Twelve Dates of Christmas (Northampton Hearts) – ARC review

Twelve Dates of Christmas
by Charlee James
Release Date: November 1, 2021
Publisher:  Tule Publishing
Book #1 in the Northampton Hearts series
Number of pages:  175
Kindle Edition
Source: ARC from publisher
Contemporary Romance/Holidays
Ages 13 and up

She’s fallen for her own fantasy…will a real future with him be enough?

Bored by years of underwhelming dating experiences, copywriter Grace McGovern combines her love of Christmas and her longing for romance into the ultimate romance novel—where the heroine is swept off her feet one Christmas by tender, thoughtful, romantic…and utterly unrealistic dates. When Grace has a chance meeting with an attractive man, she’s charmed by their conversation and fun dates…until warning bells jingle. He couldn’t be taking cues from her book, could he?

Engineer Owen Ellis has always been more comfortable with computers and coding than with women. After claiming he was boring and unromantic, his last girlfriend’s bitter parting gift was a cheesy romance book hurled at his head. When he meets a woman whose warm smile and conversation intrigue him, Owen is ready to try again but knows he needs to up his game. What’s the harm in borrowing a few ideas?

Can the Christmas magic last forever, or will their relationship dissolve into another ho-hum holiday fling?

If you love Hallmark holiday movies, I think you’ll like this book. And while there were a few things I enjoyed about the story, and I do enjoy a good Hallmark movie, I was mostly annoyed with the author.

Owen and Grace have a wonderful meet-cute moment at the local toy store. The two decide to extend their meeting and have some hot chocolate and pastries together. They have an instant connection and easily decide to see on another again. Owen hasn’t had great experiences in love, and his last breakup was particularly brutal. He doesn’t want to mess this up, he’s really drawn to Grace. He decides to loosely follow a holiday romance his ex had left behind in which there are a series of adorable winter dates.

Grace once wrote a holiday romance and it took off. She hasn’t written anything else since that time and by no means seems to want to be an author. It is kind of presented as a one-time thing. What got to me as the story progressed is that it seemed as though Grace was ashamed of having written a romance story. With the wonderfully fun dates Owen is taking her on, she quickly realizes he’s using her book as a guide for dating. Instead of asking him or fessing up that she wrote a popular holiday romance, she reflects on how mortified she would be if he found out. Grace repeatedly thinks about how she’s not the same woman who wrote that book and worrying that if he finds out he’ll think she’s shallow for wanting grand adventures instead of staying home once in a while with take-out and an old movie. I think you may be starting to see my issues with this book. What romance author writes about one of her MCs being embarrassed that they wrote a romance? And how many readers really thing the books they read reflect the author’s personal lives? So am I to believe Isaac Asimov went to space or Stephen King has dead cats traipsing around his neighborhood? It makes no sense! And, quite frankly, it’s a slap in the face to romance readers to continually call a light, fun, holiday romance “silly” and “naïve”.

I actually liked the connection Owen and Grace had, but the author wasn’t just letting it play out. I felt as though she was forcing the couple into a box they didn’t want to be in at all. And when things exploded, it just didn’t have the effect that it should have had. I was annoyed with both MCs for their behaviour and was even more irritated with how the apology/groveling went down. The person who did the groveling, instead of going to the other as soon as they realized their mistake, instead came up with a plan to wow the other, thereby extending the angst and heartache for several more days. What?!? Why?!?

The writing style and flow wasn’t bad, but with the way I felt the author panned the very genre she was writing, I don’t think I’ll be trying any more of her books.

2 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**

About Cheri

I'm the mom of two boys and wife to my high school sweetheart. Our oldest, Josh, is living at home while working and paying off student loans. Our youngest, Griffin recently left his active duty Army job and is now National Guard here at home. He moved back to Michigan with his wife Kirsten and our beautiful granddaughter Hazel. I work part time and try to fit as much reading into my life as possible.
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