All I Want for Christmas
Grade : D-

What I want for Christmas – and really any time of the year – is to be able to tell my fellow readers that I just read the best romance, full of good writing and wonderful characters, who are indisputably worth spending money and time on. I must be on the naughty list, because I cannot say any of those things about All I Want For Christmas, a truly dismal third-chance (I did say third) holiday romance.  

One Christmas season, Max Brody, the son of a boozy Nashville “musical legend”, and Sadie Hunter, a risk-it-all-for-a-dream aspiring singer, find themselves pushed into a fake relationship for the viewers of Starmaker, a musical reality TV show on which they are both contestants. They have a past (see below) and a penchant for getting themselves caught in a non-science-fiction relationship time loop – they hurt each other’s feelings, go their separate ways, and reunite over and over again. Will they finally save the world and the reader by breaking the loop and live happily ever after?  

This isn’t one book. It’s one-and-a-half books crammed into the length of a regular paperback. The first third is essentially a prequel, second-chance romance novella (Last Christmas) and the next two-thirds are a third-chance romance (This Christmas). Some say the holidays are a nightmare, and the Christmase seasons spent in the company of “Saxie” (as they are dubbed in the book) are fairly horrific – horrifically dull. Occasionally there’s a bizarrely memorable – and memorably bizarre moment – as when a character spouts something like “I am busier than a moth in a mitten”, but the book lacks any real verve, a prime example of which is the name of the gossip website whose posts are scattered throughout the book:  

Despite all the stories Knox (actually the pen name of two writers) crams into the book, the novel still feels like a cake that hasn’t been completely frosted, leaving sections of exposed sponge. Only glancing references are made to hugely significant moments – Max and Sadie’s performances together, their offstage conflict – and we’re left to take the narrator’s dubious word for it that they have chemistry and a love for the ages. Do these two people have talent? We’ll never really know, as the book offers only excerpts of the music “Saxie” makes. A line written by Max goes as follows: “Baby, you’re hot chocolate running through my veins”.  

The book’s format is alternating Max/Sadie sections told from a third-person perspective. The writing style has an almost bedtime story air to it, as if there’s an unnamed, omniscient narrator recounting all the activity. This only estranges the reader from the protagonists’ interior lives and prevents any emotional involvement.  

Max is a compulsive knitter who makes sweaters for his toy dog (it’s alive, just toy-sized), Patsy Canine, and who inexplicably thinks a “gastro-pub” is the right place to find “downhome cooking”, and Sadie is a plucky Midwesterner complete with a relentlessly supportive grandmother doomed to a melodramatic death (grandma, not Sadie). In keeping with the juvenile atmosphere of the narration, both characters come across like they aren’t quite adults. Clueless adolescents lacking any kind of awareness is how they are best described. Both protagonists have parents involved in the narrative, and one wonders if that isn’t perhaps a good thing because neither of them are truly prepared to have any kind of responsibility.  

The greatest gift this book gives the reader is the fact that it isn’t the first in a series. Leave All I Want for Christmas wrapped. 

Reviewed by Charlotte Elliott

Grade: D-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : December 24, 2022

Publication Date: 11/2022

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Charlotte Elliott

Part-time cowgirl, part-time city girl. Always working on converting all my friends into romance readers ("Charlotte, that was the raunchiest thing I have ever read!").
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