A Christmas by the Sea

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not going to lie: books like this make the aspiring writer in me rather salty. If I had tried to get an agent to look at a slipshod book like this, I would have been firmly rejected, but because Melody Carlson is an established author with a contract to crank out Christmas novellas each year, she gets a pass. The books spends little time developing characters. You have the cliched knight-in-shining flannel, the hackneyed mean girl/rival for said-knight’s affections, and an obligatory cute animal. The lead character Wendy frankly got on my nerves with her constant refusal to tell her son the dire financial situation they’re in. She had no money in the bank, yet she kept letting her son talk her into staying longer and keeping a stray dog, etc. I just wanted to yell at her, “Woman, get a backbone!” Obviously, she was worried about adding unnecessary pain to her kid’s life, but he needed to know the truth. It was especially irritating at the end of the book when the son admits that he knew they were broke and was emotionally manipulating her the whole time.

The ending was possibly the most rushed of any of the Christmas books by Carlson that I’ve read. The story goes from Wendy and her son Jackson deciding they’re going to leave the cozy town of Seaside to Caleb proposing she work for him and then just proposing marriage all in the span of a page. While I’m all for a happy ending, I didn’t feel Caleb and Wendy’s relationship had been developed properly enough to have them engaged by the end of the novella. Perhaps if Carlson had spent less time telling me in minute details how Wendy refurbished old linen bandannas into curtains and had shown me their relationship developing, I would’ve bought the ending better.

A harmless way to pass a few hours, but nothing too special. Check out some of Carlson’s other contributions if you want a really good Christmas book.

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