Book Review: Married For Christmas (Willow Park #1) by Noelle Adams

married for christmas Married for Christmas  is a story with some of the most tried and tested formulas. The lead couple, Daniel and Jessica are best friends turned husband-wife; Jessica loves Daniel but he is still hung up on his dead wife; Daniel loves Jessica, but is scared to admit it, because obviously anytime he starts to feel happy the Gods in Heaven start conspiring against him; then there is Jessica who believes she doesn’t need love from her  husband as long as they are the best of friends. Yeah right! I don’t know who she’s kidding.

The reason I downloaded and read this book was: it was free on Kobo, it has a pretty cover and it was quite a short book. Married for Christmas did make me teary-eyed at some places, but for the most part, I found it to be quite meh! I didn’t feel the chemistry between the main couple and I just couldn’t for whatever reason see them together.

Jessica is a web developer and mostly a loner. The only family she has is her sick mother, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her mother usually has more bad days than good, but the days she is lucid are the days Jessica loves the most. Her friends include her college roommate and long time best friend Kim, and Daniel, a guy she has known since they were kids. She only became close friends with him after the death of his wife.

The only thing Jessica wants in life more than anything is a family, to put down roots and have a home. Jess is tired of waiting for the right guy to come her way and sweep her off her feet. She is resigned to the fact that there is no right guy for her, that there won’t be a knight in shining armor coming her way anytime soon.

“There’s no sign of some mythical ‘right guy’ who’s going to appear out of nowhere to sweep me away, and I’m not going to put my life on hold hoping and praying he’ll appear. I told you I don’t want to live in waiting anymore.”

So in order to get what she wants, she comes up with a plan. Daniel needs a wife so that he can become the pastor of the Willow Park church and Jessica needs a husband so that she can have the family she has always dreamed of. Jessica decides that marrying Daniel is the perfect solution since they are both very good friends, close to each other and understand each other. Even though Jessica knows that he probably will never love her, she is willing to marry him.

Daniel hasn’t been interested in dating since he lost his wife to a tragedy two years ago. Even though he is a moral and honorable man, he also is the kind of guy who believes that love can only happen once, that there can only be one destined life partner, and for him that was his late wife Lila. The best way to describe Daniel is the way his brother Micah does:

“If he has something stuck in his head, he can’t let it go.”

“It’s more than stubborn.” … “I mean the way he gets something in his head about the way things are supposed to be and then refuses to change his mind, no matter what.”

Even after two years, he is still in mourning. He tries to be a good husband to Jessica, but he always falls short. There are a few instances, where Daniel shows a few bursts of sweetness, but then he screws it up again. While it was pretty clear to me that Jessica loved her husband, nothing Daniel did showed the same. One moment he would be really nice to her, and in the next moment he would pull away. Daniel was too busy in his own world, mourning for his dead wife and working his new job as the pastor of the Willow Park Church that he didn’t have time for his wife. I honestly thought Jessica got the bitter end of their arrangement.

To me, Daniel came across as indifferent. I thought he didn’t much care about what Jessica did. She was more like a trophy wife to him than anything else. In Jessica’s own words, she was more lonely after marriage than before.

“Looks like it’s just us this evening,” Jessica said to Bear, trying to distract herself from the strange feeling. “What should we do?” She felt kind of lonely and heavy, like she wanted to mope.

It was stupid, but she’d never imagined she would be lonely after she got married.

While it was quite clear that Jessica was putting a lot of effort into making their marriage work, Daniel was just apathetic. Their chemistry was pretty non-existent and I just didn’t like them together. Jessica deserved a better guy in my opinion. A guy who was actually willing to work with her to make their relationship work rather than just promising things but not delivering on them.

All that said, there were some good things about Daniel too. The way he took care of her when her mother was sick was really sweet. He never went away when she was clearly trying to push him away. Also there were times when he actually wanted to know what she was thinking about or what she was feeling. But unfortunately those times were overpowered by all the times Daniel was pushing her away and being a jerk.

Married For Christmas is far from perfect, but there were little things here and there that I enjoyed. Jessica is a self-sufficient woman who just wants to be loved and to love, but Daniel was disappointing in the loving area. Their barely existent chemistry and Daniel’s offhand behavior failed to impress me. The only reason I got teary-eyed was because reading about Jessica’s obvious attempts to not ask her husband for anything more than he said he can give her, touched me. Also Daniel’s behavior was far from consequential.

After reading the book, what I truly felt was that Jessica had more of a family in her pet dog Bear, rather than her husband. She quite obviously loved Bear, but Daniel initially came across as condescending towards Bear. He would slyly pet the dog or give her food, even made her a dog bed as a Christmas present, but outwardly he presented a scornful stance towards Bear.

This book also had a lot of religious tones. Daniel obviously was religious considering he was a pastor, but he never practiced what he preached as Jessica often reminds him. Jessica too was a religious person who did not believe in sex before marriage. There is a constant reference to the church, sermons, the activities of the Church. God and what He wants and what He has decided also plays a crucial role in the book. I’m not usually a fan of books that lean towards religion. Though the religiousness in this book wasn’t overpowering, it felt patronizing at times.

Overall just an okay book with unremarkable characters who failed to make an impression. On one hand I am hesitant to pick up another book by the author, but on the other hand I’m willing to try reading more of her works to know if they are any better. There were no characters in this book that stood out to me and that is always a minus in my book. Hopefully the next book I pick will yield better results.
2.5 stars