Saturday 31 December 2022
CBR14 Book 51: "Season of Love" by Helena Greer
Rating: 5 stars
Ten years ago, Miriam Blum cut all ties with her entire family, including her eccentric great-aunt. Now she turns antique junk into creative and incisive art and has a loyal following on Instagram. She has a beautiful and wealthy fiancée and while they're never going to share a passionate romance, they love each others as friends and support one another. Miriam is working towards finally opening her own art studio in Charleston when she is informed that her great-aunt Cass died (no one had even told Miriam that Cass was ill) and she drops everything to go to her aunt's large Christmas tree farm in upstate New York to sit shiva. She's terrified at the prospect that her father might be there, but also needs to see her remaining relatives.
Once she arrives at Carrigan's, her aunt's big farm, she discovers that Levi, her childhood friend not only dated her cousin and former best friend Hannah for years, then took off and broke her heart, but that Hannah has been pretty much running the farm with the assistance of the capable and rather hostile Noelle. Noelle found a warm welcome, a second (more supportive family) and a new home at Carrigan's and cannot understand how Miriam could have hurt everyone so much by just disappearing for a decade, cutting herself off from everyone. The fact that Miriam seems to be welcomed back by everyone with open arms, her long absence forgiven without any consequences, riles Noelle up even more. Luckily, Miriam won't be staying long - she'll go back to her art scene in Charleston and marry her perfect lawyer fiancée and Noelle won't have to deal with her or admit to her very inconvenient attraction to the woman.
Of course, Cassiopeia Carrigan loved to meddle and match-make, and once her will is read, it turns out she has left the Christmas tree farm in equal shares to Noelle, Hannah, Miriam, and Levi. Not only did she go back on her promise to leave it to only Noelle and Hannah, but she also hid the fact that the farm was financially struggling and that she wants all four of her heirs to work together to save the place (and in the case of Hannah and Noelle, their home). Miriam is flabbergasted, Noelle is furious, Levi is off somewhere in the world, unable to be reached - while Hannah is just exhausted. Miriam understands the shock of the other two women, but after some consideration, might just have an idea to save Carrigan's and make it a financial success, she just needs to get her cousin/former best friend and her cousin's new best friend (who seems decidedly anti-Miriam) to agree to let Miriam stay, at least until Thanksgiving.
If this seems like an overly detailed plot summary, relax, all of this is revealed within the first 20% of the book. The story is told through both Noelle and Miram's points of view, starting with Miriam getting her upsetting news and moving on with the plot at rather breakneck speed. Despite pretty much every single character in this story having a trailers worth of emotional baggage, trauma to process, and due to Cass' recent death, recent grief to work through, this book feels like a warm hug, and even though there are absolutely sections where heartbreak, alcoholism and/or severe emotional abuse is covered, it never gets too heavy or angsty and I never once had to put the book down because it was overwhelming me with the sads.
Helena Greer is basically writing a pretty standard romantic comedy here, but the protagonists are both lesbians, and one of the protagonists, as well as much of her actual and found family is Jewish. Obviously, because Cass owned and ran a Christmas tree farm, there are a bunch of both Jewish and more traditionally Christian holiday traditions explored, in a really cozy way. I would happily have read an entire book about any of these characters and was delighted to discover that the next book will be about Hannah and her globe-trotting ex, Levi. I also hope that Miriam's amazing BFF Cole gets a book of his own because he was a scene-stealing marvel and I refuse to believe that he can be contained as only the supporting role in someone else's novel. I would also like Miriam's ex Tara to get her own book, as she was a pretty awesome lady, who just happened to have her 'marriage of convenience' partner go off and fall for someone else.
As well as being a lovely, rather slow-burn romance, there is such wonderful friendships and although very few of the family connections are biological, it shows all the more how important it is to have people who love and support you. A lot of queer people have experienced rejection from their born families, and have had to find their new families elsewhere. This is absolutely the case for both Noelle and Miriam, who have a lot of things in common while they are also extremely different.
The whole book is peppered with pop culture references that seem like they were tailored especially to me. I take this to mean that Helena Greer and I would get on like a house on fire, and not only would I be great friends with all the various characters in this book, but I would be a perfect best friend for Ms. Greer. So you know, if you're in the market for that, Ms. Greer, send me a message!
It's a shame I read this so late in the year, as it very likely could have ended up in my top three favourites of the year over on Cannonball Read otherwise. It will absolutely be in my top ten and I will be impatiently awaiting Hannah and Levi's book sometime in 2023.
Judging a book by its cover: While I still think the trend for cutesy cartoon covers should be over soon, please, this one is really quite adorable. Both Noelle and Miriam look pretty much exactly as described, and Kringle the cat is also in the picture. The couple wrapped up in a garland of coloured lights with small signifiers of most of the characters' Jewish background seemingly floating in the air around them, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that this book is very Jewish and also very queer.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.