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REVIEW: Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry

Dear Ms. Mayberry:

1109-9780373715992-bigwI think this might be your most emotional romance yet.   I certainly felt a little misty eyed (damn you) at the end of the story.   Hannah Napier and Joe Lawson meet under inauspicious circumstances. Joe is exhausted and all he can hear is the loud sound of an engine next door. It’s keeping him from enjoying some solitude and it’s bound to wake his kids.   Hannah is working on her motorcycle.   Once it’s finished, Hannah is going on a long awaited road trip, escaping her ex fiancé  and her sister who have found love together.   She thinks Joe is good looking but a jerk and Joe, well, he doesn’t appreciate Hannah’s physical attraction either.

Joe lost his wife, Beth, in a car accident a couple of years ago and he is left to parent their two children.   He feels like he is losing control over his kids. He does not want to be  over his deceased wife Beth. He resents his body’s attraction to Hannah.

Worsening the situation is that the one place where Hannah felt safe, a bar/restaurant called The Watering Hole, has been purchased by Joe. It was Beth’s dream to own a restaurant and when she died and he found himself needing to be with his kids, he quit his job as troubleshooter on oil rigs and bought this restaurant.   I found the scenes about and in the restaurant to be unnecessary. It seemed contrived that Joe would buy the one place that Hannah enjoyed hanging out.   Given that they lived next door to each other, I wasn’t sure why this was even included. It didn’t add anything to the conflict and after a couple scenes, the bar was almost forgotten.

These are two reluctant lovers. Hannah hasn’t really recovered from the body blow to her heart and ego when her fiancé  jilted her for her sister. Joe is trying to reconcile his love for Beth and his feelings for Hannah.   Hannah is so much one of the guys that the holding of the door open for her is something that gives her pause. She feels completely out of here element. Their first date is a study in awkwardness.   Problematically, Hannah is getting near completion of her bike and  Joe can hardly bring himself to talk about the wife’s death without choking up.

They both acknowledge that they are too screwed up to be dating and from then on, the flirting, the talking, the companionship comes easier and harder. Easier because there is no pressure and harder because neither are ready to expose themselves to vulnerability by admitting that there might be a future for them.

It was really wonderful watching the two of them fall in love and it was heartbreaking to see them face difficult challenges. This was a very emotional book and I admit to feeling a tiny bit manipulated at the end.   I kept thinking that they had both already suffered and now you were laying this on top of it???

Ben and Ruby were very conflicted about their dad dating, as were Hannah’s mother and Joe’s mother. Everyone seemed to question Joe and Hannah together. I liked it when Joe responded to his mother’s request that Ben come stay with her:   “No. We’re a family. He can’t opt out when it suits him. We have to work this through.”   There weren’t easy solutions for any of them although Ben’s resentment over Hannah’s inclusion in their lives resolved rather quickly toward the end.

I loved Hannah and the way that she grew back into believing in herself with the help of Joe and Ruby and even Ben.   And Joe as the struggling single father falling back in love was sweet.   B

Best regards,


This book can be purchased at or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jessica
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 15:22:37

    This sounds worth reading. and I love bar scenes in romance, even when gratuitous. I just picked up Mayberry’s Hot For Him in my supermarket book bin, a rare good find.

  2. Jade
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 15:29:46

    I cried reading this book. And I thought to myself, “She better not ____* at the end!”

    I really loved it. :)

    * I didn’t want to reveal a spoiler or something.

  3. maddie
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 15:43:20

    I read this book and loved it.

    My only problem with it (call me a bitch, but I would not have talked to my sister ever again) is how it was handle with the sister but I do understand why Hannah did what she did, and it worked.

    The whole book did (work that is) because really we can’t control what fate throws our way.

  4. Leslie
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 18:03:14

    I’ve recently become a Mayberry fan. Good to hear this was another winner. :)

  5. maria
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 18:09:27

    Love all her books but particularly this one because of the emotional story and the way their love developed. Joe tried so hard to resist but when he fell, he fell hard. To quote some parts:

    “… Joe swung between two states — stupid, bemused happiness and deeply frustrated sadness. It seemed crazy to him that both states could coexist, but it was the reality of his life… she made him feel seventeen again, the way he couldn’t stop thinking about her. If he wasn’t careful, one day soon he’d come out of a daze and find he’d etched her name in his desk at the pub”.

    Swoon, remembering the throes of falling in love….

  6. Robin Bayne
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 18:50:09

    I just read this also, and agree on feeling a bit manipulated at the end. As someone who has personally been in that situation, it both bugged me and encouraged me. Overall good story though!

  7. Jane
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 20:20:59

    @maria: I almost quoted that very passage! It was so descriptive for me.

    @Jade: Heh. I remember getting to that point and sending up an internal howl.

    @Jessica: I can’t remember what I thought of that one. I’ve read them all.

    @Robin Bayne: On the one hand, I can see the point of what she did – testing their love for each other – but on the other, it seemed a little too much. As for you, good luck. I am hoping that the same result is in the cards for you.

  8. Ella Drake
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 20:29:53

    I don’t read many contemporaries, but I am a Sarah Mayberry fan. Glad to see that her latest should be just as good as the others.

  9. Anita Chax
    Nov 07, 2009 @ 02:38:38

    Thank you very much for this review … I discovered Mayberry through DA… and I can’t thank enough for it. In a market that’s deluged with mediocre books, she’s a rare gem. Looking forward to this one — it sounds like my kind of read!

  10. jep
    Nov 07, 2009 @ 09:56:29

    I read the book and enjoyed it but I recommend A Natural Father (3/2009) It was emotional for me and probably one of my favorites of the year!

  11. Robin Bayne
    Nov 07, 2009 @ 18:29:24

    Thanks Jane : )

  12. Jinni
    Nov 08, 2009 @ 12:38:11

    What do you think of Mayberry switching from Blaze to Super Romance? I think I have her first SR around here somewhere, but haven’t read it – I did like her earlier books best – and wonder if these capture that same feeling she was wonderful at creating.

  13. Jill Sorenson - Blog
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 10:38:33

    […] this book at Lurv a la Mode and LOVED it!! I’ve heard great things about Sarah Mayberry at Dear Author and on Twitter. This book did not disappoint. Sexy antics, wonderful characters, fast pace…and […]

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