Holly Lane
by Toni Blake
(Avon, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-06202-460-2
****
So, a divorcee walks into this store and gets hit on by a reindeer ... Sounds like a bad joke, doesn't it? Well, Sue Ann's year has been anything but a joke. Her high school sweetheart and husband of a number of years left her and their daughter for another woman, whom he has, in light of the holiday season, decided to marry a mere six months later because they're ready to start a family. Not only is this an affront, but Jeff also plans to cut off her alimony -- just what Sue Ann needs to hear as she's trying to get her real estate license and just before Christmas.

Welcome to Destiny, Toni Blake's addictive though somewhat incestuous small town world. Holly Lane is the latest novel in the series, and brings back characters readers will know and with a holiday twist.

Destiny's about to have a record-breaking year of snow, though Sue Ann doesn't know it when she rents a cabin away from Destiny for the long Thanksgiving weekend ... which, incidentally, Adam had already rented. When the two end up stranded together due to a blizzard, Sue Ann's desperate loneliness and Adam's already Scrooge-y holiday attitude land them in one of the bunkbeds together. Never mind that Sue Ann's very much on the rebound or that Adam Becker has been her ex's best friend since childhood. With those things in mind, though, the two do their best to forget about their night together (and let me tell you at this juncture hot sex scenes. Wow.).

With their friends, family, and the holiday spirit against them, though, even two people jaded by messy divorces and the insecurities evolving from such have to step back and wonder if sometimes timing isn't everything.

Holly Lane takes readers to a more realistic version of the idealized Christmas novel; these are real people, none of whom are perfect by any means, who are affected by a season that is meant to bring hope. Sue Ann wants to get through the season simply to give her daughter a Christmas that doesn't reflect the year they've had; Adam wants to get through the month as quickly as possible until his boys are back from a month with their mother. Yet, Adam, Sue Ann, and Sophie, Sue Ann's daughter, manage to make themselves a wonderful holiday. Shouldn't that be a sign of good things to come?

Holly Lane, frankly, isn't my kind of novel, which means this four-heart rating says a lot. Blake's characters are so flawed, so human, and so well-written that you'll find yourself wrapped up in their everyday problems in no time --and not feel brought down by the normalcy. Enjoy, readers; it's a Christmas treat for anyone with even a little romance in their Grinchy soul.

--Sarrah Knight


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