I was so prepared to fall absolutely in love with this holiday romance. Small town scene, likeable leads, an absolutely darling matchmaking cat, and a series of cute romantic scenes structured around the 12 Days of Christmas — it has a lot of elements I love! The opening scene even featured a starring role for Snowball the cat, and a daring rescue attempt by the hero, Daniel, which goes hilariously wrong in front of the heroine, Sophie. From that first scene, I was hooked, and ready to lose myself in this romance.
Unfortunately, the story somewhat fizzled for me afterwards, and didn’t quite manage to hook me until about the halfway point. I can’t quite pinpoint why, and am open to the possibility that it’s simply a case of wrong timing for me, but it took me over a month to finish this, which for an animal-themed holiday romance is surprising.
I do like the leads, and I do buy the conflict between them — Sophie’s the new manager of the Weber Haus Inn, and Daniel owns the construction company doing renovations before Christmas. Both are take-charge Type A personalities who care deeply about their jobs but suck at collaborating. So when they have to work together — or at least around each other — to get the inn ready for the Christmas Market, they naturally butt heads.
I also like that Sophie’s backstory totally explains why she’s so prickly: her ex-boyfriend / former co-worker used her ideas to take her dream promotion for himself, so she naturally bristles when Daniel inadvertently circumvents her authority as manager. Daniel’s background is a little less clear-cut — he’s guilty over being unable to save his brother from dying when they were kids, so he now wants to solve all the problems he can. Perhaps I missed why he feels so responsible for his brother’s death? Either way, it’s a sad backstory, but the connection to his behaviour wasn’t quite as clear. I do also like the communication between the leads. They tell each other clearly what their professional boundaries are, and when the other has stepped over the line. And I love how the first scene with rescuing Snowball after the cat gets stuck chasing a partridge up a pear tree turns into an inside joke between Sophie and Daniel. Their banter about completing the 12 days of Christmas could have easily tipped over into too-cutesy territory, but the author makes it work. The scene with the five gold rings was super sweet, and by the time we got to five gold rings, I was eager to find out how the rest of the days were going to play out.
And of course, Snowball is an absolute darling from beginning to end. I absolutely love how she starts out loving Sophie and hating Daniel, and then reluctantly decides to play matchmaker to make them both happy. I also love how she struts around the inn like she owns the place, and how she apologizes with the cutest meows when one of her matchmaking schemes goes horribly awry.
Still, overall, I didn’t fall as much in love with this as I thought I would. There’s a minor plot thread about a business rival of Daniel’s that never really went anywhere — perhaps that rival turns out to be a major villain who’ll re-appear throughout the series before getting his just desserts? And there’s a minor plot thread involving a snobby mean girl who’s totally flirting it up with Daniel, which mostly just annoyed me. To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of stereotypical mean girl rivals in general — I prefer when the romantic rivals are also decent people, just not the right fit for the hero — and particularly when ‘mean girl’ is their only defining characteristic. Unlike even Sophie’s mean ex, Gisele barely even gets a backstory or motivation beyond just wanting to date Daniel.
Overall, this book was okay. I do think it’ll make a great Hallmark/Netflix holiday romance — the medium will move things along more quickly, the cute Christmassy encounters around the 12 Days of Christmas will play beautifully on screen, and of course, Snowball will be absolutely adorable on film.
Thank you to Kensington Books for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.