There comes a point—usually during the couple of days following Thanksgiving—when, fueled by turkey and sweet potatoes. Strands of lights start illuminating all the cracks and crevices. There’s a constant smell of cookies drifting from the oven. Yes, it’s all a big fuss for Christmas, but I can’t help it. Since it only comes once a year, I like to make the most of it.
Meg Scott doesn’t have that need. No, as proprietor of a shop focused on that particular holiday, she always sees the world in shades of red and green. She’s devoted to the season and author Donna Ashcroft uses this obsession to highlight her downright bubbly personality. After all, how can anyone willing to parade around in an elf costume to drum up customers be anything other than charming? Meg practically radiates snowflakes and hot chocolate from the moment she appears on the page.
Yet Ashcroft never veers into the saccharine. Instead, Meg, while embodying the generous and fun parts of the season, remains a realist. So when Tom, a scrooge with a sackful of secrets, shows up in her idyllic village, she’s puzzled by him, but Ashcroft doesn’t let her haunt him like three spirits forcing a change of heart. It’s a burn as slow as a log fire—and just as fiery—with the two gradually getting to know each other, their pasts, and, of course, their problems.
Of which even this winter wonderland has more than a few. While the town itself has a couple of aches, Ashcroft centers the bulk of the drama on her characters. Meg struggles with her family while Tom struggles with himself. Their issues are tactfully dealt with and, in an environment surrounded be Christmas magic, they feel real. While every page feels like a traditional romance, Ashcroft expertly infuses drama and tension, making Meg’s potential happily ever after feel far from certain.
Ultimately, the idea of having Christmas every day is probably best left as a dream. Eventually, the lights burn out and there are only so many days in a row I can bake sugar cookies. Thankfully, Donna Ashcroft has provided the perfect bit of Christmas magic that’s enjoyable any time of year.
Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.