REVIEW: Merrily Ever After: A Novella by Jenny Holiday
Elise Maxwell is loving her first Christmas with her husband, Jay Smith. So far, newlywed life has been filled with laughter and lots of steamy marital “bliss.” But when Elise discovers she’s accidentally, against-all-odds pregnant, happily-ever-after screeches to a halt. Although she sees it as a Christmas miracle, Elise knows her new husband might not agree…
Jay never wanted to be a father. In fact, he’s avoided it his entire life, worried he’d repeat the patterns of his own messed-up childhood. He’s madly in love with Elise and, until now, he thought they were on the same page about not having children. But her surprise pregnancy changes everything. Elise is suddenly committed to parenthood, and Jay knows he can’t lose her. Facing his deepest fears will be difficult, but with a little holiday magic, Jay might be able to prove to Elise that – as a family – they’re destined to live merrily ever after.
Dear Ms. Holiday,
Honestly, I didn’t realize that there was a novella in this series before this one that tells more of the backstory of Elise and Jay – whom we first met in “One and Only” (which I adored) as the secondary couple even though they were the ones getting married. I’ll be honest and admit that the next book didn’t work for me so if there was more about them there, I missed it.
Having read the first book, which featured Jay’s half-brother Cam’s story, I knew a little about their difficult childhood. Thus Jay’s reasoning for not wanting to become a father wasn’t totally from out of the blue. I actually have a friend who grew up with somewhat the same background – her mother married multiple times, had many children and wasn’t ever going to be nominated for Mother of the Year – so Jay’s fear of his anger management issues and that he might pass parts of his shitty childhood on to a child actually make sense to me. Why he never bothered to get a vasectomy does not.
Elise told Jay that she couldn’t have children. Elise never told Jay that she actually wants children. So much for their total honesty with each other but I guess if I’d had as much reproductive issues as Elise and been told categorically that having children was almost an impossibility then I might have thought I’d never carry a child either. Did the thought of adopting or surrogacy never pop into her head? I might have missed this by not reading the novella yet or finishing the second novel but Elise and Jay have some pretty big issues they’ve never adequately addressed.
So when the Miracle Baby occurs (not really a spoiler as it’s in the blurb) and Elise finally tells Jay – after telling her three best friends first and keeping it from Jay for 3 days – I can understand why he’s shell shocked and doesn’t handle it well. Frankly, Elise actually can’t blame him either. It’s Cam who ends up talking Jay off the ledge and getting Jay to rethink what’s important to him.
For this reason, I can also understand why Elise hesitates to believe Jay is 100% on board with the whole thing and why Jay feels the need to pull out all the stops to convince her. It’s a lovely Grand Gesture but it’s a very quick turnabout in his feelings about something that is going to redo his entire life.
What I do like is that the past characters get realistically worked into this story and they aren’t just there to pimp their books. Jay’s determination to rework the food comparison to baby size also seems really “guy.” The way he goes about proving to Elise that he’s really gung-ho about everything seems in line with his take charge personality. I loved that Jay and Elise are fanatical board game players and how Jay redoes one of their favorites into Dirty Strip Scrabble is hilarious. But there were a lot of cracks in their relationship that I’m still not entirely comfortable with how they’ve been plastered despite the HEA Jay engineers. B-