Call Me Mrs. Miracle
I love the holidays. I especially love holiday goodies. The sugar cookie runs top of the list, with eggnog running a close second. I only pull out the homemade stuff toward the end of the season (as in Christmas Day), but I do tons of store bought “seasonal cheer” starting November 1 and straight on through January 5th. (If you quit the holidays before Jan. 1 you’re a Scrooge, go until the sixth and you’re a slacker. It’s a delicate balance). One of my top non-edible Christmas delights are Macomber’s holiday books. Sweet and most often satisfying, they’re like sugar cookies for the romance lover’s soul.
Jake Finley had a whopper of a bad Christmas the year his mother and sister died while holiday shopping. Since then, he and his father J. R. try to ignore the holiday outside of work. Unfortunately, work is Finley’s department store, the last family-owned department store in New York City. And as is true for most retailers, Christmas is their holy grail. This year Jake has gambled on an expensive new holiday toy, Intellitron, selling like hotcakes. But is everyone around him right – will it take a miracle to unload all those overpriced electronic dolls?
Holly Larson doesn’t have much of a track record with kids, but when her single dad brother is sent to Afghanistan just as her parents take off to do charity work, she gamely steps up to the plate. It takes a bit for eight-year-old Gabe and Holly to mesh out a decent relationship, and it is taking more than a bit for Holly to make ends meet with this new financial burden. Seeing Gabe fall in love with Intellitron and all the holiday charms of Finley’s makes Holly determined to give him the best Christmas ever. But with her boss grumping about bonuses, it will take a miracle for her to be able to afford Gabe’s dream toy, much less a celebratory meal to put on the table.
Fortunately for all, Emily Miracle has just arrived at Finley’s!
I’ve been reading Macomber’s holiday novels since she started the tradition and can state unequivocally I like some more than others. Part of it is Macomber’s own style of writing; when everything is working in harmony, it chugs along quite well. If any element is off, her prose can grind along like a poorly oiled machine. Last year’s offering, which lacked more than a bit, worked – but only in the manner of an overly thin Pillsbury tube cookie. You were left with the feeling that you should have been satisfied with gooey goodness and were instead left with that crunchy cardboard taste in your mouth. Sure, it was sugary cardboard, but that doesn’t quite meet the challenge of the discerning Christmas palette. ( Note: Pillsbury refrigerator cookies can be tasty. Just not when they are cut wafer thin to stretch double what the package recommends. Kindly neighbors, this is worse than not giving anything. Trust me.)
In this novel, there is quite a bit of charm. Both Holly and Jake are kind, decent people who work hard and basically live at peace with those around them. Holly has budget issues, which I felt was realistic for these tough times. She has not adjusted perfectly to parenting – nor has Gabe adjusted perfectly to being parented by her. That felt realistic, too. The outstanding thing about Holly is that she is a quietly good person through and through. Not a goody two shoes or do-gooder but the kind of person who with minimal fuss makes sacrifices to do the right thing.
Jake was pretty much the same, a decent guy. What’s amazing about that is that Jake has all the opportunity in the world to be a spoiled, decadent punk but he is a basically caring person. There is little exciting about him, but I liked that he is the kind of guy most people dream of – someone with a bit of money to smooth out the rough times, who can have a good time watching a movie or decorating a Christmas tree with a kid, who is fine spending a night on the town by doing a carriage ride and eating fresh roasted chestnuts and yet can take you to the Virgin Islands for some romance. They had a sweet romance. It was bit rushed due to time (and page) constraints, but it was a realistic, charming contemporary courtship.
There are some problems. There is an incident with Gabe that could have had huge consequences which was handled with a pretty light hand. J.R. Finley provides comic curmudgeonly relief on more than one occasion (which seemed unlikely in real life) and some aspects of life in retail during theseason aren’t captured quite perfectly. It takes away some depth to the story but certainly doesn’t affect its enjoyment factor.
Like a well made sugar cookie, this book skates on the edge of too sweet to land in the realm of yummy, sugary goodness. Miracles do abound, coincidences with happy consequences pile up one on top of the other. Too much would leave you with a tummy ache, but the length is just right. If you are looking for something to read that will put you in that holiday mood, this may just be what you’re looking for.
Hallmark will air a movie of this novel on November 27th on their movie channel. And if you are really looking for holiday films to watch, try Bachelor Mother, a classic which stars Ginger Rogers. While different from this, the department store mogul and waif mother figure, complete with holiday theme, is very much prevalent in that film. I couldn’t help thinking about it the whole time I was reading this. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find but if you can get it, it’s a real treat!