4 out of 4 stars
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Winter Light by author Robin Maderich is a novella prequel to a Christmas romance series that takes place in the fictional town of Connor Falls, Pennsylvania. Allie (Allison) Roberts is lacking the holiday inspiration she needs to decorate the display window in the book emporium she manages for her parents. Her lack of motivation could mean disaster for the seasonal sales the store depends on. Yet, a possible means to a solution unexpectedly appears before Allie’s eyes one day, on the other side of the window: the face of a little girl.
Meanwhile, divorced, single father Luke Hollis, owner of a Christmas tree farm, is busy worrying about his anxious young daughter, Lydia, who misses her mother. Lydia has formed a dangerous habit of taking off from home, and when Luke eventually arrives at the town’s bookstore to retrieve his daughter, he suspects he’s seen the store’s manager somewhere before, whoever she is. The manager, however, has no doubt about Luke’s identity.
This novella is simply, fittingly titled for a Christmas story, but one mustn’t mistake that simplicity for triteness. The theme of winter light turns out to be a poignant one, deftly handled by the author. Maderich’s characters are effectively realized on the page, developed as believable, rational, deeply feeling people. When romance fiction includes a child as young as Lydia, it can be easy to make such a character cute but otherwise flat, almost like a prop instead of a person. However, Lydia is portrayed as a complex human being, adding an interesting dimension to Luke and Allie’s story.
Also, the plot of Winter Light doesn’t always take the most predictable route. Where the author could have used more conventional timing for a small-town tale’s turn of events, Allie’s small-town predicament expands instead. Still, even with the characters’ rationalizing and some sobering plot development, the author leaves room for striking moments, like glimpses of winter magic. Then, on account of the plot’s uncommon timing, the story is free to reach a touching peak that any reader of holiday romances can appreciate.
Therefore, I give Winter Light an overall rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Even as a short prequel, it’s a complete story on its own and an excellent example of solid storytelling in novella-length fiction. I’d recommend this book to romance readers who would enjoy a quick Christmas read with warmth, deep emotion, and memorable light.
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