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literary inklings

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Festive Fictions: Holiday Book Reviews

After finishing NaNoWriMo a week early (yay!) I decided that it was high time to dive into a few holiday novels. I read three darling festive fictions over the holiday weekend and thought I'd share my opinions on them with you. I've also got a few other recommendations that I read last year and plan to dig out again for a reread if I have time before the holidays are over...

Call Me Mrs. Miracle
Debbie Macomber

This Christmas, Emily Merkle (call her Mrs. Miracle!) is working in the toy department at Finley's, the last family-owned department store in New York City. And her boss is none other than…Jake Finley, the owner's son. For Jake, holiday memories of brightly wrapped gifts, decorated trees and family were destroyed in a Christmas Eve tragedy years before. Now Christmas means just one thing to him—and to his father. Profit. Because they need a Christmas miracle to keep the business afloat. Holly Larson needs a miracle, too. She wants to give her eight-year-old nephew, Gabe, the holiday he deserves. Holly's widowed brother is in the army and won't be home for Christmas, but at least she can get Gabe that toy robot from Finley's, the one gift he desperately wants. If she can figure out how to afford it. Fortunately, it's Mrs. Miracle to the rescue. Next to making children happy, she likes nothing better than helping others—and that includes doing a bit of matchmaking! This Christmas will be different. For all of them.

Debbie Macomber is, as it says on the back of this book, the official storyteller of Christmas. A multiple New York Times bestselling author, Debbie weaves tales of family, friendship, romance and the simple things in life. If you ever thought your Happy Place could be inside of a book, chances are you'll find it in a Debbie Macomber novel. This is a stand-alone sequel to her previous holiday story, Mrs. Miracle, which follows the delightful elderly spitfire Emily Merkle - nicknamed Mrs. Miracle - as she waltzes into the lives of others and drastically alters their Christmas plans. I actually enjoyed this story a bit more than the previous one, perhaps because it takes place amidst the bustling streets of New York City (it's Mrs. Miracle on 34th Street!) and there's no place more magical than Manhattan at Christmastime. This year circumstances brought me a very unconventional Thanksgiving, but curling up with this book made for a memorable and very festive holiday. It was such a joy to read. Call Me Mrs. Miracle was also made into a television movie for the Hallmark channel this year! It premiered on Saturday night and it was completely adorable, although quite different from the book. It will be airing throughout the month on Hallmark so keep your eyes open for it!

A Christmas Promise
Mary Balogh
Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions—especially when a couple seems as well matched as Randolph Pierce, Earl of Falloden, and his bride-to-be, Eleanor Transome. Ellie brings to the marriage a vast dowry, while Falloden, though distant, is handsome, tremendously desirable, and possessed of a title most young ladies can only dream of sharing. Yet Ellie is not most young ladies. She knows that she must honor her dear father’s dying wish for her to wed the proud earl, but she dreads a lifetime in a union without love—and how can Falloden claim to love her when he married her only for her fortune? As Christmas descends upon the Falloden manor, the warmth of the season may yet melt away the trappings of duty and wealth, leaving behind only a man and a woman destined for each other’s arms.

I had never read anything by Mary Balogh before this and now I'm wondering just why that was. This was a terrifically charming book with a very cozy winter setting. The verbal sparring between the two main characters reminded me of Darcy and Lizzy, sparking with chemistry and obstinacy on both sides. In a way similar to Pride and Prejudice the main characters of this book spend a lot of time at odds with each other and the misunderstandings seem to pile higher and higher as the story goes on...but the way the characters are able to overcome so much is quite endearing. I think if it had been a longer read the misunderstandings could have led to a good deal of frustration for the reader, but as it is it's a perfect read for a cozy weekend by the fire.

A Wallflower Christmas
Lisa Kleypas
It's Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady-in-waiting, and if it weren't for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen. And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts.

I loved this book! I think I read it in a day's time, staying up until the wee small hours (3am, to be exact) to finish because I simply couldn't leave these lovely characters for a moment. I've never read Lisa Kleypas before, and I intend to read much more right away. This is the fifth and final book in Lisa's Wallflower series, but it stands on its own. To my understanding, the previous Wallflower books must be read in order, but here the previous four heroines - The Wallflowers, as they call themselves - are secondary characters and it actually served as a fun introduction to all of them. I'm quite excited to go back and read each girl's individual story now, but here they all had me biting my lip to keep from laughing outright. I was reminded of the spunky villagers from Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford in a few scenes. The romantic leads - Rafe and Hannah - were strong characters with fantastic chemistry. There were readings of A Christmas Carol, a holiday ball, a Christmas tree decorating party (complete with an incident involving a toupee and a catapult - you must read this book!), sleigh rides, match-making, love letters, a rendezvous in the library...all manner of things that come together to make for a delightful holiday Regency romance.

Mrs. Miracle
Debbie Macomber
Seth Webster's heart never healed after he lost his adored wife. Now, with Christmas approaching, wild twin boys to raise alone, a home in chaos, and the latest in a long line of exasperated housekeepers quitting in disgust, Seth needs more than help to keep his family together...he needs a miracle. And then a miracle arrives on his doorstep. Her name is Mrs. Merkle, but the kids call her "Mrs. Miracle"—and from the moment the warm, knowing, and very patient nanny appears, everything is different. Her sassy spirit is infectious, and it gives Seth the courage to approach Reba, a beautiful travel agent who's been hurt and betrayed, and is afraid to ever love again. Through the magic of faith—and with a little help from a children's Christmas pageant and a lot of encouragement from Mrs. Miracle—Seth and Reba might just be able to find a Christmas miracle of their very own: true love.

The original Mrs. Miracle - which was also made into a Hallmark movie, and I should add that Emily Merkle is portrayed in both films by the wonderful Doris Roberts of Everybody Loves Raymond - is a heartwarming little Christmas story. It's a "You'll laugh, you'll cry" sort of novel, as many are that we label "heartwarming", but it maintains a light feel, due I'm sure to the bouncy Emily Merkle and the shenanigans of two young twin boys.

The Perfect Christmas
Debbie Macomber
What would make your Christmas perfect? For Cassie Beaumont, it’s meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing’s worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance. What’s left? A professional matchmaker. He’s Simon Dodson, and he’s very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she’s astonished when he accepts her as a client. Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa’s elf at a children’s party and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all—and she’s finally ready to meet her match. But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise!

The Perfect Christmas is a romantic comedy of a novel. It was my introduction to Debbie Macomber and remains my favorite of her books. The main characters and their budding romance are all so unconventional, which makes for a fun and refreshing read. Although I read it last December I can still recall some scenes with perfect clarity; the whole thing played out much in the way of a Lifetime (or, dare I say it, a Hallmark) movie. It's lovely, festive and - as with any Debbie Macomber novel - full of warm wishes, valuable lessons and happy endings.

And there you have it, a rather lengthy compilation of books that will undoubtedly warm your heart and surround you with the delight of the holiday season. If anyone happens to read any of these on my recommendation do let me know what you think!

FictionCasee Marie