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Book Review and New Release: Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery (Book 12.5 of the Fool’s Gold series)

Title: Christmas on 4th Street
Author: Susan Mallery
Series: Fool’s Gold
Genre: contemporary romance
Published: 2013
Pages: 336
Format read: ebook
Rating: C+

As much as I’ve enjoyed many of Susan Mallery’s novels, her Fool’s Gold books have been really hit or miss for me from the start. The last few were definitely on the “miss” side of the equation; this one was at least closer to the “hit” side.

Noelle Perkins is, like many Fool’s Gold protagonists, a relative newcomer to Fool’s Gold. Her tragic past has been hinted at in previous books as she has befriended the heroines of the last three novels. She’s finally opening her brand new Christmas-themed store, The Christmas Attic, and has resigned herself to the fact that all of her new found besties have found love before her.

It’s Fool’s Gold, though, so you know that won’t last for long.

Gabriel Boylan, an Army doctor, is on a forced leave to recuperate from an injury he sustained while on the job. With nowhere else to go, he decides to visit his twin, Gideon, another recent Fool’s Gold convert (and hero of book 11, Two of a Kind), for the holiday.

Gabriel and Noelle have a meet-cute, which is indeed pretty cute, but both are hesitant to pursue anything–him because he’s come to believe that nothing ever lasts and life is too uncertain, her because she wants something long term and know that Gabriel is temporary personified. He’ll be leaving town before the first of the year. To avoid his parents, who soon join the brothers in town for the holidays, Gabriel takes a job working at Noelle’s business.

The hero and heroine are definitely the best part of this book–I really enjoyed both of their characters. For the most part their journeys were believable, though it felt like it took an inordinately long time for us to figure out what exactly the drama in Noelle’s past was. Still, I was rooting for them both all along.

There were some amusing moments, like this one where Noelle tells Gabriel she’ll come early to his family Thanksgiving celebration so he won’t have to spend too much time alone with them. It’s before they’ve admitted their mutual attraction, and is pretty indicative of Noelle’s internal dialogue, which I enjoyed.

He started to leave, then turned back to her. His bandaged hand came up and lightly grazed her cheek. She felt the heat of his touch all the way down to her toes. The contact was an unexpected as her visceral reaction.

“Thank you,” he murmured.

“You’re welcome.”

She thought about mentioning he could thank her in other ways. Like kissing. Or walking around shirtless. But he just headed for the back room, apparently unaffected by their brief contact.

Yep. Noelle and I think alike for sure. Shirtless guys can make everything better. (Don’t believe me? Check this out.)

However, Christmas still had the same elements in it that have been bothering me about this series for a while now:

  • I’m pretty sure Mayor Marsha is supposed to be quirky and wise, but honestly, she creeps me out. I’m really glad I don’t know anyone like her in real life. Every time she corners the hero for a chat in one of the books, I want to urge him to run. Away. Quickly.
  • No matter what happens in the first two-thirds of the book, the endings lately are all the same. The heroine realizes she’s in love before the hero. He leaves town, under the influence of varying degrees of freaked-outness. A portable party comes her way, complete with nearly every woman in Fool’s Gold, potent margaritas, and delicious food. The hero is bashed as not being worthy. The hero, finally realizing he does indeed love the heroine, comes back. They reconcile. Cue ending theme music.
  • A fairly complex problem–in this case, dealing with Gabriel’s relationship with his father–is solved quickly and painlessly, in one neat stroke.

On the plus side, although I’m fairly certain we’ll see Dellina Hopkins in a future book as a heroine, we weren’t hit over the head in this book with several set-ups for future books in the series. We also didn’t have nosy townspeople confronting the hero with proof of his idiocy after he broker the heroine’s heart, as has also happened before in the series.

I do enjoy Mallery’s writing–her Blackberry Island series books are wonderful–but I really think the Fool’s Gold needs a little shaking up to make the stories feel fresh again. I’ll keep on reading them for now, though, eternally hopeful….

C+ rating.

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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