Title: The Christmas Secret
Author: Donna VanLiere
Number of Pages: 304
Summary: When a struggling young single mother saves the life of an elderly woman, she sets into motion a series of events that will test her strength, loyalty, and determination, all the while setting her on the path to finding true love.Christine Eisley is the mother of seven-year-old Zach and five-year-old Haley. Her ex-husband provides little, if any, child support and makes life difficult for Christine by using the children as pawns. She works long hours as a waitress to make ends meet, but her job is in jeopardy because she’s often late to work due to the unreliable teenaged sitters she’s forced to use.When Christine saves the life of a woman who works in Wilson’s department store, the owner of Wilson’s wants to find her, to thank her, but Christine has disappeared, losing another job once again. He sets his grandson, Jason, to the task of finding the mysterious “Christy.” Jason, an accountant by trade who has lost his job to downsizing, thinks he is “above” working at Wilson’s. Soon, he discovers that this new task gives him more than he bargains for.The Christmas Secret is a novel for anyone who wants to see how love is a gift that keeps giving back; that hope is a treasure that never runs dry, and that faith is a miracle that is reborn with each new day.
Author Bio: Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children.
I loved Donna VanLiere’s autobiography Finding Grace and so I was excited when I got the opportunity to read and review The Christmas Secret. I hadn’t read any of VanLiere’s Christmas series, though I did see the movie version of The Christmas Shoes (and of course, heard the song.) Since Finding Grace was an almost perfectly
The book begins with a prologue in which the protagonist, Christine, recalls a particular
Later in the same chapter, Christine has a flashback of a conversation with her mother. Again, this transition was a bit confusing. I think the section should have been broken with an extra line of space to better delineate that it’s a flashback instead of mashing
But by far the most irksome thing of the novel to me was the choice to switch from Christine’s first-person point of view to other characters’ third-person point of view. I suppose I’ve read novels before that do this, but I found it quite jarring. I would have preferred Christine’s POV to be in third-person to match with the rest of the characters.
VanLiere choses not to name the town in which the story takes place (or at least, I never saw a name), so when Christine tells us, “When Brad found a job here my mother seemed angry,” my first thought was where’s “here”? The restaurant Christine is working in when she relates this to us? The town? The state? My confusion could have been avoided by simply replacing “here” with “in this town” or by simply giving the town a name.
Some of the writing gave me a chuckle, such as this sentence: “‘Everyone clocks in here,’ she said, pushing open the door to an empty room filled with vending machines and three small round tables with chairs.” (An “empty” room shouldn’t be “filled” with anything but air.) I’m not saying the writing was bad, it just needed a little more polishing/editing.
And one last complaint. One thing about Christine’s character that bothered me no end was the fact that she refuses to allow her ex-husband visitation with their children because he hasn’t paid child support. This is the only reason she continually refuses contact. I find this vindictive and petty. Of course he should be paying child support and is a deadbeat not to. Yes, he’s a jerk to her and pulls nasty stunts of his own to get even. However, he is not abusive or dangerous to her or the children, so there’s no reason she should cut off contact between them. And since she’s desperate for a babysitter, refusing to allow him to care for the children is plain silly. She doesn’t even allow the children to know he stops by to see them. Severing their relationship with him over money is selfish. He is their father and a continuing relationship with them should be encouraged, not used as a weapon. (Besides, he’s more likely to pay up if he actually gets to see his kids.) None of the characters point this out to her; in fact they aid her in keeping the ex away from the children. Disgusting. (Okay, enough of my soapbox.)
So each of these annoyances kept me from really enjoying the book at first. However, after 80 or 90 pages (and a day or so break from reading it) I really started getting into the story. I liked the characters, enjoyed the multiple storylines and how they interconnected, found the romance appealing, guessed most of the twists beforehand (which didn’t diminish their reveals) and didn’t get tripped up with any more of the writing. Most of the mysteries are resolved at the end, and I felt satisfied after the book was finished. It’s possible I’d read the book again, and I am still definitely interested in reading VanLiere’s previous Christmas books. And I plan to watch the movie versions of the books on LMN. Overall, I’d give the book a solid “B” grade. Well done, with plenty room for improvement.
For more information about Donna VanLiere and her books, visit http://www.donnavanliere.com.
Archive for December, 2009
Lifetime Movie Network is having a special promotion of Donna VanLiere’s “Christmas Hope” books.
On December 13th, LMN will air the following television adaptations:
4PM ET: The Christmas Shoes
6PM ET: The Christmas Blessing (LMN Premiere – one telecast only)
8PM ET: The Christmas Hope (Premiere)
10PM ET: The Christmas Shoes (Encore)
12AM ET: The Christmas Hope (Encore)
(Note that the LMN website schedule has the programs airing Dec. 12th, but my satellite TV menu shows it as the 13th.)
Read an excerpt from The Christmas Secret on Lifetime Movie Network.
Read my review of The Christmas Secret
Read an original essay by Donna VanLiere.
LifetimeMovieNetwork.com is also to sponsor a contest to win signed copies of the “Christmas Hope” books, but I haven’t found any details on that yet.