Holiday Reviews: ONCE UPON A DECEMBER & MEET ME UNDER THE MISTLETOE

 

Happy Friday everyone! I know it’s still spooky season, but for some reason, all of my holiday ARCs also published this month so today I’m sharing my thoughts on my first holiday reads of 2022.

 

Holiday Reviews:  ONCE UPON A DECEMBER & MEET ME UNDER THE MISTLETOEOnce Upon a December Goodreads

Author: Amy E. Reichert

Publication Date: October 4, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert follows Astra Noel Snow, a young woman who is heartbroken after a nasty divorce and looking to make a fresh start.  As you can imagine from her name, Astra is all about holiday spirit and what she’s most looking forward to is her annual trip to the Milwaukee Christmas Market with her best friends.  She’s there to eat, drink and be merry with her squad and to flirt with Jack, the super cute baker who insists on saving her his best homemade kringle.  What Astra doesn’t know at the time is that she has met Jack before, and on more than one occasion…

Jack Clausen works at the Julemarked, a one-of-a-kind Christmas market. It’s one of a kind because it’s always Christmas there, even once Christmas has come and gone everywhere else.  The market exists in its own time and space, magically jumping from one December to the next every four weeks.  Once the market leaves a city, the city’s residents immediately forget that it existed and it’s a joyous surprise for them whenever it returns.  Jack has always loved living this magical existence, that is, until he develops feelings for Astra and becomes frustrated that he can only see her each time the Julemarked returns to Milwaukee and even then, she just doesn’t remember who he is.  When the magical market arrives this holiday season, Jack decides it’s time to figure out if there’s any way he and Astra can truly have any kind of future together.  If she knew the truth about the Julemarked, would she consider leaving her life and joining him there?  Or could he bring himself to leave behind the only life he has ever known to be with her?

Sometime magical realism doesn’t work for me, but Reichert always gets it exactly right.  I fell in love with the whole concept of the Julemarked and just loved the way Reichert brought it to life.  I could practically taste the delicious kringle and the hot cocoa.  The atmosphere reminded me of a Hallmark movie, as did all of the adorable dates between Astra and Jack, and as a huge Hallmark fan, that makes for a winning read for me.  I also adored all of the fun and quirky characters, from Astra and her best friends all the way through to Jack and all of the residents of the Julemarked, who were rooting just as hard as I was for Jack to find a way to be with Astra.

Once Upon a December is truly a magical and heartwarming holiday read.  I knew it would be after falling in love with Reichert’s last novel, The Kindred Spirits Supper Club, but she definitely exceeded my expectations with this new book.  If you’re looking for a read that captures the magic of the holidays and that is sure to leave you with a smile on your face, look no further than Once Upon a December4 STARS

 

 

Holiday Reviews:  ONCE UPON A DECEMBER & MEET ME UNDER THE MISTLETOEMeet Me Under the Mistletoe Goodreads

Author: Jenny Bayliss

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Jenny Bayliss’ new holiday novel, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, follows Elinor Novel, a bookshop owner, who heads to a castle in the English countryside for a wedding and a holiday reunion with her friends from boarding school.  Elinor is reluctant to attend because there’s someone she doesn’t want to see – a certain someone she had a one-night stand with who turned out to be married. Elinor did not know he was married, and he of course didn’t offer up that bit of information.  Her desire to see the rest of her friends wins out though and so she’s off to the country.

I really liked Elinor. Even though she went to boarding school and has a squad of rich friends that can afford to spend their holidays at fancy castles, Elinor feels that she has never really fit in with them because she only attended the school on scholarship.  Her parents are working class and even with her boarding school education, Elinor doesn’t have a fancy flashy career like the rest of her schoolmates do.  She has that underdog vibe that I always love so much. I found it very interesting to follow Elinor’s journey because reuniting with these friends takes her back to a place in her memory where she felt like she never quite fit in and was an imposter. Bayliss does a wonderful job of taking us through the full range of emotions Elinor experiences as she works out how she fits in with this group and what she wants out of life.  I also adored the scenes where Elinor reconnects with Isaac, her childhood nemesis, who has grown up and is clearly no longer interested in being Elinor’s enemy.  It was really sweet watching the two of them reconnect and reevaluate their relationship.

The story was sometimes hilarious, sometimes dramatic, but always entertaining.  I particularly enjoyed the wedding preparation scenes, the random shenanigans surrounding the friends reuniting, as well as the more tension filled moments between Elinor and the married one-night stand.  Most of my favorite scenes though actually took place between Elinor and Andrew, who she employs at her secondhand bookshop.  He lovingly mocks Elinor because she loves books so much that she never actually wants to sell any of the books she acquires.  They were just the most adorable book nerds!

The only downside to Meet Me Under the Mistletoe was that even though it’s meant to be a holiday read, there really isn’t that much holiday spirit in it.  Nearly two-thirds of the book doesn’t mention Christmas at all, which surprised and disappointed me a bit.  I honestly think I would have enjoyed the story so much more without the promise of a holiday element since that promise set up an expectation that wasn’t really met for me.  It’s still a good solid read though. 3 STARS

24 replies
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      It really surprised me that all of my Christmas ARCs published the first week of October. I guess it’s the retail factor, but yeah, I wasn’t really ready to start reading them yet.

      Reply
  1. Greg
    Greg says:

    It is nice to see some nice holiday books coming out, I do like a good Christmasy read around the holidays! Glad these were both good although the second one could have used a little more holiday spirit sounds like.
    Greg recently posted…Sunday Post 475

    Reply
  2. Sam@WLABB
    Sam@WLABB says:

    I am on the fence about Mistletoe being a holiday read. The story took place around the holidays, and the mistletoe had significance in the story, but I felt like this was more Nory’s story, and I enjoyed her working her stuff out. I personally could have done without the one-night-stand drama, but I liked the rest of it.
    Sam@WLABB recently posted…Six Degrees of Separation – October 2022

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, the one-night-stand drama seemed unnecessary. I agree about this story being more about Nory and her journey. In my mind, it’s more women’s fiction than a holiday read.

      Reply

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