Sunday, December 20, 2015

Book Review: The Christmas Bridge, by Elyse Douglas (First review for The 6th Annual Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)



This is my first review for
The 2015 Christmas Spirit Reading
Challenge, hosted by
Michelle @ The Christmas Spirit! 


The Christmas Bridge
Elyse Douglas
(Elyse Parmentier & Douglas Pennington)
Kindle Edition, 183 pages
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
September 15, 2015
Christmas romance, contemporary romance, holiday romance
Source: Amazon Kindle Store



Book Synopsis:
A First Love. A Second Chance.
A young widow travels to New York on business a few days before Christmas. She has reluctantly made a date with a lover she hasn’t seen in 20 years, and she is nervous and apprehensive. Twenty years before, she made a difficult decision that has both troubled and haunted her ever since. She knows she’s about to come face-to-face with her past and she’s hoping for some redemption and resolution. She also wonders if she can somehow pick up where she left off 20 years ago and start again.

An exciting chance encounter changes everything. Now, not only will she face the past with hope to rekindle an old romance, but there is the possibility that this chance meeting will bring her love and happiness she never thought possible.

Once again, she will have to choose. She will have to make the right decision. She will have to believe that Christmas miracles can still happen. 



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26542575-the-christmas-bridge?ac=1&from_search=1







One look at this cover, and a quick reading of the synopsis, convinced me to read and review this book. That cover just looks so special, so very heartwarming. And the synopsis tantalized me with the hope of a re-kindled romance. Being a hopeless, starry-eyed romantic, I never get tired of this particular romance novel trope!

Unfortunately, I found this book to be extremely disappointing.

The cover, as well as the synopsis, are very misleading. That one sentence should have alerted me: "An exciting chance encounter changes everything." This 'chance encounter' did change everything in the novel, and it also totally changed my initial perception of, as well as liking for, the story.

I felt very sympathetic toward Olivia, the main character, at first. I really liked the fact that she was an artist, too, as I studied art in college myself. 

Years ago, she made a terrible mistake, hurting the man she had been passionately involved with, while they were both college students in New York. Olivia could not forgive herself for this mistake, and was tortured by thoughts of what might have been, throughout her long marriage to Carl, her hometown boyfriend.

The college guy was named Andrew, and Olivia felt things for him she had never, and indeed, would never, feel for Carl. Andrew loved her wildly, passionately, as well. At one point, he impulsively asked her to marry him.  

Andrew was also as sensitive as any artist; he even cried when Olivia told him that she had gotten pregnant by Carl, on a visit back home. She had allowed this to happen because of guilt. She also lied to Carl about the extent of her relationship with Andrew. And poor Andrew still wanted to marry her, when she gave him the news....

I could certainly empathize with Olivia's guilt, at this point in the narrative.

What I could not, and indeed, refused to understand or empathize with, is how, once having re-connected with Andrew, even having planned to meet him during a business trip back to New York, she could then so very easily have suddenly started yet another relationship.

On the eve of her planned dinner date with Andrew, she meets another man. To add insult to injury toward Andrew, although he's not aware of it at the time, Olivia meets this new guy at the very same bridge -- the Bow Bridge in Central Park -- where she had first met Andrew 20 years before.

At that point, my initial liking for Olivia totally evaporated. First, she cheated on Carl, because she found someone new and exciting in NYC. Then she cheated on Andrew, because of guilt toward Carl, while totally knowing that she truly loved Andrew. So then she threw that love away, and married a man whom she absolutely did not love.

I do understand that no one on the face of the Earth is perfect. But I was initially under the impression that Olivia wanted to make things right with Andrew. I thought she really loved him. It turned out that, even before she had that dinner date with him, her feelings for him seemed to magically disappear once she met the new guy.

This was not a story of two people reconnecting, trying to make a go of things, failing miserably in the attempt, and then, and only then, after they have gone their separate ways, one of them meeting someone new. That, I would have entirely understood. That, I could have easily accepted. Instead, this fickle, vain, egotistical, vapid, shallow excuse for a human being named Olivia Norris decides, on the spur of the moment, to go have a hot chocolate with this guy she just met. It just takes that one first step.....

Once Andrew realizes that, once again, Olivia has cheated on him, he reacts bitterly, and who can blame him? He expresses himself passionately in the following quote:

"Why did you get in touch with me, Olivia? Why didn't you just leave me alone? I was happy in my misery. I'd grown used to my mediocre life, my stale relationships.... Why didn't you just leave me in my blissfully happy misery?" (Chapter 18, location 2001)

Exactly. Why didn't you, Olivia? Why did you have to rake up the past all over again, only to hurt him again

I would have totally loved this story, had it been just what the synopsis (except for that one sentence) hinted that it was -- the rekindling of an old romance, the recapturing of the wild magic Olivia and Andrew had, back in college

In addition to being very disappointing, the second romance doesn't even seem to fit into this book at all. It's just not realistic that Olivia, after all her guilt-tripping, her nervousness about meeting Andrew again after so many years, would blithely toss all her feelings aside for a new guy. After all, she and Andrew had a history together. It was as if the authors had inexplicably  decided to graft the second romance into their original concept for the book. Instead, they really should have written another book entirely, with different names for the characters. The Christmas Bridge should have been about Olivia and Andrew. Period.


There are two other things that bothered me about this novel. 

The first one is that Olivia's mother is depicted as being a stereotypical, narrow-minded, bigoted Christian. I am sick and tired of encountering such portrayals in fiction written by secular or non-religious writers. This is supposed to be a Christmas novel. Why include a negative depiction of a Christian character in such a novel? I think doing this totally detracts from the spirit of the holiday.

The second thing is that Olivia is described, by more than one person in the novel,  as being a woman with a lot of class. Nothing could be further from the truth, as is very evident in the way she speaks to one of the characters, during a confrontation in one part of the novel. I won't say more, so as to avoid spoilers, but the vulgarity of Olivia's language is totally appalling. Again, this totally detracts from the spirit of the holiday. (I am not quoting from this part of the book because this is a YA blog.)

Summing up, this is definitely not a 'heartwarming Christmas tale', nor is it about "a Christmas miracle". This is a romance novel with a plot gone wrong.

Although the novel ended on a very positive note, it did so only for Olivia, who was too selfish and self-centered to really care about hurting -- TWICE -- a man who was totally, madly in love with her. 

Actually, I didn't bother to read the whole thing. I skimmed around quite a bit, then skipped to the very end, which really made me see RED.

If you're as much of a romantic as I am, you will want to avoid this novel. Instead of getting you into that special 'Christmas spirit', it will make you feel sad as you think about poor Andrew, spending another lonely Christmas back in New York, with nothing but bad memories for company.

I really can't understand why this novel failed to accomplish its purpose as Christmas romance. The authors are certainly capable of so much better! Two years ago, I read and reviewed another Elyse Douglas novel,  The Christmas Town, which I found to be totally delightful, as well as a page-turner! So if you're looking for that 'heartwarming Christmas read', I would strongly recommend The Christmas Town instead. I promise you will not regret reading it!



MY RATING:

    

You can find my review of 
The Christmas Town HERE.
  

    


 Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age, and graduated from Columbia University with a Master's Degree in English Literature. Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers and avid readers. Some of Elyse Douglas' novels include: The Astrologer's Daughter, Wanting Rita, The Christmas Diary, and The Christmas Town. They currently reside in New York City.







2 comments:

  1. Aw it's such a shame you didn't enjoy this, especially since the blurb sounds really cute. I don't think I'd like Olivia if I read this haha. And the thing about her mom doesn't really make any sense, I'm actually reading a Christmas book right now and they do mention God a lot and it's all very Christian, but nothing like that stereotype you're mentioning.

    Lipstick and Mocha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Carla!

      I know....the blurb is VERY misleading, except for that one sentence: "An exciting chance encounter changes everything." I REALLY should have paid attention to that one sentence! Well, you know what they say...."Hindsight is 20-20."

      The story of Olivia and the guy she met at the bridge is pretty nice, except for the vulgar incident I mentioned, and the way her mother is presented in the story. Still, I could not enjoy that part of the book, because I kept thinking about Andrew.

      I don't like to give one-star reviews, but honestly, I strongly felt I could not give this book any more than that. I just HATED it! So, to compensate, I mentioned another book by the authors that I had read previously, and which I GREATLY enjoyed. In fact, I decided to read "The Christmas Bridge" BECAUSE I had read "The Christmas Town", and liked it so much. So I figured I'd enjoy "The Christmas Bridge", too.....

      Anyway, thanks so much for dropping by and commenting!! <3 : )

      Delete

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