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Hitting all the holiday cliches: Harlequin Spotlight

December 24, 2009

So yesterday, I was taking a break from packing to eat some well-deserved, and way late, lunch, and I realized I HAD NO BOOKS.  Oh, except for the ones I set aside to not get packed (so my recapping books wouldn’t get lost, etc).  In that pile, Gina Wilkins’s All I Want for Christmas.

I like Gina Wilkins.  I have A Stroke of Genius and A Bright Idea for recapping and I ❤ them.  But I wondered how one of her books would stand up without the magical fog of nostalgia.

All I Want for Christmas is a sappy little story with the gender roles firmly in place.  Ryan is a twenty-eighty-year-old woman who has little in the way of outside interests besides her doll store, which has the sickeningly sweet name Beautiful Babies.  It is possibly the second worst name for a fictional store I’ve ever heard in my life.  (The first will be upcoming in a Harlequin recap.)  Her biological clock is ticking–or at least her concept of her biological clock.  She doesn’t wanna play around.  She’s going to be thirty soon.  She needs a good man, a commitment, and some kids.

Enter Pip and Kelsey–yes, Pip.  They’re like nine and six, respectively, and they are incredibly well-behaved orphans.  Of course they are.  Pip has taken Kelsey to visit the Santa at the mall, who of course may be THE REAL SANTA.  He certainly knows what’s what.  We find out that Kelsey would like parents for Christmas, so Santa leads them to Ryan at the doll store and then the sporting goods store.  For Kelsey and Pip, respectively.  Because, you know, Pip couldn’t dig dolls and Kelsey couldn’t be into sports.  That’s just not American.

Anyway, Ryan runs the doll store but Max, Our Reluctant Hero, is too manly to be tied down to something like running a store.  He likes his relationships flingy and his life uncomplicated.  He likes football and flirting.  He thinks Ryan is cute.  He’s worried about the kids.  But he keeps talking himself into and out of liking Ryan–cuz she’s a commitment kind of gal–and the kids–because they’re, like, attachments.

Wilkins skims the surface of her characters in a way that bugs me.  Max is like, such a Guy he forgets to be a person.  Each has motivation for their life views, but it’s blown past, as is any romance.  Max is such a charmer that I never feel there’s a reason to LIKE him; he’s all surface until he changes his mind–then there’s nothing in him that makes me believe he’ll actually be content with the life he has.  Ehh.  Poor Max; such a prop.

Everything falls into place so easily for them; the kids’ aunt DIES and the other one is, like, a poor “haunted-looking” single woman with no job who signs the kids right away.  There’s a neighbor who can baby-sit for the kids while Ryan is at work.  Blah blah blah–Max doesn’t actually WORK, by the way.  He’s a famous writer, of course.  He sits in front of a computer a little, but doesn’t get much of anything done except whining that he want to be freeeee.

Blargh.  Dude sits around all day, but Ryan (well, her brother actually) is still paying for a babysitter.  Great job, jackass.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong, it’s a cute book, but it’s just not very deep or, ultimately, that interesting.  It definitely falls short of the expectations I have for books in the Temptation line, which are generally extra-sexy and chock full of rounded characters.

Merry Christmas?  I’m such a Grinch today. 😀

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