This was a good example of mind candy in the contemporary romance subgenre. Now, I’m not dissing the fluffy easy read style of writing at all. In a librarian’s ideal world, we would all read Great Literature of Significance and that’s all we would read1. This, however, is reality, and even I do occasionally want to read something with the approximate literary consistency of candy floss…and Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor fits the bill perfectly.
For starters, it’s a short novel, only 210 pages or thereabouts and that in a format smaller than the standard hardcovers I’ve seen. The lines of printing are widely spaced and the margins generous, shortening the story further. The plot needs only a brief summary too: man takes in his niece after her mother dies, moves in with his brother on San Juan2, falls in love with owner of toy shop and she with him thereby fulfilling niece’s one Christmas wish: a mother. A prime example of saccharine glurge…but then every once in a while, I daresay we all want just that.
Mark Nolan, the oldest of four siblings, comes into parenthood indirectly, when his sister Victoria passes away leaving her daughter an orphan (the identity of Victoria’s father is unknown) Mark takes Holly ‘home’ to his brother’s fixerupper Victorian mansion and they begin raising her together. Maggie Collins, the owner of the island’s toy shop, is a widow–her husband died two years before the book begins after a short marriage and an even shorter struggle with cancer. Maggie and Mark circle each other dubiously, madly in lust with each other but believing that the other is off limits–he because of his relationship with someone else, she because she feels she’s not ready for a new relationship so soon after the first ended tragically and both because they feel the sole point of attraction is the motherless child Mark is raising. Hopefully, this isn’t too much of a spoiler…but yes: Mark and Maggie do end up together; although they are not married at the end of the book, I’m betting that marriage is in the very near offing. There are a couple of sequels yet to come.
I picked this one up largely because I spent time in the San Juans as a child and was curious to see how well she evoked the sense of that place for me; unfortunately, it wasn’t quite well enough evoked for me to recall the town. It’s a decent read for people who like contemporary romances, though a very short addition to the genre–only a little longer than Harlequin romances and not much more substantial. I think it misses true gentle read status as a result of one torrid and reasonably explicit (clears throat tactfully) encounter between Mark and Maggie at the end of the book, although even this is clearly an act of love between two people who will form a long term bond. No one night stands or violence here! Definitely a pleasant read, however, and even that NC17 scene is sweetly done.
1not to mention everyone returning their library books on time and in perfect condition, but that’s a subject for another blog entirely
2the largest of the San Juan islands, the county seat, largest population, etc.