It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted one of these, but I seem to have found my misplaced reviewing mojo. As I was reading this novel, I kept writing notes for the review in my head. So here I am, back (though I’m afraid Ms Roberts would probably prefer I didn’t start out with her book).
The Nine Lives of Christmas, by Sheila Roberts
I mentioned here that I got this book a couple of weeks ago from the always lovely Ms Faith. I’m quite glad of this for a couple of reasons (above and beyond the loveliness of the gesture). First, cost. At 214 pages, this reads more like a longish novella or category length romance than a whole novel, yet it’s out as a holiday hardback by St Martin’s Press. Youch!
The second has much more to do with the story itself.
This is a sweet holiday romance—there are two, perhaps three kisses total in it—ending in a happy for now with great potential for the future, a kind of ending I personally like quite a bit. Particularly when you consider that the story takes place in about a week total real time.
Here’s the cover jacket blurb:
Two people are about to discover that when it comes to finding love, sometimes Christmas magic isn’t enough…sometimes it takes a pesky orange cat named Ambrose.
When a guy is in trouble, he starts making deals with his Creator…and Ambrose the cat is no exception. In danger of losing his ninth and final life, Ambrose makes a desperate plea to the universe. He’ll do anything—anything!—if he can just survive and enjoy a nice long, final life. His prayer is answered when a stranger comes along and saves him—but then Ambrose is faced with having to hold up his end of the bargain.
The stranger turns out to be a firefighter named Zach, who’s in need of some serious romantic help. If Ambrose can just bring Zach together with Merilee, the nice lady who works at Pet Palace, it’s bound to earn him a healthy ninth life. Unfortunately for Ambrose, his mission is a lot harder than he ever thought. Merilee is way too shy to make the first move on a ladies’ man like Zach, and Zach thinks he’s all wrong for a nice girl like Merilee. Now it’s going to take all of Ambrose’s feline wiles—and maybe even a good old-fashioned Christmas miracle—to make them both realize that what they’re looking for is right in front of their eyes.
There is practically nothing of the plot that is not revealed by that blurb, by the way, so I’ll just move on to the execution.
The story is told in third person, and the author does something that worked for me very well. We have three narrators (or points of view): Zach, Merilee, and…Ambrose. This brought some very welcome freshness to the story and allowed me to see and know some things about characters that would have required some unwelcome exposition (telling) otherwise.
On the not so positive side, there were times where Ambrose’s ultimate selfishness (he’s not helping these two out of the goodness of his heart but to earn his last life, after all) were pushed to the fore a little too much. Perhaps the idea was to keep true to the general perception of cats, but after a bit it got on my nerves—I’m one of those readers who don’t need to have things repeated six times through a two hundred page book. Tell me (better yet, show me) once, and I’m good for the remainder of the story.
However, the main thing that didn’t work for me was Merilee—and there’s definitely reader intrusion there. (more…)