Review of Happily This Christmas by Susan Mallery

Isn’t this a pretty cover?!

Happily This Christmas
Happily Inc series

Susan Mallery

September 29, 2020

HQN Books

Blurb: There’s no place like Happily Inc for the holidays…

Wynn Beauchene has a thriving business, a great kid and a mildly embarrassing crush on the guy next door—local cop Garrick McCabe. She’s a strong, independent woman who can’t help dreaming what-if about a man she barely knows. Until he needs her help…

Garrick’s pregnant daughter will be home for Christmas, and his house needs a woman’s touch. Garrick and his little girl were tight once and he’s hoping a small-town Christmas will bring her back to him. But thawing his daughter’s frosty attitude will take more than a few twinkle lights. Maybe sharing the holiday with Wynn and her son will remind her of the joy of family.

As the season works its magic on these wounded souls, Wynn realizes it’s time to stop punishing herself for a painful secret, while Garrick remains haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes. Will he allow Wynn to open the only gift she truly wants—his heart?

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Yes, Christmas stories. Usually I’ve reviewed a couple by now but have fallen slightly behind this year. (So what else is new?)

I’d love to be able to tell you that Susan Mallery’s Happily This Christmas is a wonderful start to the holidays and a fun installment to the Happily Inc series, but I can’t. Happily This Christmas didn’t work for me very well. Amusingly enough, I looked back at my gripes at the first book in the series, the only one I didn’t give four butterflies to, and several of the same issues existed in that one. So I’m nothing, if not consistent.

Wynn Beauchene has been a recurring character in the Happily Inc series and probably my least favorite character after what she did to Jasper–but that is literally another story. After reading the first few chapters my ill-will toward her disappeared. She acknowledged that she hadn’t been the nicest person (understatement); there’s a lot to be said for self-acknowledgement, although, admittedly, there were still times in Happily This Christmas where I didn’t like her. However, I think that inconsistency is Mallery’s fault. Allowing a character like Wynn to have multiple meltdowns out of insecurity (the situation did not warrant it) or a misguided feeling of betrayal, or a misunderstanding, felt wrong. Being one of the strongest characters in this series, should have afforded Wynn with more substance.

Garrick is a new to me character. (I didn’t read the previous book in the series, so it’s possible he could have been introduced there.) I very much liked Garrick. He seemed like a guy who was always trying to do the right thing, even if it was inadvertently the wrong thing. Shouldn’t we give a nod for making the attempt?

In addition to the main characters, we have Garrick’s visiting, estranged, very pregnant daughter, Joylyn who fulfills the role of super-annoying character for a good bit of the beginning of the novel. Fortunately that is turned around. Wynn’s excellent son, Hunter, is probably my favorite character–a nice kid with a sense of humor and loyalty.

While Happily This Christmas might be read as a standalone, it reinforced my gripe from the first novel: The multitude of characters drifting across its pages. The strange thing is that I knew most of the characters since I’ve read the books but still felt most of them didn’t add anything to the action of this story. In fact, there was a lot of detail that didn’t further this novel and bored me; why did we need all of the detail about Joylyn’s friend’s wedding venue or the dress or the flowers or the cake when we were barely allowed to be part of that scene? There were conversations that mystified me with their presence, which also led me to notice that the dialogue just wasn’t stellar in this book. Except for a phrase that came out of nowhere, “get off of me,” said by Joylyn and Hunter in difference instances, but only once, and which I presumed was a nod toward slang, there was no differentiation in the dialogue among characters.

Again, like the first novel, Happily This Christmas had so much needless repetition of thoughts. Reiterating a thought or replaying a scene in dialogue simply sucks up space and becomes more than a little annoying for this reader at any rate.

As for the romance, the book never felt romantic to me. Wynn and Garrick felt like friendly next-door neighbors with benefits who also played confidants to each other.

No, I didn’t hate the novel. What I did love about Happily This Christmas were the secondary relationships. The regaining of trust between Garrick and Joylyn. Hunter’s frank interaction with Joylyn. The humorous relationship between Wynn and Hunter. Some of the dialogue was even funny.

Lastly, I wish the reader could have enjoyed Christmas in this novel a little bit more. I would have liked to have felt it, watched it mean something. If there was ever a year we needed it, it would be this one.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



3 out of 5 butterflies

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