Ross and Maggie McKinney's sixteen-year marriage was all but over. One year ago, on Christmas Eve, the revelation of Ross's betrayal had driven Maggie from the warmth of her home and onto an icy road where her truck plunged over a cliff. More dead than alive, Maggie was rushed to the hospital, and for the last eleven months has endured endless surgeries and rehab. Feeling responsible for Maggie's accident and still harboring some sense of honor, Ross could not bring himself to go through with the divorce while Maggie was still recovering. Now she is finally ready to go home, but their sterile mansion is not the home that she needs. As his final act as Maggie's husband, Ross decides to take her to the little town of Bethlehem where he had purchased a house for her the year before, and watch over her until they are certain she can take care of herself. Then they will end the marriage amicably, so he can go back to Buffalo and his work.
Ross McKinney grew up with very little and a father who thought he would never be anything. Setting out to prove him wrong, Ross worked hard to get through college and build a successful billion-dollar business from the ground up. He met and married Maggie when they were young, and she worked to put him through college. All Maggie has ever wanted were the simple things in life: a loving husband, children, and just enough to live on. At first Ross and Maggie were passionately in love, but when the allure of money and power started to overtake Ross's life, Maggie found herself relegated to the back burner and little more than a trophy wife who Ross brought out for special occasions. As Ross's business grew, so did the anger and resentment between them, until that fateful night one year ago. Now Maggie has traumatic amnesia and can't remember anything about the year before the accident, including what drove her to leave. As Ross and Maggie spend more time together than they have in years, the magic of the Christmas season begins to weave it's way into their hearts and renew the love they once shared that had never quite died. Both begin to have second thoughts about their planned divorce, but Ross fears that if Maggie ever does remember everything that happened last Christmas Eve, she will never be able to forgive him. It will take a miracle to keep them together this time, but in a town called Bethlehem at Christmastime, anything can happen.
Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Do you believe in guardian angels? My guess is that most readers of this book will either want to believe or have their beliefs reconfirmed after reading this enchanting tale. Marilyn Pappano has woven yet another magical Christmas story in the little town of Bethlehem, New York, a place that is watched over by a very special guardian angel. Some Enchanted Season is all about redemption and reconciliation, as well as the precious gift of love that was once lost but found again. I don't think I have ever read a romance novel in which the hero and heroine are already married at the beginning of the story, but are essentially estranged and must find their way back to the deep love they once shared. I wasn't sure if I would like it, because I don't usually care for a lot of relationship conflict in my romance and prefer to watch the couple go through all the ups and downs of new love. Well, I ended up thoroughly enjoying this captivating story that was filled with depth and emotion. While there was conflict, it didn't seem at all overdone due to past circumstances, and when misunderstandings arose they never lasted long. All things considered, I thought that Ross and Maggie communicated pretty well. It was also wonderful watching them rediscover their love that had never truly died but had been long buried under a heavy weight of ambition, anger, resentment and guilt. Having them reignite the passion that had marked the early years of their marriage, and learn that true love can overcome and forgive a world of hurt and past mistakes was equally wondrous.
Ross and Maggie were a very likable and relatable couple with a story that was very believable and realistic. The Ross readers see at the beginning of the book is the type of character that it would be very easy to dislike. He is a deeply ambitious man who became obsessed with money and power to the point that it blinded him to the truth of what's really important in life. Ross had also made a huge mistake and the revelation of that event is what led to the horrific accident that changed Maggie's existence forever. Normally this type of element in a romance novel would be a major turnoff for me, but as the story progressed, I found myself understanding quite well what had led Ross to this dark place, making him a very sympathetic character. Also, his intense remorse and self-loathing for his pasts sins, his fear of loosing Maggie forever which made him vulnerable, and the gentle, respectful way he treats Maggie all came together to make me truly like Ross, warts and all. The magic of Bethlehem has a way of healing the people who come there, and Ross was no exception. His change of heart from an almost Scrooge-like character as well as the emotional growth he exhibited were nothing short of miraculous and exceptionally heartwarming. Maggie was an incredibly strong woman who had endured the past half-dozen years of her contentious marriage as well as eleven months of painful surgeries, recovery, and rehab with her spirit, dignity and dreams for the future still mostly intact. I also thought that she had a very big heart to forgive Ross for all the past hurts he had caused and be willing to make a forever commitment to their marriage. Occasionally she was a bit short-tempered with him, which was pretty understandable given their history, but she was apologetic when appropriate. Maggie's growth and changes weren't quite as dramatic as Ross's, but she ultimately completed her healing process, both physically and emotionally in Bethlehem.
The town of Bethlehem really comes to life in such as way as to almost be a character unto itself, but I think that is owed more to it's gentle guardian angel, Noelle, and the host of warm, friendly townspeople who made me feel like I had just walked into a Currier & Ives painting. There are many carry-over characters from the first book of the series, Season for Miracles, including the hero and heroine of that story, Nathan and Emilie, and their family, as well as the Winchester sisters, two adorable old ladies who are like the world's best grandmothers to everyone, the Thomases, the Walkers, Harry and Maeve from the diner, and Holly McBride, the owner of the only inn in town. There was a little side plot about the Thomases desperate desire to have a baby, but so far being unable to, and a possible budding romance between Harry and Maeve. I will be interested to see if these stories are continued in future books in the series. Readers are also introduced to several new characters who will play major roles in other books. Dr. J. D. Grayson, a handsome psychiatrist, loves kids, left the big city for small-town life, and becomes the hero of the next book, Father To Be. Ross's cynical, cut-throat attorney, Tom Flynn, gets paired with the feisty Holly in book #5, First Kiss, and his personal assistant, Lynda Barone, becomes the heroine of book #6, Getting Lucky. Also, Leanne Wilson, the owner of the local baby boutique, becomes the heroine of book #9, Small Wonders. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but each one lends something special to the story, and really helps to bring it to life.
I found Some Enchanted Season to be a sweet slice-of-life romance that was a near-perfect joy to read. The only thing that might have been better is if both characters had done a little less redundant inner protesting. For example, Ross would begin to wonder if all he really needed was a little moderation in his business dealings to have a life, but then would immediately discard the idea thinking that his business was his life. He repeated this line of thinking quite a few times, even though it was obvious that he was already beginning to make changes. Maggie also had similar repeated introspections about whether their marriage was truly over, but I guess maybe they just needed time to convince themselves of the truth. Otherwise the plot was tight, and even though the ending seemed a tad rushed, it was still satisfying. Since Ross and Maggie spent a lot of time holding each other at arms length because of fears and trying to convince themselves that a divorce was the only resolution to their problems, their relationship progressed at a languid but steady pace, but until they figure things out, there is some nice sexual tension in the form of intense memories of the passionate early years of their marriage. In between, the pages of the story are filled with the mystical enchantment of the holiday season and all the events surrounding it that are so much a part of small-town life. Anyone looking for a holiday read to really put you in the Christmas spirit should look no further. Some Enchanted Season left me with the feeling of curling up in a warm blanket on a cold winter's day, and renewed my belief that miracles truly can happen, not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. It can be paired with it's predecessor in the Bethlehem series, Season for Miracles, for a double-dose of heartwarming holiday cheer. Both have earned a spot on my keeper shelf, and with two winners in a row Marilyn Pappano has earned a spot on my favorite authors list. I can't wait to dive into the remaining books in the Bethlehem series, Father To Be, Gabriel's Angel (a novella from the Yours 2 Keep anthology), First Kiss, Getting Lucky, Heaven on Earth, Cabin Fever, and Small Wonders, and explore some of the other books on Ms. Pappano's backlist.
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