Christmas Angels by Nancy Nagle

A review copy of this book was provided by St Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

When St Martin’s approached me about reviewing this book, I was pretty excited to dive into it. I’m a huge fan of Christmas-y books and it reminded me of a hybrid of a Hallmark movie and the show Gilmore Girls. Unfortunately, this book had a much stronger resemblance to a Hallmark movie than to the long running show about a small town – if you’re looking for a light, shallow story about two people falling inn love (pun intended) in a small town, this is the book for you.

Growing up, Liz Westmoreland dreamed of taking over her grandparents inn located in the small mountain town of Antler Creek only for it to be sold before she ever got the chance. While browsing the internet, she stumbles upon a listing for what looks to be the picturesque inn and it’s set to go to auction. Liz places a bid, and by a miracle, wins the auction. But when she gets there she finds the property in significant disrepair.

When Matt Hardy narrowly lost the inn and property that butted his land, he just hoped it wasn’t another city slicker coming to make matters worse after the previous owners gutted the place for an art gallery. But the minute he recognized the sweet, freckle-faced girl from his childhood and heard her plans to reopen the inn, he jumps at the chance to help his childhood crush restore a place where he made so many fond memories.

While working on repairs, Liz and Matt discover her grandmother’s collection of angels in one of the cabins. When the angels start mysteriously showing up all over the inn, she begins to look at them as reassurance—that restoring the inn is what she’s meant to do. But when an accident leaves Liz feeling like she made a mistake, will Matt—and the residents of Antler Creek—be able to show Liz that she’s found a home? And possibly true love as well?

Given the premise – I was really hoping this small town would have a Star’s Hollow vibe (a la Gilmore Girls). For those of you who haven’t seen Gilmore Girls (go watch it!) the show is set in a small town and the show gives complex and important storylines to all of the residents that are given air time. Everyone is an important part of the story and you start to find yourself heavily invested it their intricacies. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the the town in this book. Matt and Liz were the main players, and the only time you heard from secondary characters was when their story contributed to Liz and Matt’s. This really defined the distinct lack of side plots and definition in any of non-main characters.

As I said before, this book reminds me a lot of Hallmark movies I’ve seen. Reading the book for the first time, the story was already very familiar. There were no surprising twists or major conflict. That’s not to say the story wasn’t enjoyable – on the contrary, it was a fun, cute story about two people falling for each other. One thing I wish had more clarity on was the two main characters’ relationship when they were growing up – it never really got explored, which felt like a lost opportunity. It felt like the novel was building to some big revelatory moment, but it never delivered. The writing was of a lower quality than I would have hoped for. It was especially apparent in the dialog – it was really clunky most of the time. Also, there was a distinct lack of synonyms – the book’s diversity in vocabulary was really lacking.

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about Liz – right off the bat she makes a decision to quit her stable (and lucrative) career to buy an inn in the middle of nowhere, sight unseen, in the time frame of less than a week. Not to mention, everyone around her is telling her that this is a bad idea and is trying to bail them out. It was the most ludicrous of impulse decisions, based only on childhood nostalgia. It was hard to understand her motives and to relate or believe in her as a character at first. She ended up winning me over via her bouts of insecurities – she had legit moments of reconsidering her choices and concern about her uncertain future that really humanized her. Matt, on the other had, was less complex. He was your typical brooding tough guy who has been pining for the leading lady for years. There wasn’t a ton more to him. Their romance was pretty by the numbers. It had sparks and heat, but was not a groundbreaking love story.

The concept for this story had a lot of potential, but unfortunately the lack of development in the side characters, the lack of subplots, and the predictability and cliche of the main story stunted the memorability of this book. If you go in with adjusted expectations, or want something akin to one of the many Netflix/Hallmark/Lifetime holiday movies, this is a good read. I’d highly recommend reading it during the holiday season (ideally while it’s snowing out with a cup of hot chocolate). 3/5

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