Laurel Grant works as the social media manager for Buckeye State of Mind, an Ohio tourism magazine and website. She most definitely does not run a farm . . . but one tiny misunderstanding leads her boss, Gilbert, to think she owns her twin sister Holly’s farm just outside of Columbus. Laurel only handles the social media for the farm, but she’s happy to keep her little white lie going if it means not getting fired—she cannot be jobless again.
And keep it going she must when Gilbert, recently dumped by his wife, invites himself over for the farm’s big Christmas Eve Eve dinner (as advertised on Meadow Rise Farm’s Instagram, thanks to Laurel herself). Laurel immediately goes into panic mode to figure out how she can trick Gilbert into thinking she’s basically the Martha Stewart of rural Ohio and keep her job in the process.
Laurel and Holly come up with the perfect plan—all Laurel has to do is pretend to own the farm for one dinner. But Laurel shows up at the farm to find an unwelcome guest is waiting: Max Beckett, her nemesis since Holly’s wedding. The annoyingly attractive man she hates will be posing as Laurel’s husband just for the evening, but when a snowstorm traps them all for the entire weekend, Laurel is going to have to figure out how to survive with her job and dignity intact. Whatever the case, this promises to be the most eventful Christmas in ages. . . .
Like PJ and Janga, I do love a good Christmas story, and I was very excited when I saw this title come up for review because the premise is the trope of one of my favorite Christmas movies, Christmas in Connecticut. Like its predecessor, Faking Christmas immediately ramped up with the hijinks and hilarities only a traditional rom-com can do. Kerry Winfrey’s dialogue snaps and crackles on the page like the jolliest of Christmas Eve fires, and I kept turning pages like a mad-woman to get the next belly laugh. I soon came to realize Kerry’s story is more like if Christmas in Connecticut and Bridget Jones’ Diary had a baby, due to the main character’s hysterical inner monologues and her Bridget-like catastrophes that always made her look just a little more ridiculous and/or cranky in front of the hero, who had some very Mark Darcy/Colin Firth vibes.
The story is frothy, fun, and as festive as the movie, Elf, if occasionally that ridiculous. From a critique-type perspective, there were a number of times I wanted to shake the heroine for her behavior, which could be a bit self destructive. Perhaps if the heroine had behaved like a moderate adult and had communicated why she didn’t like the hero to his face–and allowed the hero to explain his behavior–I wouldn’t have been so annoyed with her, but it would have made for a much shorter book. Also, I admit, as much as we like to think we’re mature enough to be adults and communicate using words (rather than snarky remarks), there’s many times we all go about in the world acting like insecure, self-righteous teenagers and avoiding the conversation that would have saved years of angst, out of loyalty or fear or both. While it’s believable as conflict, I tended to like the character less. Fortunately, eventually, Laurel has a few conversations and realizes she’s been angsty and obnoxious for no reason to our dear hero, who does seem to be a patron saint of patience where she is concerned. This character behavior may not bother other readers who identify with how she’s behaving–but as a firm Brene Brown reader, I did find Laurel occasionally tiresome. I grant you not everyone has read Brene Brown all the way through–Laurel certainly hadn’t.
The secondary characters are all wonderful, different, and memorable, especially Gilbert, the boss, who I imagine looks a bit like that guy from Office Space whose stapler is stolen, only in the book, it was his wife that was stolen. Gilbert, who upon being dumped by his wife, realizes he’s in for the worst Christmas of his life, brilliantly and accidentally invites himself to partake in the majestic Christmas events at Laurel’s family farm–only it’s not Laurel’s farm. It’s her twin sister, Holly’s farm, and due to some unfortunate events, Gilbert is under the mistaken impression, Laurel actually owns the farm. And he can’t wait to sample her legendary cooking, help milk the goats, and do all those fun farm things that Laurel has been writing about in her monthly articles for Gilbert. None of which she actually can do. In the beginning, you may ask yourself, why doesn’t Laurel just explain the misunderstanding? And it’s really not until ⅔ of the way in the book when there’s another inner dialogue where you truly understand it. The revelation where Laurel wants to not be thought of as the Bridget Jones fuck-up in her family, when she’s surrounded by people who have clearly got their acts together. She understands she’s creating the messes, mind you–she knows she’s to blame–it’s that she doesn’t know how to stop.
Still, Laurel is someone you root for–and her family roots for her as well since they’re all willing to pretend she’s the competent Martha Stewart farmer-ess with goats, though she’s actually notorious for burning up a microwave while making mac & cheese. Max, who is as serious as Colin Firth, and has the misfortune for having said something unflattering within Laurel’s hearing some years ago, is the Mr. Darcy we all know and love. Yes, yes, he did say something belittling and awful once upon a time, but it’s clear as soon as he’s in the same room with Laurel, none of it changes the fact he is madly in love with her and there’s nothing he can do about it. Despite all Laurel’s best efforts to screw up a sure thing, eventually communication prevails for a few different levels, the truth comes out, and everyone gets the best Christmas gift ever. Even Gilbert.
There’s a lot of love, loyalty, and patience–as well as the bonus of “we love you just as you are” and I was totally here for it. The humor could veer to a bit slap-stick, but it was more dialogue “Philadelphia Story” banter that had me laughing on every page. Kerry Winfrey’s dialogue banter is on point. It felt like a rom-com book worthy of the name, a throwback to the early rom-com books. For me, it was a total top dish–and I can’t wait to sink myself into some more Christmas books of the season.
Do you enjoy throwback romantic comedies from the 1940's and 1950's like Christmas in Connecticut? Or, maybe more current movies like Elf? Is there a favorite you watch every holiday season?
One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, October 8 will receive a print copy of Faking Christmas.
*Must be 18