Just getting out of prison on parole right before Thanksgiving, Lacey Gallagher returns to her brother’s home and the family Christmas tree farm ready to get her life back. Too bad she encounters the man who arrested her and he’s as disdainful of her as ever.
Austin Wilder wasn’t prepared to encounter the woman he arrested for transporting drugs and being a huge part of a drug ring. She looks harder and wary, but she’s also the only one he knows who can get the steam locomotive up and running in time for the Christmas charity activities to help get the donations for the camp for kids with special needs like his nephew.
Working together, day in and day out takes some of the edge off their hostilities, but Lacey never wants to be dumb about men again and the best way is to keep her distance and Austin doesn’t know what to believe now that he’s getting to know Lacey. In the meantime, Lacey’s lawyer brings startling news and starts to raise her Christmas hopes.
I saw the blurb and couldn’t resist such a situation- an ex-con and her arresting officer? Plus she works on trains! How cool is that? Plus it’s Kat Latham and I enjoyed her rugby players so I had to give this Christmas story ago.
The book is connected both to the Montana Born Christmas series and the London Legends stories through Austin’s siblings’ romance that chronologically happen before this story. There is also a tie to a separate book that tells a parallel time line romance with Lacey’s brother. For all that, this is still a standalone.
The story was a good blend of holiday cheer and hope with the reality of Lacey being an ex-con and Austin being directly involved in the investigation that put her away. The author did a good job of writing a character who was convincing as having just spent time in prison and now must live with the consequences. The story went by quickly, but the author still took her time developing a romance that starts as hostile at best. There was also the shadows that Lacey’s experiences cast over the relationship. It was many of the little things that the author got right whether it was her response to touch, her near terror at seeing Austin in uniform, her appreciation for real coffee and private bathrooms, and even the struggle she has to connect with her very supportive brother.
Now, the other thing was Lacey’s physical reaction to Austin and his to her. This pair were hot tamales once they got to a certain place. Lacey is not a gentle, retiring sort. She is a strong, lusty woman that works hard and is honest in her needs and wants. Austin soon finds that what he thought he wanted was all wrong. Lacey’s it for him. He gets hot seeing her covered in grease and sweat and wrestling train parts together or hauling a Christmas tree up over her shoulder and loading it for a customer just as he can’t get enough of having her in his bed. But while Lacey will take what Austin as to offer in bed, she struggles to get past the fact that he was there for all her worst moments- her arrest and her court hearing and sentencing, and she doesn’t think he can see past all that either.
The holiday element was woven in well. There was the Christmas tree farm which was a festive setting, but also the preparations for the Christmas town to raise money for the special camp. Lacey wants decorations and music around her to reminder her that she is free and Austin finds that he enjoys providing it all just to give that sense of freedom and peace to her.
So, all in all, I thought this was a great Christmas romance involving an unusual circumstance and pair and would recommend it to readers who like snow-melting holiday contemporary romance.
My thanks to Tule Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #378 CR
In this story, there are loads of Christmas traditions and references. There is the Christmas Tree farm. Personally, I never had the opportunity of choosing a tree at a Christmas tree farm because first my mother and then my husband were allergic to pine. We enjoy the fake variety as a result. But that being said, I have gone to a Christmas tree farm many times for their fall hayrides, bonfires, cider and donuts, and live music.
But really the things that struck me when I read this one were actually something apart from the Christmas trees. Lacey and Austin talk about choosing ornaments for their tree at the ranger station. And Austin wanted her to use her family ornaments. This reminded me of all the ornaments I have packed away. I only brought a handful of ornaments with me when I left home many years ago because I was moving across country, but my husband’s mom gave us a box of ornaments our first year of marriage so our tree wasn’t too bare. The ornaments are nearly a hundred years old and were hand-made by his great-grandmother. I was floored that she gave them to us, but she said that it was her son that was the one who most enjoyed decorating the Christmas tree so he should have the old family ornaments. They are hand-made, but not worth money. With the ribbons, beads and sequins, they do have a turn of the century charm to them. I’ll see if I can find a picture to share what they look like (without having to dig all the Christmas stuff out- I’m writing this in early November).
And the other thing that struck me in the story was the steam locomotive that Lacey and Austin restored together. I enjoyed this because just this summer I got to watch volunteers working to restore a locomotive when I visited the Northern Nevada Railway Train Museum in Ely, Nevada. I get a bit geeky over trains since it’s been my dad and I’s thing from when I was little.
Do you have any special tree ornaments with special family significance? Are you a steam train buff?
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