This was PAINFUL to read. And I mostly mean that as a good thing, but jesus, the angst and pain and suffering of this heroine. (All of it unrelated to...moreThis was PAINFUL to read. And I mostly mean that as a good thing, but jesus, the angst and pain and suffering of this heroine. (All of it unrelated to the hero, mind you, except as a function of her trying to overcome her repressed life.) I sort of want to read the third one in the series except I anticipate the angst in this one, which was already considerable, being turned up to like, one hundred and I'm not sure that I will be able to stand it.(less)
I liked this an awful lot. I haven't seen it marked this way anywhere, but it's definitely part of the San Francisco Blaze series that Packard is writ...moreI liked this an awful lot. I haven't seen it marked this way anywhere, but it's definitely part of the San Francisco Blaze series that Packard is writing, with the hero, Nick, being an agent to one of the pitchers on the team. I assume there's a chance we'll see him and his partner again in that capacity, or even hopefully otherwise. I would not mind a sports agent hero, just saying.
Anyway, Carrie hates Christmas because her dad was a drunk who always got worse around the holidays and eventually committed suicide on Christmas Eve and her mother who was also an alcoholic always got worse in response to her father getting worse. She doesn't actively hate Christmas, mind you, she just sort of retreats into herself during the month of December and doesn't partake in holiday rituals. She's not off murdering santas or anything.
Her high school crush, Nick, comes home to spend the month with his parents and partake in his favorite time of year. Carrie was his math tutor during high school and he was oblivious to her crush while nursing his own on a popular girl who never noticed he was alive. This wasn't really a huge part of the story for people concerned with pining, it just informs their history more than anything else. And as naturally happens in romance novels, they bump into each other at a coffee shop, he gets her number and they start to date.
And because Christmas is his favorite time of year, Nick wants it to be better for Carrie. He nudges her along this path sort of gently, always with the stated intention that he'll back off if she really doesn't want to be doing something, which I personally appreciated as a reader. Too often when these scrooge stories exist, it's all u rah rah christmas and anyone who doesn't like it is a complete monster, and as someone who isn't particularly a fan, it's a real turn off. As the novella progresses, Carrie gets more into the holidays and is on the brink of actually embracing them when her mother shows up on her doorstep.
This, naturally, is the wrench in the works, because all Carrie can see is that her mother is back to ruin the holidays for her again, which I felt was a pretty natural reaction. One good Christmas doesn't make up for a lifetime of terrible ones, you know? Her mother wants to explain what her father's history was with the holiday but Carrie refuses to hear it and kicks her out. When Nick comes back the next morning to take her tree shopping, Carrie's totally shut down and has retreated into her holidays are terrible mindset. Again, I thought this was a pretty natural reaction, but they have a fight about it where I thought they were equally nasty to each other, but Carrie ultimately ends up blaming herself more for it, which was my only significant problem with the novella. Nick's mother does get him to see that he has to try look at it from Carrie's POV too, but Carrie repeatedly calling herself a monster bugged me.
Anyway, blah blah, Carrie and her mom decide to try to work on their relationship, Nick and Carrie reconcile, and the epilogue ultimately ends with New Year's Eve ILY's and a hope that they'll be able to work towards a future that involves Carrie moving to San Francisco to be with him. Which, oh, was another thing I liked. Adults making adult decisions, yay, and no one giving up a life in a city. That made me happy.
tl;dr, if you want a good Christmas novella, I would recommend this one.(less)