The Christmas Room, by Catherine Anderson

Catherine Anderson is no stranger to this blog because she usually pops up when I need a good bout of corny, wish-fulfillment escapism. Except, this time, this current story happened to be set during the holiday most associated with corny wish-fulfillment escapism: Christmas. So I guess we are having ourselves a little Christmas in July here, aren’t we?

Cam McLendon has come to Montana with his aging mother and teenage son to start a real estate business. He certainly doesn’t expect to make such fast friends with the rancher girl next door, Kirstin. Except Kirstin is the daughter of the local millionaire rancher Sam Conacher, and he is determined to keep the lovestruck couple apart. Little does he know that Cam’s mother, Maddie, has a mind of her own, and the two parents are about to collide. Looks like a little holiday magic is in order.

In order to get to know our older couple, Maddie and Sam, we first have to get to know their kids Cam and Kirstin. Much like Strawberry Hill, I was not as taken in with the younger couple’s romance. It just seems par the course: two intensely attractive people happen to fall in love fast and it’s all sweet nothings and getting-to-know-you conversations, blah, blah, blah.

Maddie and Sam had a lot more character development, especially since they get to know each other through watching their children’s whirlwind romance. They have both loved and lost their respective spouses to cancer, and so both are afraid of taking chances on love since love at old age does not come with any guarantees.

I think we read so many stories about young passion that we conveniently forget how old people find love every day too. They have lived through things that younger people cannot always understand, and because of that, we want to see them find someone to confide in. They don’t fall in love because of physical attraction, but rather because of tough shared experiences. And there is something so tender and soothing about that.

While Cam and Kirstin were not terrible characters by any means, there is still something sweet about watching two older people reflect on times gone by and mistakes made. Maddie and Sam are just trying to do right by their children, figuring out how to move forward from their pasts, and you do want to see them come through in the end.

I also appreciate that the drama in this book comes about because of honest choices, rather than forced contrivances. Both Maddie and Sam make mistakes that stem from wanting to do the right thing, and the consequences are heartbreaking to watch but are still dealt with maturely. Nothing grinds my literary gears quite like contrived third act misunderstandings and extended moping periods.

By no means is the story original, but it does have sweet moments that wrap you up in a warm metaphorical blanket. You know everything is going to turn out all right in the end, so it’s nice to see these characters, who have loved and lost, come together during Christmas. No one fights, no one loses anything, and that delightful Hallmark scrim just feels so, so sweet.

I know these books are not high art, and I should not dismiss them just because they sell in the mass marketplace. They take me into a world where everyone’s mistakes are forgiven, the good guys always win, everything comes together like a perfect Christmas gift, and wishes always come true. There’s a reason we call it tidings of comfort and joy, you know.

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