Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: All I Want for Christmas, by Sheila Rabe (third review in The 2012 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)

This is my third review for
The 2012 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge,
which runs from
November 19, 2012, to Jan. 6, 2013! 

For participation rules, please click
on the challenge button above.

All I Want for Christmas
Sheila Rabe (Sheila Roberts)
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Jove Books
October 1, 2000
Christmas Romance, Holiday Romance

This is a rather enjoyable, light-hearted Christmas comedy of errors.  Although the plot is predictable, it's still worth a read; the dialogues between the characters are very witty, and the writing flows smoothly, being very well-paced.

The story focuses on the current, and rather ridiculous, phenomenon plaguing this most beautiful of all seasons -- the attack on Christmas-themed public displays.  I find it very disturbing that this kind of thing should have become so frequent in recent years.  The fact that, in this novel, the display has been created and maintained by a private citizen, makes it even more disturbing, although this is a fictional event.

The novel contains a couple of references to popular culture icons linked to the Christmas season.  For instance, one of the protagonists, a young widow responsible for the Christmas display at her home, is named Susan Carpenter.  There was a famous '70s singing duo, known as "The Carpenters".  However, Susan is better known as "Suzi Christmas", due to her enthusiasm for the season, as well as the lavishness of her display, which includes a live Nativity, a Mrs. Santa Claus (sometimes played by her, and other times by her sister, Nicole), as well as a very prominently-placed box for food donations. 

Not everyone is happy about Susan's beautiful holiday display, most notably the biggest Grinch of all, Don Rawlins, who lives with his wife across from her house, in the town of Angel Falls.  Furthermore, he has enlisted the aid of his godson, one Luke Potter (this is of course a reference to the evil character in the film classic, "It's A Wonderful Life").  Luke, a successful businessman, wants to expand his computer company, and agrees to a loan from Rawlins in return for his help in suing Suzi Christmas, since she adamantly refuses to take down her display.

Through a rather comical turn of events, Susan and Luke meet, and he's immediately love-struck.  He begins a relationship with her, using a false name which his fun-loving, laid-back brother had previously come up with, on the spur of the moment.  The name?  Nicholas Claus.  (I think I might be hearing some groans right about now....)  Yes, I know, it does sound incredibly silly.  Somehow, though, it works, and Susan becomes convinced that Luke, alias "Nick", is a wonderful man.  He is, too, as he begins to warm up to this season he has always disdained, because his parents divorced around this time of year.

It's more than evident, right from the start, that Luke, who has become known as "the Scrooge of Angel Falls", will be utterly transformed by the love of Susan Carpenter, and emerge, at the novel's end, as a staunch supporter of the Christmas season, and hence, of all Christmas displays, no matter how lavish.  Although I must admit this is a bit corny, how he gets to this point does make for some delightful reading. 

I love all of the characters, with the sole exception of Don Rawlins, who is such a sourpuss, there's absolutely nothing that will ever make him like Christmas and any associated holiday displays.   

Susan is the typical soft-hearted, nurturing woman, mother to a young boy, who is struggling to meet her bills through her singing telegram company.  Luke isn't really a bad sort of guy, just a wounded one.   He, too, is pretty typical -- the hard-driving workaholic who uses his business to distance himself from his "softer" side, because of his past scars. 

Nicole, Susan's younger sister, happens to be in a relationship with Todd, a budding newspaper reporter, who ends up causing Luke all kinds of trouble.  Nicole and Todd have a great relationship, although she's hoping he will soon propose.  He does love her, but is hoping to land a more lucrative job at a bigger newspaper, since he feels that he can't really offer her much at present.  (Hopelessly old-fashioned, I know.) 

Willie, Susan's little boy, is appropriately endearing, and likes Luke right away.  And so it is that these three become very comfortable with each other faster than you can sing "Jingle Bells"!  I couldn't help but cheer even as I saw the predictability of the whole thing.  After all, this type of story is dear to every romance reader's heart!

Susan's father is a great character, too, as is Luke's mother.  They are both very understanding and supportive of their children, even if those children have taken a wrong turn or two in life.  Luke's father has a "cameo role" in this novel, appearing nearly at the end, to save the day.  He has come to realize, much too late, just what he lost when he abandoned his wife and two sons.  He does try to make amends by helping Luke out with his business.

Through a series of events that snowball (pun intended!) into a crazy, comical finale, the reader is totally immersed in all the lovely aspects of the Christmas season! 

In short, if you enjoy light, romantic, funny, and absolutely clean, Christmas romance reads, this novel will be right up your alley!   You will laugh in many places, even if you do groan in others.  You might even be able to finish this novel in one or two sittings, as you sip your hot chocolate by a cozy chimney fire, or underneath an umbrella at a South Florida beach.


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