MIRA / November 1, 2013 / $16.95 print, $12.99 digital
A single father who yearns to be a family man, Logan O'Donnell is determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie. The entire O'Donnell clan arrives to spend the holidays in Avalon, a postcard-pretty town on the shores of Willow Lake, a place for the family to reconnect and rediscover the special gifts of the season.
One of the guests is a newcomer to Willow Lake—Darcy Fitzgerald. Sharp-witted, independent and intent on guarding her heart, she's the last person Logan can see himself falling for. And Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas.
Yet between the snowy silence of the winter woods, and toasty moments by a crackling fire, their two lonely hearts collide. The magic of the season brings them each a gift neither ever expected—a love to last a lifetime.
I have to admit that after reading Marrying Daisy Bellamy, I was extremely disappointed that Logan didn’t get the girl. Oh, I knew that it was a long shot—a big long shot—but I was hoping that Susan Wiggs would do the unpredictable and let “honorable and steady” Logan keep the girl. You might wonder why I connected so much with Logan. Oh, he wasn’t exciting like Julian Gastineauxone, Daisy’s childhood crush. I mean how can the owner of an insurance business compare to an Air Force pilot?
Part of the appeal was that Logan was and is such a wonderful father. Logan changed his whole life for his son. He got clean and sober, and he gave up his partying lifestyle. He moved from the big city to the small community of Avalon, and did his part in caring for Charlie. That played a big part in winning Daisy over, and Logan thought he had achieved his dream. But in the end Daisy’s love for “wild and untethered” Julian prevailed.
Of course when an author elected to create a triangle, having your guy lose the girl is always a possibility. And I knew that going in. But Charlie, Daisy and Logan’s son put a different spin on it. I didn’t want Charlie being torn between two parents:
Goodbyes were always the hardest. Logan’s job was to assure his son that everything was perfectly fine—even if it wasn’t. “You’re going to have the time of your life in fifth grade, buddy, and you’ve got a new little sister to play with.”
“We’ll talk every day,” he said. “Just like always.”
“And I’ll see you at Thanksgiving.” Charlie’s effort at being positive was heartbreaking.
So I was very pleased to discover that finally Logan gets his well-deserved happy every after. In Candlelight Christmas, all the attributes that made me root for Logan in the first place are there in spades—he is a great father, but he is so much more. I love how he challenges himself to move on. Life dwelt him a major blow and it is not something that will ever go away. Having Charlie in his life is both a blessing and a source of pain. He is going to miss a big portion of his son’s life and there is nothing he can do about it.
It is only natural that after experiencing something like that, that you would hunker down and take the safe route and that is what Logan did. But he finally realizes that he has put his life on hold for his son. A son that he now only sees during the summer and holidays. Logan needs to find out who he is, besides being a father and that means taking risks again. He realizes this when he is talking to Darcy Fitzgerald:
I’m ready to take the risk,” he told Darcy. “Are you a risk taker?”
“I have been.” She touched her bottom lip with her finger, an absent gesture. “Not lately, though. I used to be a frequent flier when it comes to taking risks. But sometimes that means you come crashing down. Still, I think I liked myself better when I was a risk taker."
Of course one of the biggest risks that Darcy and Logan take is falling in love with each other. People don’t think much about falling in love the first time. Then, life seems so full of possibilities and promises. But once you have your heart ripped out, then it takes courage to try again. Because you have experienced the downside of falling in love—the sense of failure, betrayal and treachery. Something Darcy knows well. Her family and her husband’s family are close, and Huntley, well, he was the typical boy next door. When Huntley’s marriage failed, she joined her sisters in consoling him. A year later, they got married. Five years later Huntley decides that he is still in love with his ex-wife. Her husband’s betrayal is of course a crushing blow, but adding to the pain is her stepchildren’s glee and joy. They can’t wait to kick her out the door. In fact Amy, her stepdaughter, delivers the first kick:
“He’s cheating on you,” Amy had said. “With our mom.”
Darcy’s heart had stumbled. Then, clinging to well-honed denial, she had dismissed the notion out of hand. “Your mom and dad are just friends.”
“Nope they’re back together. Check his email,” Amy said, a clean blade of triumph sharpening her tone. “In the drafts folder. That’s how they communicate. They never hit Send, just log into the same account and read the drafts. They’re so stupid about it, though. They don’t delete correctly, so the notes still are all there.”
Getting over Huntley is a piece of cake compared to getting over losing the kids: The loss of her family—the children she help raised—that is what cuts to the core:
She had managed to stop loving Huntley. That was easy enough, crushing her feelings for someone who had crushed her heart with the most intimate of betrayals. She couldn’t simply turn off her feelings for the kids, though. When she’d married Huntley, they were eight and ten, filling her with joy. Five years later, they were teenagers, challenging her at every turn. Yet even at their most manipulative and obnoxious, they were children to whom she had given herself entirely. Even now she couldn’t stop remembering how it felt to be a family, swept up in the busy days of their lives together.
Charlie’s sister India and Darcy’s best friend thinks that Charlie and Darcy would make a perfect couple. But Darcy is not having it; been there, done that.
You are in such trouble,” Darcy said to India as they drove away from Camp Kioga to their hotel in the nearby town of Avalon.
“What?” India offered an elaborate look of innocence.
“You know perfectly well what. Your brother, that’s what. You couldn’t be more obvious if you tried.”
“Darce. I am trying.”
“And you're totally obvious. This was supposed to be a relaxing, forge-all-your-troubles girlfriends’ weekend. You turned it into a setup.”
“I introduced you to my kid brother, that’s all.”
“He’s no kid.” She couldn’t get the image of Logan O’Donnell out of her head. Tall, athletic build. Blaze of red hair- not the dorky kind of red hair, but deep glossy waves of auburn, which she found ridiculously sexy. And his smile. He had an easy smile that made her forget, if only briefly, that she’d ever been hurt by a man. “He has a kid,” she added.
“That would be my adorable nephew, Charlie,” India said. “Thank you for reminding me.”
“Listen, because I don’t think you heard me the first time,” said Darcy. “The only thing I want less than a guy is a guy with a kid.”
The character growth of Darcy and Logan is so believable and credible. And the conflict, well, that is straight out of real life. Logan’s life is filled with bittersweet moments, and he didn’t always deal well with those events. In fact, he still has his low points, but he knows how to roll with life’s punches, an attribute that comes in handy once he finds himself interested in Darcy.
Out of my ashes of disappointment comes the perfect story, and perfect match for Logan. Candlelight Christmas is a moving, poignant story about a second chance at love. You don’t want to miss it.
Learn more or order a copy of Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs, available November 1, 2013:
Leigh Davis, Blogger