I picked this up in another attempt to fulfill the "Christmas romance" category for a reading challenge I'm doing. It didn't work. This was a much better book than my first attempt for that category, Debbie Macomber's Starry Night, but that didn't come as a surprise; I knew going into it that Lisa Kleypas was guaranteed to have a better offering. However, there were only about 500 words in this book that actually contributed to the Christmas season at all, with the rest of the book taking place from around March through Thanksgiving.
The story follows Mark Nolan, who gains custody of his six-year-old niece Holly when her mother dies in a car accident. Mark and his brother do their best with Holly but she refuses to speak, until one day when Maggie, the owner of a new toy store in town, coaxes words out of her once again. Maggie and Mark are immediately attracted to each other, but hold back from entering into anything more than a tentative friendship. Mark is also involved in a relationship with a girlfriend who lives in Seattle (I think), which is one of the reasons they hold back. Good for them; cheaters are terrible.
Though this is a short book, it's also a slow burn because of the long span of time the story takes place over. As with her historical romances, Kleypas does a wonderful job of building the relationship between the two characters. Their every meeting has a spark that just builds and builds, and it's delicious to watch. Friday Harbor is also a wonderful setting, and Kleypas does an amazing job of bringing the Pacific Northwest to life to someone like myself who has never been there. Friday Harbor is a small town on a small island, where everyone knows everyone, and Kleypas shows both the downfalls to this--like how everyone knows everyone else's business--and the up sides--like how supportive the people can be of each other.
Overall, this is a short book, but it was really well-done; I just wish it had been a bit more on point with the whole "Christmas Eve" thing it promised. If you've read Kleypas' historical romances before but haven't ventured into her contemporary offerings, I think this would a good place to start because of its length--long enough to develop, but not too long of a commitment if it doesn't work out.
4 stars out of 5.