by Mary Kay Andrews
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
When newly-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love—but Ivy didn't bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it's a full-time job sorting through all of it.
At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit—beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish hand: it's from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?
Ivy's quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.
This book had a dubious beginning with a main character that was flat and wooden, a romantic interest that was a little bit too forward at the start, and a charming house, dog, fabulous Christmas decorations, and lovely small-town friendliness holding it together.
At just over 50%, Ivy finally started acting like a human being. I kept expecting some big reveal about her childhood that would explain her complete lack of emotion about anything and everything, but it never happened. This is one of those rare times when a little introspection on the part of the MC might have helped the reader develop some empathy and understanding, but without it, I just really didn’t connect with Ivy, with one exception: her scenes with Lawrence felt sincere and were the only times when it seemed Ivy came alive to any degree.
Phoebe’s side story with Cody worked out pretty much exactly the way I thought it would, although their meet-cute was a nice touch.
I’d have liked to have a seen a little more resolution concerning her relationship with the woman who owned the candy company – that felt unfinished to me.
The romantic ending of the story felt pretty rushed and awfully optimistic, (this coming from someone who’s relationship could be accused of being rushed and optimistic) but it’s a Christmas novella, so I guess I’m meant to just go with it.
But most of all, and the reason I ended up giving this story 3.5 stars instead of 3, I loved the back story about Bob and Betty Rae. I love how they never lost their joy around the holidays, how they made such a quiet impact on the town during their lifetimes, and above all, I loved that they were Jewish. NOT because of any religious nonsense, but because they were able to be the bright spark of the Christmas season for this small town without compromising their own faith. I like reading stories about people coming together in the middle, rather than having to be one way or the other, and about being able to celebrate lots of different traditions without the stigma of turning your back on your own. It was an unexpected twist I enjoyed, and let’s face it, I totally fell for all the talk about vintage ornaments and bubble lights.
For a story that started off with so little potential, it ended up being a sweet and somewhat charming holiday tale.