After the death of his wife and toddler son, Sam Henry, an accomplished artist, gave up painting and moved to the mountains of Idaho. He is in town so rarely that the locals have a running betting pool on when he'll show up again (the last guy who guessed right won $200!). It's just him and a live-in housekeeper who cooks, cleans and lets him be (for the most part - she does mother hen him with her occasional nagging). The fly in the ointment is that every December she takes off with a girlfriend for a month-long cruise. But she tells him not to worry. Her friend, Joy, is going to come and work as a temp. Joy's apartment just had an electrical fire and it's going to take a month (at least) for the work to be finished and the apartment habitable again. So really, it's win-win for everybody involved.
Until Sam actually meets Joy Curran. For one thing she's young, very pretty, and has a 5-year-old girl, Holly, in tow. Nobody mentioned Holly. Or how pretty Joy was. Or how sweet, nice, charming, and really a breath of fresh air that has begun to infuse light into Sam's dark and lonely world.
This starts out as a pretty solid read. Sam is Beast to Joy's Beauty. He's emotionally distant and she's bubbly and sweet. Unfortunately it all begins to wear down after a short while because that's ALL Joy is. She's sweet, and cute and naturally she's a great cook. Sam basically lets her stay because she CAN cook and the idea of living on frozen pizza fails to appeal. A heroine's worth that is wrapped up in large part because of her domestic skills is one that I would call grating. Great, she can cook. I need more than that and frankly, so should the hero.
Holly is a sweet kid and while she's a Plot Moppet, she's at least a realistic one. She talks a mile a minute, in that stream of conscious way that young children do, and she's obsessed with princesses, fairies and fairy princesses. So yeah, she's cutesy-wootsy - but hardly the most offensive Plot Moppet I've encountered in Romancelandia and after all, this IS a Christmas romance.
No, where this story slides from "OK, not my thing but still OK" to "You have got to be eff'ing kidding me?!" is when the author breaks the fourth wall and with a sex scene that makes me want to burn this book to the MF'ing ground. Then I couldn't finish this slim 180+ page Desire fast enough.
Joy has a web design / personal assistant business. It allows her to work from home and keep Holly out of day care. For literally no reason that I can decipher (in other words, it does not move the story forward) the author tosses in this little nugget:
"Almost honey," she said, clearing her throat and focusing again on the comments section of her client's website. For some reason people who read books felt it was okay to go on the author's website and list the many ways the author could have made the book better. Even when they loved it, they managed to sneak in a couple of jabs. It was part of Joy's job to remove the comments that went above and beyond a review and deep into the real of harsh criticism.WHY?!?!?!?!?! Yes, readers who e-mail the author or leave comments on the author's web site about why a book was "bad" are rude - but WHY IS THIS IN YOUR ROMANCE NOVEL?!?!?! Because the romance what - needed a side of reading shaming to make us believe in the happy ending? WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?
OK, but really - Wendy, you're being too sensitive. Roll on McDuff. Just finish the book and slap this bad boy with a C and be done with it. Well, that was until I got to the sex scene.
"Joy, the downside to things happening by surprise is you're not prepared for it." She smiled. "I'd say you were plenty prepared." He rolled again, flopping her over onto the mattress and leaning over her, staring her in the eyes. "I'm trying to tell you that I hope to hell you're on birth control because I wasn't suited up."OMG.....WHY?!?!?!?!?!??!! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!??!?!?!? Because OF COURSE our SINGLE MOTHER isn't on birth control. BECAUSE OMG OF COURSE SHE ISN'T!!!!! I don't believe in violence but seriously, I want a gun. Or a knife. Or a really heavy book that I can throw at her head.
But just in case I'm not insulted enough the author doubles down. Golly, the hero DID have condoms. They were just in HIS bedroom but they were SO HOT for each other they didn't make it that far and oopsie his penis fell into the heroine and they had unprotected sex instead.
OMG....WHY?!?!?!?!!? ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!?!?!?!? SERIOUSLY, THE AUTHOR IS TRYING TO KILL ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I just can't even. I'm done. I want to run over the Mary Sue heroine, lose the Plot Moppet daughter in the woods, drop the hero off at the nearest remote cave to live out his hermit days and burn this book to the ground. Merry frickin' Christmas and a bah humbug to you.
Final Grade = D