I enjoyed Lisa Kleypas’s last contemporary, Smooth Talking Stranger, so it was with great interest that I dove into Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor.
Set in a small community on San Juan Island in Washington, it’s a story about a little girl, Holly, who lost her mother in a car accident. Mark Nolan’s life changes forever when he discovers his late sister deemed him guardian of her daughter, Holly. Mark is a confirmed bachelor living in a one-bedroom condo and thinks some mistake has been made. Unwilling to let Holly go into foster care, Mark moves into the battered old Victorian his younger brother Sam owns. Mark and Sam slowly rehab the house in order to make it a nice place for Holly, who after the accident has been unable/unwilling to speak. Mark wants to surround Holly with family and love.
Six months after the accident, they enter a new toy store in town and meet Maggie Collins. Maggie moved to Friday Harbor and opened up the store as a way to get over her husband’s death from cancer two years ago. Maggie finds a way to reach Holly and like magic, Holly is speaking once again. Mark is drawn to Maggie despite the fact that he is currently dating Shelby. After Holly writes a letter to Santa asking for a new mother, Mark starts thinking that Shelby might make a good mother for Holly. But it’s Maggie that Mark begins to recognize that would make them all a family – even though Maggie doesn’t want to take a chance on love again.
I’m nuts about Christmas and tend to love books set around the season. This book was not an exception. Mark and his brother were hilarious as the single guys forced to “grow up” and provide a home for their niece. The scene when Mark returns early from visiting Shelby felt very real. Of course a young guy would call in help. The scene at Thanksgiving was funny. I could just picture the incident and the looks on Holly and Maggie’s faces. I even enjoyed the glimpse we saw of their other brother, Alex. (I hope we see future novels with Sam and Alex.) I enjoyed Maggie and could understand why she was hesitant to give her hand another try at love. She was so young to become a widow. And I liked that Kleypas didn’t make Shelby into a monster – she just wasn’t ready to share Mark with a child.
My biggest complaint about this books was it’s length. At 211 pages the book was a quick read. I wanted more.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick diversion from shopping, wrapping, decorating, etc. It’s like one of those holiday movies on the Hallmark or Family channel. It’s light but it leaves you with a warm feeling and a smile on your face. 4.5/5 stars.