Saturday, December 14, 2013

(Review) Big Sky Christmas by C.J. Carmichael

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Title: Big Sky Christmas
Author: C.J. Carmichael
Series: Coffee Creek, Montana, #4
Published: October 1, 2013 (Harlequin)
Rating: Stash in the Glove Box
Format: E-galley provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Jackson Stone will always be grateful to the Lamberts, who took him in when he was just a kid. But since the accident that killed his foster brother, Brock, he stays away from the family at Coffee Creek Ranch. Especially now that Brock's former fiancee, Winnie Hays, is back in town with her little boy.

The simmering attraction between them may surprise Winnie, but Jackson fell for her at first sight years ago. Loyalty and guilt require he keep his distance, even as their feelings blossom into love. In the end, it's his own conscience Jackson must master. But with the help of the Lamberts, can this Christmas be a time of healing and a new beginning?
When I first read the blurb for Big Sky Christmas, I knew I absolutely had to read it. Let's see how many of my favorite tropes it has. Christmas romance? Check. Long-time crush? Check. Forbidden love? Check. Potential for major angst? Double check. How could you go wrong?

Well, unfortunately, it did.

First of all, there was the secondary character overload. Holy crap, but there were a ton of people. Yes, I jumped into the middle of a series, but it's a romance series, not A Song of Ice and Fire. I should have been able to navigate it without needing a character diagram. I basically just gave up and decided to stop trying to keep track, because it was a waste of time and energy. Most of them weren't even necessary. But the book opened in a wedding where EVERYONE was, and all the introductions were made at once. No, thanks. Eventually, I caught on to two or three who were important, and that was enough for me.

Then we have the main(?) story: the romance. Jackson was Winnie's dead fiancé, Brock's, foster brother, and he had been pining for Winnie for years. Surprisingly, Jackson and Winnie didn't have nearly as many hang-ups about this as I would have expected. Given that this was the case, I am glad they didn't drag it out too long. Because the excuses they did have not to get together were about as thin as a sheet of paper. It would have dragged otherwise. But their relationship progressed - at least in the beginning - at a pretty good pace. But then came even more obstacles.

Now, you might be confused regarding the question mark in the paragraph above. Wouldn't the romance be the main story of the romance novel? You would think. And yes, it was in a way. But in reality? Every single thing revolved around one very obnoxious and annoying old woman named Olive, Brock's mother/Jackson's former foster mother and apparently the devil incarnate. Nearly every bad thing in the book could be traced back to her, and 98% of the drama in the story was influenced by her in some way or another. And I didn't freaking care about Olive or her opinion, and I didn't really get why anyone else did, either.

There were some positive aspects to the book. Winnie's son was adorable, and it was great to see Jackson interacting with him. They had a couple scenes that made me smile. The small town atmosphere was charming. I liked Jackson's foster brothers. Jackson and Winnie's love story was believable. Overall, the story was cute, if a little frustrating and fairly underwhelming. I would recommend reading the others in the series first, which would no doubt help with the character overload.

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