Pregnant with her cheating ex-boyfriend's baby and with no money to her name, Lulu Cahill is temporarily stuck in her hometown of O'Fallon's Landing. Sebastian Moore is in town for a Christmas wedding that wasn't meant to be. He and his fiancée broke up just before making it to the altar. A chance meeting in the park leads to unforgettable sex that was supposed to be no strings attached, but after a second coincidental meeting the next day, Sebastian's family start playing matchmakers. They insist upon going forward with the wedding plans since everything is already paid for. The only thing missing is a bride, but Lulu seems to be the woman in their sights.
Home for Christmas was 90+ pages of pure matchmaking and battle of the sexes silliness with a little sex thrown in for good measure, and all told at a frenetic pace. The story takes place over about two days time, during which the hero and heroine have sex, fall in love, and are tricked into getting married, in that order. I'm sorry to say I didn't really connect with any of the characters and the plot was too contrived to be even remotely believable. Overall, I wasn't particularly impressed with my first foray into Dianne Castell's storytelling.
Lulu has one of those wildly extroverted personalities and is the type of person who has absolutely no filter between her brain and her mouth. She seems to simply blurt out whatever comes to mind. In my opinion, this was a bad thing, because on the few occasions that Sebastian says something romantic, she negates it by saying something inane (eg. He tells her that her body is beautiful, and she says she's fat when in reality she's just pregnant). Overall Lulu is too mouthy and flighty for me to be able to connect with her, and her insistence upon always calling Sebastian Handsome instead of by his given name annoyed me.
For his part, I had to question Sebastian's judgment. He'd just broken up with his fiancée right before they made it to the altar. He's in the military and about to ship out overseas for a one-year tour of duty. He supposedly caught his fiancée kissing the drummer for a band that was playing at her bachelorette party and didn't want to have to worry about her being faithful to him while he was gone, nor for her to worry about his safety. Then he goes and has sex with pretty much the first woman he meets after the breakup, claims he's in love with her after only one day, and marries her after only two, despite his previous concerns about a wife. Otherwise, Sebastian seemed like a decent guy, but his decision making skills certainly left something to be desired.
As a couple, I honestly don't know what Sebastian and Lulu saw in each other that was supposedly so magnetic. I didn't sense any emotional connection or sexual chemistry between them, and there's no real romance either, only sex. Both of them, especially Lulu, insist that it's only sex too, which is not romantic to me at all. The sex scenes aren't even anything particularly out of the ordinary either, and yet they can't seem to keep their hands off each other. The way it started with them having stranger sex in the park was not my cup of tea. At one point during that encounter, Sebastian mentions wanting to make it special for Lulu because it was special for him, but it certainly didn't feel special. They'd barely met, only known each other for mere minutes, and didn't even know each other's names, but have sex on a park bench in a gazebo in the town square in the dead of winter with snow on the ground. Neither one has any intention of taking their liaison any further, because both think the other is leaving town the next day. Ummm, yeaaah, that's real special. (Normally, I'm not sarcastic in my reviews, but I felt like Sebastian's comment was simply begging for it.) This first love scene was also rather light on details and pretty short, leaving me wondering what the heck was so impressive about the encounter that neither of them could stop thinking about it afterward.
I think perhaps Home for Christmas was supposed to be a humorous story that wasn't meant to be taken too seriously, but despite that, I didn't find it particularly amusing. Anyone who enjoys slapstick-style rom coms might enjoy this one more than I did, but I found it to be so utterly ridiculous that I simply couldn't buy into any part of it. The characters are all one-dimensional with the women coming off as bubble-headed bimbos, and although the men seemed fairly decent, they too were lacking any real depth. The entire novella is mostly made up of banal chit-chat with no meaningful introspection or character development. The plot is so shallow a dingy would run aground in it. I'm not even sure the silly, farcical wedding would have even been considered legal. In spite of there being an epilogue in which the hero and heroine reunite after his one-year tour of duty is up, I couldn't believe that they would have made it for that long much less a lifetime, considering how things started for them. They barely even knew each other before he left for a year, and they spent the entire story arguing. The only thing they both remarked on was the supposedly great sex, which does not a great love or romance make. In my opinion, there simply wasn't any discernible reason for them to be together in the first place, much less stay together long-term.
The mechanics of the writing were rather rough around the edges too. I found lots of typos and errors in sentence structure. There were times when more transition details were badly needed, such as when Sebastian starts putting on a condom when he hasn't even so much as unzipped his pants yet. I also found some continuity errors. I have no idea how Sebastian figured out Lulu's name, and toward the end of the story one of Lulu's brothers-in law essentially bids Sebastian a safe tour when he'd barely met the guy and no one had even mentioned Sebastian was in the service and headed overseas.
I didn't figure out until the end of the story that Home for Christmas is basically a follow-up novella to Dianne Castell's O'Fallons series. The only thing that tipped me off was that in the last chapter all the heroes and heroines of the previous novels show up, and their exchange with Lulu left me feeling like I was missing something. Unfortunately, Home for Christmas did not leave me with any burning desire to go back and read the earlier books. Overall, this little novella was such an unsatisfying read that I won't be actively seeking out any more of Dianne Castell's stories. Home for Christmas can be found in the anthology I'm Your Santa.
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