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September 29, 2021

Get Started on Your Christmas Reading with These 4 Books

by Donna Huber

Don't panic but there are less than 90 days until Christmas and there are so many great Christmas books to read. They started hitting shelves this month and today I have 4 books that you are going to want to add to your Christmas reading list.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

On Christmas Avenue by Ginny Baird

On Christmas Avenue
September 2021; Hallmark; 9781666507812
audio (8h 9m), ebook, print; holiday romance

If there is something that I enjoy as much as reading Christmas books, it is watching Christmas movies. And I'm a sucker for the Hallmark movies. So when I saw On Christmas Avenue was from Hallmark Publishing I had to read it. I listened to the audiobook which is delightful.

Just like a Hallmark Christmas movie - this is a cute, clean Christmas romance. It is pretty predictable but that doesn't mean it isn't still fun to read. I liked that there wasn't some misunderstanding or possible other woman troped that kept the lead characters apart.

Mary comes to Clark Creek as a "Christmas Consultant". The town needs a revenue infusion and some rebranding. If Mary can pull this off she is will get a promotion and moving to the West Coast.

Clark Creek is a family ran small town (I grew up in a similar town so it added a sense of nostalgia for me). But the whole family isn't on board with hiring a "Christmas Consultant" and sheriff Evan Clark is even less thrilled with Mary's idea of a Christmas parade. His mother the mayor loves the idea, but all Evan can see is the extra work for his already stretched staff and limited budget. Neither Mary nor Evan is looking for love. So you know what is going to happen.

The characters are instantly likable and you are immediately rooting for Mary and Evan. 

Amanda Stribling does an excellent job as narrator. I listened to this while working and the story was easy to follow. I had no problem telling the characters apart even though most of them are related. 

Grab a cup of cocoa and this book for an enjoyable afternoon of entertainment.

Buy On Christmas Avenue at Amazon

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

The Santa Suit
September 2021; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250279316
audio, ebook, print (224 pages); holiday romance

I am a relatively new fan of Mary Kay Andrews's books having read a few of her summer books. She is definitely one of my most favorite summer book authors. But I didn't know she also wrote Christmas books so I was super excited to read The Santa Suit.

It is a short, quick read that had me a little misty-eyed at the end. 

Recently-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse in North Carolina sight unseen. She dreams of raising chickens and growing her own vegetables, but those rosy dreams are unlikely to come true in the winter. Instead, she finds stopped-up drains and broken window panes at The Four Roses Farm. Still, she is optimistic that she, her dog Punkin, and the four chicks she picked up on her way out of Atlanta can make a go of it. Even if her "to-do" list starts growing as soon as she turns into the driveway. The condition is just the start of her problems. Her belongings are misdirected and eventually destroyed in an accident. Oh, and her only client has just fired her. Christmas isn't looking too cheery, which is okay with Ivy as she wasn't planning to celebrate anyways. Real-estate agent and handyman (and eligible bachelor) Ezra is determined to help her get settled.

The family who owned Four Roses Farm though were big into Christmas and the townspeople are already asking if Ivy is going to restart the Christmas traditions which include a huge light display. The person selling the house pretty much just left everything behind as he isn't "sentimental" (you have to pretend that most real estate contracts don't state that everything will be removed from the property that wasn't explicitly part of the sale). While cleaning out a closet, Ivy pulls out a box with a beautiful Santa suit. in the pocket is a letter - a young child wrote to Santa and asked him to bring her daddy home. Ivy is intrigued and it might just be the start of her rosy dreams coming true.

This story is so sweet - like Christmas sugar cookie sweet. There is a quintessential small town with friendly shop owners, a Christmas stroll, and more. There's even snow and a clean romance. 

The only thing missing for me was a plate of Christmas cookies to nibble on while escaping into this book for a little Christmas magic.

Buy The Santa Suit at Amazon

A Magical New York Christmas by Anita Hughes

A Magical New York Christmas
September 2021; Griffin; 978-1250774521
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); holiday romance

I read my first Christmas book by Anita Hughes two years ago with Christmas in Vermont (read my review) and loved it. I was excited to see she had a new Christmas book coming out this year. And I loved it too!

I've been in New York in the days leading up to Christmas and it is a magical time. I've visited the city in other seasons but there is definitely something different about it during the holidays. Most Christmas books seem to lean towards small towns so I liked that Hughes chose New York City.

Mistaken identity trope can be tiring but Hughes does an excellent job making it feel fresh in A Magical New York Christmas. Only the rich and famous (and those staying on other people's dimes) stay at the Plaza Hotel. Leading characters Sabrina and Ian are the latter - staying on someone else's tab. So it is easy to see how they assume the other is part of the rich and famous. I liked that the trope didn't feel contrived but something that could easily happen any of us.

I loved the characters. They are all colorful but not in an over-the-top, cheesy Christmas movie way. They felt like real people. I wanted to hang out with them.

I loved the story structure. Sabrina is staying at the hotel so she can work with Grayson Westcott on his memoir. He was a butler at the Plaza Hotel in the 1960s but made a name (and a fortune) in the art world. While he was a butler one of his guests was Eloise author Kay Thompson. She had a profound impact on his life and career so many of the stories he recounts to Sabrina involve Thompson. I don't think I read the Eloise books as a child but I'm a fan of books inside of books.

I loved everything about this book. In most cases, I would say I hated saying goodbye to these characters, but Hughes wraps up their story in such a satisfying and complete way that it felt right to say goodbye.

This book definitely needs to be on your Christmas reading list. It's a bit longer than most Christmas books, but it was still a quick read. Though I might have stayed up way too late a night or two because I didn't want to put it down.

Christmas at Fox Farm by Helen Pollard

Christmas as Fox Farm
September 2021; Bookouture; 978-1800199545
ebook, print (370 pages); holiday romance

Every Christmas reading list needs a good English Christmas story. And it doesn't get much better than a Yorkshire Christmas in the country. 

Fox Farm is an artist oasis. There's a gallery featuring local artists with a cafe plus there's a studio with an artist in residence. It's very idyllic and just how I like my snowy Christmases. I'm getting too old and enjoy warm weather too much to actually enjoy the cold temps that accompany such a picturesque setting.

The story starts with the farm's owner Jean having a stroke. Her nephew, who owns a garden center and nursery nearby, has to take over running the Farm in her absence. Alex loves Jean dearly and will do anything to help her keep the farm operational. But the task may be too great and the opposition from family and employees just adds to the headache. The one bright spot - he's gotten to know the resident artist Daisy and in the midst of all the chaos he may have found his one.

I enjoyed all the characters. Daisy and Alex didn't have the happiest of childhoods and the scars it inflicted have them walling themselves from meaningful relationships. 

Christmas at Fox Farm had a bit more angst than your typical feel-good Christmas romance. Daisy and Alex aren't kept apart just because they are scared of opening themselves up to another person, they make a number of assumptions about the other that leads to misunderstandings and harsh words. In addition to the stumbling blocks in Daisy and Alex's path, there is Alex's nephew Scrooge... I mean Sebastion. He is quite deplorable and I constantly went back and forth between hoping Jean would write him out of her will and hoping that the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future paid him a visit.

If you like your Christmas romance to have a hint of heat, there is definitely a wisp or two of steam. The scenes aren't too descriptive and "fade to black" pretty quickly but Daisy and Alex are definitely doing more than innocently kissing. 

About halfway through I saw the perfect solution and I anxiously turned the pages waiting to see if the characters came to the same conclusion. 

Christmas at Fox Farm is a full-length novel and while it is a pretty quick read, the things keeping Daisy and Alex apart are drawn out more than I like in my Christmas books. Overall, though it is an enjoyable book and maybe the angst and drama of this novel will keep me from going into a sweetness overload that a steady diet of Christmas romances tends to do each year.

Buy Christmas at Fox Farm at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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