N.R. Walker writes books about nice men falling in love. Generally, they have some scars or trauma but their love stories proceed apace without sturm and drang. It’s really nice. Walker’s nice. She writes nice books. She’s Carla Kelly without the historical elements and with less strong writing skills. The world is basically kind and people will surprise you . This is something to be encouraged. I bought all four books in Walker’s Hartbridge Christmas series and read three. I’m happy to give Walker my money because she generally writes enjoyable books, however these were not her best work.
The Hartbridge Christmas series was literally and literarily evoking Hallmark Christmas movies. As an inveterate reader of wish fulfillment fiction (and Christmas novella reader), you would think I’d watched my fair share of them. Not a one. I know the tropes. We all know the tropes*, but they seem like they’d be too saccharine and sanitized for me. These novels did nothing to disabuse me of that perception; in fact, I can’t think of a kissing book movie adaptation that has worked for me.
Summary: Fish-out-of-water lands in small, mountain town in Montana shortly before Christmas. He falls instantly in love with a local brawny man. Stars align, family is found, they settle down.
So where does it go meh? I don’t mind insta-love. I adore a big lug. Several of the men have beards. Catnip! However –
- The characters each have only a skim coat of personality traits.
- Everybody says exactly what they’re feeling all the time.
- Characters constantly comment on the magical and Hallmark-esque qualities of the small town.
- My brain is contaminated by current and perceived political realities so I find the whole Mayberry approach to rural Montana questionable for these men who love men.
- One of the men is a cop. Hard pass.
- Holiday Heart Strings had a background character on a four-week maternity leave and the barbarism of that in a so-called first world nation distracted and enraged me.
- Each time, the new in town character was GAY! and the local guy was closeted. Boring.
- The books feel written with a formula as opposed to tropes, if that makes sense.
- Did I mention the relentless Hallmark Christmas movie of it all? Seriously, a guy renovates and moves into an old house that’s been standing empty for decades in a matter of weeks. Poppycock.
I chose Merry Christmas Cupid for the featured image as it had the biggest lug: “He was cute! In a total teddy-bear, garden-gnome kind of way” and was therefore my favourite. Sadly, said lug is not shown. He was pretty dreamy.
You can visit my blog but it hasn’t been updated in roughly 5 years so my recommendations are woefully out of date.
*Emily Henry’s Book Lovers was a marvelous flip of the Hallmark romance tropes. Go read it instead.