When Victoria Nolan dies unexpectedly on a wet road, her single brother, Mark, finds himself guardian to her young daughter, Holly. Completely unprepared for this responsibility, he begins by following Victoria’s advice: “Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.” Upon hearing of her mother’s death, Holly retreats to an inner world and stops talking. Mark is determined to “build a circle of people” for Holly and make her wishes come true.
It’s a happy holiday for Maggie Collins when Mark walks into her toy store, the Magic Mirror, with Holly. Mark is the man of Maggie’s dreams: “he was a little bit scruffy and a whole lot sexy.” Lisa Kleypas’s fans will find this novel more romantically tame than her previous efforts, but just as engaging and full of steamy encounters. How could a widow resist the gift of romance when it walks through her door?
Maggie’s warmth reaches into Holly’s heart, and Holly takes her first step back to reality. She holds hands with Maggie, who shows her around the magical toy store and encourages her to believe in fantasy and magic: “Fantasy and make-believe are important for children.” Fantasy is a vital part of women’s lives from a very early age and is kept alive in romance novels, which accounts for their popularity and bestseller status.
Maggie can relate to Holly’s sorrow because she is a recent widow who lost her beloved husband to cancer and is trying to make a new life for herself in Friday Harbor. She isn’t looking for love, but when Mark entices her with his special coffee that is the “equivalent of Dom Perignon,” Maggie is captive to lust.
Mark did “not believe in the illusions of romance, or soulmates,” but he was not immune to the fact that he was attracted to Maggie. Living in a small seaside town, they keep running into each other, and their mutual attraction and Holly’s obvious connection with Maggie brings the couple closer. A love triangle is inevitable, and Mark must choose between Maggie and his longtime overnight guest, Shelby. There is a stark contrast between Shelby’s shallowness and the way Maggie lights up Holly’s life --- and Mark’s.
CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR reads like a Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie. It’s a holiday treat with warmth, hope and romance on every page. A perfect stocking stuffer for any reader on your Christmas list, it will leave the recipient with the warm glow of peace, happiness and belief in the power of an angel who is looking down on her daughter and making her wishes come true.
Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 5, 2011