Review: The Night Before Christmas by Mary McNear

night before christmas by mary mcnearFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: holiday romance, contemporary romance
Series: Butternut Lake #2.5
Length: 112 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse
Date Released: December 9, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Butternut Lake is so beautiful at Christmas—from the delightfully decorated shops, to the cozy homes with their twinkling lights outside, to the lake itself. And this year so much is happening!

A wedding: Caroline meticulously plans her perfect Christmastime dream wedding to Jack, remarrying him after many years apart.

A baby: Allie and Walker are expecting the best Christmas gift of all—their first baby together.

A reunion: Daisy, Caroline and Jack’s daughter, is returning home after a long semester away at college.

But what’s Christmas without complications? Walker smothers Allie with worry; Daisy pines for her true love, Will, away in the army. And then the unthinkable happens—and Caroline’s wedding plans are ruined.

And just when it seems all is lost, the people of Butternut Lake come together to give their friends the greatest gifts of all. . . .

My Review:

This particular night before Christmas is a holiday story about sharing the joy of the season with the family you make. It’s also a love story that is mostly about what happens after the happily ever after.

up at butternut lake by mary mcnearIn the first two books of the Butternut Lake series (Up at Butternut Lake and Butternut Summer) we saw the women who formed a Girl’s Night Out group all find, or cement, or re-forge, the relationships with the men in their lives.

Although the side-stories are about Jax and Jeremy finding a way to continue their marriage past the revelation of a long-past lie, the focus in the series has been on Allie and Caroline.

In Up at Butternut Lake, Allie returns to her childhood home at Butternut with her young son in order to start a new life for herself after the death in combat of her husband. She finds a new life and new love with Walker Ford, the new owner of the local customized boat (and sometimes yacht) store. By this particular Christmas, Allie and Walker are expecting their first child together. But as much as Walker longs for this child, he can’t get past the tragedy of his first wife’s miscarriage and the subsequent death of their marriage. He is smothering Allie out of fear that if he doesn’t take care of each tiny detail, something will happen to the baby – again.

butternut summer by mary mcnearIn Butternut Summer (reviewed here), Caroline discovers that her ex-husband is not the gambling, cheating alcoholic that she divorced 18 years ago. Jack has stopped gambling, he’s certain that he will never cheat again, and he’s been clean and sober for two years. He comes back to Butternut in the hopes of establishing a new relationship with their daughter Daisy, and with a tentative prayer that he has a chance with Caroline again. At this particular Christmas, Jack and Caroline are planning to marry each other – again. But this time Caroline gets to plan the wedding she wants, and she’s nervous but having the time of her life.

Jack and Caroline’s daughter Daisy is home from college for the holidays, and to be her parents’ maid of honor and best woman. It’s not every child of divorced parents that is able to realize the dream of her parents getting back together. In many cases, it’s a downright bad idea, but for Jack and Caroline, it is finally right.

But in the midst of all this love and happiness, Daisy is pining for her own love, away in the Army.

In this holiday season, everything finally manages to work itself out the way it should, but not until after Murphy’s Law throws a big monkey wrench into everyone’s plans for a festive holiday and wedding celebration.

Escape Rating B+: I enjoyed this holiday story so much because I read the first two books and was familiar with all the characters – and all the reasons why their particular love stories were so deserving of happy endings. I don’t think that coming into this one cold (so to speak) would get half as much pleasure out of the resolutions to the various issues.

The story is wrapped around Caroline planning for her wedding. While she is not obsessed, and certainly never strays into BrideZilla territory, she really does have her heart set on a real ceremony and reception with all their friends and getting everything just so, even if a bit scaled down for a small town AND the second-time around with the same guy. Their first wedding was a registry ceremony and no family. She’s determined that this one be better – that it feel permanent because this time it is.

When the hall they have reserved suffers fire damage the day before the wedding, Caroline is slightly crushed, but plans to soldier on. Jack is the one who brings the whole town together to give her the reception she wanted, even if it isn’t the way she planned. It’s actually better this way.

Jack shows how far he has come from the jerk who left her 18 years ago by surprising both Caroline and Daisy with exactly what they wanted for Christmas, even if it was something they believed was out of reach.

All in all, a delightful holiday story with just the right sprinkling of romantic and family love.

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