing outside of the U.N. in a gorgeous dress. Conveniently, Leo is driving a cab and Marie needs a ride. They wind up giving her one and things sort of go from there.
Easily the best part of this book are the side characters, which is why I will probably pick up the next book from Holiday set in this world (Eldovia). Kai and Imogen are Marie’s old friends who she no longer really keeps in touch with. Imogen runs the bar in the villige right below the castle and Kai carves snow globes and builds log cabins. He also doesn’t talk much so I love him. Dani is Leo’s best friend and she’s fantastic. She’s a little snarky but affectionate and is writing a book on Kate Chopin. Then there’s Max, who is Marie’s best friend, and he’s affectionately called a slut, which is interesting. I loved that Marie and Leo challenge the whole notion that men and women can’t be just friends.
Otherwise… this would definitely make a cute movie, but it just didn’t work for me in book form.
Sweet on You by Carla de Guzman
First of all, if you are going to pick this book up, go out and make sure you’re stocked up on everything you need to make your favorite dessert or buy something ready made. Maybe a box of somethings ready made. Secondly, make sure you’re capable of making a decent cup of coffee at home since, you know, we’re in a pandemic and can’t read at a cozy coffee shop anymore. Now that you know the two things I should have assumed and prepared for before diving into this book, let me tell you some other things about it.
This book follows Sari Thomas, owner of a really cute sounding coffee shop with bad pastries, whose sister Sam just told her she’s moving out. Sari, a woman after my own heart, despises change. And that change coupled with the fact that there’s a bakery moving in next door to the coffee shop has her furious. The fact that the baker is a cute man who dances around the kitchen as he bakes? Not important. Which is why they get into a bit of a prank war.
Gabriel is a complete cinnamon roll who is high key determined to prove himself to his dad, even if that means lying to his family that he’s still in Australia instead of letting on that he’s back in the Philippines. But he’s all in on this fun prank war with Sari, whom he finds super attractive.
The two of them have pretty different goals in life, with Sari really loving having roots and keeping her life sort of small. Not in a bad way. It’s just, what she wants are comforts of home and family. And Gabriel is ambitious in that in order to prove his dad wrong about the whole boys shouldn’t be bakers because they have to be able to provide for their families, he thinks he needs a chain of bakeries. This conflict is interesting because it’s largely internal and I think is really remarkably dealt with. At times they both had me aggravated because I was just like, compromise or communicate?? But you know, I’m an avoider too, so that’s unfair.
All in all, I really enjoyed this one and I would definitely recommend if you enjoy community, family drama, and prank wars in your romances. Just really, learn from my mistakes and have your supplies ready to go!
So there you have it! What’s your favorite Christmas romance?
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