REVIEW: The Christmas Phoenix by Patricia Kiyono
Jess Tate is trying to make a life for herself and her teenage son after her husband’s sudden death. Running the family’s struggling landscape business in Northern Michigan has been hard work, and her son hasn’t been much help. She’s managed to get by, learning to run the big equipment herself, but between snowplowing early in the mornings and working her daytime job in town, she often wonders if there will ever be more to life than endless work.
Talented ice sculptor Jake Thompson had fame and fortune in St. Louis, but he’s been forced to start over after a disastrous relationship left him embittered and deeply in debt. His sister’s remote vacation home in Northern Michigan is the ideal retreat to lick his wounds and rebuild his career in peace and quiet—except a certain feisty redhead and her teenage son have a penchant for disturbing his solitude.
In the snowy winter, Jake and Jess unexpectedly find their lives and attitudes begin to change. Will family involvements and ghosts from the past keep them apart, or are they strong enough to risk rising from the ashes of their lives like the mythical phoenix?
Dear Ms. Kiyono,
A few years ago I read “The Samurai’s Garden”. Looking for a reminder that this hot and humid summer will eventually end, I picked up this novella mainly due to the lovely cover (since it’s well established that I’m shallow about that) and the fact that the heroine runs a snow plow business (nope, never seen that profession in a romance novel).
Jess Tate and Jake Thompson are survivors, each struggling with pain and loss. Jess’s beloved husband dropped dead leaving her with a debt encumbered snow plow/landscaping business while Jake survived an IED, painful physical recovery and then the near loss of his business. They’re licking their wounds and getting on with life. After a less than meet-cute introduction, life keeps throwing them together. Jess’s fourteen year old son has a bit to do with this but Jess and Jake soon admire each other’s fortitude and determination.
Jake’s injuries can act up in the cold and his crappy van isn’t quite ready for Michigan snow storms while Jess is trying to work two jobs as well as ride herd on Rory. Jake begins to act as a bit of a father figure to Rory who is a typical teenager then Jess and Jake start to do little favors to help the other. This year Jess decides she and Rory are going to celebrate Christmas as they used to before her husband’s death. Is there a place for Jake in their lives and is Jake even ready to risk a relationship?
After cranking up the AC and reading about the snow drifts Jess plows through, I forgot the melting temperatures outside. Since this is a novella, it moves along quickly – mainly hitting the highlights of the relationship. Yay for a heroine who discovers she enjoys running her own business and a snow plow. I did learn some things about ice carving as well. But the romance part of the story felt a little shortchanged. These are nice people and I wished them well but the transition to a relationship felt too quick. B-