Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
So. This was pretty awful. I think at one point I was going to DNF it, but decided to struggle through. I really hate DNFing ARCs I receive unless they really do break my brain a lot. And this one danced on that line throughout. I think there were zero redeeming characters in this (including Hall). I thought this would be a nice romantic comedy and it was just not. I think Hogle was trying for some “Elf” energy here or something, but I should not spend most of my reading time rooting against the main character (Bettie). Bettie was awful and so was the rest of her family. The writing was not great, the flow was godawful. The countdown to Christmas felt like I was marching into the inner circles of hell. The ending was eyeroll inducing.
“Just Like Magic” follows former influencer (yeah whatever) Bettie Hughes who has been down and out I think for about 2 to 3 years. Bettie spent money like water, didn’t really do a blessed thing and is now broke. Though her family does not know it (which I wonder about that). FYI, the timeline is so confusing on this one and I hope it’s just the ARC and not final book that does this as well. Bettie has been hiding out near her grandparents home (do not ask) and squatting in a home of a woman who died. Bettie is focused though on her ex, reporters who maligned her, and getting her family the best Christmas presents ever. When Bettie gets drunk and finally plays a Mariah Carey record though, some wine being spilled and the record skipping causes Hall a holiday spirt to appear. Apparently Hall is like a genie or something, so he has to do whatever wish that Bettie wants and he also has the ability to reverse time. Look, I didn’t write this, just go with it. Bettie realizes now with Hall’s help she can finally crush Christmas and all of her enemies. Cue not so funny book.
Bettie is pretty terrible. There’s a subplot about her relationship with her ex that was fairly dark, but I have to say that it didn’t fit the rest of the book. And it really made zero sense why she was jealous of her sisters and actually seemed to despise the one who helped her out. She has a bad relationship honestly with the majority of her family. And at the end of this book I still have zero sense of who she is as a character. She starts catching feelings for Hall and I just rolled my eyes.
The other characters were messy and awful in different ways too. Hall started to work my nerves because he just didn’t feel well written. Either he’s super naïve or not. It depends on the scene. The growing feelings between him and Bettie did not feel at all realistic.
The writing was not good IMHO. I think Hogle kept trying to write things that were supposed to be funny, but went on too long and just saw a nasty streak in Bettie. For example, her putting a random buffalo in a reporter’s home.
The flow was painful though. I could have sworn at one point it was like only a few days before Christmas but this book just kept going.
The ending was just a hard shrug from me.