I did it! I managed to make it to the Serial Mistletoe-er level for the Book Lovers Inc. Holiday Challenge! Phew. I gotta say, I was a little worried that I wasn't going to make it. It's been a busy holiday season for me, as I'm sure it's been for all of you, and I've had a lot of reading to do so I haven't had as much time for Christmas books as I would have liked. Ah well. I've read four and am working on a fifth (even though I likely won't get it and the review done in time to count for this challenge). I'm happy with that :) My fourth Christmas book was A Season to Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan and I loved reading it!
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
It's Christmas at Sugar Loaf Lodge and everyone checking in to the luxury hotel has their reasons for spending the holiday away from home. A heartbroken guest tries to put the past behind her; a stressed couple long for peace and quiet; a young woman eagerly anticipates a romantic night with the man she loves -- although he should be spending it with somebody else. And it's not just the guests who are hoping for a happier New Year. Worried about their business surviving the recession, the hotel's owners are determined to make it a holiday to remember. As many more tales unfold, and a visitor from times past prepares to take her own journey, we watch and wonder: will everyone's Christmas wishes come true? This special book of touching and poignant stories is guaranteed to warm your heart on a cold winter's night.The main thing that I loved about this book was the fact that it was actually Christmassy. All too often so-called Christmas books barely have anything to do with the holiday. Not only did the book focus on all the guests who were at the Sugar Loaf Lodge on Christmas but each story really captured the essence of Christmas - at least, what I think the holiday really means. There were wonderful family stories, old friends, and sweet romances. It was all about the relationships between the characters and they were made that much better because the stories and guests all came together at Christmas.
I loved that there were so many different characters who were guests at the Sugar Loaf Lodge because that meant lots of stories and insights into different lives. Each chapter held little snapshots of the characters' lives and they were written wonderfully. Just enough detail was given to really get a feel of their history and I felt like I knew the characters and understood their motivations. Definitely well done.
I also liked how O'Flanagan structured the book. Each chapter was a different story and was noted by the hotel room name (each was named after an Irish mountain). That being said, there were nine rooms (if I counted correctly) and many many many more characters. Needless to say, I found myself getting a little confused sometimes. Each story had a background element to it but there was also part of it that was in the present at the Lodge. This meant that characters were meeting each other and I found that I couldn't always recall the stories of some of the characters. I don't think this is really a bad thing - probably says more about me and my inability to remember details than the way the book was written!
I think another thing that I really liked was the setting of the book. The Lodge was almost another character, one who stood quietly by and gave everyone the little nudge they needed. Sometimes that was uninterrupted time together and sometimes it was time away from family. Neil and Claire, the owners of this lovely hotel, adore their work and are determined to make sure their guests have a wonderful time. Their love for what they do and their guests really comes through. Made me wish that I could stay at the Sugar Loaf Lodge myself!
Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Season to Remember. It's just Christmassy enough but I think you could still enjoy it at other times of the year. This collection has just confirmed for me that I really like Sheila O'Flanagan's work and I will definitely be looking for more of her novels in the future.
Happy reading! :)