Sunday 31 December 2017

#CBR9 Book 126: "Miracle on 5th Avenue" by Sarah Morgan

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Perpetual optimist Eva Jordan loves the Christmas holidays, but this year, still mourning her beloved grandmother who passed last year, it's getting more difficult for her to summon up her holiday cheer. Now that her two best friends and business partners are both in happy relationships, Eva's goal for the Christmas season is meeting someone she might find happiness with too. But first she has a job to do. One of her elderly clients has hired her to decorate her grandson's luxurious penthouse apartment while he's away at a writing retreat. Eva's job is to make it cheerful for Christmas and fill his fridge and freezer with delicious meals, so all is ready for him when he returns.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade has a crippling writer's block, and he's promised his publisher that his new book will be done by Christmas Eve. He's told his entire family that he's away on a writing retreat in Vermont, so they'll leave him alone. The time coming up to Christmas is always particularly hard on Lucas, since he lost his wife in an accident three years ago. When he tackles what he believes to be an intruder, he's surprised to see that she's in fact a petite and curvy blonde, who seems as frightened to find him in the apartment as he is shocked to see anyone arrive. He quickly figures out that his grandmother is meddling and tries to persuade Eva to leave, but she's adamant that she will carry out the job she's been hired for. While Lucas is initially annoyed, he finds that Eva, contrary to his fears, is not a distraction to his writing, but that her presence in fact inspires him to write for the first time in months.

Once Eva completes his grandmother's commission and leaves, Lucas discovers that he's entirely unable to write without her in the apartment. He hires her for the weeks up until Christmas and even promises to take her to a swanky society ball, so she has a chance to possibly meet her Prince Charming. By the time the ball comes around, however, Lucas isn't so sure he wants to watch Eva flirt with someone else.

This is the third book in the From Manhattan with Love series, and there are two full-length books and a novella preceding it. I started with book 3 because it fit into this month's keyword challenge, and because it was set around Christmas and I felt like reading something fluffy while ignoring my father and brothers bickering and the pain in my inconveniently broken rib. It's clear that the previous two books deals with Paige and Frankie, Eva's best friends and the two women she runs a business with. Their business, Urban Genie, seems to be some sort of events planning firm, where they arrange everything from elaborate proposals, birthday parties, weddings, help people get dog walkers and more.

Eva's friendship with Lucas' grandmother was clearly established in one of the earlier books, and it seems as if Lucas himself has been mentioned more than once, with several people being huge fans of his gruesome and chilling crime thrillers. While it was clear that I was missing some references from earlier books, all the information I really needed to appreciate the story was available and all it did was make me even more eager to go back and read the earlier books now, so I have the full story of the three friends and their romantic adventures.

Eva and Lucas are set up as pretty much diametrically opposite. Eva is eternally optimistic, tries to see the good in everything and everyone, likes to read romance novels, is a vegetarian and is kind and gracious to absolutely everyone. Lucas is a pessimist and a recluse, deeply cynical and sceptical about the motives of everyone around him (not just because he writes truly spine-chilling crime thrillers about ruthless serial killers). The death of his wife was clearly an incredible blow to him and he's not over the loss of her yet. He's the one who tells Eva that it's ok to grieve and be sad, even nearly a year after losing her grandmother. Having always been taught that it's better to be sunshine than a rain cloud, Eva has not really been letting herself grieve as deeply as she needs to and has been afraid of burdening her friends with her occasionally gloomy thoughts. Since Lucas is a stranger, she finds it more easy to open up to him.

Another way in which the two are different is that Lucas grew up supported and surrounded by a big family, while Eva's mother died at birth and her grandmother raised her. She's always been pretty much alone, except for her grandmother, so when she died, Eva lost the only real family ties she had left. Now she's trying to honour her gran's memory as best she can.

There is insta-attraction between Lucas and Eva (they are trapped together in his apartment for several days together because a snow storm starts raging shortly after Eva arrives, and it's not safe for her to leave), but the book takes place in a bit more than a month in the run-up to Christmas. While that isn't the longest time to get to know someone, they do spend a lot of time together, since Lucas basically hires Eva to be his live-in housekeeper once he discovers that he can't write his new novel without her around. He has a lot of issues to work through after the death of his wife, especially since even before she died, their relationship wasn't exactly the most calm and harmonious. Eva is so incredibly different from his former wife and to begin with, he's not sure how to handle all his new emotions.

This was a quick, satisfying and fun holiday read, and I am very happy that I have the earlier books in the series already, so I can go back and see how Eva's friends found their HEAs too.

Judging a book by its cover: While the cover is cute enough, I really don't like the colour combinations much. The red and the almost turquoise sky seems to clash badly to me. Still, with the Manhattan skyline, it's clear that the book is set in New York. I think it should possibly have had some more Christmassy details, since the book is set over that holiday, after all.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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