This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday Romance
Published by Zebra Books
Released on September 30, 2014
‘Tis the season for the holiday reads. I pretty much love all kinds, but at this time of the year I particularly want to mix in some real sugary, feel-good stories. This one had some pretty adorable stuff- small town setting, lots of Christmasy activities, cute kids, humorous moments and a couple that were really good for each other though it took them a long time to figure it out.
This is the fourth book in a series of books set in Kismet, Michigan with each told during the holiday season. I didn’t read the ones before, but had no trouble picking this one up. I recognized the previous couples which were nice to meet and thought their stories sounded interesting, but the previous stories really didn’t play a part in this one.
The book opens with toy company CEO, Jason Hamilton, learning that a picture out of his control hits the social media sites and causes a firestorm of bad publicity for the family-oriented toy store chains. He thinks it will just go away and doesn’t really care what people say since it’s not true, but some of the company board of directors are using it as an opportunity to oust him and wrest more control of the company. The board wants Jason to go on a good will tour to several stores and deliver an apology to the masses at each stop. Jason doesn’t feel he has anything to apologize for, but he is willing to concede and head out on the tour starting with a store in rural Michigan that has the best sales and numbers for the last half year. Jason suspects that his enemy on the board is setting him up and using the hopeful store manager at the same time.
Danielle Sharpe has the opportunity she has been waiting for since she took over as manager and brought the store’s sales around. She is ambitious, driven and doesn’t mind cutting some corners on the company policy handbook to get the job done. It has paid off. The board president informed her that the CEO is on his way to do some publicity stuff and talk to her about a promotion to corporate. She is a divorced single mom with three kids living in the same small town with her cheating ex and his young wife so starting over in LA with a promotion is her dream. She’ll just have to knock the CEO’s socks off and keep him so busy that he doesn’t notice all the unapproved changes.
Jason is charming and wins over the town, but not suspicious Danielle who wants to know why the newshounds and boy-cotters are really there. He tells her the truth after he nips the trouble in the bud. Danielle gets a look at his charisma and decides to use it for her own advantage so she schemes to keep him close and keep him in town longer to pad her chances of getting that promotion. In the meantime, she is strongly attracted to the man and he is very distracting. His fun-loving spirit, interactions with her kids, help to put her ex and his wife in their place and genuine interest in the people of the store and the holidays all work to win her heart even if there is a small part that she holds back so she won’t be hurt again.
Jason finds himself coming back to life and taking an interest in things with the help of Danielle, her family, time back at one of the stores and being in Kismet for the holidays, but he sees trouble on the horizon when the board president decides to make Jason and Danielle his next promo by splashing everything they do with the kids all over the internet with Jason unable to stop him. He knows it’s just a matter of time before Danielle finds out and gets upset thinking he used her and her family.
This one had the holidays, small town quirkiness, laughable moments Grinchy character, and heartwarming family stuff really going for it. It’s a long time developing story. I felt a lot of time was spent building up the store backdrop and the career situations of both main characters and there were tons of small moments and descriptions too. None of that was bad or boring taking each scene one at a time, but all the extra stuff added together did slow the story down to a crawl at times. One dynamic that I really enjoyed probably the most in the book was Jason’s efforts with each of Danielle’s children particularly her daughter who hated Jason in the beginning. Families that go through a divorce have it tough and that part of this story wasn’t sugar-coated, but the second chance aspect was nice.
There was some character development taking place too. Both the main characters are so cocky of their abilities, but get leery when it comes to putting themselves out there for love particularly since they are from different backgrounds in the present day and their romance seemingly has an expiration date. Jason has always been able to bring people around, but with the success of the company he has lost touch and just goes through the motions these days. He cares deeply for the owner who gave him his break and hates the idea of disappointing the old man so that is his motivation to try. Danielle’s self-worth and trust in men took a hit when her husband cheated on her and the new wife plays games using the kids as pawns. She’s in the mode of needing to prove herself while protecting herself from getting involved with anyone again.
The cocky was parts funny and parts putting off for me particularly Danielle. It’s possible that the bossy, sassy, conniving stuff was supposed to be funny, but I didn’t connect with that side of Danielle at all. Some of her monologue read like a pushy, schemer and later, her angry-betrayed behavior was just soooo hypocritical after all the sneaking around behind Jason’s back that she did that I went from mildly not into her to quite put off since he didn’t do what she was accusing him of. I didn’t really care for her as a romance interest either for the above mentioned reason. Jason’s behavior wasn’t perfect, but he’s the one that kept making all the grand gestures and small gestures throughout the story even the end.
So I wasn’t totally on board with the heroine, but the overall story, backdrop and tone hit the spot. I plan to go back for the other books in the series when I can. Contemporary Romance lovers who enjoy their holiday stories small town and on the sugary end of the spectrum, this would be a good bet for you.
My thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.