by Julie N. Ford
GENRE: Women's Fiction/Romance/Suspense
After being jilted not once, but twice by the only woman he’s ever truly loved, Brian McAlister has all but given up on relationships. Then, on special assignment for the DA's office, he steps into the middle of a politically sensitive murder case where he crosses paths with a beautiful ex-socialite-turned-social-worker, Holly Cavanaugh Winter.
Widowed, practically penniless, and reduced to shopping at Walmart, Holly is dreading the approaching holiday season. However, her angst isn't due to her husband's untimely death the previous December 25th, but to a secret that could reveal itself unless she can find a way to avoid the coming Christmas. To make matters worse, she unwittingly stumbles into the throes of Brian’s case and the manhunt for a killer who now has his sights set on her.
His case unraveling, Brian finds himself tasked with keeping Holly and her two daughters safe while bringing an assassin and the powerful man who hired him to justice.
It wasn’t easy, going from six-thousand-square-feet to twenty-two-hundred practically overnight. In fact, it was downright depressing.
Looking back at Wandean’s modest two-story home, Holly imagined the women inside were already discussing how hard it must be for her to make ends meet while raising two daughters all on her own and without the financial means to do so in the manner she and her girls had once been accustomed to. But then somewhere in the far reaches of her mind, hadn’t she always feared her life would come down to something like this? That fate would require her to face what she dreaded most, force her to take up her bootstraps, rise to her full potential, and stop being so dependent on others?
Adding insult to injury, she was sick of people feeling sorry for her because her husband had died. While the timing of Kirk’s death had been unexpected, it was better than the alternative. If he hadn’t died in that car accident last Christmas, she might have killed him herself to keep him from going through with his coldblooded plans. Getting away with murder would have been tricky, though, and grisly, at least the way she had planned his untimely death.
She shuddered at her own thoughts.
Then again, so what if she had seriously considered disposing of her traitorous husband herself?
Didn’t everyone have a dark side?
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
A graduate from San Diego State University with a BA in Political Science, Julie N. Ford also earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama, which has only made her better able to recognize the unhealthy, codependent relationship she has with writing. Professionally, she has worked in teaching and as a marriage and family counselor. She is the author of six women’s fiction novels, including Count Down to Love, a 2011 Whitney Award finalist. After twenty-five years of residing below the Mason-Dixon line, she now calls the chaparral of Southern Utah her home, where she lives with her husband, the one daughter who has yet to flee the nest, and the cutest Scottish fold cat you’ve ever seen.
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3.75 out of 5 stars
No Holly for Christmas by Julie N. Ford is the second story in the contemporary romantic suspense series, ‘A Magic City Duo.’ This tale centers around defense attorney Brian McAlister who is tapped to stand in for his father as District Attorney of the county, despite their antipathy for one another. Complicating the situation even more is the involvement of ex-socialite Holly Cavanaugh Winter, the widowed sister of his Deputy DA, who becomes central to their case. Brian and Holly are attracted to each other but still dealing with scars from their past relationships and as the danger from the case intensifies, they have to survive the threats to their lives long enough to decide whether to risk offering their hearts to each other.
I have not read the prior story in this series but did not have trouble reading this book as a stand-alone tale. It took me a while to establish a connection to the main characters, plus the story starts a little slowly and I was disconcerted by the addition of a third point of view, but things did pick up and become more and more exciting as I continued reading. Holly’s disdain for her situation and reduced circumstances was uncomfortable for me, especially given her vocation, so I was glad to watch her grow and become more authentic. Brian’s preoccupation with the past was also troublesome but I think the author did a nice job of showing how two flawed characters could (slowly, lol) evolve and eventually find a way to appreciate life more. I enjoyed the interactions with Holly’s daughters and thought there were some nice twists in the story—even though I wondered a couple of times about a certain person’s prowess (or lack thereof) with self-defense!
I think the title is a nice play on the heroine’s name, but one should not be misled into thinking this is a Christmas tale, per se, although the season does play a role in the overall story. This is an entertaining tale that has both excitement and angst and it would be lovely to learn more about some of the secondary characters as well.
A copy of this title was provided to me for review