The Christmas Escape
The Christmas Escape is one of those ‘just okay’ novels in which plot developments are heavily and irritatingly influenced by a lack of communication between the multiple leads. If people communicated forthrightly here there wouldn’t be much of a story, but at least the verbal scenery porn is nice.
Christy Sullivan is plotting a trip to Lapland for herself and her family, including daughter Holly and her best friend Alix, with whom she conducts a long-distance friendship now that Alix has moved to New York. Those plans are disrupted by sudden distance between herself and her husband, Seb. Is it their recent move to the country? Is it the stress of his job? The fact that the only married because she was pregnant? When a tightly controlled Christy discovers a text from a mysterious “Mandy” on his phone, it’s enough to put her in panicked overdrive, and Seb’s announcement that he’ll have to work through the first part of the trip doesn’t help. She discovers he’s been concealing the fact that he’s lost his job, which makes them both realize how far out of sync their marriage has fallen. Christy’s solution to the problem? Send Alix and Holly ahead to Lapland to stay with Christy’s long-out-of-touch-for-family-secret-reasons great aunt Robyn, then try to figure out if her relationship with Seb is salvageable. They’ll all meet up again in Lapland on Christmas Eve for what will surely be the Best Christmas Ever.
Alix – amazingly – doesn’t verbally behead her best friend for this idea and reluctantly agrees to escort four-year-old Holly to Robyn’s place. Along for the ride is Zac, Seb’s close friend, who has a past with Alix, and who is hopelessly attracted to her. Will the secret which binds Alix and Christy uncomfortably together ever be revealed, and will Christy and Robyn manage to mend the ties that were fractured between Robyn and Christy’s mother, Elizabeth?
This is a slice of cozy Christmas women’s fiction, so you know the answer. Some things ring true here – how Christy feels about motherhood, the loyal yet strained nature of Alix and Christy’s friendship, and how Robyn yearns to have her family back – but God, if either Alix and Zac or Christy and Seb had had a single honest and true conversation the plot would’ve generally been halfway completed in a hundred pages. Even the central request Christy makes shows her to be thoughtlessly tactless. ‘My husband just lost his job’ is an emergency but not a ‘we must solve this with intense couples bonding’ emergency.
Zac and Alix have way more chemistry but again fail to do much talking about how their childhood fights until later. But at least they manage to get it together before it’s too late.
Much more complex are Robyn’s guilty feelings about the events of the past that has kept her separate from Christy and her family. That portion of the story works wonderfully. Ultimately that’s what keeps The Christmas Escape from tumbling over the cliff and exploding on impact as it hits a D-rating, but it probably won’t light up your personal Christmas Tree.