A Christmas book? A novella collection? Sounds like a recipe for syrup – but guess again. Having lived in cynical California all my life, my tolerance for syrup is on the low side. I picked up A Door County Christmas because I admire two of the authors, Rachael Phillips and Cynthia Ruchti, and I was delighted. I confess I’ve only finished the first two novellas, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the last two as well.
A Door County Christmas consists of four novellas set in Door County, Wisconsin, unified around a Christmas tea at a local inn.
The first novella, The Heart’s Harbor by Cynthia Ruchti, is a blast. Amanda Brooks arrives at the Heart’s Harbor Inn for a restful vacation and is bamboozled into running the inn and its famous Christmas tea by the eccentric innkeeper, Lola Peterson. Throw in Lola’s handsome son, Jordan, who is only slightly less eccentric than his parents, and Amanda’s retreat is nothing like she imagined. Ruchti’s lovely use of language, off-beat characters, and fantastic humor broke every stereotype I had about Christmas books and about novellas.
The second story, Ride with Me into Christmas by Rachael Phillips, also defies those stereotypes. First of all, the hero and heroine are (gasp!) over fifty! How refreshing to read a romance that does not involve pretty young things. Joanna Flick and Paul Sorenson bond over bicycling and climbing a tower – since Joanna has a fear of heights, this is a big step for her. However, their grown children are not pleased with this new romance and make things difficult. Phillips is a master at writing humor, and her quirky characters shine as I expected they would. But what makes this story rise above a simple humor piece is the depth and complexity of Paul and Joanna. Grief and love are not simple emotions, and these are shown with touching realism.
The third story, My Heart Still Beats by Eileen Key, involves Madison Tanner, a young woman hired by an elderly couple as a chauffeur on their last visit to their Door County cabin – and Grant Sterling, a real estate agent intent on selling that cabin. The fourth story, Christmas Crazy by Becky Melby, concerns Jillian Galloway, who visits Door County to help her uncle salvage his dinner theater in time for Christmas – and Ricky Jimenez, a mysterious man whose offer of help raises suspicions.
If you’d like a low-in-syrup, high-in-laughter Christmas read, pick up a copy of A Door County Christmas.