tl;dr: cute Christmas story with a too-long epilogue
If you have read any of the other books in the Colorado High Country series (which I’ve only read one, and I loved it), then you already know Rain and Joe. Rain is the vivacious waitress at the pub that Joe owns in the small town of Scarlet Springs. I do not recall reading any whispers of Joe and Rain being romantic towards each other in the book I did read, but in this one, the whole town apparently knows about the attraction between the two.
Joe, for his part, doesn’t want to make any advances toward Rain because he feels that as her employer, that would make him an asshole. (He’s not wrong; in general, it’s a shitty thing to do.) But it goes beyond that, as when Rain’s house crumbles under a record-breaking snowfall and needs to seek shelter at Joe’s place, she discovers some journals in his library. Those journals are from Silas Moffatt, the great-great grandfather of Joe, who owned the town’s silver mine and caused a wave of destruction and murder and rape that Joe feels ashamed of.
We get a lot of interesting history about the town, and here and there, characters that have popped up before in previous books get their own little history cameos. We find out about Rose’s ancestor who was a madam, and how one of Joe’s good friends was a foreman in the mine for his great-great grandfather, and ultimately was murdered. Even Rain finds her own ancestor in the mix, finding out that one of her long-gone great-aunts was the mistress of Silas himself.
In the end, Joe has to reconcile his shame about the actions of his forebears and move on in the current time, and realize that his guilty conscience is hurting Rain in the present. And then there’s lots of fun Christmas activities.
The first 2/3 of the book were really good, and maintained my expectations. I really liked Tempting Fate, and I expected the same sort of story-telling. In that one, there are two arcs, one of which comes to an end near the middle of the book. I was wondering while reading how the book could still have 200 pages to go when the book was basically over, but then it picked up with a totally new arc that maintained it through the rest of it. I expected the same here when the book sort of sputtered to an end, but instead of a new arc, it was essentially a 100 page epilogue.
Part of me felt like this was the sort of fluff that fanfiction thrives on, with minutiae about wedding details and plans and honestly, it bored me. Once the central arc was over and the conflict resolved, I don’t generally see much reason to continue the story. It was just a lot of extra that wasn’t interesting enough to keep me invested.
If you are interested in a light Christmas read, this is a good one. It probably would be more fun to read about the various townspeople if you had read other books in the series, but it’s probably not necessary. There’s enough to go on without reading through it all, but it’s also not unnecessarily repetitive.
I have surprisingly not read a lot of Christmas romance, but one I read last year that I enjoyed was Long Distance Love by Maggie Wells.