Monday, March 7, 2016

Book review: Christmas In July by Debbie Mason

After enjoying books 4 to 6 and book 1 so much, I had no doubt I would love book 2, as well. I have to say, Christmas In July is my very favorite book in the series (I haven’t read book 3 yet, but even though I’m sure Skye and Ethan’s story is going to be great, I don’t think they’ll manage to steal the top favorite spot from Grace and Jack).

Grace is the owner of the local bakery. Back in book 1, Madison (the heroine in the book) encouraged her to expand her business and promote her fabulous Sugar Plum cakes. Every cake as a hidden chocolate sugar plum with either an engagement ring or a special wish inside it, and the wishes usually come true.

The book opens with Grace working on a Sugar Plum cake, the one for her husband’s birthday and her final goodbye to him. Ever since Jack’s Black Hawk was shot down seventeen months before, he was considered MIA, and at first she was just like every citizen of Christmas: convinced he'd be coming back to her and their two-year-old son. But now Grace has given up hope of her husband ever coming home and is making this cake to finally let him go and concentrate on her future—for the sake of her son. Jack Junior doesn’t remember his dad, so he’s happy to think Sawyer, Jack's best friend, is his dad. Grace, on the other hand, isn’t quite ready to move on, and even though she’s given up hope of ever seeing her husband again, she can’t accept what Sawyer’s been offering her.

But during the birthday celebrations, just when she’s about to say goodbye to Jack for good, comes the shocking news: Jack and his team have been rescued and are alive.

Enters Jackson Flaherty, and well, wow. To be honest, all the heroes created by Debbie Mason are swoon material, but Jack, well, Jack is… wow material. It’s impossible to describe him and give you the idea of what he’s like: you’ll just have to trust me and read the book to find out what I’m talking about.

Her husband's commanding presence filled the entrance to the bakery. He stood there in his uniform, as breath-stealingly handsome as she remembered.
...Now his hair was shorter, the shadow on his jaw accentuating, rather than hiding, his movie-star good looks. But his eyes were the same startling blue in his deeply tanned face as they'd always been. 

Jack was a pilot in the Army and after his Black Hawk went down and he was held prisoner, he lost memory of the last few years of his life—including the wife and son he left behind. Okay, I’ll be honest: when he first entered the story and I understood the woman he was looking forward to going home to wasn’t Grace I had a little “what on earth?” moment. But when he went home and met Grace and their son, I wanted to jump into the book and give him a bear hug.

The tears she struggled to contain rolled helplessly down her cheeks. His strong arms banded around her, his large hand moving in comforting circles on her back. "Don't cry," he murmured, his breath warming her ear. "It's going to be okay."

Jack Junior is adorable. The fact that he doesn’t consider Jack his dad, and is super protective of his mom, provides a lot of funny scenes. I loved reading about father and son bonding moments, and how hard Jack worked to make his son warm up to him. There are some serious laugh-out-loud moments, and some “awww” moments that melted my heart.

But there was no love in the electric-blue eyes of the little boy who sank his teeth into Jack's leg. Jack winced and reached for him. The kid let loose an ear-splitting shriek. Jack reared back, holding up his hands. "I didn't touch him."
"I know you didn't," his wife assured him and went down on her knees beside the little boy, trying to pry his jaw open. "Jackson Flaherty, you stop that right... Ouch."
At his mother's pained cry, the toddler loosened his grip on Jack's leg. Reaching for her reddened finger, he kissed it and gave her a dimpled smile. "Owie better." He scowled at Jack. 
The journey to Jack and Grace’s happily-ever-after isn’t an easy one, especially since the night before he left for Afghanistan they had a big fight. I enjoyed every single page in this book. I loved witnessing Jack’s growth as a man, and how his love for Grace truly shaped him and changed his mind about things he hadn’t wanted to accept before he left.

Just like all the other books, the story has funny moments, romantic moments (and no graphic scenes), as well as some tension and edge of your seat moments. I laughed, swooned, I held my breath and let it out with relief, and when I reached the last page I had a contented smile on my face. I really, truly loved this story. It’s clean romance at its best, with just enough tension to make you hold your breath waiting for the happy ending that you’ll be rooting for from the very beginning.

All the funny (and a little crazy) characters that make this series so great and enjoyable are back, and make the story even more entertaining. I love the camaraderie of this small community and if Christmas was a real town, I wouldn’t think twice about packing up my life and moving there!

If you like small-town romance, this is definitely a book you should one-click without hesitating. It works perfectly as a standalone, but I’m pretty sure you’ll want to read all the other books as well—especially if you’re a series-addict type of reader. This is the perfect feel-good, small-town series that will never fail to warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.


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