Book Review: Maybe This Christmas

review-cover-maybe this christmas

Title: Maybe This Christmas

Author: Janet Dailey

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Holiday (Christmas Themed)

Rating: 2

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Description/Synopsis:

Two heartwarming Christmas stories from beloved New York Times bestselling author Janet Dailey–and filled with romance, charm, and delightful holiday spirit. Some Christmas vacation! An unexpected blizzard just stranded Jennifer Glenn in the heart of the mountains, and her boots aren’t made for walking. But the Jeep’s buried in a snowdrift and a lonely log cabin is the only shelter for miles around. Just her luck: there’s only one bed. She’s not about to share it with Logan Taylor, even though the handsome rancher swept her up in his arms and carried her over the threshold. He can just take the chair by the fire like a gentleman–if he is a gentleman–and he can just stop calling her darlin’. Or she’ll never fall asleep! Happy holidays were only a memory for Dina Chandler in the years after her husband’s plane disappeared over the jungle. But the Christmas to come will be a celebration like no other…now that Blake has returned. His long ordeal has changed everything–except his passionate love for the woman who was once his wife. Winning her back will be the greatest challenge–and the greatest gift–of all.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Maybe This Christmas by Janet Dailey is a short 2-book anthology of purportedly “heartwarming” holiday-themed romance novels. The novels were originally written in the 70’s and despite the marketing claiming the books were updated and re-written for the modern times for their second publishing (2003), I’ll admit… there’s little heartwarming about these stories, and except for short 2-page scenes depicting Christmas…. they aren’t even holiday related. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s delve into the first book.

Warning: There will be spoilers. Many of them. Don’t feel bad, you aren’t going to want to read this book. I should include that if you do choose to read this book and skip this review, here are your trigger warnings: There is blatant problems with males in these stories not understanding what “no” means. This may prove as a trigger to some readers who may have dealt with abusive or damaging relationships in the past.

Darling Jenny was the excruciating story of Jennifer Glenn, a secretary who flees her life in the city after her boss makes unwanted advances, and moves in with her sister in the lovely town of Jackson Hole.

Right away, I was put off by the writing. Don’t get me wrong, the narrative is decently written for the most part. There was only one error that I found (Pg., 130, Line 32), and the writing flowed easily and was reasonably well constructed. The story was engaging in all the right places. I didn’t get bored. However, the writing tended to lean towards the overly-descriptive and the author had a penchant for info dumps when it came to describing characters. It’s not my favorite tactic when it comes to writing, but I was able to push through.

The real problem was the believability. The character’s actions were so overblown and dramatic that half the time I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Their decisions made little sense, and the main character, Jennifer, was infuriatingly dense. The only character worse than her, was Logan, the main male lead who practically forced himself upon her on several occasions (leaving her struggling to the point of drawing blood), and had the brilliant line of: “I’ll touch you any damned time I please!”

I cringed.

Despite the story’s “updating”, the misogyny and male entitlement in this book were disgustingly vivid. By the time I reached the last page, I was literally staring down at the book saying “What The Flip did I just read?”

The romance made no sense whatsoever. The entire book Jennifer was trying to avoid Logan. She was pissed off at him 98% of the time (with good reason I might add), and other than the sexual attraction she felt towards him… didn’t seem to know him all that well. I rolled my eyes when she first thought she’d fallen in love with him. He constantly pushed her into uncomfortable situations, refused to call her by the name she preferred, and treated her like property (which he didn’t even have claim to!) I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

It didn’t get any better. Jennifer was so adamant about her dislike for Logan and his unavailability that I could only stare in wonder at the ending. The pair should never have been in a romantic relationship. Period. The frustrating part is that I generally like romances where the two main characters bicker and fall in love. I don’t know what this was exactly, but despite the decent writing, it was a terrible book. I’m amazed that this managed to get re-published in 2003. By 2014 standards, this would have ended straight in the trash can.

In the end, I can’t recommend, nor would choose to re-read Darling Jenny. I give it 2 stars only because A) the writing itself was decent and B) I finished the story. The characters and plot were so offensive and unbelievable that I can’t in good conscience give it three stars (My usual “Meh.” rating). As a woman, I found this story incredibly offensive. I understand that in the 70’s this was the typical romance that was printed… but it should have been heavily edited (as the marketing indicated) before it was reprinted.

The second book in this anthology was Strange Bedfellow, and like the first book in the anthology, it certainly had its issues. This story was about  Dina Chandler and the mess of her marriage when her husband is lost and presumed dead for three years in the South American jungles. He suddenly comes back and both discover that neither one of the couple is the same person they remembered. Cue a crap-ton of fighting. I wouldn’t call this a romance by almost any stretch of the word.

Like Darling Jenny, Strange Bedfellows was decently written. Once again, the writing was easy to follow, engaging, and error free. However, The author has a penchant for skipping large amounts of time and over-describing everything. The biggest problem, once again, was with the romance and characters.

If you don’t want to read spoilers, stop now… cause here they come.

Dina and Blake hated each other’s guts. They bickered non-stop throughout the story all the way until the last few pages. To be honest, it was a bit exhausting to read. Every single moment was a battle with them, and I couldn’t help but be put on edge by the chauvinistic way Blake treated his wife. Several times he made comments to his wife that would have made any good Feminist boil with rage.

Their relationship was unhealthy and abusive. Blake was constantly cornering his wife (and I use that term loosely… remember, they hadn’t seen each other in three years), often standing in her way and crowding her or somehow restraining her from going anywhere he didn’t want her to go. He was constantly trying to pressure her into sex, even trying to force her (and somewhat succeeding) several times. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and believe me, she said it plenty of times. The whole thing was sickening to watch from a reader’s perspective.

Then, suddenly, near the end of the book the two are completely fine. Blake’s personality seems to do a 180 and he goes from glaring at her all the time and pushing her around to declaring his undying love and asking her opinion on things… like this is something he’s been doing all along. It felt fake. Again, I know this book was originally written in the 70’s… but even with that caveat, it’s pretty disturbing.

I’ll be honest… I read the book (both books) from start to finish. As much as I hated the characters and the plots, the writing sucked me in. It wasn’t the best romance writing I’ve seen, but it was pretty solid. It’s the characters, and their actions that I find so disturbing and unbelievable. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book—it had a lot of serious problems—and I can’t recommend it for those same reasons. I don’t think the author is a bad writer per se…. but I think it was a poor choice to republish these two stories without giving it a very thorough modern makeover.  There’s no excuse for publishing a book in this modern age—particularly a romance book which is geared mostly towards woman—and having the relationships between the characters portrayed this way as if it were okay. The way the men treated the women in these books was mind-bogglingly disturbing. It’s not okay. If you’re looking into buying this book as a fun romantic holiday read…. run the other direction. You won’t find that here.

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