Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Unexpected Gifts (Elena Aitken)

Unexpected Gifts
(The Castle Mountain Lodge series, Book 1)
Elena Aitken
Ink Blot Communications
Fiction, Romance
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: A year and a lifetime ago, Andi thought she'd be celebrating this Christmas with Blaine and their new child... but a stillborn baby and a bitter break-up destroyed her heart. Worse, her event-planning business, Party Hearty, won't let her simply ignore the season of love, joy, and family - three things she's sure she'll never have again. Her friend and business partner, Eva, tells her she needs to get back out there, even for one good fling, but Andi doesn't do flings. Not even when a last-minute holiday trip to a mountain resort results in unexpectedly sharing a villa with an irresistible single man...
After five years in the Caribbean expanding his home security business, Colin's looking forward to a Canadian Christmas again, with snow on the ground and the scent of pine trees and bonfires. His assistant has booked him a villa at the perfect resort in the Rockies. When Castle Mountain Lodge is overbooked, however, he offers one of his villa's extra bedrooms to a woman in distress - a woman he met once a year or so ago, on the arm of his former best friend Blaine. Though Colin tells himself he doesn't do relationships, not after his own happily-ever-after cheated on him, something about Andi's tempting him to change his mind. But he can't hook up with Blaine's ex, can he?
This title includes the companion short story Unexpected Endings.

REVIEW: I was in the mood for a light story, so this seasonally-appropriate romance caught my eye. It reads quickly, putting the usual genre tropes through their paces in a love story set against the backdrop of a picture-postcard Canadian mountain Christmas. For two characters convinced they can't or won't find True Love, they fall for one another remarkably fast. There's also a subtext about children being the true test, possibly even true purpose, of any love. I understand that losing a baby is highly traumatic, but something about the way children kept popping up over and over again in the story made it less a backdrop and more a bludgeon, until it seems that the fact that she's childless is a greater trauma than the death itself. (Andi even converts the lodge's holiday ball into an all-ages affair... which I'm sure made all the families happy, but I expect it alienated any singles or couples who were looking forward to a nice holiday dance without squealing rugrats on sugar highs running underfoot. But, then, the whole story is rather PG as romances go, with little beyond kisses and brief partial nudity.) Andi and Colin both tend to jump to worst-case-scenario conclusions every other scene (with the intervening scenes lauding how hard they're falling for each other), which began to feel less like gun-shy people learning to trust and more like an author yanking strings. For that matter, the major crisis at the end feels very forced; no spoilers, but did Aitken have to go that far out of the way to dredge up a major obstacle for the would-be lovers to overcome? As for the short story, it simply rehashes and magnifies Andi's insecurities.
On the one hand, it read fast, and had a rather sweet, if light, Christmas flair. On the other, I found it hard to believe the situations and emotions, especially towards the end. Overall, it's a quick holiday treat if that's all you expect from it.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Wedding Trap (Adrienne Bell) - My Review
Bound to the Bachelor (Sarah Mayberry) - My Review
Evidence of Trust (Stacey Joy Netzel) - My Review

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