December 2012, Series Romance
Har Rom #4356, $4.99, 192 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373178522
By nature the books in this imprint are cute and sweet, and this book is no exception, but I was very much impressed with the author’s depiction of the diverse male and female responses to betrayal. Since the author is female, it is not surprising that she had such great insight into the female mindset, but Ms. Douglas’ hero’s reactions are very genuine too.
Nicola McGillory is tired of putting on a brave front and suppressing her emotions. She took the high road after her fiancé Brad and best friend Diane betrayed her by falling in love. For everyone's sake she pretended that it didn’t bother her. But the soul-destroying combination of pity and derision from their mutual acquaintances has worn her down. With Christmas coming up, she knows that she will be more vulnerable to anger and sadness and there will be even more commiseration. Accepting a position as a nanny for two months is the perfect solution –it allows her to have a time out from the miserable position she has been in, plus it gives her time to become stronger. When she goes back to Melbourne and her teaching position, she plans on being skinnier, more confident and self-assured.
Last year, four months before Christmas, Cade Hindmarsh’s wife abandoned him and their two daughters. He wasn’t able to get out of his funk by Christmas even for his children’s sake. Now guilt and a sense of failure have made him determined to make up for that lapse. He is going all out this year with decorations and lights. He has even hired a nanny to spend time with his girls doing the things a mother would do, like making decorations, and singing Christmas songs. He is surprised by the look of dismay on Nicola’s face when she first gets a glimpse of all the holiday decorations. But he is very blunt – help me make my daughters’ Christmas special or go back to Melbourne.
Nicola is dismayed by all the trappings of Christmas. Even though she knew there would be a celebration for the children, she had been counting on something small scale, low-key, and restrained, especially in the Outback. If only Christmas didn’t seem synonymous with wedding planning. But the choice of pretending fake merriment here or in Melbourne is an easy one. Plus she would never ruin the magic of Christmas for any child.
Nicola’s characterization is perfect. Most individuals that have been rejected tend to internalize that and seek ways to improve their self-esteem. Women are usually critical of their looks, like Nicola, and typically think losing weight is the best revenge with “I'll just show him what he is missing out on.” Plus how can your friends pity you when you look fabulous? Nicole has hints of vulnerability but is determined that this situation will not get the best of her.
I especially like how the relationship develops. Both Cade and Nicola would prefer to keep their past a secret, however each has a goal and in order to reach it, they need each other’s help. To elicit support, they have to confide in each other and share feelings. Nicola and Cade balance and complement each other. One person is not doing all the shoring up of the other. Both have their weakness and strengths, and each has something of value to share with the other. And even when they realize that they are attracted to each other, their reticence is very realistic for two individuals still recovering from failed relationships.
From the title you would think that the children would play a big part in the book. They are definitely visible, but their presence doesn’t overwhelm the story. The relationship between Cade and Nicola is front and center.
There is humor. I wouldn’t say a lot, but I know that I laughed out loud several times, which is always big plus in my book.
If I had one criticism, it is that the emotional intensity is muted. That may be due to the series restrictions.
At 192 pages, this book is a quick read. While it doesn’t break any new ground the genuineness of the story is appealing and one I think you will enjoy.
-- Leigh Davis
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