When his assistant finds an abandoned baby at his family’s lodge, wealthy Piers Luckman takes full responsibility. He might be clueless about children, but being snowbound with his capable, sexy employee has its benefits. Except Faye Darby shies away from little Casey and wants nothing to do with baby-rearing, Christmas…or the smoldering attraction between her and her boss. For the first time in his life, Piers must fight for what he wants—this little family…and Faye by his side and in his bed.
I’ve been crippled by “superstition” in choosing what to read as my “first book of 2018.” Then TBR day was fast approaching and I thought, well, Nalini Singh recommended this book on twitter, I like Yvonne Lindsey and her writing, and I’ve been wanting to read a Harlequin category, since I haven’t in so long. The premise that Nalini presented sounded adorable – the heroine is the “grinch,” and the hero so obsessed with Christmas he has a collection of holiday sweaters. I mean come on right?!
So… I wanted to just love this book, but reader, I’m sorry to say I didn’t love it. I did like it, but with reservations. I do fully realize there are some caveats and other disclaimers that need to be added though. First, my current mood/status would make a surly dragon look friendly by comparison. Secondly, I know this book was written months if not year(s) ago, even though it was released in December. The numerous stories of abuse and the #metoo movement has really brought problem behavior to the forefront, and literally right as I was finishing the book I took a break to hit social media and read a (response) article to the bros defending Ansari. Then also there might be the over-familiarity issue. Plus the mush brain, so hopefully I articulate things sufficiently to get my point across. I also threw it a lot of spoilers to explain things. Read at your own spoilery peril.
Ok. Now the characters. I had a hard time with Faye because I found her to be extremely static. And actually I wouldn’t have had (such) a problem with it had she been (any degree?) of self aware… but it was just too contradictory to me that this super savvy know everything can handle everything woman didn’t realize she had entirely shut down emotionally, or at the very least that she needed some kind of therapy. I’m not even saying she had to have done it – just acknowledge from the start “so yeah I probably should have/have had therapy…” And that was the entire driving force of her person, and the conflict. She felt she had murdered her family… so she eliminated all emotional ties from her life as of age 15. I would even have accepted something like “I need therapy but I don’t deserve the healing from treatment” or something along that vein. (I would hate it, but would have respected that.)
So it’s possible my knowledge of … things of this nature made it harder for me to “suspend disbelief” or not question the plot. First of all, where was her legal guardian? (I … ok so if you know me you’re not surprised. I had to do some preliminary research and anyway the Department of Health & Human Services would have been involved or the social worker/case worker would have at least made a referral for some therapy, if only grief counseling. And yes, I did read/skim through all 343 pages of this.) Then there was this slightly nagging thought – if she was with the same foster (parents) who were so wonderful for so long … why didn’t they adopt her? This also goes touches with some issues I had with Piers and Casey’s storyline, which was handled a bit more realistically…
For Piers he’s genuinely a good guy. Not a Good Guy ™. So that’s huge. However, there were some parts of him that slightly tarnished that label. First of all, the assumption that he knows better than all indications the heroine presents, and he just has to “unlock” her. (I know this is potentially a publisher/venue trope.) I also felt he was a tiny bit under developed compared to Faye and her personality, history, and issues. We know Piers is the [billionaire former] playboy boss, who has dealt with some personal tragedy, and was a “poor little rich boy.” I’m being dismissive – because of the culmination of things, but I do want to say when you first find out he’d just lost his twin brother less than a year ago quite early on in the book, it’s a punch to the gut, even though the information is given in a rather offhand manner. I will say “Luckman” is a pretty fantastic surname though. 😀
I had a hard time figuring out what dictated the aspects of the book that I disliked. I’m not sure if it was the format, the “rules” – because I know there are a lot for category romances, or just … something else that annoyed me. First of all, the “magical kiss and sex.” One kiss, and both characters are like “I’ve never had a kiss like that in my life and everything is different now.” I have mixed feelings on the sex scene and follow up. I felt the “this was life changing and perfect in every way” description a bit cliche … but I also found it believable, in that … well, for Faye it’s obvious. She’s never had sex before. Obviously Piers is important enough to her that she is interested in having sex with Piers, and actually does. And then that her first time is just so wonderful and perfect … okay, I can see how she’s all “this is the incident that changed my life.” For Piers… he’s never had sex with someone he’s had such a long term and close relationship with, albeit a professional relationship until that point.
I really enjoyed the interaction between Piers and Faye, even when it was them being entirely professional. It was refreshing how Faye would take no shit from Piers, and felt free to check him. They have excellent chemistry and just click on so many levels.
I also love how Piers calls Faye out on her shit. When she (constantly) dodges questions, he points it out to her. And bonus points, he respects her response (or lack thereof). He doesn’t force her to answer or engage, but merely points out that he saw through her. A line that made me smile was “As a distraction tactic, I have to say, I admire your strategy. Shall we go to dinner?” (Instead of delving deeper into her past and opening up to Piers, she had kissed him.)
I think I was extra sensitive about the “I’m a guy and I don’t give up” aspect. Or this single line in the whole book (the last sentence of the quote) but it bothered me.
“Faye, I want to be a part of your private life. I want to be a part of your life altogether.”
“I can’t do that,” she answered, shaking her head.
“So far you haven’t given me a decent reason as to why not. And I won’t back down without one. You know I don’t give up when I want something.”
She pushed her chair back from the table and stood. “I’m not just something to be wanted, Piers. And I don’t have to give you a reason for anything. You’re my boss. So far, you’ve been a good one, but I’m beginning to revise my opinion on that.”
“Is that why you won’t let anything develop between us?” he said, swiftly coming around the table to stand between her and the exit. “Because I’m your boss? Because if it is, then I’ll fire you here and now so we can be together.”
… She does add it’s her not him or the baby he’s planning on adopting … but… yeah. I really didn’t like that. I will say, he’s not [entirely] the bad actor here.
Faye even says – “Yes, before you say it, I am running away. It’s how I deal with stuff okay? If I don’t like a situation I’m in, I remove myself from it.” And it’s important to note that she’s spent most of the book (and her life) running away from things. She also basically tells him she doesn’t deserve him or love… which made me roll my eyes. Although that reaction was nothing to when she says she murdered her own family. (Which, spoiler, she didn’t. I can understand the guilt she feels but just the word “murder” – again with the pedantic legalities – gets me. So that’s another thing that is a specific to Lime pet peeve, as I doubt anyone cares about fictional mens rea.)
All that being said, this was not just the first book I’ve read this year, but the first category romance I’ve read in a long time. The others I DNF’d really early on, so I’d venture that finishing the book is something of a recommendation in and of itself. Next, I really liked how Piers and Faye interacted with each other, aside from those minor parts I pointed out. (Which skews perception of their relationship.) Piers treats Faye with nothing but courtesy and respect. I also love how they talk things out. Oh my god is that such a positive. Piers tells Faye he wants to be in a relationship with her, and that this is real. Faye says when she’s running away – and acknowledges that’s what she’s doing. They aren’t perfect, and that’s good because it’s more human and nuanced. Also, Casey the baby was so cute. (And I know some of y’all love you some babies.)
If you love Harlequin category romances, and/or Christmas centered stories, I think you’ll like this one. I’m definitely going to be reading more of Ms. Lindsey’s stories.
You can buy a copy here.