Reviewed by May
Kismet: a place that promised candlelit ice-skating sessions, and official Christmas parade, a fanciful holiday-light house tour, sleigh rides with genuine jingle bells, a Santa Claus-lookalike contest (in the town square, right next to the community’s fifty-foot decorated Noble fir tree), and a weekly cookie-decorating get together and jamboree.
It was all so flipping wholesome Casey thought he might be breaking out in freckles and naiveté already. It was possible he felt an “aw-shucks” coming on. He’d only been in town an hour- long enough to meet Heather Miller, hear her initial demands, and start laying the groundwork for the two of them to come to terms. At this rate, he’d morph into Gomer Pyle by lunchtime.
Muttering a swear word, Casey set his Subaru in motion again. He suddenly craved a cigarette, a shot of tequila, and a week’s worth of irresponsible behavior – not necessarily in that order.
Casey Jackson is a holiday hating, no nonsense, Los Angeles based troubleshooter. A top man in the entertainment industry, he got projects back on track, talent working at their best, and he fixed whatever was needed by his employers.
Somehow, he realized, his newest assignment had taken him to The Twilight zone 2.0: The Hallmark Channel Edition.
Right now, that means a gig in the small town of Kismet, Michigan in December, which is horrifying to Casey in every detail from the snow to the scent of gingerbread in the air to the decorations covering every building. Inside one such building, pop star Heather Miller is doing everything she can to get extra time with her crush – including putting her Live! From the Heartland televised Christmas special behind schedule and over budget. Not wanting Casey anywhere near her set, she comes up with a story that he needs to watch her star struck sister and she’ll be able to work more effectively.
Of course her sister Kristen is neither star struck nor in need of a babysitter, she’s busy running a popular diner, baking amazing single serving pies in mason jars, and trying to enjoy her Christmas traditions despite the havoc her famous sister is having on her life. The latest diva drama: that Heather insists Kristen keep this LA guy sent to ruin her Christmas special away from the set.
It is sparks and chemistry at first sight between the two, though neither particularly likes the other and they immediately clash and argue as Casey insists he doesn’t like sweets – and insists he won’t like Kristen’s – or any- pie.
“No pie? Ever? What are you, some kind of communist?”
He laughed. “I applaud your passion for your baked goods. But I just-“
He had to give her points for persistence. Maybe “handling” Heather’s little sister wouldn’t be so easy after all.
Dubiously, Casey examined the jar of pie. It looked sweet and sparkly from the sugar with a spicy crumb topping and a neatly crimped crust, all contained in the mason jar. He had to admit it was cute. But he was a grown man. He wasn’t interested in cute food. However, if he had to… “Do you have any ketchup?”
It was possible her head swivveld around. “For pie?”
“Well, if I’m going to have to choke down piecrust, then-“
The thud of an industrial-sized ketchup bottle hitting the diner’s counter drowned out his explanation. Standing behind it, Kristen Miller eyed him with evident challenge. A hush fell.
“I dare you to put ketchup on my pie.”
Two stools down, the plumber he’d just met leaned forward to catch Casey’s eye. “If I were you, I’d eat that pie.”
“Plain.” his wife advised. “No ketchup.”
“Kristen’s got on her angry eyes,” someone else said in a knowing tone. “I wouldn’t push your luck.”
The battle of stubborn characters is on – and I must tell you I adored every page of this book. The character that has suffered in past and now hates Christmas paired with a Christmas loving character is nothing new. Nor is the small town that loves Christmas vs big city Christmas hater. But in this novel, Plumley really made it work. The chemistry between the characters, the development of the romance and relationship, the supporting characters and romances, and the writing style all kept things moving in a richly decorated and fun way.
I would describe this book as a holiday romantic comedy – and it hit all the right notes for me. There were some flaws; little cracks in the story and believability if you will. From the “nemesis” who could have stated his purpose right up front to the mix up with the bank and a few other things. So this book was not perfect in any way. However, I was easily able to set those things aside and simply enjoy.
One of my favorite parts was when an intensely jealous Casey decides to jump into Christmas activities to show up his rival for Kristen’s affection:
Hurtling himself purposefully into the next room, Casey werenched off his suit coat. He yanked loose his tie. He rolled up his shirtsleeves. He eyeballed the most promising pile of cookie slabs he could find, then beeline straight for it.
He was going to create the biggest, best, most badass gingerbread skyscraper anyone had ever seen, Casey vowed. He was going to beat Shane Maresca at everything they did – including the Heather Miller job – or he was going to die trying. Kristen would be there to see it, thanks to his diner-booth-rental deal, and she had to see him at his best. Because all at once, Casey felt unreasonably certain that if Kristen didn’t kiss him sometime soon… he wasn’t going to survive Christmas at all this year.
There are elements of sibling rivalry, coming to terms with the past, and hope for the future in this story, and I really liked the balance between some tender emotion and a light and funny holiday story shared here. While Casey’s past and the whole reason he hates Christmas is overly dramatic for what it was, the rest of the relationship was really fantastic. The secondary romances were nicely done and added a richness to the story overall as well as developing those supporting characters further.
Overall I really enjoyed this story and would recommend to anyone looking for a small town Christmas story with lots of holiday cheer, snow, great dialogue, and that warm fuzzy feeling that only a sweet romance can give you. My one warning would be that you may walk away from this one humming your favorite Christmas song and craving some pie.