I’m being buried alive by stacks of Christmas-themed romance novels, underlining a bitter truth: I can shop faster than I can read, and I can read faster than I can review.
But I’m doing this one RIGHT NOW because it’s new enough that maybe a positive review will be helpful to the author. You never know. (I don’t *know* the author, btw, I just really enjoyed her book.) So:
Title: ‘Twas the week Before Christmas
Author: Olivia Miles
Harlequin Special Edition
Published: December 2013
Reasons I might actually remember this one: This one took that perennial favourite theme of mine, “Let’s save the inn!” and threw in a hero who was the reason the inn was in jeopardy. So highish stakes: her family home and business (which is her last tangible connection to her family) vs. the business he built to prove his self-worth (having been abandoned by his mother and left with an alcoholic father).
The heroine is nuts about Christmas (in a good way), which is precisely what I was in the mood for right now. Since she runs an inn, she gets to indulge this hugely by decorating everything and filling her home (formerly her grandmother’s home) with guests, which kind of sort of makes up for not having any living family anymore, and not having found the right man with whom to start a family.
Enter the hero, of course: a handsome single man mysteriously in her small town on “business,” which everyone thinks is weird because no one in said small town does business over the holidays. How can they? They have to sell crafts and homemade jam at the winter fair, damn it, and hold the tree-lighting ceremony.
Done clumsily, small-town-romances can be teeth-grindingly twee, but this one hit all the right notes. I think it being set at Christmas helped. Also the inclusion of an accidental arsonist suggested the author knows full well it’s not all sunshine and happy-neighbours in small towns.
The hero, also, is “in real estate,” by which he means he’s in town to buy some land and raze the gorgeous inn on it to put up a parking lot. No, really, I’m not just channeling Joni Mitchell there: he’s building a “high-end” mall and the hotel stands right where the “parking structure” has to go. Yikes.
It’s one of those extremely-compressed-timeline romances, which always makes me a teensy bit dubious about the happy ending, but it’s a Christmas story so I suspended disbelief and real-world-sense and just went with it.
I did wonder what had ultimately become of the hero’s mother. I mean, she’s hardly central to the story or anything, but since she did wreck his childhood by abandoning him to his even-more-childhood-wrecking father, I couldn’t help feeling a little cheated that they didn’t find her grave/one last letter or diary. Or, I don’t know, she could have shown up AT the inn. With amnesia! Okay, I’ve been hitting the eggnog; I’ll stop now.
Inn in Peril
Developers are Bad
Small Town (Sweet Variety)
Backstory: Alcoholic Dad, Runaway Mommy
He Doesn’t Want Children