In a Holidaze
Christina Lauren’s holiday romance In a Holidaze is like a carousel: the tale goes smoothly around and around, up and down, at a nice speed until it drops the reader off an efficiently short time later.
Maelyn Jones and her “chosen family” of her brother, parents, their college friends, and their kids are in their holiday cabin for Christmas. In this melee of adults, siblings, teens, and tikes, Maelyn has always been closest to Theo, youngest son of the Hollis family. Unfortunately, after an intoxicated evening, Maelyn finds herself smooching Theo, though she’s only ever wanted to be with his brother, Andrew. As she says of Andrew: “how does one move on from someone so kind of heart and fine of ass?” It spirals from there; it turns out the cabin is getting put on the market, and Maelyn is soon headed for the airport, thinking to herself “show me what will make me happy”. The Universe hits her with a truck.
The premise of this book is advertised as a Groundhog Day homage, but this is misleading for two reasons. One: Maelyn doesn’t just wake up on the same day each morning (in her case December 20, the start of the holiday trip) after the car accident. Instead, in a kind of Happy Death Day horror twist, she keeps dying (stair fall, tree branch to the head) as the Universe resets her at will. Second: the time-traveling stops by the halfway point of the book and the story settles into its final, permanent timeline, which feels a lot like any contemporary romance. This must happen because otherwise Maelyn would keep losing all the intimacy she develops with Andrew, but it feels like the main device of the book is allowed to slip away without answering for itself.
I enjoyed Maelyn and Andrew’s romance – after a while. Andrew is so blind to Maelyn’s interest for a solid fifty percent of the book that I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and Maelyn’s ultimate time-travel revelation to be that she actually was destined for Theo. In most romances that feature a reluctant hero, he appears reluctant only to himself. With Andrew, I truly believed he was actually reluctant, which is painful – though Andrew is a decent beta male (remember, his heart is as good as his butt), so it doesn’t feel deliberately so. That said, eventually he and Maelyn pair up in a way that’s as warm and fuzzy as you could want (sometimes a little too warm – there’s an amusing incident in which an overheated sleeping bag literally suffocates an opportunity for cunnilingus). But I did wonder – is it truly possible to have chemistry that strong and it never to have showed up earlier?
The book is easy to read. It’s got that ‘wait, should anything be this easy?’ quality to it which is great. Maelyn is our sole narrator, which makes sense given that the premise is about her. The cast is large and humorous; Maelyn’s ‘Uncle’ Aaron’s “midlife crisis”, which involves the renunciation of dairy and the adoption of hair dye, reminded me of many men I’ve known. Something I did find weird was that Maelyn’s main confidant is her parents’ single friend, Benny. It’s jarring to imagine a young woman alone in the bedroom of a single guy in his fifties clad in “turquoise bracelets and beaded necklaces” and “taking a hit” in front of her as she confides romantic details, not to mention he makes her privy to information about things like his former “double life as a nude waiter in Arizona”. Luckily, that’s as far as it goes, but I had the creeping feeling that if this book had been a dark indie movie, there would have been a scene when Benny hit on Maelyn. Yeesh.
If you’re ready to kick off not just the holiday season but the holiday quarter (Christmas releases in October! I know that’s a thing but, goodness!) and are willing to overlook some of the oddness of the people and plot in it, then a spin on the carousel of In a Holidaze will be a pleasant ride.