Christmas Town: Chapter 1
I’m looking forward to this one.
I’m serious. I really am. And for several reasons:
1. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I honestly love Christmas stuff. I look forward to my Wintermas reviews every year. (Well, granted, this is only the second year I’ve done them…BUT EVEN SO)
2. I also really enjoy romance novels. And this is a CHRISTMAS ROMANCE.
3. And let’s be honest here: almost anything will look good after The Case for Christmas.
So, let’s go for it, in the spirit of Wintermas!
Christmas Town is a Love Inspired book from Steeple Hill, which means it’s a Christian (or “Inspirational”) romance. I’ve read a few before, and they generally follow the traditional romance novel arc, but Christian faith is a plot point—often, one half of the couple helps the other half move from lapsed Christian to practicing Christian. (In my limited experience, it is more usually the woman who is already a believer, but I’d love to do a survey in the future and find out if my personal impression is borne out in the numbers.)
All 122 pairs of eyes in the basement fellowship hall of the church watched in riveted silence as the black Lincoln glided down Main Street. The only pair of eyes that held even a tiny spark of hope was the honey-flecked brown pair belonging to Joella Ratchford.
Wait a second.
I am officially freaked out.
Am I going to have to do a book with a character whose name ends with -oella EVERY WINTERMAS???
Okay, okay, so 122 people manage to watch from a basement as a car goes by. This car belongs to Jordan Scoville, who is the prodigal son of the family that owns the mill that basically employs the whole town. Except the mill is out of money, which means that everyone is probably out of a job.
The town, by the way, is Bethlehem, South Carolina, also called CHRISTMAS TOWN because of the bitchin’ light show they have every year.
Also Dickensian carolling!
But now it’s all going to shit, and no one believes in the miracles of the Wintermas season except
“Come on, everybody,” she said, her tone close to pleading. “Don’t any of you believe it when Reverend Martin says the Lord will provide?”
I guess they’re just not Christian enough for that.
“Shoot-fire, Joella,” Eben Ford finally said. “What’re we supposed to do? The Scovilles are outta money. That means the mill’s outta money. The whole town’s outta money.”
Shoot-fire??? LANGUAGE, Eben! Goddammit.
Joella pleads her case, which includes for everyone to keep working and not look for work anywhere else (um, WHY can’t they start looking?), and almost as retaliation, the rest of the basement crew informally elects Joella to represent the mill hands at the bankruptcy proceedings.
(Of course they’re not unionized. Don’t be ridiculous.)
But no one’s in much of a Christmas spirit:
“Let us all remember that this is a holiday for miracles,” added the Reverend Martin.
“By golly, a miracle’s just what it’s gonna take,” Eben Ford said.
I swear to God, Eben, I am going to wash your fucking mouth out with soap if you keep this up.
Meanwhile, Jordan Scoville is sitting down to start working out the fate of the mill. It kinda sucks to be him, because his father and uncle are basically Uncle Billys incarnate, and his now-dead mother was a hard-nosed, snooty bitch, so now there’s nobody but Jordan around to clean up the messes.
Jordan also hates the whole Christmas Town thing, because he feels it’s too extravagent and…
…it was bought and paid for by his parents, [not] a product of anybody’s real Christmas spirit.
At least he doesn’t hate it because his mother once told him that Santa Claus wasn’t for real. So there’s that.
Jordan sits down with Venita, the secretary who raised him more than his own mother did. But his mom apprently wasn’t all bad: she hired Venita, a black woman, because she was the most qualified for the job…more qualified than the white girl she was apparently supposed to hire.
And Venita drops the REALLY bad news: there’s no retirement fund left for anybody at the mill.
They really DO need a Christmas miracle!