A cozy, G-rated, small-town, Christmas romance
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: November 1, 2018
Pages: 262 pages
Publisher: Cardinal Press, LLC
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Jake Porter has known Carly Bishop all their lives. He was best friends with her older brother Nick and, throughout their childhood, he treated her as a little sister since she is four years younger than he and Nick. When Carly was 22, Jake was on the verge of asking her out and hopefully creating a committed romantic relationship with her. But before he could make his move, she fell in love with a 23-year-old, avid mountain climber named Iain Garfield. A few months later, Carly and Iain were 48 hours away from getting married on Christmas Day when disaster struck. Iain and Nick had ventured out to climb Mount Hood, which is located very near the fictional small, tourist town, Hood Hamlet, Oregon, where all of them lived. When the two men did not come back at the expected time and a snowstorm struck, the local mountain rescue team had to risk their lives, setting out under dangerous weather conditions to find them. Jake was then, and continues to be to this day, on the rescue team. Tragically, when they found Nick and Iain, the two young men were already dead.
Jake was distraught that he had failed to save his best friend. He had survivor’s guilt because he told himself that if he had only gone up the mountain with his friend, somehow the outcome would have been different. He had to see a therapist for months after Nick died before he could emotionally face going back up on the mountain again with his rescue team.
Carly was devastated at the double blow of losing her fiancé and brother on the same day, and she too had survivor’s guilt. She told herself she should have somehow been able to talk Iain out of going up on the mountain and, if Iain hadn’t gone, Nick would not have gone either.
At the time of his death, Nick had a wife and two very small children. His widow, Hannah, was not only Carly’s sister-in-law but her best friend. Hannah’s life was in Hood Hamlet, and she stayed there. But Carly could not bear to continue living in the town where she had lost her beloved brother and her fiance. As the co-owner, with his father, of a microbrewery pub in Hood Hamlet, Jake used his connections in the business to help Carly find a job at a microbrewery in Philadelphia, but he too remained behind in Hood Hamlet.
It is now six years later, and Carly has returned to Hood Hamlet for the first time in all those years, because Hannah is expecting a child with her new husband and is about to go into labor at any moment. Hannah needs Carly to take care of Carly’s niece and nephew while Hannah is in the hospital, and to make sure the kids have a happy Christmas.
All these years, Jake has acted as a loving, surrogate uncle to Nick’s kids. He has also stayed in touch with Carly and has never felt strongly enough about any other woman to date her for more than a short time. But the moment he sees Carly, the old attraction he felt for her comes alive again, and is much stronger than before.
Carly is overwhelmed being back home at the very same time of the year when the tragedy took place. She’s not sure she can handle the awakening of old anguish as memories of her terrible loss surge to the surface. And it feels strange to celebrate Christmas, which she has not done in all the years since she left home. But being around the children’s excited holiday cheer, and having Jake’s help to care for them, greatly mitigates her pain. Jake’s familiar, affectionate, kind presence fills her with a sense of safety and connection as he helps her make Christmas for the children. In a very short time, a closeness grows between the two of them that is both something Carly longs for and fears. Love and Christmas both abandoned her in the past, and she is afraid to trust either of them ever again.
This is a heartwarming, family-centered romance. The setting of a colorful, mountainside, tourist destination is very well drawn, and there are many wonderful subcharacters, especially the adorable children. Jake and Carly are both attractive and sympathetic characters. Their mutual struggle to heal the wounds of their shared grief in order to dare to take a chance on love, as well as the Christmas themed events in this book, make this small-town story very much a Hallmark-channel type of G-rated, Christmas romance.
All in all, this is an excellent novel to read during the holiday season to get oneself in the spirit of Christmas.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 4
Mountain Rescue Plot: 5
Christmas Plot: 4