A Christmas to Remember by Kay Stockham
The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin SuperRomance #1453, 2007, Out of print, Available digitally, Connected to previous book, Man With a Past.
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: It's a SuperRomance and it's a Christmas book. How could it not be in my TBR?
The Review: Y'all need to bear with me because I have no idea how the hell I'm going to assign a grade to this book. I mean, really - I have no clue. There was so much I liked here and yet? I didn't read the first book in this series. Oh, I have Man With a Past. It's in my TBR (because, hello, what book isn't?). Maybe if I had read that book first I wouldn't have been so annoyed with the "plot twist" the author put in halfway through this story. Because, you know, I would have known said "twist" was coming and would have been prepared for it.
Marley Pierce wouldn't believe it if she hadn't seen him with her own eyes. Beau Buchanan is back in town. The same Beau Buchanan who seduced his way into her panties when she was eighteen. The same Beau Buchanan who went hot and heavy with her for two glorious weeks her first summer away from home. The same Beau Buchanan who knocked her up and couldn't run fast enough when she told him she had a bun in the oven. Beau Buchanan ruined her life, shattered her family, and Marley has spent the last five years trying to redeem herself in the eyes of her family and the small town where she lives. She owns the local nursery and has gotten the contract to do the landscaping at a new housing development. And Beau Buchanan? His Dad's company won the contract to do all the electrical. Oh fun times!
Beau doesn't remember Marley, he wishes he did. A Marine, he was wounded in Iraq. Those wounds included a serious conk on the head - which means Beau is suffering from "retrograde amnesia." The doctors assure his father he'll likely remember things "in time" but during this recovery period Beau is to get therapy and "remember on his own." In other words, no coaching. Which is kind of tough for Marley since he 1) ruined her life and 2) is now playing the amnesia card.
I immediately got sucked into this story. Beau was a Grade A Jerkface. I mean, the guy was a douchebag. So it's easy to understand why Marley is floored to see him waltzing into her life again. And then she meets this "new Beau" and is really confused. He's so unlike the guy she knew at eighteen. He has changed from the lying reprobate he used to be. But her life is, well, complicated. She's got a brother who wants to kill him, an ultra-conservative dickhole father and a mother who has been popping pills to hide from the world thanks to her "whore" daughter.
Seriously, can you imagine Sunday dinners at that house?
Anyway, it's a good little story. Things are moving along swimmingly. I start to wonder how the author is going to get Marley and Beau together given their past history together, even if Beau doesn't remember it - then whamo!
The plot twist.
Which, you know, maybe would have been fine if I hadn't been so blindsided by it. But that twist basically changes the entire story for the reader. I was no longer reading the story I had become invested in. How? Because the twist changes the story. It changes everything I had been reading for the first half of the book. And dammit all to jingle bells, I had become invested in THAT story.
Which leaves me in a quandary. I liked the characters, I loved the angst, I really enjoyed the author's style (so glad I have more books in my TBR!) - but I cannot tell a lie. The plot twist kinda ticked me off. Because again, it changed the story I was reading. It took away the story I had become invested in. And to a certain extent? That twist robs the reader, and Marley, of what I think we both deserved and needed. Closure.
So for lack of a better answer?
Final Grade = C
And since I know it will drive some of you crazy if I don't say - please highlight to see the spoiler plot twist: Beau isn't really Beau. He's Beau's buddy, Jack Brody. They were in the Marines together and they apparently look A LOT alike. So much so that when Jack is recovered wearing Beau's dog-tags (which is explained), everyone thinks that he's Beau. It's only after an incident involving a food allergy that Beau's father realizes that his son ain't his son. They buried Beau, not Jack. Jack is alive. Beau is dead. Beau doesn't get the chance to be redeemed and Marley doesn't get the chance to 1) confront him and/or 2) cut off his balls. Frankly, that kinda pissed me off. /end spoiler
Please keep the spoilers out of the comments, just in case. Thanks all!