A Christmas Affair
By Jodi Thomas
Publisher: Harlequin / HQN
Release Date: October 1, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Maria Davis once owned a small restaurant in Dallas where she was gaining a reputation as a talented chef. That changed on Christmas Eve five years ago when Maria and her mother were involved in an automobile accident that left her mother dead and Maria blind. Maria has adjusted to her new life with remarkable grace. She enjoys the slower-paced life she shares with her sister, Dakota, and her grandmother, and sales of her homemade jams and jellies are growing. But Maria wants more. She wants the love that the heroines of her beloved romance novels experience, and Maria decides that she will act rather than waiting for her knight in shining armor to appear. Wes Whitman is the man she has chosen.
Wes Whitman is no one’s idea of a knight on a white horse. He is a grocer who likes his quiet, orderly life and takes pride in the store he owns. He has no illusions about himself. At thirty-four, he “considered himself passable” but recognizes that in a few more years he will likely “get that buzzard look his father and grandfather had aged into. Too tall, too thin, hawk-nosed and big-eared.” For more than four years, Wednesdays have been the highlight of Wes’s week. Wednesday is that day that Maria Davis restocks Davis Jams and Jellies. Over the years, he and Maria have established their own ritual for these days. He watches her work, escorts her to his office where she sits in the same chair while they exchange a few sentences, then he writes her check and follows her to Dakota’s old pickup. One day, Wes changes the ritual by inviting Maria to have a cup of coffee, but Maria changes things more radically when she kisses him. Maria wants a “wild affair,” but Wes wants forever. Can he convince her that his dream is really her dream too?
Meanwhile, three weeks before Christmas, there is a newcomer in town. Travis Fuller, not quite sixteen and harboring a secret dream of becoming an architect, has been placed in the custody of his three great-uncles—Cap, Dice, and Horace Fuller. Travis is convinced they are all crazy, old men, but with all their idiosyncrasies, they offer him more than his parents: “His mother was mean and his father was stupid. Their last fight ended with her in the hospital and him in jail.” Travis has lost faith in adults. He arrives thinking only of getting enough money together to buy a bus ticket to somewhere else, but he may just find that his uncles can give him a home and a future.
Jodi Thomas takes her readers back to Crossroads, Texas, for a Christmas visit in this heartwarming novella that is part of her Ransom Canyon series. The story gives readers the quirky town and misfit characters which have earned her countless fans, and she adds a subtle, Christmas touch by showcasing characters who find there is indeed room for them in Crossroads and in the hearts of people who love them.
One of the things that keeps me coming back for more of Thomas’s work is that in her fictional world, everyone deserves—and gets—love and the promise of happiness. You would be hard pushed to find a hero more antithetical to the ever-popular alpha hero than a “passable,” headed-toward-homely merchant who is the shyest person in town. And even Dakota, who loves her sister devotedly, never imagines that shy, pretty, blind Maria dreams of romance and a lover who will erase painful memories. Thomas reveals the romantic hearts Wes and Maria hide. By the time Wes admits to Maria, “I was about to give up on finding you. . . If whatever this is lasts a day or a lifetime, it’ll still be the peak in my life,” he has won the reader’s heart as surely as he wins Maria’s. And Maria is no less successful in tugging at heart strings when she tells him, “I’d like a Christmas Eve memory that would erase the night of the wreck. I’d like to dance with the smell of Evergreens around me and know that for just one moment I’m cherished.” Sigh!
Thomas weaves Travis’s story into the larger story. His edges may be rougher, but he is no less deserving of a family who cares for him and a place to belong than Wes and Maria are of romantic love. And the happy resolution to his story is no less satisfying. Thomas has a gift for creating lost, searching teens. Travis is the second one in this series. I’d like to think readers will see more of him, but this may be the conclusion to the Ransom Canyon series. Thomas’s spring book, Home by Twilight, sounds like women’s fiction and appears to be a standalone.
If you read Indigo Lake and wished for Maria and Wes’s story, A Christmas Affair is perfect wish fulfilment. If you like Christmas romances but want something a bit different from the usual, A Christmas Affair may be just what you ordered. If you are a bit weary of stories about beautiful people and the love affairs of billionaires, you may fall in love with these blessedly ordinary, richly human characters. Jodi Thomas’s Christmas gift to her readers is a small gem. I highly recommend it.