The dating adventures of three generations of Delaney women make for great entertainment. It’s a treat when Hallmark’s romantic comedies are actually romantic and actually funny. And this one has a nice message as well. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship, but it’s better when you discover you don’t need one.” The main focus is on Rachel Boston with her daughter as a side story. Widowed Grandma is already happily dating a nice pickleball enthusiast when the story begins. Rachel, as bakery owner Maggie, also has a son whose function is to demonstrate what a terrible father her ex-husband is. Brendan Zub added some edge to the thankless role. Maggie is friendly with a widower, played by the talented and funny Paul Campbell, whom she sits next to at her boy’s high school basketball games. They discuss how hard it is to get used to dating after many many years of marriage. One thing leads to another and they decide to “pretend” to date for “practice”.
There was so much to like about this one. First of all Rachel Boston was really good in this, and her rapport with Paul Campbell was easy and sweet and, in my view, much more successful than an earlier pairing. She makes a great mother. She should play one more often. In fact, the whole family dynamic was a big plus, adding humor and warmth as well as a bit of drama.
The disastrous blind dates were genuinely funny. When Maggie’s rude pig of a dinner date gets up for the restroom the waiter zooms in to tell her to just leave while she has the chance. ”Blind Date, right? How did you know? The whole restaurant knows!” She looks around and everyone is nodding at her. I actually laughed out loud. Besides the funny situations, the banter was fun as well. Her likable and savvy assistant can’t believe Maggie is not using a dating app. “You went on a blind date? What in the 1986 is that?” I loved the family’s love of corny puns. It was cute and quirky but also served to show how important a shared sense of humor is in a relationship. Both of the Delaney women are as clueless as their hopeful suitors are smitten. The daughter’s slow realization that the dorky Josh Groban lookalike is the one for her rather than the popular loser she has a crush on is just as sweet and engaging as the grown-up romance. Other than the terrible puns that just won’t quit, this one shone in every way. But I love terrible puns, so it’s a 10.
I don’t have a bad word to say about the actors in this new Hallmark mystery series. Gonzalo and McPartlin were just fine, and they had a good rapport. But boy oh boy was it dumb. This is a new entry in Hallmark’s spunky female amateur detective line. They usually run their own “womanly” business so they can take off whenever one of their acquaintances or customers gets murdered in order to catch the killer. We have flower shops, bookstores, antique stores, and bakeries. We also have matchmakers(!?), wedding photographers, crossword puzzle editors, and podcast hosts. Strangely, in two of my favorites, Aurora Teagarden and Mystery 101, the spunky female amateur detectives actually have mainstream professions. With the arrival of Cut, Color, Murder, we now have a beauty shop owner. What took them so long?
In this one, Julie is taking her talents to the world of beauty pageants in which her younger sister is a participant and she is doing hair. The bitchy showrunner gets murdered and there are plenty of suspects because she was evil to absolutely everyone. Julie is the widow of a policeman who was killed in the line of duty (or was it unsolved cold-blooded murder?). So she has ties to the police department primarily through the chief of police who she has wrapped around her little finger. Enter new guy, Ryan McPartlin, a handsome hotshot detective with whom she butts heads because he is a professional. After Julie meets an anonymous text-messager alone in a spooky abandoned house at night because he/she has info about her husband, it was remote throwing time. Except I had to find it first because I had already thrown it after all the laws she broke and chain of evidence procedures ignored in the meantime. She is rescued from certain death by Ryan and let’s just say this show leaves no cliche unincluded.
We know this is a series because after the mystery is solved we have a bit of a cliffhanger while Julie is having a pow-wow with her dead husband at the cemetery because she has decided to move on (is that something you just decide to do?) and wants to give him a heads up ( I guess?). We know that there is going to be an over-arching mystery of her trying to solve her husband’s murder and getting into all kinds of trouble. Not a spoiler, because I’m not psychic, but I predict that the murderer of her husband turns out to be the indulgent good-guy/father-figure/police chief in an unknown number of episodes hence.
I’m a fan of both Ashley and Niall. They both bring credibility to any project they are in. However, lately Ashley has apparently heard or read once too often about her own famous megawatt smile. Some of her scenes have a definite “insert smile here” feel. This was well made and Hallmark pulled out their A-Game for two of their most popular stars. They put a little more work into the plot, this time. Not one of their cookie cutter jobs, although they couldn’t resist the usual flirty snowball fight. However, truth be told, the story was a little boring, and Ashley’s character was a little too sweet and good. Sometimes her behavior with grumpy-pants Niall was kind of cringeworthy. She just would not leave him alone. For me it did not rise past the slightly above average rating. Kudos for having her ex-husband and his wife make appearances and her daughter was very appealing. Oh, and I do like Brendon Zub. He needs more starring roles. Oh Oh. The search for the out of print book was true to life and exactly right. Loved that.
Ho Hum Hallmark Elevated by the Cast and their Chemistry
The story and the writing is weak, although the interior decorating and shopping bits were mildly diverting. However thanks to the talented cast and the easy chemistry among all the actors, this one earns an 8 from me. Jill Wagner is a very good actress and she and Victor Webster make a great well-matched couple. Victor’s character Grant started out whiny and ungrateful, but he got over it fairly quickly. Lauren McNamara who played Grant’s daughter was also top-notch and has been in several other Hallmark movies. She gets the plot rolling buy winning a free house makeover from Bethany an up and coming Interior Designer. Brendan Zub has impressed me in other productions, but was under-used as Jill’s sensible and supportive brother. I would like to see him as the lead again in further Hallmark movies. Last and certainly not least is the cute and charismatic Rukiya Bernard, Jill’s friend and partner, who brightens every production she is in. Alas, still in the best friend role and not as the lead. Come on Hallmark! Give her a role worthy of her before she gets away. One thing I really liked about this romance is that it didn’t end with the deal-sealing smooch, like they all do, but went on to add a little postscript by having the cast wrap things up back at the redecorated home.
This was a decent Hallmark script-wise and acting-wise. And it certainly was a tearjerker due to a surprise reveal at the end. But it suffered from a couple of things. First off, the character Emilie Ullerup played, Jenny, a neo-natal intensive care nurse, was naïve and closed-minded. That alone would have made her unsympathetic, but unfortunately her “nemesis” the CFO whose job it was to keep the hospital from failing by cutting expenses and laying off a few senior employees, including her mentor, Alice, was played by Kristopher Polaha. He is possibly one of the most admired and loved of the Hallmark male leads. He is very attractive and sexy as well as conveying strength and gentleness. Those eyes! That voice! Yes, I’m a fan. If the character he played wasn’t quite so likable, reasonable, and so obviously a good guy, It would have made Jenny’s belligerent behavior more relatable and sympathetic.
I also had a problem with the CFO of the hospital romancing a nurse. He is in a position of power over her. She is for all intents and purposes, his employee. He is firing people and deciding whose departments get their expenses cut. It was inappropriate and dangerous for both their careers and reputations. It would have taken one jealous colleague of either of them to cry “favoritism!” to make a whole lot of trouble. What if they got seriously involved and it didn’t go well? Once she jumps into his arms in full view of the whole hospital in the end, she has sealed her fate as far as working with him at the same beloved hospital. So not such a happy ending for one of them. Probably her.
I just don’t know what he saw in her. She was cute looking, but she came across as a spoiled teenager to his mature successful bachelor who could have had his pick of beautiful exceptional women. Why was he even single in the first place?
Trying to end on a positive note, what a treat to see some actors who are now Hallmark regulars in bit parts: Kimberley Sustad as Matt’s sister, and Brendan Zub and Chris McNally as two worried fathers. Of course, Sharon Lawrence as Alice, the focus of all of the angst, was wonderful as always. And speaking of Alice, what was up with Jenny and her cohorts diverting all Alice’s personal Christmas cards to the point she thought she’d been forgotten by all of her old patients? It was for a good cause, I guess, but not very nice in the moment. Nope. Did not care for Nurse Jenny.
Vanessa was a shining star in this one. She was funny and appealing. And those dimples! Her chemistry with the hero, who had a little bit of edginess to him, was really good. He was a bit of a jerk at first, which added to the dynamic between them, because she was not intimidated. Good solid plot and writing. If this is an example of Vanessa Lachey’s talents, I hope she becomes a regular for Hallmark or Lifetime. Whatever. Time to put some of the old warhorses out to pasture. Ooh. that was mean. But no names.
I am amazed at all of the glowing reviews for this movie and Jessica Lowndes in her role as the “December Bride”. I had seen it before, and apparently didn’t hate it, but upon catching a few minutes of it here and there last night, I just have to articulate my frustration. Jessica Lowndes is gorgeous, glamorous, and stunning. This role, as a jilted, hurt, insecure young lady, needed a more Sandra Bullock type rather than a Scarlet Johannson or Angelina Jolie type. It needed someone we could feel sorry for and relate to. It needed an actress with some comic timing, not a line reader. Her acting was the worse I have ever seen in a Hallmark movie. She did not inhabit her part, I was just listening to an actress read her script with some expression. I am sure I will get nothing but “not helpful” votes for this. but I just had to get it off my chest.
In fact, I just looked up her resume and she has been in only one other Hallmark movie, Merry Matrimony. Same comments on her acting there, so now I know I am not crazy. Daniel Lissing was quite good, and she was probably the beneficiary of his reflected glory in this one.**6 stars out of 10**