Since it’s shortly before Christmas, let’s review a Christmas romance. Season of Wonder (Harlequin, 2018), from RaeAnne Thayne, is her ninth Haven Point novel (and her 60th book). Haven Point is an idyllic small town (is there any other kind?) in Idaho, and the new home for Dani and her two daughters. Dani left the big city to start her new career as a vet, but her past, in the shape of the reputation of her deceased ex-husband, threatens to follow her.
A few weeks before Christmas, her oldest daughter goes on a vandalism spree, leading to Dani spending more time with deputy Sheriff Ruben. She’s met him caring for his dogs, and he’s the son of the clinic’s owner. Ruben is very eligible, has always wanted a family, and is attracted to his reclusive new neighbour. She’s reluctant to spend much time in the community and wary of a relationship, especially with someone in law enforcement. She’s worried his interest could jeopardize her future.
Dani’s background and her struggles are the gritty realistic character traits I love to see in romances, and her achievements mark her as a strong and independent woman. She’s learned she does not need a man to complete her, but she appreciates finding someone for cuddles and kisses (which is as far as this book goes). The subplot of the daughter’s wayward friends is another aspect of gritty realism.
Ruben, on the other hand, is a tad bland. He’s thirty-three, wants a wife and children, has mothers reminding him their daughters are back in town, and has dated, with a recent relationship fizzling after six months. He’s good with children, has a strong and loving family, he’s an honest and dedicated cop, fit, hardworking, recently bought a boat, handy with tools . . . yet he’s still single. I wanted to know why.
There’s no relationship obstacles for him, and his stakes are low. He, his family, and his town are the opposite of Dani’s situation, and while the contrast is appealing, the couples’ circumstances are so different they almost seem to be in different books. Despite their differences, the climactic obstacle is little more than a misunderstanding, consistent with a lighter story than I expected when I met Dani.
Season of Wonder is sweet and heartwarming, but not completely satisfying. As another person in my book club suggested, it’s as if the darkness in her character and situation was considered enough for the story, especially given the seasonal setting. A fair comment, but while Christmas preparations provide plot events and structure, ultimately this is not what I would consider a Christmas romance. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that certain elements I expect in Christmas romance were missing.
Once I stopped expecting something darker, this was a pleasant light read. Thayne writes well, with good pacing and dialogue, and generates strong sexual tension without sex. That, plus the appealing character of Dani, is sufficient for me to check out other work from this author.