Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance, holiday romance
Series: Life in Icicle Falls #6
Published by Harlequin MIRA on October 28th 2014
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
How Santa Gets His Christmas Spirit Back…
James Claussen has played Santa for years, but now that he's a widower, he's lost interest—in everything. So his daughter, Brooke, kidnaps him from the mall (in his Santa suit!) and takes him to Icicle Falls. She's arranged a special Christmas at the lodge owned by long-widowed Olivia Wallace and her son, Eric. And yet…Brooke wants Dad to be happy, but she's not ready to see someone else's mommy kissing Santa Claus.
Single mom Missy Monroe brings her kids to the lodge, too. Lalla wants a grandma for Christmas, and her brother, Carlos, wants a dog. Missy can't provide either one. What she'd like is an attractive, dependable man. A man like John Truman… But John's girlfriend will be joining him in Icicle Falls, and he's going to propose.
Of course not everything goes as planned. But sometimes the best gifts are the ones you don't expect!
I pulled The Lodge on Holly Road out of the virtually towering TBR pile because I’m scheduled to review the 8th book in this series, Christmas on Candy Cane Lane, early in November. I totally forgot that Holly Road was last year’s Christmas book in the Life in Icicle Falls series. So I get two heaping helpings of Christmas spirit in time for the upcoming holidays.
The first thing readers need to know about this series is that Icicle Falls is really Leavenworth, Washington, a small tourist town that really did change its look to make it seem like something out of an idealized Bavarian Forest. It is just this cute, and in the location relative to Seattle described in the book.
The Lodge on Holly Road is a bed and breakfast in Icicle Falls. In this story, the Lodge is open for its regular Christmas package, but the guests that arrive for this particular Christmas make the holiday a special treat for everyone involved.
Olivia Wallace owns the Lodge, and she and her oldest son Eric run the place. Her younger son Brandon drops in every once in awhile, especially at the holidays. Brandon is still making a way for himself, which currently involves traveling around the U.S. searching out the best ski resorts. He’s a teacher and trainer, but it does seem like a bit of an excuse to be a “ski bum”.
Olivia has been a widow for 14 years, and Eric, as much as he’d like to settle down and get married, hasn’t found the right woman in the small town he loves. And as he and his friends lament at the beginning of the story, most women who visit Icicle Falls from Seattle or wherever live in those other places because they don’t want to actually live in a small and sometimes remote place like Icicle Falls.
Brooke Claussen just wants her dad to recapture not just his Christmas spirit, but a little bit of his spirit in general. As James Claussen often spends the holidays as a department store Santa, he really needs a little Christmas, but has lost his heart. His wife (and Brooke’s mother) died last Christmas Eve after a long struggle with cancer. In his grief, James has turned inward and is shutting himself off from the world.
One of the really sweet things in this story is that Olivia and James are pretty much perfect for each other, and it is especially lovely to see their burgeoning romance take a chunk of the center stage in this multi-romance holiday treat. It’s also good that Brooke and Eric both have their own experiences with caretaking and jealousy, and need to figure out what their places are in their parents’ lives, and what place they might find in each other’s life as well.
But the heart of the story revolves around poor deluded John Truman, and Missy Monroe, the single mother he rescues on the way to Icicle Falls a couple of nights before Christmas.
John believes that his big city girlfriend, Holland, will just love Icicle Falls, the vacation he has meticulously planned, and the engagement ring he plans to present to her on Christmas Eve. It is pretty obvious to the reader and most of the other guests at Holly Lodge that John is seriously deluding himself, but as is so often said, “love is blind”. In Truman’s case, it’s even blind that what he feels is love.
Missy Monroe is a single mother with two young children by different fathers. She’s the first to admit that her choices in men have not been stellar, but her children are the light of her life and she is doing her best to raise them with much more love and care than she received from her alcoholic mother. Missy’s problem is money. It’s pretty clear that she isn’t collecting any child support, and her wages and tips at the low-end beauty salon where she does hair isn’t enough to make ends even wave at each other, let alone meet.
Missy has saved all year long to give her kids a beautiful Christmas someplace nice. But the presents that Carlos and Lalla want are beyond her budget and control. Carlos wants a dog that she’s not allowed to have in their apartment. And Lalla wants a grandma, which is even harder to magic up.
As John Truman finds himself more and more alone on what should have been a romantic holiday, he spends more and more time with Missy and her kids. Missy sees instantly that John is just the kind of man that she would love to be with – he’s caring, sincere, funny, willing to try new things and most of all, loyal. That he’s a stable accountant and not a flake doesn’t hurt either. But all the things that Missy likes about John, including his steadiness and his desire to settle down in a small town just like Icicle Falls, are all the things that his erstwhile fiance finds boring, if not downright low-class.
The Christmas miracle in this story is that everyone who comes to the Lodge on Holly Road this Christmas finds their happily ever after, no matter how remote a prospect it seemed at the beginning. There’s even a puppy and a grandma for Missy’s kids.
Escape Rating B+: Everyone gets what they need for this Christmas, even if (or especially because) it wasn’t what they thought they wanted. I also liked the way that Olivia and James’ romance was treated. We so seldom see romances that feature, frankly, anyone over 40, let alone anyone around 60. While both of their children have issues seeing their living parents with someone other than their dead parents, the fact is that 60 isn’t dead and they both have plenty to give a new partner that doesn’t take anything away from each of their happy first marriages or their relationships with their kids.
It was icing on the cake that when Eric and Brooke stopped squabbling over their parents getting together, they discovered that their parents had the right idea. The two families do belong together, and Eric has as much in common with Brooke as his mother does with her dad.
Icicle Falls is always lovely, and when John Truman’s would-be fiance Holland finally gets there and acts like the whole place is beneath her, we all know she’s evil and he needs to find someone who will love him as he is. Not wanting to go out clubbing every weekend is not a character flaw. And when he finally figures out that he was just Holland’s “starter boyfriend” in a new city and that now that she knows her way around she’s ready to trade him up for someone flashier, we know he’s WAY better off without her, whether he gets the clue to start a relationship with Missy or not.
While it is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy The Lodge on Holly Road, the ambiance of Icicle Falls provides a nice backdrop for this story. We get to catch up with a few people that we’ve already met, but those old favorites are a side note to a story that is all about the newbies in town and in the story.
For a tasty bite of Christmas cheer, The Lodge on Holly Road is a lovely story. And Olivia’s mouth watering recipes for her Lodge will make you hungry for a holiday getaway of your own.