In the Spirit of…Christmas: Chapter 1
I may be proverbially shooting myself in the proverbial foot here, guys: I really don’t think any Christmas romance can even hope to top the frakked-upedness of last year’s Christmas Town. But I admit to being still intrigued with the Christmas romance genre, and I still do love me some sappy Christmas stuff, so here goes:
Judging by the brief blurb on the back, it looks like this is yet another Christian romance where a Good Christian Woman brings the Christmas (and Christian) spirit to an unbelieving or fallen-from-faith man. I had hoped to find a romance in which the man was the believer, but one works with what one has.
Also, that title. Why the ellipses? Are we supposed to be surprised that it’s in the spirit of Christmas, and not in the spirit of something else? The first Google fill-ins are “in the spirit of Chartres,” “in the spirit of Crazy Horse,” and “in the spirit of full disclosure.” Is this some kind of Christian thing that I’m just not getting?
Oh well, enough messing about: a late Thanksgiving and a fascinating discussion on a fascinating movie have put me slightly behind schedule!
Our Hero, Jesse Slater, appears to be, at least in some ways, the opposite of Jordan Scoville (possibly the most beloved male character ever featured on this site). Jesse lives out of his truck, though he used to be a rodeo rider. (Of course he was. After “business tycoon” and “cowboy” (which always turns out to mean “rancher”) former rodeo riders are terribly populous in romance novels.)
Like Christmas Town (and yes, looks like there will be many comparisons with Christmas Town, because it pleases me to write of them), In the Spirit of…Christmas features an adorable child. But in this case, she’s the hero’s child, not the heroine’s. Jade is six years old to Nathan’s “seven years and eight-point-two months.” It should not be difficult at all to make Jade a more likeable character than the snotty, disrespectful, acquisitive, sexist brat that was Nathan Ratchford!
Jade is being raised by a single parent not because of divorce, but because her other parent died. This is not surprising. I wonder if there has ever been a Christian romance novel in which a mother abandoned her child?
As opposed to ever-complaining, self-absorbed Nathan, Jade is an easy-going, sweet child. But clingy, for reasons which will soon become clear.
Also, as is required by law, the adorable little daddy’s girl has an adorable nickname: Jesse calls her “Butterbean.”
He does not specify whether he means this kind of butterbean:
Or this kind:
We have moved from South Carolina to Oklahoma’s Kiamichi Mountains.
Pretty gorgeous. I’ve never been to Oklahoma, and I’ve always thought of it as really flat.
See, my blog teaches things!
Specifically, looks like the bulk of the action will take place at the home of one Lindsey Mitchell, who owns a farmhouse and the land it is on, where she grows Christmas trees.
I know very, very little about farming. Is this a thing that happens a lot? A farm raises nothing but trees for Christmas? My intense two minutes of Google research reveals that there are such farms in my own state, though many seem to have additional, non-Christmas sources of income, such as dairy farming or orchards. I’m not doubting the premise, but I am curious—I grew up in the suburbs, and until we got an artificial tree, we went to the tree lot for our tree. My family never did the “go out into the country and pick and chop your own tree” thing.
Check out young Leonard from Big Bang Theory!
Jesse and Jade arrive at the tree farm in the early morning hours, and it appears that Jesse, like Jordan before him, has an ulterior motive for his presence (besides wanting a job, that is).
Home—a funny word after all these years of rambling. Even though he’d lived here only six years after his mother had inherited the farm, they were formative years in the life of a boy.
[Jade] deserved a home. And he meant for her to have one. He lifted his eyes to the farmhouse. This one.
Hmmm…looks like Lindsey might need to watch her back.
So Jesse just walks up to Lindsey’s front door, neat as you please, and asks for a job, even though “he abhorred any mention of the holiday.”
Lest we think him some sort of Grinch-ish monster, it is clarified that he hates Christmas because it “had changed the direction of his life—not once, but twice.”
The first time, we are told, was “the Christmas his mother had died and his step-daddy had decided he didn’t need a fourteen-year-old kid around anymore.”
Well. God bless us every one, I guess. I’ll also guess that the “twice” is because his wife died on Christmas.
Jesse has played this really smart by bringing his adorable child along on the unannounced job interview, and Lindsey, being a Good Christian Woman, takes to Jade immediately.
Including when Jade loses her shit upon seeing Lindsey’s dog. Turns out the kid was “mauled” by a Rottweiler two years ago, so now the sight of any dog sends her into a panic. Which…okay, I understand, but something needs to be done about that. Kid’ll see dogs just about every day of her life, so this needs to be worked on.
But I have a feeling it will. The dog is a sweet-natured German shepherd, name of Sushi, so I figure the dog will pull Jade out of a well before the story is done.
Not two minutes after the panic attack, and Lindsey is inviting Jade to Sunday school. Turns out Lindsey keeps kiddie juice and snackies on hand at all times, because her Sunday school students regularly come over.
Which again, is not my area of expertise, so…is this usual? Do Sunday school students regularly hang at their teachers’ homes, even if they do own Christmas tree farms? If nothing else, Lindsey’s home seems way off the beaten track.
Anyway, Lindsey gives Jesse a perfunctory interview. (Again, smooth move bringing the kid along, Jesse!) He gives her a list of character references, and off they go. All while he regrets that she’s so nice, because that’ll make it slightly awkward when he steals her house out from under her, or whatever he plans on doing before they fall in love.
The plot thickens!