Sometimes a book gets off to a running start… and sometimes it stumbles. Candlelight Christmas had a very bumbling start and failed to fully recover. The pacing was odd and not much happened. This felt like a novella’s worth of material stretched into book length with fluffy filler. If anything, I expected it to set a nice holiday mood, but that didn’t even happen until too close to the end. This is the story of two people who have been damaged by divorce. Of course, you’d expect them to be more reluctant to jump into relationships given their past, but that doesn’t totally seem to be the case. Their relationship comes so easily that any possibility for tension or conflict is sucked out of the story.
Recent divorcee Darcy Fitzgerald would do anything to avoid spending the holidays with her ex-husband. As a result, she ends up spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with her friend India’s family. She ends up feeling attracted to the world’s most perfect single father, Logan O’Donnell. Not only is Logan the perfect dad to his son Charlie, he is even taking on the responsibility of his son’s friends, whose mother is going through rough times. Logan cooks, spends time with family, fulfills children’s Christmas wishes, and flirts with Darcy. At some point, my enjoyment of his character faded due to how overwhelmingly perfect he is.
Darcy and Logan seem to bond over a love of sports and her nebulous connection to his family, as well as both of them having been divorced. However, it bothered me that Logan was never once put off by Darcy’s frequent declarations of disliking children. It is made clear to us that Logan’s son is the most important thing in his life, yet he laughs off his love interest saying that she cannot stand to be around kids. Although the reader knows that Darcy feels this way because she became so attached to her previous stepchildren, only to lose them in the divorce, Logan is not aware of this. He should have had some kind of reaction to this woman he wants to date despising his son.
I never understood why the book was structured quite the way it was. It is split into sections, each having and introductory page and a recipe. So we begin with a blurb about the holiday tradition of looking for the Christmas pickle, then a recipe for pickles, then a tiny portion of Darcy dreading spending the holidays with her ex-husband. So far, so good. Then, part two jumps to the summer and we see Darcy and Logan meeting for the first time at his son’s summer camp. Any Christmas tone that was set by part one was dissipated as we read page after page of kids zip lining, roasting marshmallows, etc. The whole situation seemed like a forced way to show us how excellent Logan is as a dad. Also, it made no sense that a childless, single woman would drive out to a children’s summer camp to watch a band play. From summer, we move to Thanksgiving in Florida. Darcy is again spending time with Logan’s family while he casually flirts with her. It takes the majority of the book to actually make it to Christmas. For a book titled Candlelight Christmas , I expected a lot more Christmas. I think that the way the book was broken up and stretched over the course of the year totally ruined the mood for me. The first few pages actually had me interested but by the time a year had passed, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore.
I kept reading, expecting something to happen to save this book for me. Nothing ever did. There’s no real drama or conflict of any kind. Logan is interested in Darcy from the word go and never hesitates in pursuing her. Even though Darcy is supposed to be wounded from her bad marriage, it doesn’t pose that much of a problem. Everything felt way too perfect. I understand people wanting a nice, sweet Christmas story but a little more plot would have been nice. I wanted to compare this to a gingerbread cookie, but even that has some spice to it. This book was more like a sugar cookie with a pile of sugary icing on top; saccharine sweet, with no real substance.
Wiggs also hit on one of my book pet peeves, stupid names. Within the first fifty pages there were India, Sonnet, Jezebel, and Orion. I know this is probably a non-issue for most people, but seeing a parade of ridiculous names pulls me out of the story. Now, I’m not even thinking about the actual book so much as gritting my teeth each time a new one pops up. I think that you can get away with an unusual name, but once several are thrown in, the believability of the story drops significantly.
Wiggs’ easy writing style and quick dialogue saved Candlelight Christmas from being totally unreadable. Although this book didn’t encourage me to seek out her other books, I could see that, in a book with more plot, she would be an enjoyable author. Unless you’re dead-set on reading all of the Lakeshore Chronicle books, I wouldn’t recommend spending the time or money on this book. Try something else by Wiggs that has a little more going for it.