by Zoe Allison
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Reviewed by PJ
Maya Bashir is dreading her drive home for Christmas and having to explain that she's just left her high-paying job and a long-term relationship, so a brief detour to her friend’s festive party doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Until Maya walks in to find the last person she wants to see. Sam, the boy who broke her heart eight years ago. And he’s serving drinks. Naked.
Sam Holland is working an extra job on the sly to help his friend get by. But little did he expect Maya Bashir to come barrelling back into his life, learning about his secret side-hustle and taking back her old job alongside him at his daytime role as a ski instructor on the slopes of the Scottish Highlands.
As both Sam and Maya realize that their reason for heartbreak so many years ago wasn’t entirely as it seemed, they must learn to stand up for what they want the most…or else miss their second chance at love.
Zoe Allison takes readers to the Scottish Highlands in this humorous and heart-tugging second-chance romance, tugging me into the lives of these characters from their unexpectedly funny "reunion" in the first few pages then easily holding my attention right up to the final scene.
The ski resort provides a wonderful backdrop for this small-town, reunion romance, offering up cozy fires, delicious hot chocolate, crisp air, and snowy slopes that invite you to indulge your inner snow bunny. The setting has me wanting to pack my bags and book a flight to Scotland but it's the characters who would make me want to stay.
At first glance, this book would seem to be a lighthearted, funny second-chance romance. And it is...but it's also so much more. Allison has created complex characters with multiple layers, dealing with real-life issues that elicit a range of emotions. Maya's relationship with her family, and their expectations, has had a profound impact on her life and her happiness while Sam's own family issues have led him into an emotionally abusive relationship. These characters are so relatable, and endearing. I enjoyed their friendship, the attraction between them, the goodness and kindness in them. I was in their corner, cheering them on the entire way.
While much of Sam and Maya's journey is flirty and fun, there are serious issues front and center in each of their lives. I appreciate the fact that the author gives both Maya and Sam the necessary time - and tools - to face those issues head-on. There is much to sort out between them with open communication being the key. There are also some emotionally triggering circumstances for Sam that are critical to his well being. Kudos to Allison for allowing her characters to grow realistically, acknowledging that the need for mental health treatment doesn't take away from this book's enjoyment, or from the romantic journey, but rather enhances it.
This was my first book by Zoe Allison. It will not be my last.
Have you visited the Scottish Highlands?
Where would you be spending your ski resort vacation: on the slopes or snuggled up to a cozy fire in the lodge?
One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, September 30 will receive a print copy of The Ex-Mas Holidays.