Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?
Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.
When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…
With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?
Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is regrettably only the first book I have read by Jenny Hale. I know she has a huge following of both her summer and Christmas books but for some reason up until this point I haven't gotten around to reading any of her books. Well that has now been rectified and I can wholeheartedly say I loved everything about this book. This novel has a cover that is just ideal for the Christmas season. There is nothing better than spending an afternoon lost in a wonderful story while it's cold and windy outside curled up on the couch with some hot chocolate and treats at your side. A young couple are frolicking in the snow outside a house that looks magnificent and built just to hold sumptuous Christmas feasts and family celebrations but look behind the doors and the glamorous exterior and all may not be as it seems as Abbey Fuller soon discovers. As she peels back the layers and uncovers the truth Abbey is determined to change the fortune of the house and its inhabitants and maybe the future of herself and her young son.
Abbey Fuller is a care assistant to the lovely Caroline Sinclair who lives in a cottage on her nephew Nick's sprawling estate in Richmond, Virginia. Abbey has not had the easiest of lives as her father left when she was very young. She now raises her young son Max with help from her mother, and when he was well her Gramps who has Parkinson's disease, and now Abbey's mother Leanne has broken her ankle and is unable to care for him. So life for Abbey doesn't always run smoothly yet she never lets anything get the better of her. She has had a passion for art and decorating as long as she can remember but the nursing degree provides her with a steady income, one which she needs to raise Max. When offered the opportunity to decorate millionaire Nick's house she jumps at the chance to let her imagination run free and indulge her artistic side. Little does she bargain on finding a house vast yet stark, bare and cold devoid of feeling, warmth or family. Her gut is telling her Nick can't be that obsessed with work that he has no time for family or relationships. But with Christmas fast approaching and his family flying in for a party Abbey must do her best to have Nick's house ready. The huge pay check she will get eases her conscience that she will miss some quality time with her son but the money will fulfill Max's Christmas wish list but can money buy the biggest wish of all?
Abbey doesn't want to go through life alone, she wants a father for Max and to be loved herself. She feels a spark with Nick a connection that can grow stronger but he is holding back. To Nick money is the answer to all problems and the more money you can through at it the quicker the problem will go away. He doesn't interact with his family as much as he should instead shutting himself away in his study chained to the computer slaving away. But with the arrival of Abbey and Max into his life he begins to open up just that little bit and really that is all it takes but with this man Abbey does have her work cut out for her as he does send some very mixed signals at times.
I loved all the descriptions of Abbey working away decorating the house, creating rooms from nothing and turning the house into a home that deserves to be fully lived in and embraced by a family. As each room is completed it brings the story together just that little bit more and the days out Abbey, Nick and Max enjoy were wonderful to read of. When we discover the reasons behind Nick's front I really did feel for him and could totally understand why he acted the way he did but maybe he shouldn’t have closed off all avenues of friendship and family. Abbey herself was a brilliant character and the love and devotion she showed her son, mother and grandfather is to be admired. She wants the best for everyone despite limited resources and I love her ultimate words of wisdom which contain the real message behind this book and which made me fall in love with this story. 'When people need us, we should take care of them. That's what we do for people we care about'.
Max was an absolute ray of light throughout the book and the scene where he attempts to break Nick's shell in trying to teach him how to slide on the floors is gorgeous. I wonder if Jenny used some of her own boy's sayings and antics as inspiration for Max? Poor Max may not have had the dad he longed for in his life but Abbey did her utmost best to give him the upbringing and life he deserved. Yes her Gramps was a sort of father figure for Max but still I think he wanted someone he could call his own. When we discover his ultimate Christmas wish it just broke my heart. But you couldn't blame Abbey in any way that things didn't work out with Max's father Vincent and now she is a solid, caring, generous person who puts everyone and everything before herself and her own needs. As for the developing friendship/tentative relationship between Nick and Abbey it was a joy to read. It was as if we were seeing two souls that had been hurt and are both now struggling in different ways but something has drawn them together apart from the decorating connection. As a reader you were rooting for the pair wishing they could both find the happiness they richly deserved. Over time Max and Abbey melt the front Nick had built around himself in order to avoid further heartache and hurt. His soft, loving centre was there waiting to be shared with others again if only he could let go of the past. I have to say I completely fell in love with Nick, for the first time in quite a while here was a main character that I felt even I would want to be with. Forget that he was a millionaire (although that is a very nice bonus) once Abbey had cracked his exterior and rooted that little bit deeper there was such a loving, compassionate, kind-hearted man. A man who you knew would never ever hurt you but be your side through thick and thin through the good times and the bad.
Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses had such excellent writing and a storyline that I won't forget in a hurry for the magical, sentimental, heart-warming feelings it inspired in me whilst reading. Genuinely the quality and depth of the writing surprised me as truthfully I was expecting an easy, light hearted read but Jenny Hale has a great balance and flow to her words that leaves you so caught up in what is going on that you fail to notice the hours pass you by. I loved reading a Christmas book set in America for a change as I have read a glut of books based in England or Ireland. I had such a clear picture of every scene, location and character in my head that I felt I was drawn right into the story and was actually there with Abbey as she decorated the house and dug beneath Nick's exterior to uncover the real reasons for his workaholic attitude and aversion to embracing family life.
Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses would make a fantastic Christmas film, it's got the plot, the snow, the festivities and most important of all a real essential message for us all to remember particularly at this time of year. I know if it was turned into a film, it would rival The Holiday as my favourite Christmas film. I realise there are so many books published in the Christmas genre at this time of year, some good and some bad, but Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is definitely one of the good ones and deserves to fill many a stocking on the 25th of December.
I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses which we received from Bookouture via NetGalley.