Christmas at Maple Creek (A Christmas Village Romance)

A Sweet Old-Fashioned Vibe

I really liked this one for some reason. Maybe it was the perfectly lovely actress that played the lead. Maybe it was her character’s sweetness and shyness. Maybe it was the old-fashioned atmosphere and the historical village setting. It almost had a YA vibe. I know for sure that Jake Epstein, who played the love interest is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, had a lot to do with it. So far, whatever he is in, I’ll give it a try.

Diana is a very successful romance novelist who has a crush on the guy who is the male model for her book covers but she really does not want to make a move. I think it’s mostly because she is shy and old-fashioned. If you immerse yourself in historical romance, it makes sense that you would tend to take on the attitudes of that time. She is basically being bullied by her editor to date him, which really annoyed me. The male model is clearly wrong for her because though he’s nice, he is not very smart, he’s shallow, is more interested in physical activities rather than more thoughtful pursuits. All he’s got is good looks and a good bod.

She decides to go to her hometown, which is a historical village like a very poverty-stricken man’s Williamsburg Virginia. Maple Creek is struggling and will soon have to be shut down unless they can up the attendance and make more money. There she meets a history professor (check) who is doubling as the town blacksmith (check, check) and is tall and good-looking in a down-to-earth way (check, check, check) I think we have our winner. He does not approve of the way she approaches history in her novels although he respects that she is a good writer. He teases her and is nice to her and soon she has come out of her shell and they have become friends with a lot in common. Plus, they are trapped in a storm together. Like something in a romance novel!

Of course, the male model shows up in the village, attracted more by the fact that she is not chasing him than by genuine affection and attraction to her, and the inevitable misunderstanding occurs with Carter. Seeing the two suitors together, she definitely knows which one is for her, and all proceeds to the happy ending for the couple and the village.

Jeni Ross is a perfectly lovely young actress and her chemistry with Jake Epstein was great. The only criticism I have is that she says her lines way too fast. The Gilmore Girls was canceled! Slow Down!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 15, 2021

Eight Gifts of Hanukkah

The Eye Doctor Who Could Not See

This is the plot where the secret admirer turns out to be the dark horse best friend. Yes, it is a cliché, but, for me, it usually works. And by and large, it works in this one. I liked the male lead very well. He was appealing in an average guy sort of way and conveyed his love and longing hidden behind jokey behavior towards the heroine very effectively. The female lead was OK despite her voice being very high and girlish. Also, she giggled an awful lot for the mature usually poised and serious person she played. She was definitely channeling Lacey Chabert or Jen Lilley or both. I got used to it eventually, though it was distracting at first.

Life long family friend and buddy, Daniel, who is working with Sara to renovate her office, tries to woo her by sending a thoughtful meaningful gift, on each of the 8 days of Hanukkah. It starts out being fun for all concerned, but as each day goes by and she still can’t figure out who her secret admirer is he starts to feel hurt and a little disrespected. She is being distracted by two new serious suitors. And they are both very nice and very eligible. Even her ex who dumped her starts to make some moves. He is a weasel. When Daniel’s best friend, amusingly played by Doron Bell, asks him why he just doesn’t tell her, he says, “Now it’s becoming a test. I want her to figure out it’s me.” As they spend more time together (he teaches her to dance, for example) Inbar Lavi, as the beautiful but blind as a bat optometrist (Eye See You-not.) Sara, does a good job of showing the increasing attraction she has started to feel for her friend and being confused by it. He knows she is starting to feel something, but wants her to figure it out on her own. It’s a romantic dance and is very engaging. After nearing the last days of his courtship of gifts, which honestly only he could be the giver of, he overhears her speculating on the most unlikely possibilities and doesn’t even consider it might be him. He is fed up. She finally figures things out, but he has lost patience. Is it too late?

This has some corny lines and situations including an awkward Forrest Gump imitation, but I really liked it. Some of the efforts to infuse the story with Jewish culture and references seem a little forced, but who am I to judge? The ending, and the 8th gift was sweet and perfect.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 6, 2021

A Storybook Christmas

Thanks to the Leads, Worth Watching

Ali Liebert is back in form in this latest holiday offering. There was something about her in the last one, A Gift to Cherish, that seemed a little off. It’s been a week or more since I have seen this, so I’ll just make this brief. This was the unexpectedly male nanny plot. He is a well-known children’s author in disguise and she is an event planner who needs to wrangle this author to the career make or break event she is planning. Little does she know, this reclusive author is right under her nose. I loved that the male lead was just a normal-looking guy, and his rival, her boyfriend, was fictionally male model handsome. She is a controller and scheduler to the point that I really disliked her at times, and he has a more loosey-goosey approach to child raising. So it’s kind of two plots for the price of one. It wasn’t perfect. The constant mantra of “You are safe, You are loved” to her little niece (orphaned) was unbelievably cheesy. But all in all a complex story with a lot going on, some tension, and good chemistry make this worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 14, 2019