I’m not much for romances, but I’ll gladly accept any novel when it centers around Christmas, especially during the Christmas season. That’s why I picked up A Christmas Bouquet, actually – it puts me in the holiday spirit.
The book is actually a trio of Christmas-themed stories from authors signed to Zebra Bouquet Romances. Suzanne Barrett gives us a nearly-miraculous tale of a woman and her son who move to a small town, hoping to start a new life during Christmastime, when a nice new man comes into both of their lives to stir things up. Kate Holmes offers up my favorite in this collection, about a woman who meets an unlikely rich suitor living next door to her during a Christmas shopping trip, leading to both love and a newfound appreciation of the Christmas spirit. Last is Vera Munn’s story of a woman who, while attempting to get business for her new shop during the holiday season, attracts a handsome man who differs in her opinions of Christmas economics.
Love is, of course, in the air in each of these stories, but more importantly, so is the presence of Christmas cheer. Barrett’s story has only a slight hint of Christmas, but the others all smack of the graces of the holiday. Fortunately, the authors are skilled enough to combine the romance aspect with all sorts of holiday activities that propel the tales into more interesting areas than most romances. This is not to dispel the fact that the stories do follow the same patterns of generic romances – each character has a chance encounter with a man and it is almost always love at first sight. But these stereotypical plot devices can be overlooked because, during the holidays, it is easy to believe that miracles like those of A Christmas Bouquet can happen.
The stories aren’t perfect, however. Barrett’s story becomes slightly tedious after her main character again and again refuses to let the man in her life. It prolongs the story, but it adds unnecessary conflict and frustrates the reader in the process. Munn’s short incorporates some interesting ideas on Christmas selfishness, but it also feels almost too good to be true. The relationship’s problems are almost insignificant compared to, say, having no home at Christmastime or a cheating husband. The only story that I found no difficulties with was Holmes’, mostly because she takes the story of a scrooge and updates it with a surly yet likable man.
And yes, while the stories have a few corny romantic elements, for the most part, each does its part to put the warmth of the holidays into written form. The stories are unrealistic but strangely rewarding, affecting the piece of us that accepts the goodness of the holidays.