I don’t watch a lot of television, and I only have Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ for streaming services (of which I don’t watch very often), so I tend to miss out on the dearth of holiday hallmark movies that come out this time of year. Luckily, books are always the answer to any dilemma (especially a minor one like this) so I picked up the decidedly saccharine One More for Christmas by Sarah Morgan. Does it involve a woman who works too hard? Yes. Does it include a family overcoming emotional obstacles? You betcha. Does someone rich come in and save someone else with money troubles? Yup. Is there romance? OF COURSE THERE IS. Everything is tied up a neat little package by the end, and the last page sums it all up with a happy family opening their Christmas stockings. If you need to escape all the doom and gloom that is our current news cycle, you’ll want to check this book out.
Gayle is a classic workaholic. She is a famous author with a reputation of writing bestselling books on how to be successful in life, and owns a consulting firm with services that are always in demand. She doesn’t have any friends or relationships of substance, and hasn’t spoken to her two adult daughters Samantha and Ella in over five years. But after a medical scare, Gayle realizes she’s ignoring the most important things in life, and tries to reconnect with her daughters by inserting herself into their Christmas holiday plans. Samantha is a successful businesswoman in her own right, leading a travel agency that organizes special holiday trips for people looking for a magical Christmas experience. Ella is happily married with a young daughter, and terrified of telling her mother that she’s decided to quit her job to stay home with her kid. Together the family travels to the snowy highlands of Scotland to scout a potential new resort for Samantha’s roster, and there they find a handsome, single man and his extended family, attempting to make some money by renting out their beautiful property to tourists. Although this book is published by Harlequin and there is a strong romantic thread, it’s also about family, and our expectations of each other: parents and kids alike.
Even though this is a fluffy read, the familial relationships are realistically presented and demonstrate a common thread of tensions that exists in almost every family. Gayle was overly focused on work when her daughters were young because she was a single mother and had no other family to turn to. Obviously she took this too far, but when we learn about her past and what happened to her husband, her actions seem understandable. At the same time, the expectations that Ella and Samantha have of their mother are also reasonable, and their memories of never even getting a Christmas tree when young are heartbreaking. There’s a pivotal moment in the book where Gayle is making a snowman her with granddaughter, and Ella muses on the fact that her mother never did anything simply for fun, never on her own, or with her kids. Although this sounds terribly depressing, I think this insatiable drive to succeed and make money is much more common that we truly think, especially in men. I appreciated the fact that Gayle was an independently strong and wealthy woman breaking through stereotypes, and Morgan’s subtle nod to the fact that her character writes self-help books but can’t help herself is a surprising but welcome revelation in the plot. How many of us are experts at doling out advice but not taking it in? I know it’s something many of us struggle with, which is what made Gayle so relatable, even when she’s initially introduced as the ‘villain’ in the novel.
I knew what this book was going to b, and how it was going to end before I even started it. Everything I needed to know was on the cover; a dog with a big red bow on it, three women lovingly walking together in a picture-perfect snow scene, and an iridescent sheen to the entire jacket, highlighting the white fairy lights perfectly strung on each tree. Although I read this in November, it still got me into the Christmas spirit (which may explain why I put up my tree right after Remembrance Day). A guaranteed feel-good novel may not appeal to everyone, but I enjoyed the fact that this book didn’t ask too much of me. The plot was easy to follow, there were only a few characters to keep straight, and the romance was predictable but entertaining. I can’t see myself ever enjoying those aforementioned Hallmark movies, and although this book was basically their literary equivalent, I most definitely understand our need to cuddle up with something we feel safe and comfortable with. We also read for different reasons, and I’m lucky enough to have a wide variety of books at my disposal so I can read what I feel like at any particular time. If I could choose my own reading schedule, I would have saved this book for the few hectic days around Christmas because it was a wonderful way to slow down and enjoy something while being reminded of the importance of family, even when you’re not the best of friends.