I received an early copy of this book from Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.
Nessa and her teenaged sister Ivy arrive in Rose Bend without an ounce of Christmas spirit and plenty of surliness. Nessa was still reeling from both the death of her mother and her deathbed confession eight months earlier when the father she shares with Ivy also passes away, leaving Nessa custody of Ivy and sending them off to spend Christmas in Rose Bend. Neither of the sisters know what they’re supposed to find in Rose Bend or what they’re meant to do there but the small town folks that live there have no such uncertainties- Rose Bend is the epitome of Christmas and the folks that live there are determined to take Nessa and Ivy into their fold and imbue them with the sense of love and family they dearly need if its the last thing they ever do. While Ivy connects with a group of kids her own age Nessa attempts to avoid any human interaction. Unfortunately for her, Wolf Dennison has other plans and the connection between them is electric and immediate. Nessa, used to being abandoned by all the people she’s ever cared about, is intent on keeping things platonic with Wolf while she suffers in silence under a heavy burden she must bear on her own. But some things are too big to be controlled and even Nessa’s stubbornness will crack in the face of Wolf and his loving family.
Christmas in Rose Bend perfectly encapsulates everything Christmas. The small-town feels and festive holiday celebrations happening throughout this entire story were exactly what I was hoping for when I started this book. This is the second installment in a series which I didn’t know when I agreed to participate in the blog tour but decided to stay the course and finish it anyway since I had already agreed to do so. Luckily, I discovered pretty quickly that this story could be read as a standalone. There are hints of the major events that happened in book one and I suspect reading the first book prior to this one would add a level of enjoyment to the reading experience but its not at all necessary.
In time the characters grew on me even if I was a little put off by the unfriendly demeanors of the sisters in the beginning. This part of the story arc was necessary for character growth and I completely understand that. On the flip side I really enjoyed Wolf and his big affectionate family- I also loved that this story was set at the Inn they owned and lived in; it added a layer of warmth and coziness that the book dearly needed in the beginning. I do have to admit that I wish Wolfgang wasn’t portrayed quite so perfectly. I enjoy flaws in my characters; it makes them more genuine and believable. Other than that I thought the dynamic between the family, friends and townspeople was well done and I appreciated the fact that a biracial relationship was front and center in this novel- something I wish we could see a lot more of in all genres. Additionally, I’d like to point out that the author did a fantastic job capturing that atmosphere so unique to small towns including all the drama that often comes with it. That simply cannot be helped in a place where everyone knows their neighbor and Nessa gets a taste of that when faced with Wolf’s ex-fiancé. Fortunately, the love and kindness often seen in places like this trumps the negative, making it the perfect setting for a holiday romance.
One of the best parts of this story was seeing Nessa and Ivy learn to be more patient and honest with each other and watching their relationship thrive because of it. It was heartwarming to see them both break down their carefully built walls in order to let the magic of the holiday season surround them after so long drowning in grief. This novel also had one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in a while. I loved everything about it and had a big ole smile on my face the whole time. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it was about the conclusion of this book that made me so happy but I think a lot of the reason is owed to the fact that so much of this story was weighed down by illness, loss, grief and abandonment that it was a relief when the weight was finally lifted. The other part is most likely because I was a living vicariously through the characters- I can think of nothing better than a small town covered in snow for the Christmas season and being surrounded by friends, family and people who genuinely care about you. Both Nessa and Ivy started this journey feeling like they had no one in the world and came out the other side part of a lovely family. What’s not to like about that?
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Naima Simone’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey and Nora Roberts years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Published since 2009, she spends her days writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. She is wife to Superman- or his non-Kryptonian equivalent- and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern U.S.
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