Cozy Christmas: Chapters 9 & 10
On Monday morning, Josh has a small bunch of people waiting outside before he unlocks the doors. Geez, dude, open on Sundays, wouldja?
Coraline gets a coffee and gets him away from the morning rush (great business owner!) to reveal that SHE KNOWS WHO HE IS!!!
Which…I thought she already did. She certainly acted like she did when she was talking to Whitney. And Josh certainly acted like she did when he learned she was talking to Whitney.
Damn, this book is bad at showing us who knows what.
Anyway, they have a long talk about the whole situation, and I can just imagine a long line of people wanting coffee, then getting annoyed and leaving. After all, Matt the teen helper can’t be here for the morning rush, can he? He still has school.
Josh defends his decision to “come here incognito” because the Poor Little Rich Boy just didn’t want people to “treat me differently.” Put a pin in that.
Coraline suggests what I can only imagine will be the finale of this book and series: that Josh expand Barton Technologies to Bygones. Which seems actually to be a much simpler and more logical solution to the town’s woes than opening up six (really five) random small business for six days a week.
Oh, but then we get to the really juicy part of this book, which I totally did not see coming: Coraline jumps into a deep and passionate defense of Robert Randall, formerly of Randall Manufacturing, which employed 70% of the town.
And you’ll never guess! The town going under is not at ALL the fault of Robert Randall closing down. Nope, certainly not HIS fault!
It’s all a WOMAN’S fault!
“The poor man was jilted. Dumped and divorced. After that he sort of quit trying,” Coraline said with a telling sigh. “His wife was not only cruel, she was emotionally blind.”
“I knew them both. Robert Randall is one of the nicest, sweetest gentlemen I’ve ever met. If he hadn’t lost hope and incentive, thanks to Linda, that nasty ex of his, his plant would probably have survived a temporary slump.”
“It’s one thing to be tricked by a stranger and quite another to be played for a fool by someone you trusted.” She pulled a face. “If you don’t think so, just ask Robert Randall. That poor man has really been through the wringer.”
So I mean, it’s not exactly shocking that this book is blaming the whole sorry situation on a cruel, emotionally blind, nasty ex who played a man for a fool, but…
Coraline’s defense sure does seem…personal, doesn’t it? Well, if your mind went where mine did, you’re not wrong: Coraline has a big ole crush on Robert Randall, and now that the nasty ex is out of the way, she’s making her move! Robert is spending Christmas with her and her three grown kids.
Now, the sad thing about this is, I normally LOVE when fiction acknowledges that romance is not something reserved for the under-30 set. I love stories of later-in-life romance. But this just strikes me as really skeevy, with the woman bad-mouthing the nasty ex.
Not cool, Coraline. Not cool at all.
Oh, and speaking of not being cool, let’s get back to Josh and his hangups about people treating him differently. Coraline advises Josh to come clean with Whitney ASAP. But Josh has all kinds of excuses at the ready: that “eager-beaver newspaper reporter” Whitney would be “disappointed.”
Then that he needs Whitney to write the promo for his free screening of It’s A Wonderful Life (bizarrely scheduled for December 27th) and needs to “get that out of the way first.”
Then that if he reveals the truth to Whitney, she might “go ballistic and reveal my secret.”
Um, a bit self-contradictory, what? Isn’t the point of telling Whitney so she can tell everyone else?
Coraline observes that Whitney and Josh have a “relationship,” and that they’re, like, totally into each other. This cues Josh to reflect on the “many women [who] have thrown themselves at me after they found out I was loaded.”
Aw, poor baby. Soooooo many women wanna bang me, my life is soooooo tough!
And what an odd thought for him to have when they’re talking about Whitney, who only knows him as Josh Smith, small businessman, and already likes him. So, what, he’s prematurely judging her for potentially continuing to like him after she finds out he’s rich?
Woman can’t win for losing in this book.
But he concludes that no matter what, Whitney will be “absolutely furious” when she find out the truth. He’s probably not wrong about that.
Later, Whitney drops by to get her dad’s computer. Josh has installed all kinds of super high-tech bells and whistles on it, like…virus protection!
Josh kisses her hands (twice, like a harlot!), then Rico Suave moves in for an actual lip kiss (!), then breaks kiss and apologizes, which is always super great for the ladies.
Disappointed, Whitney heads for that font of feminine wisdom, Coraline.
Whitney spills all the beans (coffee beans, HA!) about the kissy-facing with Josh, and Coraline sensitively turns the subject immediately to herself:
“Sometimes, when a man seems reluctant, it’s because he isn’t sure of your feelings and doesn’t want to risk rejection.” She paused, smiled, then added, “That was what happened between me and Robert, but I finally got him to admit we has willing to start over—with me.”
Okay, Coraline, we get it. You’re getting laid. Chill out about it.
From this “advice,” Whitney concludes that she should “wait and give him space.”
Sensing that once again, too long has gone by without a mention of RTC-ianity, Whitney tells Coraline to “feel free to add me to your prayer list,” and then tells Coraline to “have fun with Mr. Randall.”
Um, shouldn’t the whole town be SUPER PISSED at Robert Randall right now? He has put almost three-quarters of the town out of work, after all. Are they really all just winking and giggling at the adorable couple? Weird. I’m kinda surprised they haven’t tarred and featured him. Guess they’re way to Christian for that.
Anyway, Whitney then doubles back to the coffee shop, at Coraline’s additional suggestion, to invite Josh to see “the Bethlehem program” (by which I assume she means a live Nativity scene) at the church with her. But Josh already promised Matt he would go string Christmas lights at the homes of the less fortunate or something, and Whitney basically invites herself along (it’s sort of a community service group, so it’s not quite so presumptuous as all that, but I kid…).
Josh reflects that Whitney “was simply being herself, with all her idiosyncrasies and the open innocence and gullibility of a newborn babe.”
Boy, he sure does respect this woman that he is ostensibly falling for!
Then again, I guess she’s getting about as much respect as any Nasty Woman in this story.