***This book was previously published as Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor.***
New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas's new series begins during the most magical time of year
ONE LITTLE GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY
One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.
ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE
The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister's will gives him the instructions: There's no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.
SOMETIMES, IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC���
Maggie Collins doesn't dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.
���TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE
Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home���
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(The Hallmark movie version--"Christmas with Holly"--was cute, but nowhere near as good as the book. They changed too many of the things that I really enjoyed about this story to satisfy me. After re-reading the story, the movie was even more disappointing...)more
Overall Rating: 3.50
Story Rating: 3.25
Character Rating: 3.75
Part of my 25 Books for the Holidays for 2012
How Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor put me in the Holiday Spirit: Don’t stories that involve kids and rescue dogs always pull at your heartstrings? This one even started with a letter to Santa–how could you not be in the Holiday spirit after that?
What I thought of the characters/story: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor was a pretty short listen for an audio book (5 or so hours) and in places I thought the story was a little rushed. I felt the break-up with the current girlfriend to the “I Love You” was to quick. That being said, I loved the characters. I thought each of them were unique, fun, and in their own ways lovable. I am pretty sure that I will be continuing the series to find out what happens with the other two brothers. I loved Maggie and her relationship with Holly and Mark. I felt that the story from her side was very organic and wonderful. I loved that Holly and Reinfield (the ugly rescue dog) were important parts of the story too. Overall, for a short story it was very heartstrings pulling even though it was a little rushed.
What I thought of the audio: Tanya Eby did the audio and she did a pretty decent job. I still have problems with her male voices but she is certainly growing on me.more
Fairly bland and superficial romance with a saccharine sweet plot and ending.
The story is rushed and there is no real emotional depth to the characters, which makes it difficult to become attached to any of them (this is most probably due to the short basically novella length format).
Holly is a sweet child and the selective mutism has potential but fizzles out almost immediately as her return to normality is rapid and has no basis in reality.
Maggie gets over her reservations against becoming involved with Mark in no time at all and Mark goes from a commitment phobic, non-believer to an ardent pursuer and imagination convert in the blink of an eye.
The relationship between the brothers is unoriginal and lacks detail. On the surface, Sam seems like a nice guy while Alex is dark, broody and tortured (which means that I will continue on to his book because this is my favorite type of hero).
All in all, a disappointing book as both the story and the characters are underdeveloped. This is definitely not up to Kleypas's standards.more
Small business owner Mark Nolan has just had his life hit a giant bump in the road. Not only has his sister just died unexpectedly in a car accident, but he's also been named as the guardian of his six year-old niece, Holly. Since raising a little girl in a one-bedroom condo isn't possible, he's also moved in with his brother in a large fixer-upper Victorian on a vineyard. To top it all off, Holly has stopped speaking to anyone in the wake of her mother's death. Clearly, Mark has his hands full.
Maggie Conroy is a fellow business owner in their small island community off the coast of Seattle. Unlike Mark, she didn't grow up there, having just moved in a few months ago to open a toy store. She's decided to move somewhere new and start fresh after her husband's death from cancer just a few years ago. Very much Mark's opposite in many ways - as whimsical as he is realistic, from a large, close family as opposed to his smaller, acrimonious one - he's completely captivated by her and her ability to coax Holly out of her silent shell. Maggie herself is drawn to Mark's quiet calm and good looks, though she declares him off-limits since he's involved with someone else and she's unwilling to risk her heart so soon after her husband's death.
All of this is a really great set-up for a book. Clearly you can see how straitlaced Mark, wary of marriage and commitment after living through his parents' contentious relationship, would be attracted to the fanciful toy store owner from a big, happy family. It makes sense that younger sibling Maggie would find herself drawn to the quiet, serious and responsible older brother in Mark. What Kleypas failed to do, however, is to take these excellent character sketches and wonderful plot concept and make it come alive as a story.
Instead, the characters and action feel a bit lost in the storytelling. I think a big part of the reason for this lies with the book's length. Kleypas generally writes full-length novels and it felt like she just couldn't adjust the pacing to the shorter length. As if she felt she needed to cram in a 90k word novel's worth of background and scenery in a short space, parts of the novel read like a tourist brochure.Growing up in the Edgemoor neighborhood of Bellingham, Maggie and her brothers and sisters had explored the trails of Chuckanut Mountain and played along the shores of Bellingham Bay. The quiet neighborhood offered views of both the San Juans and the Canadian mountains. It was also situated next to Fairhaven, where you could browse through unique shops and galleries, or eat at restaurants where the waiters could always tell you about the freshest catch and where it had been bought from.She names every shop, restaurant and geographical feature the characters come across, no matter how inconsequential to the story it may be. When the characters mention going to the house Mark lives in, either in speech or pov prose, she always spells it out as Rainshadow Vineyard, never simply "home," "the house," "Mark's home," etc. It felt so much like brand marketing that the setting never felt immersive to me.
Then, for all the time she spends on the niggling details of the environment, the romance felt rushed. Some of their encounters felt natural - his visiting her store, their riding the ferry at the same time coincidentally - but as we got closer to the end of the book, they felt more and more contrived. I did a major headshake when, after meeting her once during trick-or-treating with Holly, Mark's brother calls Maggie to help him with a feverish, puking Holly when Mark was away. I know people think Bostonians are cold, but this is calling on a mere acquaintance for something most people would be reluctant to ask an old friend to do. After this, Mark and Maggie go from subtle flirtation and unacknowledged attraction to engagement in less than two months. They go from first sexual encounter, still with Maggie's insistence that it be casual and not a committed relationship, to engaged in just a few days. Their HEA totally was a "Holy shit! I'm at the end of my word count!" sort of thing.
Since my review is almost as long as the book at this point, I'll stuff a sock in it. To sum up, good idea with weak execution. Not bad, but far from her best.more
I should note that I am not generally a fan of children in the books I read. I tend to steer clear of them as a rule. Holly, Mark's 6-year-old niece plays a large role in this book... and I gave it five stars. THAT is how much I enjoyed it. I actually liked Holly and I felt like she was really important to the story and how the family came together.
While this is listed by many as magical realism, I thought the magic was very light. I read Rainshadow Road before this one, so I was surprised that there wasn't more magic in it.
If I had any complaint about the book, it would simply be that I wanted more of it. This is a short novel, at a little over two hundred pages, and I could've happily read a hundred more pages.more