REVIEW: A Firefighter’s Christmas Gift by Vivian Arend
Dear Vivian Arend,
I was so happy you decided to branch out into holiday novellas as well as your full length romances. Although, A Firefighter’s Christmas Gift is really more category-length than novella, clocking in at around 140ish pages.
There is something special about holiday novellas to me. I expect feelgood stories which focus tightly on the central romance and, usually, snow and cuddling to keep warm (even though in Australia Christmas is in the middle of summer and our Christmases are not like yours). Branching off from the Heart Falls books about the Stone family, the Holidays In Heart Falls novellas will feature non-Stone characters. This first one is about firefighter Brad Ford and single mother Hanna Lane.
Brad has has his eye on Hanna for months. He has been taking is slowly, as Hanna is commitment shy and overloaded with the pressures of being a single mother to her eight year old daughter, Crissy. He is a patient man however and he is prepared to wait as long as it takes because he wants it all with Hanna.
Hanna, for her part, is afraid to trust in Brad’s intentions. When she was fifteen she believed a boy and she ended up a single mother at sixteen. It’s not specified but the strong hint is that she’s had no relationships since then. And sure, trusting a sixteen year old boy is not the same thing as trusting a grown man but it’s not just that which has Hanna hesitating. After she told her parents she was pregnant, they kicked her out and she was homeless for a time. For more than eight years, it has been Hanna and Crissy alone and she’s reluctant to mess with the balance she’s found. As she tells Brad:
“I know you’re serious, about the girlfriend thing, and the idea makes something inside me quiver. I think I want you to be my boyfriend, but I’m so scared. I can’t quite wrap my brain around someone as good and brave and kind as you wanting someone like me, when everyone who was supposed to love me, rejected me.”
Hanna is not at all pathetic however. She’s just vulnerable and cautious. But Brad is all the good and honourable things a man could be and he proves it time and time again, including offering Hanna and Crissy a place to stay after their home and everything in it is destroyed in a fire mere days before Christmas.
Brad is careful to make it clear to Hanna that the offer comes with no strings. He still wants to date her but he doesn’t expect (he hopes, but doesn’t expect!) anything to happen while she’s living with him. That doesn’t mean he won’t take advantage of any hanging mistletoe however, once he knows Hanna is a traditionalist, or sticking random extra bunches of mistletoe anywhere he thinks might help his cause.
Brad lives with his father Patrick in a sprawling ranch house up the mountain near Heart Falls. The Christmas before, Patrick’s wife, Brad’s mother died on Christmas Day, and the Ford family is still reeling a bit from that loss. Also, Patrick was in an accident which damaged his legs and uses canes for mobility and he’s unable to run the ranch as he once did. Brad’s older brother, Mark, is estranged from the Patrick and Brad for reasons which the book is not long enough to really flesh out. This was the weakest section of the story for me, as there wasn’t enough of it for me to really understand the dynamic. I thought Patrick was a bit mean for cutting Mark out of his inheritance and telling his sons the way he did. I don’t really know what kind of reaction he expected. I had some sympathy for Mark there. I didn’t always understand what Mark was doing or why later on though. He felt a little shoehorned into the story.
However, Brad and Hanna’s and Brad and Crissy’s and Patrick and Crissy’s relationships were all a delight. Brad and Hanna are sexy and sweet together but also, it is clear they each have something to offer the other. For Brad, Hanna does more than fill the empty slot in his life where “wife” should be. It is very specifically Hanna he wants and loves. And he’s head over heels for Crissy too. Crissy, never having known a father’s love, or a grandfather’s love for that matter, blossoms under the care and attention of the Ford men (and she was pretty robust before then because Hanna is a great mother). I thought Hanna read a bit younger than eight and perhaps she was a bit of a plot moppet, being almost perfect and almost always well-behaved, but I didn’t mind because it’s a Christmas story and they usually have a fairytale quality about them – something I enjoy.
Brad is a big man and Hanna is a petite woman. One of the many things I liked about Brad was his awareness of his size and his sensitivity to how others might perceive him. It is important to Brad not to intimidate Hanna and he is careful of her without treating her like spun glass. Also, Brad is not a morning person and I could definitely relate to him there.
The community in Heart Falls all join to assist Hanna and Crissy but it is Brad who comes up with the best gift of all for the Lanes on Christmas Day. He’s definitely a keeper.
I was curious as to what Crissy meant by “Santa Claus told me to hide” during the fire. Perhaps there was some Christmas magic at play.
A Firefighter’s Christmas Gift was a sugar cookie of goodness. Wash it down with a glass of milk for maximum health benefits.