Oct 27 2013 9:00am

First Look: Donna Alward’s A Cadence Creek Christmas (November 1, 2013)

A Cadence Creek Christmas by Donna AlwardDonna Alward
A Cadence Creek Christmas
Harlequin / November 1, 2013 / $5.99 print / $4.99 digital

Taylor Shepard has come to Cadence Creek to organize her brother's Christmas wedding. Organizing such a special event might be a little bit stressful—but she can't deny she's swept away by the town's holiday charm…and by brooding rancher Rhys Bullock.

Loner Rhys has been burned far too many times in the past. He's sure he has city girl Taylor all figured out—she'll be hightailing it straight back to the city in a few days! But as the snow starts to fall, Rhys and Taylor embark on a tentative winter romance. Could Taylor be the Christmas present Rhys never even knew he wanted?

Any novel, let alone a romance novel, cannot exist without some form of conflict. Not only does conflict keep the plot chugging along, it also gives something for the characters to do other than stand around and look pretty. So it’s really no wonder why Romance Novel Land can sometimes seem overwhelmed with vile parents. Bad parents give characters ready-made baggage and can easily lend themselves to the sort of angst found in primetime television dramas and daytime soap operas.

I wouldn’t classify myself as a relentlessly optimistic person determined to see the good in everybody, but I sometimes have a hard time wrapping my mind around the Mean Mamas and Despicable Daddies that like to set up camp in the genre. I think parents are a lot like your average person. That is to say they’re not all bad. More often than not? They’re just hopelessly clueless. Which is definitely the case with Taylor Shepard’s father in Donna Alward’s latest entry in her Cadence Creek series.

Taylor is a take-charge, take-no-prisoners, Type A personality. You have to be, in her line of work. Taylor owns her own event planning business. When she’s not turning on the charm with her clients, she’s wrangling with vendors and thwarting disasters. Taylor is the maestro; everyone else is merely a part of the orchestra. However as booming as business has been, she’s feeling a little burned out. Which means her brother’s Christmas wedding in tiny Cadence Creek couldn’t have come at a better time. As a gift to the newlyweds, she offers up her services, even though she doesn’t “do” weddings as a general rule. Naturally while doing her best maestro impersonation, she falls under the spell of Rhys Bullock, local ranch hand with plenty of secret wounds of his own.

Yes, it’s one of those Big City Career Gal Finds True Love In A Small Town romances. What makes Taylor different is really two-fold: 1) She’s already at loose ends at the beginning of the story and 2) Events in the book have her questioning what she really wants.

It’s a question Taylor doesn’t start asking herself until Rhys challenges her. What does she want? What and who is it all for? Why is Taylor making herself crazy trying to please a man (her father, naturally) who doesn’t seem to have a clue? It’s not that he’s cruel, just clueless. Taylor has a “little business” planning “little parties.” Why hasn’t she bagged a man and squirted out a couple of grandkids for him yet? It’s what drives Taylor, makes her tick, and in turn makes her crazy. Until finally, her feelings for Rhys have her reevaluating and admitting some hard truths to herself. The biggest of those being? She’s not happy, and she wants to be happy. She’s lost the joy in her work, and she wants to find it again.

This is a theme Alward has explored before, and what I like about her romances is that she doesn’t force either of her characters to morph into pod people to get their happy ending. Taylor doesn’t so much as chuck her Big City Life to turn into Small Town Girlfriend as she does figure out a solution to her bigger problem, which is how to get the guy and figure out a way around her current dissatisfaction with her business. She doesn’t chuck her business aside just because she’s found true love, she does one better: she fixes it. She realizes what makes her unhappy about her career and flips the script. Oh, and she gets the guy. What more could a girl want?

Learn more about or order a copy of A Cadence Creek Christmas by Donna Alward, available November 1, 2013:

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