Well, I’ve read my first Christmas romance for the year, and it was a good start. After a wandering beginning, the story settles down into a heartwarming tale.
Rachel McRae has been sad for several months. Her husband, Sam, has drifted away, and she barely noticed. All Rachel ever really wanted was Sam and children. A horrible accident eliminated any possibility that she could have children, and other efforts have not worked out. When her aunt brings three abandoned children who need to be taken care of to Rachel, she feels she can’t handle it. They remind her too much of what she’s lost. But she is overcome with guilt over their circumstances and she takes them in. When she goes to tell Sam about the children, she overhears his plans to leave her. Rachel begins to realize many things, chief among them that she has only 12 days to save her marriage.
Twelve Days is a book that requires some time to get into. The beginning feels repetitive. Rachel’s sadness borders on depression and she wonders about the same things many times in the beginning. Since there is, as yet, no backstory, readers may not care enough about the characters to read about them more than once. Author Hill uses the same technique with Sam, but once she began to propel these two past this point, the story picks up, and readers will become more engaged.
Rachel was not the strongest heroine I’ve ever read, but it worked for the character. While I couldn’t put myself in her shoes, I could see where she, as the baby of a large loving family, would have ended up a little indulged. I really did enjoy seeing her make changes in herself as she realized how she had been acting. Sam is definitely the strong, silent type. He grew up known as the bad boy in town, and Rachel was the young girl who wanted only him. Sam, who hasn’t resolved some critical incidents from his past, keeps them from Rachel for many years, which hurts their relationship.
The three children, Emma, Zach, and baby Grace, were an integral part of the story. Discovered alone in a motel, the authorities believed they were abandoned by their mother and placed them in foster care. The children shared just as much space as Sam and Rachel, but they weren’t obnoxious or overly cute. They acted much like I imagine real kids would. Baby Grace was a lot like Mikey from the Life commercials – she’ll eat anything!
Sam and Rachel grow to love the kids despite promises to themselves that they won’t be hurt again. The way this situation is resolved borders on predictable, but only because there really isn’t any other way to close it. It did make me wonder about the family in Hill’s dedication and what they went through in this real situation.
I wasn’t sure if all the bad feelings between Sam and Rachel or all their problems could be overcome in twelve days. That doesn’t seem like a long enough time to repair a marriage that’s been failing for a while. Once Sam and Rachel started talking, it seemed as if they would get right back together. But Hill wisely doesn’t make everything magically go away. A few doubts linger.
Hill is great with her setting. It felt cold and Christmassy outside, and believe me, that was a welcome relief to this hot Texan! To go into that cold, magic atmosphere for a few hours was a treat.
Watching Sam and Rachel work through their problems was sad at times, but there were many moments in the story that were very touching. There were also some frustrating moments as the reader thinks Sam and Rachel have finally talked one issue or another out and that will be the end of it, only to discover that it’s not over yet. Their history truly is sad, but it makes their ending so much better.
I’ll admit it, I’m a sap, especially for Christmas stories. I’ve been looking forward to reading this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. I got caught up in the world of Baxter, Ohio, and thoroughly enjoyed my stay there. With a little tighter beginning, this could have been an A. This story is a little sad to be a Christmas story, but it might make you believe in magic.