Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor – Lisa Kleypas

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is a light, contemporary romance with a terrific setting, interesting set-up, cast of beautiful characters, an adorable child, a seriously ugly dog and a lovely blond girlfriend on the mainland.  Mark Nolan runs a coffee roasting company on San Juan Island. His brother Sam has a vineyard and a ramshackle old Victorian house badly in need of repair. Their sister who lives in Seattle has a six-year-old daughter, no father in sight, and a letter of guardianship tucked in her will. When Victoria, the sister, is killed in a car crash, Holly, her little girl, comes to live with Mark, who promptly moves them in with Sam and starts trying to figure out how to be a parent.

Holly doesn’t say a word after the crash–until one day Mark has her in a toy store in the town of Friday Harbor where they live and the proprietor tells her about the magic of sea shells and fairy houses. Maggie Conroy is rebuilding her life after nursing her new husband through terminal cancer. She is determined never to be so vulnerable to devastating loss and pain again. She’s quite charming, runs a delightful toy store, gets little girls perfectly and resists her instantaneous attraction to Holly’s Uncle Mark with stubborn tenacity.

It’s a very nice story with all kinds of warm family moments, the shadows of Nolan family dysfunction haunting the brothers, a reluctant heroine and her well-meaning friends sparring over blind dates, a kid who writes to Santa requesting a mother. The dog is a rescue with every kind of unattractive medical problem known to canines and a secure sense of his own fabulousness. Maggie is fostering him, of course. And she can cook. And Mark blows up the Thanksgiving turkey. And we have seen where all this is heading from the beginning but it’s still an entertaining ride. Is there such a category as “wholesome romance”? This would be it. The only really ugly thing in the story is the dog and he’s floppy and lovable. Good escape book.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor   Lisa Kleypas | St. Martin’s Press  2010

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