The Christmas Dress

By: Courtney Cole

Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow and Custom House for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

One Dress. Two Women. The Magic of the Holiday Season.

When hopeful fashionista Meg Julliard must return to her hometown of Chicago to manage her late father’s apartment building, she thinks her dreams of making it in the fashion business are over. Add in her father’s eclectic roster of tenants who all need Meg’s attention (ASAP!), a host of building related disasters, and a handsome handyman she keeps embarrassing herself in front of, and this has all the makings for the worst Christmas she’s ever had.

Ellie Wade, one of the building’s longtime residents, is also not feeling the Christmas Joy this year. She is preparing to move into a nursing home (reluctantly), and is in the process of sorting through her belongings to downsize. Every corner of her apartment holds memories, some good, some bad. But there’s one dress she hesitates to pack up as it represents both the best and worst night of her life.

Ellie and Meg strike up an unlikely friendship and the story of Ellie’s dress comes out. Ellie gifts the gorgeous dress to Meg, hoping that it will bring her more luck, on the condition that she wear it to the building’s Christmas party.

The dress magically fits, and while it eventually leads to the best night of Meg’s life, it also acts as inspiration for Meg to follow a life-long dream of her own, a dream that will help save the crumbling Parkview West, and restore it to its former glory, and keep it as a safe home for all of the current tenants.

The dress and the magic of the holiday season helps both Meg and Ellie find their own happy endings. 

This book was like a Hallmark Christmas movie wrapped up in a book. It has a girl who’s life is at a crossroads, a handsome boy with a past, a snarky best friend and an older woman full of wisdom. 

I loved every bit of this book. After losing her Dad, Meg Julliard moves into the old, dilapidated apartment full of senior citizen formerly owned by her Dad. The building needs an overhaul and of course, money is in short supply. She meets Ellie, one the residents, who gives her an old dress full of magic. A little magic plus a stubborn “concierge” and a hot handyman who likes to donate his talents and time to anything Meg needs makes for a perfect Christmas romance. 

One of the first things I loved about this book is the romance is just that – romance. Not sex. I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion but I don’t need a bunch of sex or steamy scenes in order to make a book romantic for me. Innuendo goes a long way for those of us more old-fashioned readers. 

Every single character right down to the cat was interesting. I loved each one of them! I loved their stories and how they created a family atmosphere within the building. Each one had their own stories and what I really loved was how the author touched on each story without allowing the story to lag and become inundated with details. 

The main character, Meg, sorta comes of age in this story. But so does the building. As Meg grows and grieves and remakes herself, the building undergoes the same, revealing some life saving history that actually probably exists in many of the older Chicago buildings downtown. 

It’s true there were some cheesy moments and, like any good Hallmark movie, it’s totally predictable but there were some nice surprises along the way. All in all, this was very enjoyable. A very nice Christmas read for the upcoming season. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Christmas Past: A Ghostly Winter Tale

By: John Alcox

Thank you to NetGalley and The Story Plant for the eARC in return for an honest review. 

The winter holiday season is a time for gifts and music, for snow and miracles, and for family and going home. For Jessie Malone, it’s a time for sorrow.

Jessie is a graduate student living in London, where she hopes to be one of the first folklorists ever to trace an urban legend back to its original source. She’s also a grieving young widow unable to heal from the agony of her life-shattering loss.

In the bleak midwinter, Jessie learns of an urban legend about a lonely, wandering ghost, a British sailor named Sam who promised his bride that he’d be home for Christmas. The legends say he’s been trying to make it back to her since World War II.

As she investigates, Jessie learns that Sam’s story defies the patterns of how urban legends are supposed to work. It’s a puzzle she can’t let go. To solve the mystery, she must confront the impossible and, just perhaps, discover a miracle of Christmas love that survives beyond the grave.

A story that will engage all your emotions, Christmas Past bursts with wonder, enigma, romance, and the unquenchable spirit that comes from promises that must be kept.

This book was a DNF for me. I tried several times to pick it up and read it and just couldn’t get into it. I really loved the concept of chasing down older Ghost stories or legends to see where they originated from. Unfortunately, that’s where the magic ended for me. 

The character didn’t have much emotional output for me. The main character didn’t interest me at all. I really felt nothing for her at all. It annoyed me how many times she reminded us that she cannot get distracted from her main purpose of writing her dissertation. Her memories were lovely but again, no emotional reaction from me.

The imagery didn’t strike a cord either. I couldn’t feel London or Paris around me at all.

I did love the ghost stories and how the legends were relayed. It’s such an interesting concept of how a legend is born and how it travels from place to place. I also enjoyed reading about the effect each story has on folks as it gets passed down from generation to generation. The stories were stories of kindness and humans going out of their way for those in need. This is a theme much needed in today’s world so I was glad to see it.  

I wish I could have loved this but I didn’t.

⭐ ⭐