The Christmas Cottage
Welome to the Callahan family: Ava Callahan is getting married and in her family that means having a Christmas Eve wedding at the family's cottage, dubbed the Christmas Cottage. As part of the tradition, the maid of honor and best man have to get the cottage together before the wedding. In Ava's case, her maid of honor is her best friend, Lacey, and the best man is her brother, Ean. Lacey isn't thrilled with this because of something that happened when she was just 14 and Ean was 18 and going off the college. She decides to head up to the cottage before Ean gets to town, so she could continue to avoid him the way she has for the past 12 years. Of course, she and Ean both end up at the cottage together.
This story was exactly what I needed to read today. It was cute and sweet, and I loved both of the main characters. I had two issues with it, though. First, I don't get why Lacey was so embarrassed by something that she did when she was 14 years old and that she needed to hide from Ean because of it. It wasn't even that big of a deal. The fact that she was confident enough to do what she did when she was so young makes her actions as an adult seem more than a little stupid. My second issue was that Ean seemed to magically fall in love with Lacey almost over night. I'm not into insta-love or love at first sight and in ways that's what this felt like when it came to Ean's feelings for Lacey.
What I really liked was that while this was a short story (probably less than 200 pages), it did not feel as if it needed to be longer. Both characters go through complete emotional arcs, realizing that they were the perfect person for each other. I also loved that neither Lacey nor Ean let the fact that they'd grown up together get in the way of their happily ever after. I'm a huge fan of friends to lovers, especially when one of the characters was a friend to the other's sibling, and in many of these books, the main conflict is that relationship and all the questions that go along with that change. This wasn't the case here and it was better because of it. 4.5 Stars
Eight months after canceling her Christmas Wedding, Ava Callahan is ready to get back onto the dating scene and the one person she wants is the only one she shouldn't have anything to do with--Brian, her ex-fiance's best friend. Brian was part of the reason she broke up with Mason and it should be awkward that she's got feelings for him. Brian, on the other hand, knows what he wants and isn't afraid to go for it.
I really wanted to like Ever After, especially since I loved The Christmas Cottage, but I just couldn't do it. I didn't see any connection between Ava and Brian. At all. He was kind of sweet to her, but they didn't sizzle the way I'm sure Ms. Chase wanted them to when she wrote their story. The biggest problem is that most of their relationship happens off of the page. We go from their first night together to it being 2 months later. We don't get to see their first few weeks together or how their relationship grew. It was as if we were on a race to Happily Ever After, and in a way, Ava was. She believed that at 27 she should be closer to her fairy tale moment in her family's cottage, which she seemed to think is magical (there is a family legend about it bringing about everlasting love).
One of the things that really bugged me is that Ava and Brian don't talk about anything that really matters. She doesn't know what she wants out of life other than a husband and a good job, and she is severely insecure about everything else. Part of that comes from her relationship with Mason and not having him listen to a thing she said throughout their entire engagement. For Brian's part, he doesn't want to push her away by telling her that he wants her in his life. He's afraid that she'd see it as him trying to control her life the way that Mason did, so he doesn't offer any opinions on anything, especially if it had to do with her job search.
When I started reading this, I tweeted that the plot was more or less what would have happened had Andrew Lincoln told Kierra Knightley how he felt about her before she married Chiwetel Ejiofor in Love Actually, and that couldn't be more true. In that situation, Ejiofor's Peter, would always have been the elephant in the room, just as Mason is here. She's scarred by that relationship (even if she didn't view it as abusive) and he's basing how he treats her on how Mason did. It is all so ridiculous. I get where he's coming from, but he doesn't seem to understand that Mason's actions were only a part of why his and Ava's relationship imploded--they just didn't communicate. If there was one thing either of them should have learned from that, it is that communication is the only way for a relationship to work, but it doesn't seem that they have. DNF
I wish I could have read these novellas separately, so I could give a more accurate rating. I loved The Christmas Cottage, but couldn't even get halfway through Ever After. Unfortunately, the only thing I can do is average out the two and come up with 2.25 Stars, and that just doesn't seem fair to Lacey and Ean.
P.S. Despite the first novella being called The Christmas Cottage (and it ending with a Christmas wedding), this is not a Christmas book at all. There are various allusions to Christmas Trees, wreaths, and snow, but really there isn't a holiday feeling to it at all.
The Christmas Cottage/Ever After is available for Pre-Order and will be available on October 6th.