Posted in: AztecLady Reviews
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, by Lisa Kleypas
At just over 200 pages, this is another one of those skinny hardback novels put out by St Martin’s Press during the 2010 holiday season. In all honesty, despite liking most of what I’ve read by Ms Kleypas¹, I wouldn’t have picked this up for myself—$17.00 for a book that’s barely longer than a SuperRomance? erm…nope. Luckily, I didn’t have to—I was one of the lucky recipients of a giveaway held by the lovely Christine (who happens to be one of Lisa’s Divas).
A contemporary romance, this one of those rare beasts with nary a suspense thread nor a psychotic ex or malicious family members working over time to thwart a budding romance. In fact, there’s basically no conflict in the novel.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself—here’s the jacket blurb:
One little girl needs a family.
One rain-slicked night, six-year old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother, Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.
One single man needs a wife.
The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.
Sometimes it takes a little magic…
Maggie Conroy doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.
…To make dreams come true.
Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…
Reading this, you would think the story takes place right before Christmas, right? Well, it doesn’t. It ends on Christmas Eve, though.
The story starts late the previous Winter/early Spring, with the dead of Victoria. In a family without any semblance of close ties, she grants guardianship of her daughter to her eldest brother, hoping he’ll be willing to step up and do his best by Holly. It shows remarkable foresight on her part that he does so, despite their own rather miserable childhood.
The blurb also omits all mention of Sam and Alex, Mark and Victoria’s brothers. Which would be fine if they were barely-there secondary characters—not the case, at all. Despite not having a close relationship with either of his siblings, Mark manages to convince Sam to allow him and Holly to move into Sam’s rackety (basically a step away from collapsing) Victorian. And so, while Sam doesn’t have nearly as much page space as Mark, he is as affected by Holly—her presence in his life, her emotional and physical needs, the simple logistics of raising a young child—as Mark is. And so is Holly.
Sorry, where was I? Ah, yes.
I mentioned above that there is very little to no conflict in this novel. It’s a sweet and uncomplicated story. Mark and Maggie are two people with baggage who meet, feel an instant attraction that grows with each further contact, and struggle to reconcile who they believe they are (and where they are going) with these feelings that, basically, weren’t in their script.
Both the blurb and some reviews mention magic, but I confess that I didn’t feel or see anything of the sort in the story itself. It is a light, easy read, made engaging by Ms Kleypas’ voice. Both main characters are sympathetic and fairly realistic (almost to the point of boredom, nacht!), but the bottom line is that there is no depth here. This is not a book I’m likely to re-read, though I confess I am waiting with interest for the release of Rainshadow Road, Ms Kleypas’ next contemporary romance².
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor gets a 6 out of 10.
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¹ I really should try to write reviews for at least the Wallflowers novels, which I liked much better than the Hatthaways’
² Rainshadow Road is supposed to be the first in a trilogy about the Nolan brothers—which is rather puzzling, as Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is Mark’s story. I wonder what on earth is going on.