An Ex for Christmas
Grade : B-

Catching up on some of my older TBR (to-be-read) books, I came across this seasonally appropriate holiday romance by Lauren Layne – An Ex for Christmas. It’s the fifth book in her Love Unexpectedly series (but the first one of this particular series I’ve read). As several of her books (especially in the Oxford series) have been 5 star reads for me, I was eager to dive into this friends-to-lovers romance. And everything would have gone quite smoothly had it not been for the heroine’s continual commenting on her (perfectly average) weight.

Kelly Byrne, elementary school teacher at a private school in New York, is on her way home for Christmas. She works in the city during the week and shares an apartment with a roommate, then spends weekends in the house her grandmother left her, where she can live independently but still regularly see her parents, who live nearby. She encounters a psychic at a train station who tells her that she’s already met her one true love and that he will come back to her before Christmas. As a devotee of the Magic 8 ball, a firm believer in astrological signs, and having had a grandmother with the ‘sight’, Kelly takes her words seriously and makes a list of all her ex-boyfriends, determined to connect with each one to see if they should rekindle their relationship.

Her best friend Mark Blakely has a house across the backyard from hers and they share a dog, Rigby, who has the run of both houses. Mark is a chef who runs a restaurant in town, though he’s thinking of expanding into New York. Kelly and Mark have been friends since they were children, and Mark has seen Kelly go through one boyfriend after another. He’s not that thrilled with her plan to reconnect with each of these men but he’ll go along with it, at least at first.

Kelly is spending Christmas without her parents as she’s sent them on an Alaskan cruise for their thirtieth anniversary, so Mark is by her side as she goes through the usual Christmas routines, to make sure she isn’t lonely. But each man that she reconnects with causes her to begin see Mark in a different light. And when they connect on a new level, Kelly has to make a choice – does she keep pursuing the names on her list or toss it – and the psychic’s advice – aside for what is right in front of her?

I enjoyed the premise, and Kelly starting to realize that Mark could be more than just a friend. The Christmas setting is a fun way to get Kelly and Mark to spend time together (Christmas tree shopping, decorating) plus Kelly spends time at Mark’s restaurant (and he cooks for her in her house) so there is plenty of yummy food. And with both of them taking care of the dog and living next door to each other, it’s easy to see how their friendship can turn into a romantic relationship. But as I alluded to in the introduction, I found Kelly’s obsession with her weight to be off-putting. Sure, a mention in the first description of Kelly where she describes herself (this is a first person narrated story, mostly from Kelly’s point of view) as having “more padding than I’d like, especially around the middle” is fine. But it constantly comes up as something that she’s bothered by (and one of the exes she meets up with comments that she’s gained weight). Mark brings up more than once that she shouldn’t be worried about her size and that he likes her just as she is. But the kicker is that you find out quite late in the book that she’s upset that a MEDIUM sized elf costume fits more like a small. In other words, she’s a perfectly average (probably smaller than average) sized woman. I would have enjoyed the story more if the subject of Kelly’s weight had been a non-issue. Otherwise, the story is sweet and sexy and funny. It’s the definition of a rom-com. It just won’t make my list of favourites by this author.

Reviewed by Maria Rose

Grade: B-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : October 30, 2023

Publication Date: 11/2017

Recent Comments …

  1. Thank you . I read the free sample and the nonsense you expound on above was sufficiently grating to me…

Maria Rose

I'm a biochemist and a married mother of two. Reading has been my hobby since grade school, and I've been a fan of the romance genre since I was a teenager. Sharing my love of good books by writing reviews is a recent passion of mine, but one which is richly rewarding.
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