His Holiday Crush by Cari Z.

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Workaholic attorney Max Robertson is one meeting away from making partner at a big NYC firm when his best friend calls and guilts him into coming back home for Christmas. But there’s a reason he hasn’t been back to Edgewood for a decade—too many bad memories. The plan was to go for just one night, until a wild deer and a snow bank wrecked everything.

Former Army Sergeant Dominic “Nicky” Bell is the new guy on the Edgewood police force, so of course he drew the short straw and is stuck working the night shift. But his evening gets turned upside-down when he gets called out to a wreck in the snow—and it’s his one and only high school crush, looking even sexier than he did back then.

When they both end up stranded together at Dominc’s house, sparks start to fly and Max isn’t sure what to do. But everyone deserves a present this holiday season, right?

Rating: C+

His Holiday Crush is a cute and very readable Christmassy romance about a workaholic lawyer who reluctantly returns to the hometown he’d intended never to go back to one Christmas, and finds love where he least expected it. It’s well written and the characters are likeable; it was a pleasant enough way to pass a few hours, but it’s nothing I haven’t read before.

Lawyer Max Robertson has had little time in his life for anything other than work for years, and is on the verge of closing the deal that will make his career. For the first time in years he’s agreed to go back to Edgewood – just for for Christmas; normally his best friend Hal and his family visit Max in New York, but Hal’s wife walked out on him and their two young daughters a few months back, and as this will the girls’ first Christmas without their mom, Max agreed to visit them instead. But as Christmas approaches, he starts to wish he hadn’t said he’d go, and he tries to wriggle out of it; he can’t and in the end, he decides he’ll go but will stay for only one night, telling himself it’s because he has to get back to the city in order to finish the fine-tuning on the deal.

Fate has other ideas however, as a snow storm hits as he’s on the road on the outskirts of town, and when he swerves to avoid a deer in the road, he spins out of control and ends up in a ditch. He’s not badly hurt and manages to call 911; not long afterwards a local police officer arrives to help him; Max fails to recognise the officer as Hal’s younger brother Dominic, who returned home six months earlier after his stint in the army.

Dominic had a big crush on Max when they were younger, and seeing him again – gorgeous and sexy AF – that crush comes roaring back to life.  Dominic is a bit dismayed that Max doesn’t recognise him straight away, although he supposes it’s not surprising since they’ve not see each other for years – and is even more surprised when Max appears to be… flirting with him?  When Hal arrives and introduces the hot cop who rescued Max as his little brother, Max is stunned.  Pleasantly. Who knew the kid who used to trail around after him and Hal would grow up to be so hot?

With Max’s car out of commission until repairs can be made, he’s going to have to stay in Edgewood over Christmas, which naturally gives him a chance to reconnect with Dominic as well as with Hal and the girls – and causes him to start reassessing his choices.

Although, as I’ve said, this is a story I’ve read lots of times before, it’s nicely done and well written, the leads have great chemistry and there are some engaging secondary characters, notably Hal and his two daughters, who read like actual children rather than plot-moppets.  I appreciated the absence of the ‘don’t mess with my younger sibling’ message that so often crops up with this trope; Hal is fully supportive of Max and Dominic getting together, particularly as he knows Dominic hasn’t had it easy since returning home (he has PTSD, for which he’s receiving treatment) and thinks he deserves to have something good in his life. Hal’s soon-to-be ex-wife is all but demonised for most of the book though, which I found a little uncomfortable.  All we know about her is that she just up and left and abandoned her kids, and it’s not until much later that we get a chance to see that maybe there’s more to it.  I understand that it would have been difficult to explore that further given the story is told from Max and Dominic’s points of view and not Hal’s, but things there could have been a little more nuanced.

For all its predictability, this is an easy and engaging read. The romance is a bit insta-love-y, but I liked that Max and Dominic allow themselves to be vulnerable around each other, and the care Max shows Dominic in bed (teaching him there’s more to sex than a quick pump and dump!).  On the downside, I didn’t really buy the reasons behind Max’s dislike of his home town, and Dominic’s reaction to the conflict near the end is really over the top.

That said, if you’re looking for a low-angst, Hallmark-esque, small-town romance that makes good use of its tropes, and has enough heat to keep you warm on a cold winter’s afternoon, His Holiday Crush might just fit the bill.

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