Three seasonal love stories from Joanna Chambers
Quin Flint is unimpressed when his gorgeous colleague, Rob Paget, asks for extra time off at Christmas. As far as Quin is concerned, Christmas is a giant waste of time. Quin’s on the fast track to partnership, and the season of goodwill is just getting in the way of his next big project. But when Quin’s boss, Marley, confiscates his phone and makes him take an unscheduled day off, Quin finds himself being forced to confront his regrets, past and present, and think about the sort of future he really wants…and who he wants it with.
Mr Perfect’s Christmas
Sam Warren’s new job hasn’t been going so well so the last thing he’s in the mood for is the obligatory office Christmas party, particularly since Nick Foster’s going to be there. Nick–the guy whose shoes Sam has been trying to fill–seems to take very opportunity to point out where Sam’s going wrong. But when Sam receives an unexpected Secret Santa gift at the party, he’s forced to question his assumptions about his rival. Could it be that he’s been misinterpreting Nick’s actions all along? And is it possible that his reluctant attraction to Nick is reciprocated?
Rest and Be Thankful
Things haven’t been going well for Cam McMorrow since he moved to Inverbechie. His business is failing, his cottage is falling apart and following his very public argument with café owner Rob Armstrong, he’s become a social outcast. Cam needs to get away from his troubles and when his sister buys him a ticket to the biggest Hogmanay party in Glasgow, he can’t leave Inverbechie quick enough. But when events conspire to strand him in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm, not only is he liable to miss the party, he’ll also have to ask his nemesis, Rob, for help.
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Merry & Bright is an anthology of previously published Christmas/holiday shorts by Joanna Chambers. I’d only had the pleasure of reading one of these before, so it was a real treat to get to read these new-to-me contemporary shorts by one of my go-to authors. Each one was a sweet story about overcoming loneliness and opening one’s eyes and looking beyond our perceptions; a great lesson to keep in mind over these holidays which can be stressful and isolating for some.
I absolutely adored this story. It is based on the classic A Christmas Carol, with our MC Quin facing some awful truths about himself. He’s work-obsessed to the point of ignoring all other parts of his life and all of his relationships. He lost his long-time boyfriend, he’s become estranged from his friends, his coworkers dislike him. It takes his boss forcing him to take a few extra days at Christmas to kick off the “visits” from his “ghosts.” This story was incredibly emotional – there were a couple times when I actually teared up a bit due to how deeply I felt Quin’s pain and loneliness. Rob was such a great counterpoint to Quin and filled in all his spaces and opened up his mind to other possibilities for his life. There was a bit of a lack of relationship development between Rob and Quin – we see their first evening together, then jump ahead to their first anniversary – but that didn’t bother me much because this story was really about Quin and his personal growth. It was very, very well done.
Mr. Perfect’s Christmas
This is the one story of the anthology that I’ve read previously. It’s also the shortest of the three. Sam’s on his way to the office Christmas party, but he feels out of sorts. He’s not sure of his place at his new company, he’s not comfortable socializing with his coworkers, he feels inadequate compared to his predecessor, Nick, and all-in-all feels like a fish out of water. It’s very similar to Humbug in that it is office-based, each guy has been crushing on each other for a while, but oblivious to the other’s attentions, and they come together after some emotional soul-searching in the company of others. It’s very relatable – I could definitely sympathize with Sam and his insecurity surrounding his job and social life. I loved how brazen Nick is, how he decides to make his move no matter how many times Sam unwittingly tries to stop him. It’s really just a sweet, feel-good short that ends with a HFN.
Rest and be Thankful
This was yet another emotional story. We alternate POVs between Cam, who moved to Inverbechie 10 months ago to start an outdoor adventures company but is struggling silently both financially and socially; and Rob, who owns the local cafe and is experiencing the hard truth of life moving on after the death of his partner. The overarching theme here is that it’s okay to not be okay. Cam is used to being the strong one, and he’s not sure how to handle the fact that his business is slow over the winter months, and he needs help to make ends meet until the warm seasons come back. Both men have been a bit too prideful to apologize after a very public argument that put a pause on things between them before they could ever start. As with the other stories in this anthology, the loneliness of the characters is vivid and my heart broke for Cam and his almost self-imposed solitude. The timing of the new year was a perfect metaphor for this couple, as they helped open each others’ eyes to how things could be. This ends with a comfortable HFN.
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December 6 – Lelyana’s Book Blog
Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. She spent over 20 years staring at blank sheets of paper and despairing of ever writing a single word. In between staring at blank sheets of paper, she studied law, met her husband and had two children. Whilst nursing her first child, she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna lives in Scotland with her family and finds time to write by eschewing sleep and popular culture.
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