Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding Father Christmas / Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn, 2016

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In FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson's search for her father leads her unexpectedly to London with only a few feeble clues as to who he might be. Immediately welcomed into a family that doesn't recognize her, and whom she's quickly coming to love, she faces a terrible decision. Should she reveal her true identity and destroy their idyllic image of her father? Or should she carry the truth home with her to San Francisco and remain alone in this world? Whatever choice she makes during this London Christmas will forever change the future for both herself and the family she can't bear to leave.

In ENGAGING FATHER CHRISTMAS Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation. But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost. And yet . . . maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

(352 pages)

When I saw that this pretty collection of short stories was being turned into a Hallmark movie, I snapped it up right away. I love Hallmark movies, and I thought reading the original material to one would be a great way to get geared up for the holidays!

I have to say, though, that I think Hallmark movies must be getting a little more inappropriate than they used to be. Getting over the fact that Miranda's an illegitimate child of a man who already had a family is a little hard to just roll with. Sure, there are some circumstances that temper the "cheating" aspect of it–and the emphasis on forgiveness and finding one's family is healthy in its own way–but it just doesn't seem like, for a Christian book, there's enough emphasis put on the fact that what her father did was wrong. In fact, in the second short story ("Engaging Father Christmas"), Miranda actually spends a fair amount of time trying to get the affection of her father's wife.

I kid you not, Miranda doesn't just want to be acknowledged as her father's daughter amongst the family. She also wants to join in on their Christmas, and treat her half-brother's wife and children like family, and basically be given full insider status in this posh British family. She has this strange compulsion to "make friends" with Margaret, her father's wife, and I just felt like cringing every time she approached her. I mean, it's one thing for Miranda to get Margaret's reluctant acknowledgment of her blood relationship to the family; it's another altogether to try and be friends with her. How would you like it if the walking, talking reminder of the one time your husband was unfaithful to you thirty years ago kept shoving herself in your face and making passive-aggressive moves to show how open and friendly she's being despite your standoffishness? I honestly thought Miranda was way too entitled in "Engaging Father Christmas," and I didn't even like her boyfriend/fiance to boot. There's such a thing as making a character too perfect, you know?

Anyway, for all that I honestly didn't hate the two stories. They really are very cozy reads, full of roaring fires and cozy beds and gorgeous Christmas trees and fantastic productions of A Christmas Carol. They're also set in England (which I'm traveling next week for college visits–just think, I could be living there a year from now!). This instantly makes everything about five times more cozy and warm than they would be already. I looked up the Hallmark movie, and it looks like they moved Miranda's birth family from England to Vermont. That's so disappointing because it destroys most of the cozy atmosphere I enjoyed in the books. I think the fact that the Whitcombes are English also adds a layer of complexity to the story because their high-ranking status in prim English society makes Miranda's existence much harsher for them than it would be for some random actor's family in Vermont. Also, Miranda's boyfriend has a Scottish brogue. That right there is a huge point in his favor!

Anyway, if you're willing to look past the moral iffy-ness of Miranda's situation and the sometimes really blatant cheesiness of both the plot and the characters, then you might like this story. I would honestly recommend reading "Finding Father Christmas" and just stopping there, because it's not quite as cringe-inducing as "Engaging Father Christmas."

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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