Fake relationships, art forgery, and tacky decorations abound in this small-town Christmas romance.
War hero and rancher Joshua Grady—known as “Grady” to his friends and family—is notorious in Credence, Colorado, for his grouchy demeanor, which increases tenfold at Christmastime. His feisty new tenant, Suzanne St. Michelle, is a born-and-bred New Yorker who’s taking a breather from reproducing paintings for museums and collectors; unlike her affluent art-world parents, she’s a big fan of the Christmas holiday. She doesn’t like Grady’s sour attitude, but she finds that her long-dormant muse has been awakened by his perfect face and physique. When Suzanne’s parents decide to spend the holidays in Credence to revive their marriage, she makes a deal with Grady; Suzanne will give him every painting that she’s made of him if Grady pretends to be her boyfriend—who loves Christmas. He’s eager to possess the artworks, which he considers embarrassing, and intrigued by Suzanne’s beauty and grit, so he reluctantly agrees to her terms. As Grady and Suzanne’s mutual attraction flares and their false romance becomes reality, both rancher and artist wonder if their relationship will last after the holiday decorations come down. Via alternating third-person perspectives, Andrews gives Grady and Suzanne nuance, motivation, and backstory that clearly explains their characteristics and choices. Both are likable and frustrating, by turns, giving them a feeling of humanity that one doesn’t always find in holiday-themed romances, and their chemistry is both sexy and sweet. Scenes depicting acts of love and sex—everything from a simple, closed-mouth kiss to full-on intercourse—are vivid and sensuous, with occasional moments of silliness that keep the story grounded. Andrews has clearly done research on art reproduction, and Suzanne’s struggle to prove her worth to her sculptor mother is the novel’s most compelling subplot. The ending will generate holiday spirit in even the most Scrooge-like reader.
A fun, yet poignant, story whose main characters are realistic and relatable.