Featuring a plot right out of a Hallmark movie, this sweet second chance romance has all of the holiday vibes. It’s laidback and easygoing with a slightly boring feel – it was more plot-driven and less romance-focused than I was hoping, but there’s a lot to like about the story. It definitely has that Christmasy feel, and is perfect for the season. Our hero is a scrooge whose heart has iced over in the years he’s been away, but it doesn’t take long before that heart starts thawing. The story is hero-focused, which was a pleasant surprise; I loved being in his headspace and understanding his struggle. And, though the tone is lighthearted and very Christmasy for the most part, there are some bittersweet moments with a few unexpected triggers. Had this been a little heavier on the romance, I could see myself rating it higher – but I will say that I was slightly disappointed with the way that aspect played out.
The story follows Elias, a man who has been tasked with the job of convincing his high school sweetheart to sell her family farm, just in time for Christmas. Though Elias and Isabelle had a great relationship in their teens, something mysterious broke them apart years ago. Elias isn’t happy about returning to the small town he once called home, or coming face-to-face with the woman he once thought he’d marry. The years apart have changed them both, but Elias soon feels those old feelings come rushing back. Unfortunately, he’s in town for one reason – and it isn’t rekindling a love that flamed out years ago. But spending time in his old hometown changes something inside Elias, and he’s not sure he can go back to the way he was.
I’m a fan of Kingsley’s writing, but I have not started the Bailey Brothers series yet, which is set in this same town. I had no trouble diving right in! This will easily read as a standalone, though there are brief appearances from characters featured in that series and the setting is the same. It’s got great small town vibes, and definitely a cute Christmasy feel. I’m not a second chance fan, but often make exceptions for holiday romances, and that worked out fine this time – while I bemoan the years spent apart over miscommunication, the book doesn’t linger on unresolved angst and emotion. Actually, I would’ve preferred some more of that; these two fall back together without resolving old conflicts or catching up on the years apart, which just showcases how surface-level the romance remained. If the plot is Hallmark-esque, then so is the romance. There was some great potential for emotion in their backstory, but things remain pretty placid. That would be my one complaint about the story – it’s got tons of potential romantically, but needed to dig a little deeper to fulfill it. Still a cute holiday romance, and an enjoyable read.
The audio is excellent! Much of the story is told from Elias’ perspective, so we get a lot of Stephen Dexter. I haven’t listened to many audiobooks with him narrating, so I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed his performance. He’s emotive and his voice is very relaxing, so that made the experience all the more enjoyable. Samantha Brentmoor also shines, so the audio experience was a very good one. The story works perfectly for the format, and the runtime (9 hours) is manageable for a single day. There is also very little spice, and what there is pretty vague – so this would make a good workday listen. I definitely recommend the audio.
Hardworking Isabelle Cook has a serious problem. Her family farm, site of Tilikum’s Christmas Village, is in trouble. Big trouble. And worst of all? The man trying to buy it is none other than the grumpiest, grinchiest man of them all—Elias Stoneheart.
That’s a big nope. She’s not letting him get involved. Not with his heart made of coal.
Elias Stoneheart is in the business of making money, not friends. Especially when his boss is promising a long-awaited promotion. All he has to do is convince one struggling family to sell their farm.
The problem? It’s Cook Family Farm. And Isabelle Cook is his ex.
He might have history with Isabelle, but this is just business. A Christmas-loving farm girl is not going to come between him and his ambition.
And Christmas? He hates it. Christmas Village needs to go.
But as Elias spends time in the small town, holiday spirit—and Isabelle—get under his skin. And she might be the only one who can melt the ice around his heart.
Author’s Note: a sassy farm girl takes on a grumpy businessman in this stand-alone, snowy, small-town Christmas romance. Saucy banter, a guard donkey, plenty of holiday cheer, and a heartwarming happily ever after that will make you believe in the magic of Christmas.
About the Author:
Claire Kingsley is an Amazon Top 5 bestselling author of sexy, heartfelt contemporary romance and romantic comedies. She writes books with sassy, quirky heroines, swoony heroes who love their women hard, panty-melting sexytimes, romantic happily ever afters, and lots of big feels.
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