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Book CoverHolly’s review of Dear Santa by Karen Templeton
Contemporary romance published 01 Nov 07 from Silhouette Special Edition

Do you ever read a book and think, “Wow!”? Ever finish it and sigh and think to yourself, “I loved that book”? That’s what happened to me with this one. I admit to loving category romance, at least on occasion (I feel you can overdose on them, too, if you aren’t careful), but lately they’ve been hit or miss for me. This one was a definite hit.

The story opens with Grant receiving news that his ex-wife – and the mother of his only child – has been killed in a car accident. And that just sets the tone for the entire book. Emotional. This book was an emotional roller coaster ride.

Grant’s character was an extremely compelling one, because although he was emotionally closed off, you could tell he really wanted to do right by his daughter, to be the father she needed him to be, he just didn’t know how. He grew up with emotionally closed off parents, and that was all he knew. Some of the best scenes in the books are the ones that focus on Grant and Haley. I think Karen Templeton did an excellent job of showing us the longing in Grant, his need to be the man his daughter needed him to be, and his frustration when he wasn’t able to fulfill that roll for her.

His heart racing, he stood outside his daughter’s partially open door, steeling himself as he listened to her nonstop chatter. Just like her mother, who’d never been at a loss for words, either. A good trait in a lawyer, Grant supposed. Swallowing sawdust, he knocked softly, then pushed the door open.

Instantly, the chatter stopped. A goofy-looking stuffed lion—Justine’s last present to her, Grant realized with a punch to his gut—clutched in her arms, Haley glanced up at his entrance, her expression a disturbing blend of caution and indifference. Selfishly—and guiltily—Grant had often wondered if perhaps a more outgoing child would have helped him overcome his own ineptitude, would have shattered by now whatever had kept him from feeling what other fathers felt for their children.

Haley, for a three-year-old, displayed some disturbingly adult traits. I found myself wondering at times if those traits were ones I could truly attribute to someone so young. But once I factored in the grief of losing her mother, and her inability at that age to understand exactly what death is (something the author was sure to mention, which helped) I was able to move past my issues and enjoy her character. My heart hurt for her. Losing her mother – her anchor – at such a young age is something I can’t imagine, but we saw flashes of a precocious child and I couldn’t wait to see more of her. My heart broke when she would turn her big, wary eyes onto her father.

The weakest link in this story is Mia, the heroine. She’d been burned by her fiancé some time back, and had no love for Grant after his divorce from her best friend. While I think the author meant to show us that her insecurities and emotional issues were the result of losing her best friend and being hurt by her former fiancé, it didn’t ring true for me. Especially after seeing glimpses of her loving family. As the story progressed and Grant’s true nature was revealed, Mia’s hesitation became tiresome. I wanted her to realize Grant was someone she could lean on, someone she could trust and have faith in, and when she did it came a bit too late for me.

I enjoyed Mia’s interactions with Haley, and the chemistry between Mia and Grant is believable. I think part of my frustration stems from the fact that I truly wanted them to be together. It was obvious to me, as the reader, that they were perfect for each other. And it became obvious to Grant as well. But Mia…well, I suppose it just took her a bit longer to figure it out. And when a secret Grant had been keeping comes out, Mia’s reaction was just a bit too over the top for me. So I was somewhat surprised by her abrupt turnaround after.

But I think the overall story arc, the relationship between Grant and Haley, and the interactions with the secondary characters more than made up for what I found lacking in Mia’s character. I can even understand where her issues stemmed from, so I guess I can’t be too harsh.

If you’re in the mood for an emotional read, one that will suck you in and pull something from you as a reader, this is the book for you.

hollys-icon.JPGGrade: A




Connecticut mogul Grant Braeburn never thought he was father material, even though his nearly four-year-old daughter should have convinced him otherwise. But then his ex-wife’s death made him Haley’s permanent parent. Her only parent. He needed help, in a hurry.

It came in the form of Mia Vaccaro, the lively, lovely party planner who had been his ex-wife’s best friend. Mia was the only one who could touch Haley’s broken heart. And, Grant was becoming increasingly aware, his as well….

Read an excerpt.


Read more from Holly at The Book Binge.