Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Buy The Book Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of Proposal at the Winter Ball by Jessica Gilmore
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Romance 01 Dec 15

While in a post-Thanksgiving haze, the result of a carb and butter overdose, an idea was concocted among a merry band of Romancelandia peeps on Twitter.  Hear ye, hear ye!  Let us spend the entire month of December binging on Harlequins!  We shall dub it #DeckTheHarlequin and it shall be merriment, joy, and a beacon of light.  Naturally, I was all on board with this.  Between a pile of print that is now eligible for its own zip code and my Kindle TBR Dumpster of Doom, it’s always a Harlequin-palooza around the Bat Cave.  It’s December, I’m a Christmas romance junkie, why not pick titles at random?  And so I have.  Introducing a friends-to-lovers romance by Gilmore that’s been languishing on my Kindle since 2015.

Flora Buckingham is an interior designer at loose ends.  The youngest daughter in a family full of overachievers, Flora is constantly feeling like the family screwup who doesn’t have her shit stuff together.  Case in point, she’s got about a week left at her temp job before they throw her out on her butt.  But never fear!  Her BFF, Alex Fitzgerald, has a plan.  Unlike Flora, Alex is Mr. Big Shot Overachiever.  A hotshot architect who is under contract to design a series of exclusive hotels.  The fly in the ointment?  The interior designer who worked with him on the recently completed Austrian hotel got another offer and left him in a lurch.  Despite some casual cutting remarks that cut Flora to the quick, she agrees to attend the exclusive sneak preview of the Austrian hotel with Alex and submit a proposal to the owner for the upcoming project in Bali.  This sounds great, right?  One small problem.  Even though Alex is her BFF, Flora has desperately loved him for years – and naturally he’s oblivious (so she thinks).  Spending a week alone with him in a romantic hotel in the Austrian Alps?  Shoot. Her. Now.

Of course, Alex isn’t oblivious.  Clueless, yes.  Oblivious, not so much.  Alex, naturally, had a horrible childhood.  A mother who committed suicide.  A father who was distant and disapproving and a stepmother who seriously screwed him up.  He fell in with Flora’s family when he wasn’t in boarding school.  Basically they “unofficially” adopted him.  If it weren’t for the Buckinghams, Alex would have no one in the world.  So testing any romantic waters with Flora is not something he’s going to do.  She’s too good for him and besides – what if the relationship goes south?  He’d lose the only semblance of family he has.  No, it’s best to keep things strictly platonic.

None of us are new around here.  We all know what happens next.  Flora and Alex cannot resist, succumb, and then need to clue into the fact that they’re destined to be together and live happily ever after.  It’s a comforting sort of read.  Is it perfect?  Well, no.  The pacing felt a little off to me.  I’m chalking this up to the author spending a fair amount of time on what I call “design porn” – describing the hotel, painting a picture of the amazing scenery, the Christmas-y goo-gah that populates the edges of the story.  Yes, yes – it’s nice to have it there to set the scene, but get me back to the characters already.  Then there’s Alex’s angst involving his stepmother.  This is a big revelation and once he confesses it to Flora (rather early on), it slinks off stage right and isn’t really a factor for the second half of the story.

Which leaves the romance.  The author gets her couple together fairly early in the story, but, naturally, there has to be a Black Moment to spur them toward the finish line.  I felt like the Black Moment should have come a bit sooner, been dragged out a wee bit longer.  As it is, it’s kind of a mad dash to the finish line and we don’t get much at the end of Alex and Flora presenting themselves “as a couple” to the rest of the Buckingham family.

But really, in the grand scheme of things, these are minor nitpicks in an enjoyable story.  Pacing issues aside, this is a pleasant friends-to-lovers romance with a unique setting and some holiday flavor.

Wendy TSLGrade: B-


Best friend to Christmas bride?

This Christmas, hotshot architect Alex Fitzgerald needs an interior designer to impress his biggest client—and fast! Who better than his best friend, Flora Buckingham? Yet one unforgettable kiss unleashes the feelings Alex has kept hidden for years…

Alex cherishes Flora above everything. He is estranged from his family, so she’s been the bright spark in a dark life. But after their kiss, Alex must make a decision—step back and protect their friendship, or risk everything, down on one knee, for the happiness he’s always dreamed of!

Read an excerpt.