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Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Match

This December, the matchmaker has met her match in the first of our Holiday Romance series!

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Match

Welcome to the first week of our new Holiday Romance series! Who's putting their tree up this weekend? Try as I might to resist, every December I find myself picking up a book or two (or three) that combines two things I love most: Christmas and romance. Over the next month we’re going to check out some of the cheesiest books published, and it will be glorious. As there is a severe shortage of YA-focused holiday books, these will all be of the adult variety. So grab yourself a glass of spiked eggnog (or two) and turn the fire up to “crackling”.

BOOK REPORT for Christmas At Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

Deck The Halls: Palm Tree Christmas
Naughty or Nice List: Nice and Naughty
Melt My Marshmallows: Mostly Intact
On A Scale from The Grinch to Buddy The Elf: Regular Hallmark Movie That Was Repurposed For The Christmas Countdown

Deck The Halls: Palm Tree Christmas

Living in the South myself, I appreciate a good twinkle-light-encrusted palm tree. And these were clearly done by professionals, since even the palm fronds are blinged out! This cover is adorable and it’s rare to see a Christmas romance not set somewhere snowy and cozy looking, so I applaud the uniqueness.  

What’s Going On In Santa’s Workshop:

Macy Frost comes from a long line of Southern Cupids and she’s channeled her abilities into a matchmaking business with her best friends. She’s never met her anyone who can knock her off her game until Deacon Banks, a New York businessman in town to help his famous aunt settle in for the holidays. To make Aunt Fran happy (and as his Christmas gift to her), he’s agreed to go out with some eligible ladies of society, despite the fact that he doesn’t really believe in commitment.

Macy doesn’t want to risk the integrity of her work by taking on a hopeless case, but they strike a deal where she finds him classy, no-expectations dates and tries to find his soulmate and he…doesn’t actively interfere with her doing so. There’s just one little problem to their no-fuss plans—both are insanely attracted to one another.

Naughty or Nice List: Nice and Naughty

Deacon concocts a side plan with his dates so he can spend more time with Macy, and he’s always straightforward about his desires. For all the “he’s such a bad-boy” talk, Deacon is actually a decent guy. His parents died when he was an infant, so his talk-show, loud-mouth aunt raised him as her own and he’s super sweet to her. Speaking of Aunt Fran, I kept picture her as Liza Minelli and I encourage you to do the same. Deacon amusingly describes her thus:

“Gareth, the fattest Corgi, put his snout in Aunt Fran’s lap, and she petted him fondly, like the Wicked Witch might pet her favorite flying monkey. One really shouldn’t mess with Aunt Fran. She was a strange mix of adorable senior citizen and, well, evil incarnate.”

Deacon is on the nice list, even though he’s a typical over-worked businessman who (gasp!) doesn’t know what to do with all this free time.

Macy, for all her Southern sweetness, charm, and loneliness, probably belongs on the Naughty list because she kept lying to herself! Girl was driving me crazy the way she wouldn’t listen to her heart and kept insisting Deacon was going to fall in love with one of the casual dates she set up for him. She was taking him at his word that he wasn’t into commitment, which, normally, is a good thing, but she also wouldn’t come out and just ask him point-blank questions, because I guess this is a romance novel that has to get to a certain page minimum. Though I never enjoyed her more than in this moment:

“Never eat a gyro in front of a guy you want to impress, Macy realized too late[.]”

(Or one that you plan on kissing soon after, because that tzatziki sauce is delicious but potent.)

Melt My Marshmallows: Mostly Intact

This is a fade-to-black romance novel, which surprised me a little because Deacon was quite warm for Macy’s form, if yaknowwhatImean. The style of the writing should’ve clued me in, because most of the sexy/flirty bits were a little bit…awkward, like the author wasn’t completely sure about how to portray such instances. At one point Deacon goes to Macy’s sister’s house to help bake cookies because her sister is ill, and it made me laugh because he’s imagining flirty cooking moments like feeding each other dough and having flour fights, but then this happens:

“Deacon got his cookie dough. Macy plopped some right into his mouth the night of the cookie baking at her sister’s house. But she also fed her sister’s dog some cookie dough, so Deacon didn’t feel particularly special. Her sister’s husband was in the kitchen too during the whole floury, buttery shebang, so nothing romantic happened.”

Cue the whomp whomp noise.

So sometimes it made the character’s internal monologue a little juvenile, but other times it just made the book amusing, like when Deacon and his aunt’s live-in man-servant, George, are having a few too many drinks on the piazza and Macy comes out dressed in a ballgown, and he can’t take his eyes off her cleavage:

“Deacon still wanted to drop the peppermint down Macy’s gown and then run downstairs to the sidewalk and fish it out himself. With his mouth. What else was he supposed to think about when her luscious breasts were on such classy display?”

I could totally see my husband fighting the urge to throw something down my shirt (and usually failing as he has done this in the past and then celebrated when the straw wrapper made it in), because all men are secretly seven-year-old boys at heart. Overall the two had good conversational chemistry, and for those who don’t want to read about throbbing loins and going in “to the hilt” (shudder), this is light on detail but with characters who aren’t prudes.

We Got (Christmas) Spirit, Yes We Do!:

During the first third of the story I was getting a bit worried because there was hardly any mention of Christmas beyond set-up for Deacon’s fake-dates. Where were my Christmas tree decoratings and visits to the Mall Santa?? As time went on, the characters broke out the eggnog and went to Toys for Tots Christmas parties, but it still felt like the book used Christmas more as set dressing for its shenanigans rather than using it specifically to propel the plot forward.

If this category was “We Got Charleston Spirit, Yes We Do!”, then this book would win all the travel awards because it celebrated the shizz out of this little seaside town. (Anyone down for a road trip?) My favorite Southern shout-out, however, wasn’t Charleston specific—Macy mentions she “fancies herself a Waffle House cook in another life” and Deacon’s never heard of it:

“What’s a Waffle House?” he asked. “A Southerner’s favorite place to eat breakfast at two in the morning.” She smiled. “You have to be a bit drunk when you go.”

Mistletropes:

It wouldn’t be Christmas without the classics. Macy and Deacon participated in the aforementioned cookie baking, plus there was tree decorating; traditional dinners (beef tenderloin and oyster pie, for the foodies); a parade of boats decked out in twinkle lights; peppermint cocoa drinking; Christmas shopping (for charity, no less!); mistletoe mischief; and the spirit of gift-giving.

On A Scale from The Grinch to Buddy The Elf: Regular Hallmark Movie That Was Repurposed For The Christmas Countdown

This book didn’t shy away from Christmas but neither did it completely indulge in it. Combining that with the chaste sexytimes, this felt more like a Hallmark movie—but not one of the ones where it looks like a reindeer threw up on it. I’m talking about the one where they’re walking around in fake soap-snow, bundled up like it’s a blizzard but you can seen the sheen of sweat on the actors’ brows because they showed up in June expecting to work on Autumn in the Vineyard but then the studio execs realized they were one Christmas movie short of their typical December deluge and decided to inject some vague holiday spirit into a current project (I have a love/hate relationship with Hallmark, okay?).

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from St. Martin’s Paperbacks. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Christmas At Two Love Lane is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.