Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TBR Review: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa Kleypas

I had a tough time choosing a Christmas themed book to read for the TBR Challenge this month. I have quite a few, don't get me wrong, but most of them are by Mary Balogh and I've already reviewed enough Balogh books to make a salad!! So, in the end I settled in with a contemporary Christmas romance novella by another favorite writer, Lisa Kleypas. A novella that has been lingering in my TBR pile for quite a while.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa Kleypas

One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is the first book in Lisa Kleypas' Friday Harbor contemporary romance series. The novella introduces the three Nolan brothers as well as the beautiful setting, the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest. This novella focuses on the eldest Nolan brother Mark, his newly orphaned niece Holly, and Maggie Collins. The summary of the story above is quite accurate and I'm not going to repeat it, instead here are my impressions of this holiday romance.

Maggie, Holly and Mark are all in the process of recovering from grief and loss, and in each other they ultimately find love and hope for a bright and happy future. Mark comes from a dysfunctional family and doesn't believe in love until he falls deeply in love with his orphaned niece Holly and becomes a father. Slowly he recognizes that there is a big difference between what he feels for local toy store owner Maggie and what he feels for his girlfriend Shelby. And that is one of my problems with this romance, for most of the story Mark is committed to someone else while his attraction for Maggie evolves into a friendship and suddenly more. Maggie is immediately attracted to Mark, but she takes longer to come around and is not necessarily willing to love again after losing the love of her life. 

As always Kleypas knows how to pull those heart strings, particularly when it comes to Holly. I found, however, that the story is too short and the characters and this romance not developed enough. There's baggage on both sides. Deep feelings of loss, grief and doubts to overcome on Maggie's side are addressed but I'm not sure that she's really ready to fully commit to Mark by the end of this novella. Mark's background is explored with a light touch. And although there are references to a dysfunctional family and a tough childhood that affected all three brothers to attempt to justify his cynicism when it comes to love, not enough details are given to really understand him.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor begins a few months before the Christmas season and it includes a very funny Thanksgiving scene, as well as a Christmas family reunion between the three brothers, Holly, and Maggie. The hope for happiness at the end of the novella gives this story that holiday touch and Holly's circumstances and character provides sweetness. Unfortunately, there's just not enough in this story to make it a memorable holiday read for me.
Theme: Holiday

Category: Contemporary Romance/Holiday
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Publisher/Release Date: St. Martin's Press/ October 2010
Grade: C

Visit Lisa Kleypas here.


  1. I was curious about this one since it was made into a TV movie, but I've been finding that when I want to read Kleypas, I'm usually wanting one of her historicals. Somehow her voice in those seems more distinct to me than in contemporaries.

    1. Lynn, I didn't watch the movie. I wonder if events were further developed there? Don't know.

      I also prefer (and love) Kleypas' historical romances. I also loved both of her contemporaries, Sugar Daddy and Blue Eyed Devil. Unfortunately, I didn't find the gripping qualities that kept me reading those novels in this novella. The characters didn't grab me either. Interesting.

    2. Maybe it was the novella length? I'm not widely read when it comes to Kleypas' backlist, but I don't recall her having published many shorter works. Some authors just work better with a longer word count.

      I haven't read the book or watched the TV movie, but from rumblings I saw on Twitter, it seems like they Hollywood-fied it quite a bit. As in, they changed more than a few things from page-to-screen.

    3. I read this when it first came out. It was sweet enough, but I agree that the story was too short. I watched the movie last week. Yep, Hollywood changed it a ton. The book, IMHO, was much better.

    4. Wendy, I do think the word count had something to do with it. She has published a couple of shorter stories, but not many... When it comes to Mark's character, I think that his background was lightly explored so that she could then go into it in the novels about the other two brothers later on when she wrote the rest of the series. That didn't help this novella IMO. As far as the movie? I'm not surprised that the storyline was changed, I've seen that happen too many times! It is the reason I prefer to read the book.

      Phyl, I agree. There are sweet moments particularly those with Holly. I thought those were quite tender too. But yes... I prefer reading Kleypas' words in a book than seeing someone's else's interpretation of her story on TV, whether I love the book or not. :)

  2. I totes agree that the characters could have used a little more page time, but I did like the story and the introduction to the series. Is it the best of Lisa K? nope but it was sweet. The movie is a bit different and sort of easier to buy their quick relationship because while Maggie went through something bad it wasn't as bad as in the book, nor the Nolan/Nagle (really, that's what they went for in the movie) brother's past was as dark.

    Oh and you see more of Maggie, Holly and Mark in the next book, Rainshadow Road, they aren't front and center but they do show up from time to time.

    1. Alex, I wondered if the movie was going to go with the "dark" side (Maggie's grief and Mark's dysfuctional family) and make it dramatic or "lighter" and make it a happy, Hallmark, feel-good Christmas story.

      I'm not sure that I'm going to read this series. This novella didn't intrigue me enough to pull me into it.... although I DO have the latest book in the series (it was a gift), Alex's story. I might read it at some point to find out what's up with him.

  3. I gave it a B-, but I agree with you, too short and not enough development. I just really liked the brothers' bond with Holly. It was sweet :) And seriously, the Christmas scenes should have been more prominent. But as I said, I thought it was touching how the brothers rearranged their lives for Holly.

    1. Nath, you're right, the brother's bond with Holly was good. As a matter of fact, I thought all the scenes with Holly were sweet. I guess I had more of an issue with the romance, and the Christmas theme was minimal considering that it is part of the title. It was an ok read for me... average, just nothing that I will really remember. It just surprised me because this is Kleypas. O_o


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