3.5 stars — I’ve been wanting to read this one since it came out last year, and was so excited when I snagged a copy on sale (not to mention a paperback copy). It was definitely a delightful Christmas romance, but it started stronger than it finished for me.
My one major problem with the book is that I ended up getting tired and confused with the constant forward and backward progress by BOTH Willa and Keane. I wanted to see consistent growth, but it felt like 1 step forward, 1 step back over and over and over. When one would get their crap together, the other would lose heart/get scared/doubt and the cycle would begin again. I don’t mind it happening, but it happened about 2 times too many, kwim? Once or twice, fine…it does take people time to grow and change. But at a certain point I was ready to throw in the towel on these two. Which is honestly too bad, b/c I really enjoyed their story otherwise!
They were both very likeable characters, and both very damaged in their own way (hence the long road towards trust and love). I loved how their pasts were kind of similar in that they both felt without love and safety, and they learned to cope in much different ways. I loved the way Willa collected her strays, and tried to be for others what she wanted for herself (particularly with the girls she rescued and employed). And as an animal lover myself, I loved the way she couldn’t resist any animals that came her way. And I loved they way Keane couldn’t help but love so many people in his life, even as he told himself he was emotionless…from his Great Aunt, to Petunia/Pita, to his staff, to, of course, Willa.
And they had great chemistry. While I did hate the forward and backward movement of their relationship, I do like how the relationship progressed otherwise…it made every stage very believable. And I LOVED how much time we got with the two of them together. So many times in romances it’s kind of wham, bam, thank you ma’am, and I’m not talking about the sexy times. This felt more…natural or something. Occasionally it made the book feel long, so it was a bit of a mixed blessing, you know?
One other time thing I was a bit disappointed in was the resolution of the high school stuff. Maybe it was my own expectations, but I expected it to play a great role. It was an undercurrent in the first half, but then it just kind of resolved fairly easily and that was that. So it kind of seemed pointless and unnecessary in the end.
The thing that made this book stand out above the rest, despite these few little annoyances for me, was the amazing cast of secondary characters. Some books just feel like cast books, if that makes any sense. And this was definitely one of them. I absolutely ADORED how many varied and oddball characters there were in this book. They were all hilarious and all very different. I loved that they *both* had such great people in their corners, I genuinely felt the love each of these characters had for the other. I love when our heroes and heroines actually have other strong relationships going for them. And I can’t even tell you how many times I laughed or just smiled like a big loon at their antics, whether it be Keane with Sass and Mason, or Willa and her tribe. I’m genuinely curious about the other books in this series, I want to see all the HEAs. I am a bit sad knowing that the likelihood we’ll get Haley’s book isn’t very high…who knows, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
And speaking of secondary characters, can I just give a shout out to Petunia/Pita? I love when an animal plays an important role in a book, and they don’t just become a plot device. Her attitude towards Keane made me laugh so hard, and she really helped show the reader what Keane was going through and how he was struggling…perhaps in a way we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
So yeah…solid Christmas read. Heck, solid romance read despite the season you’re in. But it did make me feel festive.