Christmas with Hamish by Sophie Penhaligon
“She was my wedding fling who turned out to be my Christmas miracle.” -Nikau Taylor
Sophie Penhaligon captures the magic of falling in love with both an unexpected stranger and the Christmas season in Christmas with Hamish. This entertaining, Yuletide novelette is a wonderful romantic escape from the busyness of the season and pleasant reminder that there is still magic to be found in the holidays. Verity Robinson’s dysfunctional family dynamics have not only soured her view of relationships but have ruined the holidays for her. She deals with her family in Vancouver by living in Toronto, even though the Pacific Northwest is where she would rather be, and having very little contact with them. However, her younger sister’s Christmas wedding is something she can’t get out of, even though she wants desperately to RSVP “not attending”. A chance interaction and potential wedding fling with the handsome wedding guest, Nikau Taylor, is rudely interrupted when Verity is guilted into dog sitting her sister’s pampered Scottish Terrier, Hamish McDuff, while her and her new husband jet off on their honeymoon. But, all is not lost when Verity realizes that her sister’s neighbors are none other than Nikau and his corny dog, Chunk.
From the opening pages, I liked Verity and Nikau. There was something about her brashness, as a way to mask her insecurities and pain, that made her personable and very real. She shows up at her sister’s Disney themed Christmas wedding wearing a stylish, tailored, black tuxedo with her hair cut into a sharp, graduated bob sporting smoky eyes and a vampy red lipstick. And how could I not like a sexy man with a Kiwi accent coming to Verity’s defense when her mother tries to humiliate and denigrate her in front of everyone. Their attraction is palpable in the flirtatious banter that then proceeds:
“But you wore the suit, anyway.”
I managed a smile. “I come from the dark side Nikau. I’m only surprised you didn’t feel a disturbance in the force.” I hummed the Darth Vader theme song for emphasis.
He put his head back and laughed before he leaned across to whisper in my ear. ” I f#cking like you. How dark are you exactly?”
I raised my eyebrows. “Probably much too dark for you pretty boy.”
“Oh, I doubt that very much,” he murmured.
If Christmas with Hamish is a romance between Verity and Nikau you are probably confused about the title. Sophie creatively uses Hamish and Chunk as the reason to bring Verity and Nikau together and the thread that intertwines their lives in a deeper way. In a short time, the sparks they generate initially build into a blazing fire that warms their lonely hearts and burns through the painful trash of their pasts, leaving them open to the magic of the holiday season. It’s a wonderfully heartwarming story with a very satisfying happily-ever-after ending.
FYI – I wanted so badly to give a higher review but felt that the portrayal of Verity’s family was so extreme and blatant in their hateful words and actions towards Verity, think the evil stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella, that it didn’t fit with the complex and nuanced people that Verity and Nikau were. While Sophie’s writing whisks you away with her story telling and main characters, Verity’s family is distracting from an otherwise wonderful story.