The Joyous Season

By Patrick Dennis

“Daddy always said that Christmas is a joyous season when suicides and holdups and shoplifting and like that reach a new high and that the best place to spend the whole thing is a Moslem country.”

A cross between Cather in the Rye, Parent Trap, and the Eloise books, I think it’s one of the most hilarious novels ever. It is certainly the most hilarious novel I’ve ever read. Set in 1960’s Manhattan, narrated by a VERY precocious and smart-mouthed (but nice) 10 year old, this book is a delight from start to finish. His take on the antics of the adults in his and his eccentric younger sister’s lives during his mother and father’s break up and ultimate reconciliation commences during a disastrous family Christmas.
For Cripes Sake.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday

By Milly Johnson

I don’t want to get back to reality, said Robin inwardly. He felt protected here in this odd little inn. It was as if it was enchanted, like the Beast’s castle when Belle walked in and found all the luxury food waiting for her. He wouldn’t have been at all surprised if clocks and candelabras had started dancing around the room singing “Be Our Guest.”

In reading the description of this book and right up to about the 20% mark, I thought I knew where this one was going to go. It starts out as a fairly typical Milly Johnson. She really likes to have 3 stories going at once. In this one, 3 couples get lost during a terrible snowstorm two days before Christmas and end up together in a deserted but charming inn (Which is magical. Of course.) One couple, once passionately in love, is meeting to sign their divorce papers after years of acrimony. They are tired of fighting, have new partners, and just want to move on with their lives. Couple number two is the head of a large company who is accompanied by his unappreciated PA who has been in love with him for years. The last couple is a very happy gay couple who have been together for over 30 years.

I settled down to enjoy the journeys of at least several characters who had to learn, grow and break out of self-destructive patterns in order to find fulfillment and happiness. Of course, finding happiness would also mean finding true love with the obvious person as well. Well, all did not go according to plan. I am happy that Milly has grown out of her usual formula that all of or most of her early books incorporate, as delightful as most of them were. It became pretty obvious pretty early on, that the love stories were not going to follow the usual romantic comedy playbook. For one thing, Two halves of the prospective couples were so unlikable, almost toxic, that I was rooting for the people they would naturally be paired up with to run far and fast in the opposite direction. To make it more confusing, One of the prospective love interests was already in a very happy and healthy relationship albeit “off-screen”. So It was not predictable how all this was going to play out, romantically speaking.

Don’t worry. There are happy endings in this one and a love story or maybe two by the end. But it does not go how you think it would at the beginning. Turns are taken and there is some suspense up to the final climax. And that is a good thing. Once again Milly delivers a satisfying, touching, and amusing story. As always, it was very English. The title is based on a popular British Christmas song that is virtually unknown in the United States. And a dose of Jane Austen-love never hurts.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 21, 2021

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

By Veronica Henry

It’s a question of whether you want to live, breathe, sleep, and eat books for the foreseeable future.” “It’s how I was brought up.” “Yes, but you won’t be able to float around plucking novels from the shelf and curling up in a corner.” Andrea laughed. “Every time I went in, your father had his nose in a book, away with the fairies. That’s not going to work. You’re running a business. And that means being businesslike.”

Yay! Andrea tells it like it is. Thank goodness, her friend Emilia, who inherited the bookshop from her beloved father took her advice very seriously and understood she had to run the shop like a business that had to get out of debt and make a profit and not like it was a lifestyle.

While Emilia is attempting to keep her bookshop in business both because she loves it and as a tribute to her late father, we meet 6 couples who find each other or re-find each other because of it. Hence the title. Emilia also has a romance of her own, and we learn about her father and her dead mother’s story. The only one that really engaged me was the story of Alice, the sunny energetic daughter of the lord and lady of the local manor. She is soon to be married to the wrong man. Will she realize her mistake in time and recognize that her lowly estate gardener is her perfect match? Alice and Dillon’s story had some real drama and suspense. And in a book full of sweetness and sweet romances, it was the most romantic, I thought. The other stories filled the pages nicely, but ultimately were a little tame. The complications were resolved pretty easily with a little gumption and communication.

This was a well-written book full of likable people that you want good things for. It was lovely. Their happy endings were more than even they probably could have imagined in their wildest dreams. In fact, it was a little too fairytale especially the bookshop part. If a bookshop can be a Mary Sue, this was it. But you know what? Sometimes that’s OK. And I also got a new author that I want to try out of the experience.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July 15, 2021

Trading Christmas

By Debbie Macomber

Typical latter day Debbie Macomber, unfortunately. In this case the movie was better thanks to the charm and the appeal of the actors. And instead of the wacky charm of the movie character of Faith, we have a nice woman, with absolutely nothing compelling or interesting or amusing about her. Same with all of the other characters. Very stale. The actual plot had a lot of promise. some scenes were mildly amusing, but could have been laugh out loud funny.

Debbie’s tone with the reader is as a kindergarten teacher with her 5 year olds: over explaining, keeping it simple so we understand, and repeating constantly lest we forget. It’s almost insulting. It’s too bad, because she used to be one of the best. Many of her old Silhouette Special editions were worth rereading several or more times.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

December 14, 2018

Starry Night

By Debbie Macomber

I’m about half way through this book but 3 things are bugging me so far that I must get off my chest.
1.) She is a journalist and she knows nothing about the most sensational best seller of the last year? A book that has clubs devoted to it; inspired by it? She has never heard of the author? Come on. that is just ignorant.
2.) She goes to Alaska to spend time in the wilderness and airports and does not bring her E-Reader? Please. Debbie, most people who read your books do not go out the door without a paperback or their E-Reader.
3.) The word “Grizzled” does not mean unshaven. It means gray haired. I could forgive this in a new young author. but for someone of your stature, it beggars belief. This is not some self-published novel done on a shoestring without an editor.

It didn’t get any better.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

November 18, 2013

A New York Christmas

By Anne Perry

She was profoundly grateful for her own mother’s advice, and even more for that of her aunt Emily, who was less of a rebel than Charlotte. It was very good to know the rules, even if you did not intend to follow them.

Loved this one. Jemima has grown up to be a wonderful woman, the romance was much more developed than is usually found in Anne Perry, and her trademark too abrupt ending was thankfully missing for once. Very happy and satisfying. Loved Perry’s romantic choice for Jemima. Very apt. In addition to her choice of partner, Jemima has inherited her Charlotte’s ability to ingratiate herself and uncover secrets from the upper echelons in society even though she is an outsider and viewed with uneasy wariness. In Jemima’s case, actually detained under suspicion of murder. That’s a feat even her redoubtable mother can’t claim. **5 stars out of 5**

June 1, 2016

A Christmas Beginning

by Anne Perry

Weak motivations in this one. The dark secret was very dark, and entirely plausible. However I did not see how it was much of a motivation for murder, especially considering the personality of the perpetrator and their tenuous relationship. I may have liked it better had I been more familiar with the hero, Runcorn, of the Monk series. His romance and his longing for a woman whom I would have presumably met in an earlier novel was sweet and had a happy end. However, once again, I did not understand why she would have fallen in love with him going by his self –described lifelong character weaknesses, and her beauty and intelligence. Still, it was a nice example of an upstairs/downstairs romance, a favorite trope of mine, if done right. **3 stars out of 5**

June 2, 2016

A Christmas Secret

By Anne Perry

This one puts a nice bow on the story of Dominic Corde, Charotte’s ex-brother-in-law, who has played a part in at least 3 of her books, lastly in Brunswick Gardens. ***spoilers for Brunswick Gardens!***** In that book, we learn that Dominic has repented of his kind of evil ways under the influence of a Bishop and has taken orders. When the Bishop is murdered, Dominic is almost falsely accused. In the end he walks away with one of the daughters of the murdered clergyman, the appealing, intelligent, and unconventional Clarice. In A Christmas Secret, we find them very happily married, and solving a murder mystery of their own. The solution of the mystery was lacking as the motive was very weak or non-existent. **4 out of 5 stars**

May 31, 2016

A Christmas Guest

By Anne Perry

This novella redeems Charlotte’s venomous, spiteful, and thoroughly unlikable grandmother. In Half Moon Street we learned her terrible secret of abuse by her late husband which has colored her relationships through the years. Unfortunately, to my memory, she does not make an appearance in later books after the metamorphosis she experiences here. I hope that in future books we do see some more of her and how her change of heart affects those around her.

Anne Perry has keen insight into dark psychology, but some times she makes too great leaps in cause and effect. Her sentences and paragraphs are sometimes convoluted and hard to decipher. Luckily this is sporadic, and usually with a few rereadings one can usually follow what she was trying to convey. Now on to the next Christmas story! % stars out of 5**

May26, 2016

Stitches in Time

by Barbara Michaels

***Many Spoilers throughout****
While listening to this audio version of an old favorite, I remembered the plot vividly since my first reading which was probably decades ago. Rachel is finishing up her doctoral dissertation when she is drawn in to helping out at a vintage clothing shop – and is perhaps possessed by the spirit of a long-dead woman whose unparalleled skill at quilting conceals a darker history.

I closed Stitches in Time contemplating what I had finished and thought, “That was a great book.” I had remembered it being my least favorite of the so-called Georgetown Trilogy, from my first, and, I think, only read more than 2 decades ago. I remembered being surprised and dismayed at Kara’s personality change and less than blissful marriage with Mark after the seemingly happy ending of Shattered Silk. But upon this reread, I thought it added depth and character development, especially since they seemed to be back in love and in good humor at the end.

I’m a little disconcerted by all the hate for Rachel and Kara in some of the other reviews. Some readers seem to ignore the fact that Rachel is being negatively influenced by the quilt through almost 90% of the book. At first I was confused by what was happening, so smoothly integrated are the times when Rachel is being influenced by the entity from the past. The grip gets stronger and stronger, until we both fear for our heroine, but also fear what she is up to. When all is made clear and resolved, shouldn’t the reader like and be sympathetic to her? She even admits, towards the end, that she has been sulky and immature with her mother,which was a separate issue from the quilt. And Kara. She is very abrasive at the beginning. But I think she senses that something is wrong and is reacting accordingly. I too was disappointed by her attitude towards her husband Mark at the beginning, but all is well at the end, and she comes through with flying colors once Rachel and she confide in each other and become comrades in arms. I loved the development of their relationship and the insights we get into her personality. It made for one of Michael’s most satisfying and fully developed endings. (Sometimes her books end with just a hope and hint for the future and leave one wishing for an epilogue or at least one or two more pages.) I was also amazed and satisfied by the final reveal and the explanation for the whole mystery.

A word about Adam. Maybe I am forgetting some beloved appealing heroes, but Adam has got to be my favorite love interest in all of Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. Maybe in one of my Top ten of all authors. What a beautifully described and realized character. I always love an unconventional hero, and Adam is the ultimate. And I love how their love story plays out at the conclusion, when we catch up with the 3 couples months later. Very satisfying to see him finally loved and appreciated as he deserves.

Near the climax of the action, Rachel contemplates

“there was no such thing a coincidence or accident. Every event, however random in appearance formed part of a design too vast and too alien to be comprehended by limited human understanding. Events that were, on the surface, unimportant and meaningless-Rachel’s choice of thesis topic, Tony’s decision to respond to a call he should never have answered-these and a dozen other strands in the web led inexorably toward a nexus in time when the invisible hands of the weaver would draw the threads tight and complete the pattern. It had been predestined and foreordained….”

I find this pretty powerful stuff. There is a suggestion that the quilt and it’s maker are still influencing the 3 couples still, only now in a good way. For example, Mark’s loving concern regarding Kara’s pregnancy, causes him to look with suspicion upon Mrs. Grossmuller(from Shattered Silk! Hi, Mrs. Grossmuller!), who uncannily included beautiful vintage baby clothes in her last delivery. Kara wonders if her friends had told Mark about the “quilt business.” Since the normally super-rational and skeptical Mark had said something about the “evil eye”. Several other happy circumstances are discussed, and Kara mentions the hair which was part of forensic evidence to convict Rocky. “Hair again,” Kara murmured. “Ironic these coincidences…”It’s like justice on the family is still being fashioned by the unseen entity. Finally the last line in the novel describing the plot where they laid the quilt to rest: “ Out in the garden purple and golden crocuses and the small blue flowers called “glory-of-the-snow” covered a certain spot like living patchwork.” All is now right with the world. A fitting and lovely conclusion to the Georgetown trilogy and people that live there. **5 out of 5 stars**

August 28, 2017