Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'll Be Home for Christmas - Lori Wilde (Avon - Nov 2015)

Series: Twilight Texas (Book 9)

Christmas in Twilight, Texas, is all merriment and mistletoe. The Cookie Club is whipping up their most festive sweets, the townspeople are scrambling to get their holiday shopping done, and Joe -- a hometown guy with a restless heart -- is dreaming about the woman he wants to kiss most . . .

. . . And who happens to be staying at his sister's place over the holidays, while Joe's sister is away. But Joe isn't quite sure he wants to be a living Christmas present to runaway law student Gabi Preston.

Joe thinks the sassy sweetheart he nicknames "Trouble" won't inconvenience anything but his healthy sex drive. But when he discovers the reasons Gabi escaped from her life, he aches to give her everything she's never had. As the magic of the season draws them together, the gift of love is the only one worth giving…

Good book with a sweet romance and characters with real world problems. Gabi is running away from her old life by switching homes with an online friend. After years of living up to her parents' expectations, she has realized that she isn't happy, so she quits law school and comes to Twilight to find out who she really is. There she meets Joe, her friend's brother, a good looking guy who she is immediately attracted to.

Joe is the family rolling stone. Diagnosed with ADHD as a kid, even now he finds himself unable to settle down for long. When his beloved grandfather has a stroke, Joe comes home to run the Christmas tree farm while his grandfather recovers. The work is physical, which helps him stay focused, and the bonus is being with family for the holidays. He's surprised to find Gabi staying in his sister's place, and can't stop thinking about her.

I liked Gabi a lot. She starts out as something of a lost soul and ends up a determined woman who knows exactly what she wants. When Gabi was six years old she lost her beloved older brother to cancer on Christmas Day. She and Derrick had often talked of all the things they would do at Christmas time when he was better. She blamed herself for his death (the reason why was heartbreaking) and set about trying to fill his place in her parents' lives. When she finally realized how unhappy she was, she came to Twilight to experience a real Christmas and decide what she wants to do. I loved seeing her throw herself into all the Christmas activities and how happy they made her. Because she had spent so much of her time growing up concentrating on her studies, she hasn't done much socially. The effect Joe has on her is instant and intense, but she's not sure if she should do anything about it. She's only there for three weeks and doesn't want to distract herself from her goals. But what a distraction! 

Joe was a real sweetheart of a guy. He's well aware of his personal challenges, and believes that because of them he will never settle down. He tried once and it didn't end well. But as evidence of what a good guy he is, he is still on good (though frustrated) terms with his ex-wife and contributes to the care of her daughter. I loved how he was the one who stepped up to take care of the Christmas tree farm because of how much it means to him. He's also a real charmer and has no trouble using it. He's attracted to Gabi, but sees her as the settling down type, which makes getting involved with her a bad idea. However, there is something about her that he can't stay away from.

I loved the development of their relationship. Joe helps her get settled in Katie's place (a yurt!) and unsuccessfully tries to stay away from her. I loved seeing him dive  into helping her experience everything that Christmas in Twilight has to offer. What he doesn't expect is the way that Gabi helps to calm the restlessness that he always feels. As she helps him deal with issues involving his ex and her daughter, he starts to wonder what it would be like to settle with Gabi at his side. I also liked the way that he made Gabi see her own worth as a person instead of just the one who keeps everyone else going. I loved seeing Gabi learn so much about herself with Joe's help. She also helps him with his own issues dealing with his ex-wife, and shows him that he's not the screw-up that he thinks he is. She worries that the feelings she has for Joe aren't real. I really liked the way that Joe gives her the space she needs at the end to figure things out. The ending was really sweet and romantic.

As always, one of the best things about the Twilight series is the emphasis on love and family. Joe's family is well aware of his issues, but is always there for him. I loved his grandfather's story of his own restless past and the parallels to Joe's life. I loved what Joe did when he learned the story of Gabi's life, and the effect it had on her relationship with her parents.

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