My first foray into this year's batch of Christmas-y books is IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT by Lisa Dale...
From the back cover:
Sometimes love finds you when you least expect it.
Lana Biel has always wanted to shake the dust of Vermont off her feet and see the world, one exotic country after another. But when a lighthearted spring fling changes her life forever, she turns to the one man whose strong shoulders can lighten any burden: her best friend, Eli Ward.
Eli has always been there for Lana -- after all, that's what best friends do. But Lana isnt't he only one hiding something. Eli is keeping secrets of his own that threaten their relationship. Yet as summer turns to fall, new desires awaken between them, even as old fears tear them apart. Then, when another Vermont winter fills the valleys with snow, Eli and Lana are given the chance for an adventure greater than they ever dreamed possible...and a love that will last for all time.
What first struck me about this book is the obvious holiday-centric cover -- a couple smooching in the snow with a fence decorated with pine and a wreath. Let me just say, the holidays don't enter into this book until the last chapter or so. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT begins in the spring and follows the rest of the year out, right up until Christmas Day. Just a minor thing, really, but I was ready for Lana to be baking Christmas cookies and decorating the tree by page 5...but, oh well.
IHON is really a beautifully written tale, full in emotion and warmth, tugging at any and all heartstrings. Lana may be described by some as a flake, but she's really a strong character who knows what she wants out of life, and staying in Vermont is not it. Fate steps in and changes her plans, but not her desires. The one constant mainstay in her life has always been Eli, and she's comfortable with their relationship as best friends. Eli, however, is not. He's been in love with Lana for many years, and when Lana's circumstances change, he grows the cajones to step up to the plate and go for the gold.
It's not lack of interest on Lana's part that she's not reciprocated Eli's feelings, but fear. As a child growing up in her father's boarding house, people would show up and just as quickly leave. She was starved for any kind of parental love from dear old Dad, but he left her hanging each and every time. So, it may be easier to see why Lana is hesitant to search her heart for what she truly feels for Eli. As best friends, they can always have that solidarity and assurance. But as something more, there's always the possibility that one, or both, of them will get hurt if things don't work out.
There is a secondary story, of sorts, woven throughout IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT -- Lana's sister, Karin, who has been trying to have a baby with her husband, Gene. This is where I would grit my teeth a bit and read on. I'm the oldest sister in my family, but I'm not sure I could be as manipulative as Karin was at times. She's a veritable drill sergeant, but you can sense the love she has for her sister and know that she'd do anything to protect her.
I've not really focused on Eli really. I'm keeping him all to myself! Wendy would love him for the sheer fact that he's a beta hero who exudes sex appeal in a nerdy way. And that's all I'm saying 'bout that...
All in all, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT was an enjoyable read and one easily recommended. This is the author's second novel, from what I can tell. SIMPLE WISHES was Lisa's debut, which I have on my TBR, and was released earlier this year. I'll be making an effort to dig this one up soon...