Annabeth Albert’s various series are rapidly becoming auto-reads for me, so I was obviously keen to pick up the holiday story in her Portland Heat series, even though I’ve still only read the latest one out of the other three books for this setting. Christmas is a busy time for the various shop owners, especially with the prospect of a prize for the best decorated shop; however, Hollis Alcott does not look forward to the season, especially as his former friend – now rival shop owner – Sawyer Murphy takes pleasure both in putting up gaudy decorations and in goading Hollis to take part in the festivities.
Hollis has good reason to hate Christmas and all its trappings; his parents were killed in a skiing accident three years ago, and he is still in mourning at this time of year – as well as blaming himself for not being with them when the tragedy happened. His twin sister and Sawyer were best friends throughout school, and she went on to marry Sawyer’s twin brother, making Hollis and Sawyer almost family, no matter how hard Hollis resists being dragged into celebrations organised by the others and by the rest of Sawyer’s gregarious family.
This year, Sawyer is determined to see Hollis come out of his seclusion and actually enjoy the season – to the point that he makes a bet about it, promising to paint the bathroom at Hollis’ stationery store if he doesn’t succeed. The bet, and the various gatherings arranged by their respective twins, means that Hollis and Sawyer end up spending a lot of time together and enjoying themselves in spite of their differing personalities and store-types: Hollis stocks a very traditional range of pens and paper in his very regimented shop, while Sawyer’s gift shop carries a wide range of movie and video game merchandise, much of which encroaches on the pavement outside, upsetting Hollis’ need for order all around him.
On top of those issues, Hollis can’t get over the fact that Sawyer never seems to persevere with new hobbies or relationships for any length of time, while he himself is slow to try new activities or make new friends, but will stick with his decisions once he’s made them.
Eventually, of course, the two manage to compromise, and Hollis is surprised to find out all the ways that he has misjudged Sawyer. Definitely one of those books that makes me feel more festive, rather than less, and I hope we’ll be seeing more of these two and their fellow store owners in the future.
In the bustling restaurants, shops, and cafés of Portland, Oregon, things really heat up for the hard-working men behind the scenes when the holidays come into town…
For a stationery store owner, the holidays are great for business. But for Hollis Alcott, Christmas reminds him of the tragic events of three years past, and the last thing he wants to do is take part in Portland’s over-abundance of festive cheer. But Sawyer Murphy, a hunky gift shop owner whose brother is married to Hollis’s sister, has made it his mission to pluck Hollis out of his holiday blues. And his plan is beginning to work. Wrapped in the warm glow of newfound passion, the former business rivals hit up Portland’s finest holiday traditions—and Hollis’s icy attitude begins to melt like snowflakes on his tongue. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone with the only gift he has—his heart—without breaking it like an antique ornament. Unless he can find the courage to take a leap with the one lover he never expected…
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