Hartbridge Christmas: Christmas Wish List – N.R. Walker
In need of work and a change of scenery, Aussie ex-pat Jayden Turner agrees to a short-term chef position at a Bed and Breakfast over the Christmas holidays. After all, how hard could it be in a small town in the mountains of Montana? What he finds is a grand old house in a beautiful town, and his new boss is gorgeous, gay, and single.
After his divorce, Carter “Cass” Campion bought his great-aunt’s rundown country manor in his home town, and he’s determined to get it ready for the busy holiday period. Recently out as gay, he’s been focused solely on his business and hasn’t had time for a man. Not that many gay men come through Hartbridge . . .
As his new clients arrive, and being away from his two kids, celebrating Christmas is the last thing on Cass’s mind. But his new chef has other ideas. And if there’s one thing on his Christmas Wish List this year, Jayden can make it come true.
I’m not really into Christmas romances. I find them too cheesy and, well… Christmasy, for my taste. But then this book grabbed me right away, from the first time I featured its release on this blog. I mean, look at that cover!
Christmas Wish List is a holiday, insta-love romance between a charming and talented chef who had enough of the drifter life and a divorced and newly-out small-town guy with a newly-opened bed and breakfast. It is the 2nd book of the Hartbridge Christmas series. It can be read as a standalone.
The story starts with Jayden Turner, an Aussie ex-pat whose been all over the States for 15 years. He just arrived in Hartbridge for his Christmas temp job. After nearly getting lost, he meets his boss, Carter Campion, the man who single-handedly renovated an old grand manor into the magnificent Arabella Bed and Breakfast.
With guests arriving in just a couple of days, Jayden soon realized there were still a lot of to-dos in an ever-growing number of to-do lists his distractable boss scattered throughout the property. It didn’t help Jayden was a distraction himself, with his megawatt smiles, engaging humor, and indecent proposals. Or did it?
Jayden’s incessant flirting with his boss nearly irritated me, but he did it with so much good cheer, you couldn’t help but be charmed. He’s sweet, thoughtful, and very dedicated to feeding people. He’s a guy who knows what he wants and doesn’t hesitate to tell you. Yep, he’s a bossy one!
I loved that this is not a grumpy+sunshine story. Cass is a total sweetheart. He’s a gentle, unassuming guy who starts doing a million things then forgets after being distracted by yet another task that needs to be done. He’s so unassuming that Jayden (and I) was surprised the man was a top-level executive.
Having been in the closet most of his life, Cass’ life as a newly out gay man didn’t change much from before. He feels so guilty about ruining his marriage and his kids’ lives that he doesn’t let himself be happy. Cass is lonely and touched-starved. It so happens there’s a very attractive gay man who is very eager to show him the gay experience…
With so much regret, he explicitly stated that he has a business to run and that if things went sideways with Jayden, he’d be left without a chef for Christmas. I totally applaud Cass here. The man was clearly being practical and responsible, especially after all the time, money, and effort he put into the BnB.
This is why I wasn’t that pleased with Cass’s friend, Rem, encouraging him to hook up with his new and only employee. I was also annoyed at the repetitive parts where Jayden does one thing, apologizes about it, then keeps doing it anyway.
Gripes aside, the romance was magical! It was a joyous celebration of freedom, first times, and the simple, heartwarming comfort of holding hands. The last one was my favorite.
Cass and Jayden are all about communication. I loved that they do it with such easy openness. They clicked right away. They were a solid team from day one even with a deadline hanging over their head.
It was so endearing to see Cass’ character grow with Jayden’s guidance, slowly gaining confidence to truly embrace his truth. The way he lit up with each new experience was quite adorable. Jayden is pure sunshine for being the kind of person who brings joy in everyday moments.
The story could have easily gone in a steamier, angstier direction, but I loved where N.R. Walker took this. The mood hit the sweet spot for a holiday read. It’s light, humorous, cozy, and soo sweet and fluffy without being too precious.
This feel-good romance touches upon family, setting roots and grabbing happiness whenever you can. The setting is simply fabulous! Hartbridge is an idyllic, picture-perfect town full of friendly, hardworking people.
The two major secondary characters are Rem and Hamish. They are the couple from Book 1., Tic-Tac-Mistletoe. I haven’t read it yet. Now, I want to because these two are equally lovable! Cass’ ex-wife, Kendra, and their kids, Wyatt and Charlotte, were awesome too.
Overall, Christmas Wish List is a heartwarming, feel-good Hallmark romance filled with wonderful people, sumptuous food, cozy settings, and sweet, uplifting moments. There’s even a wedding! It’s everything you can ever wish for in a Christmas story and more!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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Take your current read and compare it to what you reading this exact time last year. Which one do you like better? What is different about the books? Any special facts/things you want to make note of or bring attention to?
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