Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Falling for You at Christmas, by Kristin Wallace

Falling For You At Christmas
(Shellwater Key Book 1.75)
Kristin Wallace
Kindle Edition, 137 pages
Write Notions, Inc.
November 7, 2016
Christian Fiction, Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance, Novella, Women's Fiction
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: “I’ve always wanted you, even when I didn’t know your name or who you would turn out to be…I didn’t know that the pregnant woman who came barreling through the lobby would turn my world upside down in a matter of days.”

A Nativity story for the modern day, set in the sleepy town of Shellwater Key, Florida. 

One expectant mother. One gorgeous innkeeper. One Lamb, two Shepherds, and a King. Three days that will change her life forever.  

Pregnant, single, and alone at Christmas, Cassie Stevens decides to take a holiday vacation in Shellwater Key before her baby is born. But then her reservation is lost and she finds there is literally no room left at the inn. Thankfully, single innkeeper, Jared Latham, offers to let Cassie stay with him and his young daughter. She won’t have to sleep in a manger, but being in such close proximity to the gorgeous and caring Jared might be more dangerous to her peace of mind…and heart.

But the magic of the season can change everything. Cassie is suddenly surrounded by a group of friends, who all seem to have names relating to another important birth long ago. And when Christmas Eve brings an unexpected delivery, Cassie will discover that miracles are still possible, even in modern times.

This delightful novella has been another WONDERFUL Christmas read this year! I really connected with and LOVED the characters, whether major or minor. Furthermore, even though I would prefer to spend my Christmases in a cozy cabin up north while snow fell softly outside, I did love the setting of this novel -- a laid-back small town in Florida, which is where I happen to live.

Shellwater Key is a fictional town invented by Kristin Wallace, as she has stated herself. However, it's obviously based on places like the Florida Keys, Naples, Fort Myers, and really, any mellow, slow-paced, beach town in the state. (Not Miami though, which has gradually been turning into a little New York City!)

While reading this short, and utterly engaging story, I temporarily put away my fantasies of a Vermont Christmas, and allowed myself to thoroughly enjoy this Florida one, with the balmy ocean breezes and tight-knit friends and families. The warmth was not only in the weather, but in the welcoming atmosphere of the people and places of Shellwater Key.

Cassie and Jared are such a great couple! Both have been burned in their past romantic relationships, but both are also equally willing to move on and start fresh. This is especially the case with Cassie, who is determined to raise her daughter all by herself, with no help from the disgusting boyfriend who abandoned her as soon as he found out she was pregnant. Nor can she count on help from her own family. Her mother has passed away from breast cancer, and her father's attention is totally focused on his new second wife, who very obviously resents Cassie, and does everything in her power to keep her father from being occupied with his daughter's needs. So Cassie's ebullience and optimism, in spite of her situation, are truly inspiring, and immediately draw Jared's attention. 

Jared is himself an inspiring character. He's totally devoted to his young daughter, Tara, who is herself a total delight. Jared is also a very attractive, decent guy, one who wouldn't dream of doing anything to hurt a woman. Needless to say, he's also funny, and appreciates Cassie's own sense of humor. Also, he's as far from being a condescending misogynist as any guy can be. He's caring and patient with Cassie, and is also a great listener. So where is Shellwater Key again? Lol.

These two terrific characters are surrounded by equally terrific secondary characters. I especially loved the fact that several of them had names directly related to the story of the birth of Jesus. Jared's mother's name, for example, is Mary. Amelia Lamb, one of the guests at the inn, quickly becomes Cassie's friend and gives her wise pregnancy (and love) advice. Her name is just as coincidental as the other names in this quirky, cute, and totally heartwarming Christmas story. There's also Jesus, (pronounced "He-Soos", with "he" as in "hen", and "soos" as in "soothe"). His last name is Velazquez, and he's the father of Gabrielle, the chef at the "Original Inn on the Strip", the place where Cassie has chosen to take her Christmas vacation. This inn is located along the Gulf of Mexico. And there are more characters whose names are related to the first Christmas, such as the Shepherds, and the "King" -- Henry Stuart, owner of an auto dealership and known as "King of the Deal". 

The coincidence with the names is not the only one that reminds the reader of that first Christmas. There's also the very obvious fact that, when Cassie arrives, there's literally no room at the inn, due to a glitch in the inn's computer. Her reservation has been lost in the system somehow. Of course, Jared, the handsome innkeeper, immediately comes to the rescue, offering to share his room, where he lives with his daughter, with Cassie. So it is that Cassie starts feeling like part of his family right away, although she does fight against her feelings. She simply can't believe that a true Christmas miracle could happen for her. She also can't believe how accepting and welcoming these strangers, now turned into friends, are toward her. Everyone makes sure to make her feel at home, whether they're guests at the inn, or locals.

While some might say that this story seems a pretty predictable one, I would affirm that, in spite of that, it's an absolutely absorbing, enchanting one, as well. This is the type of holiday reading that gives me those very much needed warm fuzzies!

This lovely little novel could not be complete without a Nativity play, and it's also very fitting that Cassie suddenly realizes, during the play, that her baby will most likely be her own precious Christmas present....

Reading Falling For You At Christmas will place the sentimental reader (like me!) in danger of shedding some tears of joy, sharing in the laughter, and feeling the spiritual and emotional warmth of this beautiful season. So by all means, fix yourself some hot chocolate, or perhaps a lemonade, if it's hot enough for it, sit back, and allow yourself to enjoy this sweet gem of a holiday treat! Kudos to Ms. Wallace!  


 Growing up, Kristin devoured books like bags of Dove Dark Chocolate. Her first Golden Book led to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, C.S. Lewis and the Sweet Valley High series. Later, she discovered romance novels and fell in love all over again. It was no surprise, then, that Kristin would one day try her hand at writing them. She writes inspirational romance and women’s fiction filled with love, laughter and a leap of faith. When she’s not writing her next novel, Kristin works as an advertising copywriter for clients that have included the Miami Marlins, Discovery Networks, The Peabody Hotel, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises and Sea World. She also enjoys singing in her church choir and worship team and playing flute in a community orchestra.

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