26 December 2013

REVIEW: Susan Wiggs' Candlelight Christmas is a heartwarming, page-turning, must-read for your holiday bookshelf!

I love receiving books from authors I never read. I'm loathe to admit the number of authors I still need be introduced to, but Susan Wiggs is no longer counted among them. When I received Candlelight Christmas, book 10 in her The Lakeshore Chronicles series, I made the determination to read books one through nine first. I'm so glad I did.

If Wiggs had set her Lakeshore Chronicles anywhere in the US or abroad, I'd find it a wonderful series. Having her set it in what is, essentially, my backyard - a small Catskill Mountain town in Ulster County - is just a fabulous and fun read for me. I loved seeing her refer to small stores in Phoenicia, including Sweet Sue's (the best pancakes around), Mohonk, Kingston (where I was born), and so much more! It was like reading a Valentine to a place I love to live.

May I also say I found each of the books impossible to put down. It's easy to say that they are all page turners, but Lakeshore Chronicles is a true series page-turner. From the moment I was introduced to her characters, whose lives and history all revolve around an old Catskill summer camp. From the first book where the charge is to restore it, through various stories that involve either the camp, the family who owns it, or the community where it is located - and usually a mix of all of those features - this series wraps itself around your heart.

Each character becomes a friend by the time the last page of "their" story and Wiggs provides updates throughout subsequent volumes, so we (the readers) can keep up with our newfound friends' activities and lives. Sometimes the news may be traumatic (she handles breast cancer diagnosis in one heroine's life after she's found her HEA), but the stories are always engrossing. Wiggs is able to keep several secondary plots going that she weaves throughout the series until she's ready to tell the full story.

That's the case with the story of the hero of Candlelight Cbristmas, Logan O'Donnell. He's the father of an adorable son, Charlie, with the daughter of one of the aforementioned much-loved characters. We saw the two of them deal with an unexpected pregnancy, dance around possible involvement with one another, become involved then, then have their relationship dissolve. Now, he's in search of meaning in his life while he shares raising his son with his former wife and her new husband.

Logan was quite the wild child at first glance, then he became a stalwart supporter of the single mom and fabulous dad, then he became a little wild after his divorce. Now, he's searching for a job that will have meaning beyond just a paycheck at his insurance agency - and he finds himself considering running a ski resort. Is he returning to his wild child ways as his ex-wife and husband consider moving to Japan? We see Logan meet and fall a little in lust with Darcy Fitzgerald, a friend of his sister, when he meets her at the end of summer while at the camp with his son, Charlie.

Darcy's just come through a tough divorce, where she not only lost her husband, but his two children whom she had taken to her heart. The last thing she wants to do is become involved with another single father. However fate seems to be playing a part as they find themselves together at the O'Donnell family Thanksgiving celebration in Florida - and the heat level between them is scorching.

By this time, I was devouring the story whole. I won't say more as you would be much better served reading Wiggs' prose, but will recommend this book highly - both as a romance and as another addition to your holiday romance shelf. Please make sure you have a box of Kleenex at hand for each of the books in the Lakeshore Chronicles as Wiggs is able to tug at your heartstrings as easily as she can transmit the warmth and happiness of true love.

If, like me, you haven't read the Lakeshore Chronicles yet, please do so. Definitely add Candlelight Christmas to your must-read shelf.

On another note, I'd like to recommend to my county legislators that they hire Wiggs as a county planner. We desperately need the passenger train service she makes an integral part of her series (we've only had freight service in Ulster County since the 1950s). In addition, I could see the very major benefit in having a small commuter airport in Ulster (the nearest is actually in Orange County to the south of us). I studied flying at the Ulster Airport and it's much smaller and unfortunately could not handle the travel or size of the planes that Wiggs mentions. But it should expand to what she described!

So, to recap, five tree-top stars for Susan Wiggs' Candlelight Christmas!





From the Publisher



Lakeshore Chronicles Book 10
Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs
Harlequin MIRA
ISBN 9780778314745
Price $16.95

A single father who yearns to be a family man, Logan O'Donnell is determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie. The entire O'Donnell clan arrives to spend the holidays in Avalon, a postcard-pretty town on the shores of Willow Lake, a place for the family to reconnect and rediscover the special gifts of the season.

One of the guests is a newcomer to Willow Lake — Darcy Fitzgerald. Sharp-witted, independent and intent on guarding her heart, she's the last person Logan can see himself falling for. And Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas.

Yet between the snowy silence of the winter woods, and toasty moments by a crackling fire, their two lonely hearts collide. The magic of the season brings them each a gift neither ever expected—a love to last a lifetime.