Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Review: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, by Lisa Kleypas

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor
(Friday Harbor, Book 1)
Lisa Kleypas
Hardcover, 211 pages
St. Martin's Press
October 26, 2010
Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance, Holiday Romance
Source: eBay

Book Synopsis: New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas’s new series begins during the most magical time of year

One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…

I had long wanted to read a Lisa Kleypas novel, since I've heard she's great. So, I decided to pick up this one as part of my yearly tradition of reading Christmas-themed romances during the holiday season.

I was totally expecting to be swept away by this novel. Unfortunately, I wasn't.... In fact, I ended up with some very mixed feelings about it.

The first thing that bothered me was the plot. It was just too predictable and cliché, even for a romance novel, which we romance fans know will always end with an HEA. Having a child living with two uncles, for instance, reminds me of a movie (and, I think, a TV show, too) with the same type of plot.

The characters were well fleshed-out, however. I liked Maggie and Mark together, and the little girl, Holly, was just delightful. She was so sweet! I liked Sam, her other uncle, as well. It was nice to see how he changed gears in regards to Holly's care. From being a carefree bachelor, he became a caring father figure for Holly, right along with Mark.

The biggest problem I had with this novel was that Mark already had a girlfriend when he met Maggie, and this REALLY bothered me. Furthermore, Maggie is well aware of that, because she meets both Mark and his girlfriend, along with Holly, when they all visit her toy store one day. 

Maggie and Mark keep running into each other after this initial meeting. This is a little too contrived, I think. Furthermore, each time, they fall into flirting with each other, as if Shelby, Mark's girlfriend, simply didn't exist. The irony is that they both mention Shelby during these interactions, in a rather casual way, but yet, this doesn't keep them from continuing their conversations. Incredibly enough, they even have lunch together, on a day that Mark is scheduled to visit Shelby, who lives in another city!

All this really grated on my nerves. I just couldn't concentrate on Mark and Maggie's blossoming relationship, knowing that there was someone else in the background, someone who had absolutely NO idea of what was going on. Mark was not honest right away with Shelby about his relationship with Maggie. Although he eventually did break up with Shelby, he really should have done so much sooner. Instead, he waited until he and Maggie were already a couple to do so. 

I simply can't stand romance novels that involve cheating on the part of the romantic leads, whom the reader is supposed to like and relate to. I have been cheated on myself, so I have no sympathy whatsoever for people -- whether fictional or not -- who engage in this kind of behavior.

To make matters worse, Kleypas initially describes Shelby as a very caring, loving person. Yet, at a crucial point in the novel, this character seems to be totally indifferent to Mark's need to be with Holly during her bad cold. In contrast, Maggie is there for the two of them. This was obviously a very contrived way to make Shelby less appealing to the reader, and thus, make Mark's betrayal more 'acceptable'. Well, it sure didn't work with me! I STILL hated, and was disappointed by, the way Mark and Maggie met and carried on their relationship. 

Other elements of the novel were much more to my liking, but not enough for me to give it five stars. I liked the descriptions of Friday Harbor, as well as the 'Christmasy' feeling of the novel. The writing style was good, and the pacing was perfect.

Unfortunately, these elements were not enough to make me wholeheartedly enthusiastic about this book.... I completely lost interest in it, and abandoned it halfway through.

In spite of my disappointment, I'm still willing to try another Kleypas novel in the future. After all, she IS a RITA award-winning author. So I will definitely keep her other books in mind.      


Lisa Kleypas is the RITA award-winning author of 21 novels. Her books are published in fourteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world. She lives in Washington State with her husband and two children. 



  1. Oh no! when I started reading the blurb I thought this sounded cute, but the elements you described would've driven me nuts!

    1. Hi, Verushka!

      Yeah, I initially thought this book would be cute, too, when I read the blurb. And I did like the little girl, Holly. I also liked the way her uncles took care of her, even though this is not an original plot idea. But the fact that Mark already had a girlfriend.....that was a complete turnoff!

      I'm so glad you agree! Thanks for the great comment!! <3 :)


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