Monday, December 31, 2018

Short Story Review: The Christmas Phoenix, by Patricia Kiyono

The Christmas Phoenix
Patricia Kiyono
Kindle Edition, 70 pages
Clean Reads
November 24, 2011
Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance,
Short Stories
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: Jess Tate is trying to make a life for herself and her teenage son after her husband's sudden death. Running the family’s struggling landscape business in Northern Michigan has been hard work, and her son hasn’t been much help. She’s managed to get by, learning to run the big equipment herself, but between snowplowing early in the mornings and working her daytime job in town, she often wonders if there will ever be more to life than endless work.

Talented ice sculptor Jake Thompson had fame and fortune in St. Louis, but he’s been forced to start over after a disastrous relationship left him embittered and deeply in debt. His sister’s remote vacation home in Northern Michigan is the ideal retreat to lick his wounds and rebuild his career in peace and quiet—-except a certain feisty redhead and her teenage son have a penchant for disturbing his solitude.

In the snowy winter, Jake and Jess unexpectedly find their lives and attitudes begin to change. Will family involvements and ghosts from the past keep them apart, or are they strong enough to risk rising from the ashes of their lives like the mythical phoenix?

This is the very first time I review a short story on this blog. I much prefer to read longer works, even if I don't review as many of them afterward. However, this particular short story grabbed me because of that cover! I have never seen such an unusual, STUNNING cover on a Christmas romance before!

This is also the first time I encounter the symbolism of the phoenix used in a romance short story (or novel, for that matter), whether it's Christmas-themed or not. In this delightful work, it applies perfectly to the two protagonists; both of them are indeed "rising from the ashes" of their painful pasts in order to start anew.

Another first for me is coming across an ice sculptor in a work of fiction, whatever the genre. From what the author describes, this is a beautiful, although delicate and painstaking artistic endeavor. Actually, I had never heard of this art form, either. It seems incredible that an artist could actually sculpt something beautiful out of a material as ephemeral (although deceptively solid) as ice. (The same thing can be said for those artists who build elaborate sand castles.) Obviously, this is another aspect of the story that caught my attention right away!

Although this is a very short work, the author hooked me from the very beginning. That's because her characterizations are excellent, and she has an eye for realistic detail. While I read, I actually felt that I was up there in northern Michigan, surrounded by all that lovely snow! (I've never seen snow up close and personal, so to me, it's an aesthetic treat. Lol.)

This short story almost feels like a full-length novel, and I would have loved it if Kiyono had written it as such. However, I was able to get into the plot and enjoy it, even as I began to wish that she had, indeed, given me more of these characters I had begun to like as if they lived right next door. 

Jake was a wonderful guy! Even with his war wound, which gave him chronic pain, he was not the type of person to complain. All he wanted was the solitude necessary for him to create his ice masterpieces. However, he was not immune to the attraction he immediately felt for Jess, whom he soon came to admire, because of her gutsy attitude and concern for her teen son.

Jess worked hard -- TOO hard, in Jake's opinion. After some initial mistrust, he soon began to feel comfortable enough to tell her so. Then he began to help her, and also got her son, Rory, to take some responsibility for household chores.

Jess and Rory were great characters, as well. They had a good mother-son bond, with Jess not being a harsh disciplinarian, but more of a good friend. I really liked this about her, even though I must admit that Rory should have been doing more to help her out. But he was a typical 14-year-old boy, more interested in video games than making his bed. And he tended toward absentmindedness, too -- especially in regard to schoolwork.

Jess and Jake comically meet when she mistakes his house for that of a new customer, and starts to plow his drive. Yes, she drives a snowplow. This is hard work, indeed, so my hat goes off to this woman! 

This was the type of work her husband used to do, when he was alive. Aside from waitressing, Jess decided to keep the landscape business, which he had started, going, in order to meet the bills, and support herself and her son. So she had actually taught herself to drive a snowplow.

As the story progresses, these three characters start to become good friends. Jake becomes a role model for Rory, and the attraction between him and Jess builds into something more than friendship.

Some readers might think that this all sounds much too predictable, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! This is the type of warm holiday fare I love to read! Romance is just SO right for the Christmas season! And I especially appreciate it when there's family involved. 

Kiyono has created a beautiful, very special story here, and again I must mention that I wish it had been a novel. However, she did a GREAT job with the short-story length, and brought everything to that "happily ever after" ending every romance novel fan loves! Still, I'm crossing my fingers that she will decide to write more about these very likeable characters!

Of course, I'm going to check out more of this author's work on Goodreads! Kudos to her for a WONDERFUL Christmas read!  


During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level.

She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her children and grandchildren. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures.


  1. The story may not be my cup of tea but great commentary as usual. Long ago I worked in a catering hall and Ice Sculptures would occasionally come in and create something for weddings. Their creations were usually incredible. It does seem odd to create something that cannot last however.

    I am thinking about the Phoenix Symbolism is literature. I cannot think of anything either. In the first Harry Potter book there was an actual Phoenix though.Happy New Year's to you and your family!

    1. Hi, Brian!

      I know you're not into romance, so I GREATLY appreciate your commenting on this review, anyway!! And thank you SO much for the compliment!! <3 <3

      How interesting that you once worked in a catering hall! You must have seen quite a few wedding receptions! Having an ice sculpture at such a reception would be a VERY nice touch, but I imagine they're quite expensive. I wonder if there's some way of preserving them indefinitely. Hmmm.... I think really beautiful, elaborate sand castles should also be preserved, somehow.

      Well, I don't know about other genres of literature, except, of course, the Harry Potter series, but I've certainly never encountered phoenix symbolism in a romance novel (whether Christmas-themed or not) or short tory before. Wait! Now that I think of it, I might have seen a phoenix on the cover of a YA fantasy novel published a couple of years ago. I can't recall the title, though. On the other hand, it might have been a swan, instead. Lol.

      Thanks for the interesting comment!! Happy New Year's to you and your family, as well!! <3 :)

  2. I have heard of ice sculptures but never seen one. I have seen sand sculptures at my local beach and they are amazing art! The bird on the cover of your book does look rather like Dumbledore’s phoenix Fawkes.

    I suppose that the whole point of a romance is th3 happily ever after, so not surprised if it’s predictable! Predictable is what the readers want, judging by my experience as a teacher librarian with a lot of teenage girls using my library. ­čśĆ

    1. Hi, Sue!

      i think I've vaguely heard of them before, but have never actually seen one, either. Not even on the Internet, lol. I need to Google them. They must be GORGEOUS!!

      Last year, my husband and I went to a mall that was hosting a July Fourth event, which included a sand castle. I took several pictures of it. It was AWESOME!! I sure hope they preserved it in some way.....

      You know, not too long ago, I saw a TV program, broadcast by our local public TV station, that featured Buddhist monks creating sand mandalas. The host mentioned that, after these mandalas have served their purpose in some sort of religious ritual, they are literally just blown away.... I felt SO sad when I heard that.... Have you ever seen one of these, either in person, on TV, or online? They are STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS!! They also take HOURS to create! How sad.....

      Going back to the phoenix motif, you're right -- the one on the cover of this short story does resemble Fawkes!! :) :)

      Yes, the whole purpose of a romance is, indeed, the "happily ever after" ending. Those of us who LOVE this genre, love it PRECISELY because of that! Lol. However, in some romance novels, the predictability comes from the type of plot in the novel. There are several common plot tropes used in this genre. We die-hard romance lovers don't care about this, either, unless an author doesn't make a trope unique through some sort of twist.

      I'm just like those teenage girls!! LOL. I NEVER get tired of reading good romance!! And I always end up crying happy tears at the end, too!! I'm the type that wears her heart on her sleeve! Lol.

      Thanks for the interesting comment!! Happy New Year to you and your family!! HUGS!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)


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