Life is a challenge for single mom Christine Eisley. Each day seems to bring higher mountains and tougher battles. Struggling to raise two children on a waitress’s salary, Christine must deal with a chronically late babysitter, a boss who is tired of her tardiness, and a landlord who is not happy about the growing amount of back rent she owes. Adding fuel to the fire is her “deadbeat dad” ex-husband, who is trying to bully his way into getting custody of the children. When it all comes crashing down, Christine can only think of one thing to do: she writes a simple prayer for help and leaves it under the Christmas tree.
Her boss’s message was loud and clear: no more coming in late. Christine rushes out the door and into her car, determined to make it to work on time, only to find her driveway blocked by a stranger’s car. The woman inside is unconscious. Christine saves her life by performing CPR and screaming for someone to call an ambulance, but her heroics result in arriving late to work…again. Getting fired so close to Christmas doesn’t seem like a very good answer to prayer, especially with no child support coming her way. When Christine gets another waitress job, life begins to look up. Her new boss, Betty, is a wise and compassionate older woman who understands the struggles of single parenthood.
A variety of likable and interesting characters, some of whom are secretly entwined in her past, and others who will become a significant part of her future, enter her life through the doors of Betty’s Bakery. She learns about a safe and happy place where she can leave her children while she works and meets a handsome stranger who makes her heart beat faster, though she suspects he’s working as a spy for her ex-husband. Just when life is looking brighter, her hard-earned Christmas gifts are stolen from her car and the landlord presents her with an eviction notice. Christine has no idea that behind the scenes, God is lovingly weaving the answer to her prayer.
Meanwhile, Jason Haybert can’t believe he’s working on the sales floor of Wilson’s, his grandfather’s department store. Recently laid off from his accounting firm, Jason is certain he’ll soon be back in a fancy office with a secretary to bring him coffee. In the meantime, with no income and no one hiring accountants during the Christmas season, Jason is stuck working in a position he feels is far beneath him. Marshall Wilson, his grandfather, sees potential in Jason but knows he needs to learn compassion and humility in order to reach it. When Marshall’s longtime secretary suffers a heart attack and is saved by a stranger, she asks for someone to find her hero so she can thank her. At his grandfather’s insistence, Jason becomes the “someone.” He does not know he is looking for Christine and, due to a series of events, is not aware of her identity when he finds her. But little by little, with his grandfather’s guidance, unexpected changes begin to take place in his life and his heart.
As Christmas nears, secrets come to light and the winds of change blow gently on Christine and Jason. Both find strength in faith, friends and family, as well as the kindness of strangers. And through a series of mishaps and tumbles, they find each other.
If you like stories with plenty of heart, likable characters, interesting twists and happy endings, then THE CHRISTMAS SECRET is a don’t miss. Bestselling author Donna VanLiere has had three of her Christmas novels made into television movies, so she is no novice at spinning a tale and pulling a few heartstrings. This is the kind of book that makes a perfect little Christmas gift for a mother, sister, wife or girlfriend. The only problem I had was the constant change in point of view. The main character is presented in first person, while third person is used for all other characters. There doesn’t seem to be a valid reason for this inconsistency, and I found it somewhat distracting. Nevertheless, this book is a good read and keeps you hooked until the happily-ever-after ending.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on October 13, 2009