REVIEW: The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews
When newly-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love–but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it. At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit—beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish hand: it’s from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war.
This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold? Ivy’s quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.
Dear Ms. Andrews,
I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be getting with “The Santa Suit” but it turned out to be a happy, charming, holiday confection that was easy on the angst and not too overly sweet. The heroine’s emotional starting point was good for me, too. She’s a bit past the cheating ex-husband and breakup of her marriage and ready to move on. As she tells the real estate agent, she’s well aware of the comparisons to be made between her life and the fixer-upper farm house – even if that turns out to need a bit more work than she initially thought it would.
Ivy wants to be in a small town after having lived in Atlanta. The locals might not totally understand why a (fairly) young and single woman would make that change but she’s happy and they’re happy to let her be happy without too many questions. The discovery that sets most of the plot into motion happens early on when Ivy discovers the old, folded note tucked into a lovely handmade Santa suit. Who was the girl who asked Santa to bring her father home from the war and did that happen? Ivy’s interest isn’t totally bizarre as she was once a girl of this age who asked a mall Santa for something similar.
As this is a small town with lots of inhabitants who have lived there for decades, it’s not strange that Ivy quickly discovers some clues that lead her to a relative of “Carlette.” But despite Ivy’s growing friendship with several people peripherally involved in the past with Carlette – the girl and the answer remain elusive. Or are they?
After I finished it, some issues niggled at me. But not enough to ruin it or drag down the grade too much. For a smart woman, Ivy jumped at buying this house sight unseen and it turns out it wasn’t a cheap purchase. Yet it immediately feels like “home” to her in a way she can’t truly describe. Her romance begins very quickly – or should I say we can see and believe that it starts very quickly even if Ivy stays in chuckling denial mode to what everyone in town is telling her. It doesn’t squick me out because the love interest is obviously a decent guy who does “guy things” (changing out a wonky door lock, helping her unload the car, getting her a new hot water heater and a plumber to install it) to show he cares. Things do move a little quickly but hey, they’re both older adults (mid 30s?) so I was okay with it.
Ivy is open to making friends and does so including a younger woman who involves Ivy in her own love affair. Ivy and I immediately cotton on that something isn’t quite right there but like the love interest, Phoebe proves with her actions that she’s a good person at heart and she knows enough to eventually work out how best to proceed with the relationship.
As the book was coming to an end, it dawned on me that we still didn’t know what happened to Carlette. Nervously I glanced at the number of pages left. The resolution was heartwarming but also seemed maybe a little convenient. It also raised the biggest issue for me.
One last thing gets confirmed at the end that I thought was a little odd. The family from whom Ivy buys her farm was well known for their lavish holiday displays as well as the fact that for decades both parents played the roles of Santa and Mrs.Claus in stores around the area. They had the Santa costumes, they had an attic full of Christmas decorations, they put up a tree every year. But they were also Jewish. Huh? Ivy learns that the Roses anonymously donated lots of money to area charities and her intuition tells her that Mr. Rose probably bought a lot of the toys that the children asked for when they talked with “Santa.” I guess they just enjoyed decorating their house for the enjoyment of the neighbors.
“The Santa Suit” is a lighthearted bit of holiday fluff that I finished in one day. While the romance is not exactly the main focus of the book – honestly this is more the women’s fiction of Ivy starting over and getting on her feet again – it left me feeling happy and hopeful for the to-be-continued romances that get started. Still I liked that neither of them were HEA at the point the book stopped – that would have been way too fast for them both. A few issues kept it from a higher grade but for a quick holiday starter, I had a good time reading it. B