Saturday, October 22, 2016

Christmas Joy, by Nancy Naigle

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 97812501060700, October 2016

Joy Holbrook has fled the small town where her mother died, staying in contact with her Aunt Ruby but living a life totally divorced from Crystal Falls. She's a market researcher with a growing career in Washington, D.C. The promotion of her dreams seems to be within reach--and she gets a phone call telling her Ruby has fallen and broken her ankle. On a Friday afternoon not long before Christmas, she's on her way to Crystal Falls with the hope and expectation that Ruby will be set back in her own home by Monday.

It's not going to happen.

The break is serious, and it quickly becomes clear that Joy will be taking leave until the end of the year.

And taking care of Ruby's home and animals during her recuperation is no simple matter. Two goats, a donkey, chickens, a rabbit whose mate has died, and a 4H cow that a 4H member named Tommy feeds and cares for.

Oh, and there's Molly, the little girl who stops by every morning for Ruby to make her lunch and get her to the bus on time. Joy doesn't get an explanation of why Molly's mother needs the help, but it's very important to Ruby.

Then there's the surprise about decorating for the Crystal Christmas Cookie Crawl. Ruby's house is a major stop on the Crawl, and the decorating and making up the dough to bake the cookies fresh for the event has to be done starting right now. Buts Ruby's friend Shirley assures her it will all be fine; Shirley's grandson Ben will help. Joy is sure she can do it alone. Ruby insists she needs Ben's help.

Joy's been burned a few times in her life, and she doesn't want to rely on anyone. It's just too danged frustrating when she realizes the job really is too big for one, especially when she's never even attended the Cookie Crawl.

The sparks of course fly between Joy and Ben, who has his own bad experiences to make him as wary of this polished city girl as she is of him. The friction, the attraction, and the hints of possible compatibility make their time together challenging and exciting in ways neither expected or was prepared for. Having said that, this is a very "clean" romance; nothing to concern a reader who doesn't want sexy elements in their romance fiction. The characters are likable, even some who may not seem so at first.

It's a very nice, enjoyable read for anyone looking for a Christmas romance.

Recommended.