Jingle Bell Romance: Chapter 2

In her toy shop, Julia bonds with a shy little boy. He wants Julia’s antique model truck for his Wishing Tree gift. Julia basically guarantees it to him, which is kinda insanely generous of her. (It’s not the little boy’s fault or anything–he’s too young to understand the difference between a toy in a display and a toy for sale.)

Oh, but here’s the fun part: the reaction of the boy’s mother:

“I have to say, I’ve heard some not very nice things about you since you moved here in the spring. But that truck must’ve been expensive, and you’re very generous to give it to a little boy you don’t even know. I’m glad to find out those folks were wrong.”

Yeah, clearly the only reason NOT to believe malicious gossip is to wait until the person gossiped about dies something expensively generous.

I see the continuation of the fine tradition of small towns being absolute hell in these Christmas romances.

Oh, and then, to top it all off, Nick yells from the office, so loud that he literally shakes the tree ornaments in the store.

The elderly woman [shopping in the store] gave Julia a hawkish look. “You have a man back there?”

“There’s a male within 30 feet of you??? You harlot!”

Surprisingly, given his volume, Nick isn’t being murdered. He’s just been informed that his flight is delayed 24 hours. So you can see why he completely lost his shit. Minor travel delays around the holidays being the extremely rare and life-altering events that they are.

Julia goes to the office to ask him to chill the fuck out, and he’s still so passed that he throws his phone onto her desk, which was handcrafted in Italy. And again, can we just take a moment to appreciate the maturity of Our Hero? Whether it’s throwing a tantrum over minor inconveniences or carrying on his high school bullying ways, Nick is truly a perfect romantic hero.

He notices her collection of dollhouse furniture, but no dollhouse. They chat for about 15 seconds and then he proposes that she be the subject of an article in his online magazine: “Glamorous world traveler bringing Christmas to kids in a small town, something like that.”

But Julia has no interest in being in a puff piece, since her “life was on display for years.” She asks him to keep the noise down and “he pointed at her with a shameless wink. “Gotcha.”

Wow, short-tempered, destructive, AND obnoxious? What a catch!


The next day, Sunday, Nick bids farewell to his sister and niece. He’s not planning to come back for Christmas, given his father’s “cool reception and barely there conversation.” I mean, he hasn’t been home in seven years and has never met his niece before now,so I’m not sure what he was expecting…

But I guess he’ll get a chance to find out, because his plane has been delayed yet again.

Pissed, Nick starts a conversation with his sister, wherein we learn of Nick’s Tragic Past:

“Ian’s death was an accident. Everyone knows that except you.” [Lainie says]

“It wasn’t an accident, and Dad and I both know it. I’m responsible for what happened. If I hadn’t been messing around in that boat, our big brother would’ve had a great life instead of drowning when he was fifteen.”

Well, we know more now…yet it’s somehow still as clear as mud. This is actually a case where a movie flashback would help a lot.

Anyway, Lainie maintains it was not his fault, and that she prays for him, and then we get Nick’s personal statement on God:

“God only answers if He cares. He stopped caring about me a long time ago.”

So, another I-believe-in-God-but-God-doesn’t-believe-in-me hero. Not an actual atheist. Sad face.


Later that day, Julia heads to church and sits with Lainie. Lainie, pastor’s daughter and Very Serious Praying Christian, immediately tells a falsehood in the house of God, telling Julia that Nick had stayed up late working, so was sleeping when they left for church. (In fact, Nick had stormed out of the house after the conversation about Ian.)

Pastor Dad gives a sermon on generosity, and Julia reflects that Pastor Dad just seems like the nicest guy ever, so the family’s troubles “seemed to run much deeper than most.

Eh, debatable.

She thinks about her own father, the ambassador, and “his remarkable success with sworn enemies,” and decides that as her Christmas gift to the pastor’s family, who has been so nice to her, will be to “broker peace between Nick and his father.”

So, her Christmas gift will be sticking her nose into another family’s private business. Sounds like an awesome idea! That kind of plan NEVER backfires. And surely there is nothing more attractive to a man than a woman who looks upon him as a project she can fix!

“Jeff the Killer is only a Creepypasta monster because he is very sad. And you can change him.

-Jenny Nicholson

Of course, being in church and all, Julia has to check in with the big man upstairs before embarking on this epic quest:

After a few moments [of praying], a sense of calm settled over her, assuring her she’d been heard and an answer was on the way.

Yeah, whatever you say, Julia.

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

-Susan B. Anthony

Jingle Bell Romance: Chapter One, Part Two

So, quick update on Lucy…

According to the previous book in the series, Rocky Coast Romance, Lucy is the receptionist at the Holiday Harbor Animal Clinic. She only shows up for one scene, but she is kind and welcoming and professional. There is no mention of the high school nickname of “Lucky,” and no mention of anything written in the paper that would upset either her or Nick. So until we’re shown otherwise, I’m just going to keep assuming that Nick is an overgrown high school bully.

Speaking of Nick…

Check out this delightful interaction when he gets to the front of the line:

He rattled off a complex order and [the server] laughed. “You’re kidding, right? I don’t know what half that stuff is.”

“Fine.” His jaw tightened, as if he was struggling to keep control of what seemed to be a remarkably short temper. “What’ve you got?”

Our hero, folks, a man angered by a store without specialty coffees!

“Regular or decaf, large or small. I’ve got some choco-peppermint holiday creamer if you want that.”

His grimace made it clear he wanted nothing to do with creamer, holiday or otherwise.

But wait, didn’t he just want something complex? But now creamer is right out?

Oh, and then he gets additionally pissed when the store has only one kind of bagel.

What a Prince among men.

Nothing daunted, Julia takes Nick to her toy store, though she has asked that in return for using her WiFi, he buy a child a gift off her giving tree. Nick, in a shocking twist, is not thrilled to do this. Nonetheless, off they pop, and on the way, they see the local church, which happens to be Nick’s dad’s church, and we learn that Nick is the “black sheep.” Again, shocking.

Further exposition reveals Nick went off to college at NYU, and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia. He inwardly and outwardly grumbles nonstop throughout this chapter, about the weather, the town, and his dad, who didn’t beat Nick physically, but “beat Nick down with God’s word, an inch at a time.”

But, just as I’m starting to feel a glimmer of sorry for Nick, he ruins it by reflecting on the many, many women over the years who has given him “long, mistrustful looks,” and how Julia was “a dead ringer for Grace Kelly,” and how he “seldom considered it necessary to look beyond a woman’s appearance.”

So, not only a great guy, but a great journalist and great business owner, too!

Oh, and when she explains the concept of a giving tree, he thinks she’s nice, as opposed to most other women, who were “either obsessed with their own careers or determined to snag a man who could support them with his.” He is just the best ever, isn’t he?

He reads some of the tags from the kids, and f8nds one from his own niece, Hannah, whose Christmas wish is for “uncl nik [to come] hom to liv.” Hannah is four, so I’m pretty impressed with that spelling, no joke.

Now, it’s not like Nick’s heart immediately grows three sizes, but that’s all good. Julia offers him her office for his work, and he says he needs to buy a kid a toy, and she bizarrely says he doesn’t have to now. Yeah, screw those poor kids!

So far, these two seem a match made in heaven.

Jingle Bell Romance, Chapter One, Part One

Well, a day later than I had planned, but hey, at least I’m in keeping with the book itself!

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and Julia Stanton was expecting a busy day at Toyland.

See, right on schedule!

This year’s Wintermas romance will be Jingle Bell Romance by Mia Ross. Despite the cute and innocuous title, I have a sneaking suspicion we are in for a real treat with this one: our hero is a DICK.

…she was about to pull open the door of Holiday Harbor Sweets when a man’s black leather glove closed over top of her hand.

“Ladies first,” said a deep voice…

When he opened the door and motioned her ahead of him, she returned the smile. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, thanks. I mean, I WAS already first, but I love it when strangers grab me and act like they’re doing me a favor.”

Oh, and hey:

Set against the gently falling slow… [sic]

Heh, really, editors? On Page 1?

Anyway, this first meeting between hero Nick McHenry and heroine Lucy Stanton, is an immediate meet-cute. Julia notices Nick’s “unabashed male interest,” and they stand in line for coffee. Quick exposition reveals Julia as the recently-transplanted daughter of a U.S. Ambassador, and Nick as a former townie, gone for several years, and a magazine editor.


A random townie lady shows up, and she and Nick pick a fight with each other. Seems they grew up together here in little Small Town, Maine, and it also seems that Nick was rather an ass. The woman’s name is Lucy, but Nick calls her “Lucky.”

I know you and your idiot buddies all thought that was funny in high school,” she snarled, “but it wasn’t. It’s even less funny now.”

“Right. Sorry.” His brush-off tone made it clear he wasn’t sorry at all, and Julia couldn’t understand why he seemed to be going out of his way to make Lucy angry.

Yeah, me neither. So, we’re in the first few pages of a book, and already supposed to see our hero as a high school bully who’s still into being an asshole?

I mean, maybe? Then Nick makes very vague reference to Lucy putting a story about him in the local paper, and Lucy says he deserved it, and I’m just even more confused.

The upshot is that Lucy is so upset by this encounter that she leaves without ordering anything. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen?

(This is Book Two in a series. I think I might grab Book One to see who this Lucy is. I hate when I can’t just treat this as a stand-alone.)

Anyway, Julia calls Nick out for “needling her on purpose.”

There was that wicked grin again. “Yeah.”

Yeah, a bully. How charming.

Nick bizarrely says it was all because he “doesn’t have time to make nice“…because he’s got tons of emails to check.


Yeah, he’s staying with his sister and her family, and yes, they have WiFi, but Nick just “can’t concentrate with everyone yakking all the time.

Boy, this guy just keeps getting better, eh? And what a professional, unable to CHECK EMAILS unless there is absolute silence.

Julia decides to offer Nick the use of the WiFi at her toy store, though she has the presence of mind to acknowledge that his “brooding vibe” might not be great for business.

So, that’s it for Part One. Next time, stay tuned as a character uses another character’s WiFi! Truly, the excitement never ends.

So, um…hi again

Hey y’all. You might have noticed that once again, I’ve been on an unannounced leave of absence. That’s because, a few days after my latest post…I kinda wrecked my hand.

It’s better now, no worries, but lemme tell ya, speaking of The Love Dare, if you want to see how a marriage holds up, let one person be incapacitated, unable to type or wash a dish or dress herself.

I think my husband will win the Love Dare EASY.

Speaking of, I am all about keeping going with the Dare, but I am also cognizant of the fact that Wintermas is on its way, and far be it from me to forgo my tradition of starting my Wintermas romance on Black Friday.

So I’m hoping to get one or two more Dares out of the way before then, then it’s time for the kidnappings, misogyny, and dying towns that have become the staples of December ’round these parts.

TLD: Dare #2

So the chapter heading for Dare #1 was “Love Is Patient.”

The heading for Dare #2 is “Love Is Kind.”

As is becoming standard (yang, given that we are all the way to Dare #2 and all), the chapter starts simplistically, makes weird leaps of logic, and veers into offensiveness in quick swoops.

Love makes you kind.  And kindness makes you likable.

I mean, if you say so, man.

Because kindness “can feel a little generic,” the concept is broken down into “ingredients“:

Initiative: fair enough.  Gentleness: also fair enough.

Helpfulness: okay, here’s the veer…

Being kind means you meet the needs of the moment.  If it’s housework, you get busy.

How many people think the authors are talking to just one half of the couple here?  Everybody?  Good.  Because they bring it home:

Kindness graces a wife with the ability to serve her husband without worrying about her rights.

Yeah!  What good did rights ever do anyone?

Actually, this section made me think of another book we’ve reviewed on this site where a different white man complained about people wanting rights.

Oh, but don’t you worry, men have to be kind, too:

Kindness makes a husband curious to discover what his wife needs, then motivates him to be the one who steps up and ensures those needs are met–even if his are put on hold.

This sentence is so vague that it could honestly mean anything.  As Hank agreed when I read it to him:

Me: *reads sentence”

Hank:  What?

Me:  *reads sentence again*

Hank:  Yeah, that’s too long and doesn’t make sense.

And putting the laziest spin on it, it could just mean MAN = BREADWINNER, taking any other responsibility off the shoulders of the non-housekeeper man in the relationship.

Finally, Willingness: which the authors define as being cooperative and flexible.  Good qualities for a spouse to have, certainly.

A kind husband ends thousands of potential arguments by his willingness to listen first rather than demand his way.

Why would a husband ever have to demand his way?  The wife is already supposed to be constantly serving him with no thought for her own rights.  In the ideal RTC marriage, there is no circumstance under which the man doesn’t get his way.

Anyway, it all concludes with, “You will never learn to love until you learn to demonstrate kindness.  First.

Okay, but wait, two pages ago you said, “Love makes you kind.

So which really comes first, Kendrick Brothers, the love or the kindness???

See what I mean about these entries already starting have the same nonsensical structure?

Anyway, the dare itself is to “do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness.”

Kirk Cameron, you might remember, poured his wife one cup of coffee on this day of the dare for him.  And she blew him off!!!

Now, again, I hasten to add that Hank and I are doing this whole Love Dare thing simultaneously, which is probably going against the whole idea of it, from the RTC-Save-Your-Marriage plan.  So I did one nice thing for him and he did one nice thing for me.

This is maybe going to sound like a humblebrag, but this dare was oddly difficult for us because it was difficult to gauge…because we’re newlyweds who do nice things for each other all the time.  So we both tried–Hank made one of my favorite dinners and I gave his car a clean-out…but these are both things we probably would have done anyway.  Hank does 75-80% of the cooking in this family, and I do a lot of the “extra” cleaning chores.  So, success?  Maybe?  I dunno, man, if your marriage is in such a state that making one cup of coffee is an act of great kindness, I guess I am in no position to judge.

Oh well, on to Dare #3!

TLD: Dare #1

Okay, Day #1, Dare #1.  Love Is Patient.

Right away, and I mean right effing away, we get some good ole RTC gender essentialism:

Love can motivate a man to put away childish things, provide for his family, and take passionate stands for what he believes in–like crossing an ocean to fight for his country.  Love can drive a woman to connect emotionally in relationships, comfort the hurting around her, protect her children, and extend her hand in kindness to those in need.

I mean, was this written in the 1950s?  The 1850s?  It honestly makes my head hurt, this whole men-are-soldiers-women-are-caregivers routine.  (I mean, women in this example aren’t even allowed to be nurses or something, helping the hurting–they’re just comforting the hurting.)

Then we get into some…well, just some weird assertions. This book is big on just asserting things, cause and effect, without actual evidence or even reason or excuse.  Prime example:

Love inspires you to become a patient person.  When you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation.  You are slow to anger.

I mean, maybe?  But they’re kinda simultaneously asserting that loving someone makes you patient (you have no choice; it makes you that way), or patience is a choice.  Now, me, I think being patient is largely a choice, and that people have a whole spectrum of patience, and it’s something you can work on.  But love, awesome though it is, is not a magic potion that just makes you a patient person.

Anyway, all this to say that Dare #1 is about being patient, so you’re supposed to “say nothing negative to your spouse at all,” all day.

Okay, so I will admit that this is an absurdly easy dare for a newlywed couple.

Hank, when the Dare was explained:  This one’s stupid.  My woman dare not offend me!

He’s going to fit in here at Heathen Critique just fine.

Oh, and since we have a model couple to work from, here is how Caleb and Catherine handle the same Dare in Fireproof.  (And yes, the book is exactly the same as in the movie, right down to using the same Bible verses; in this case, James 1:19…”Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”)

Stay tuned for Dare #2, because there’s nothing that brings an atheist couple closer together than using a Christian marriage-rescue scheme!

Image result for atheist couple

I’m Back! With The Love Dare!

Um…so, miss me?

Sorry, guys, for my unscheduled break.  Nothing horrible or intense was going on–just me being busy adjusting to a new house, married life, careers, etc.  That is, all joyful stuff.    And my poor Heathen Critique went on unexpected hiatus.

But I was reminded recently that now that things are getting settled and our life together is in an awesome place, I should refocus on the unique things in my life that bring me joy (no, I was not reminded just by Marie Kondo!), and so I have brought in a little project my husband, Hank, and I have been working on…

Picture of The Love Dare


For those of you unfamiliar with this great work, it’s a marriage-rescue book, perhaps best known for being featured (after a fashion), in Fireproof, in which Kirk Cameron demonstrates to us all that it’s great to manipulate and bully your wife, as long as you’re an RTC while doing it!

Full review here

It’s hard to believe that I reviewed Fireproof all the way back in 2014.  Back in my single days, going on a bunch of internet blind dates and figuring that if I didn’t end up meeting anyone, I’d find a way to have a kid all on my own…

And then, one beautiful evening, one of those internet blind dates turned out to be the love of my life.

So never let it be said that atheists don’t know the meaning of true love…

Yeah, we’re kinda totally April and Andy.

And Anne and Gilbert.

Okay, so as might be apparent, I am pretty much crazy in love.  And I just double-checked with Hank this moment:

Me: Are you in love with me?

Hank [playing Fortnite]:  Oh, yeah.  Lots.

So we might not necessarily be the ideal couple to do The Love Dare (hereinafter TLD), but I admit that back in 2014, I dreamed of having a partner, just so we could do the stupid RTC Love Dare shit together!

And now we can!!!

So, without further ado (yanno, other than the six-month break), on to the Introduction!

Blah blah blah, wax on about love, it’s a “beautiful, precious gift,” “designed and created” by God Himself.

He uses marriage to help us eliminate loneliness, multiply our effectiveness, establish families, raise children, enjoy life, and bless us with relational intimacy.

Oh ho ho, I think I can decipher RTC code.  Relational intimacy, indeed.

Then they just lay out the format for the dares:

Part One is where “a unique aspect of love will be discussed.”  Spoiler Alert: it is discussed in a very repetitious manner.

Part Two is the dare itself.  “Take each dare seriously—

Okay, another Spoiler Alert: this is actually a very difficult thing to do.

And finally, journal space.  Um…that’s what this blog will be for.

So, please join us, dear and loyal and very patient readers, as Hank and Ruby, deliriously in love atheist newlyweds (does over a year still count as newlyweds?  I’m saying yes), as we embark upon a journey meant to heal broken RTC marriages!

I suspect hijinks and swearing will be involved.

Cozy Christmas: Epilogue

Happy New Year!

It was a few days after Christmas when Josh held his movie screening, but now some time has passed, and if I wait until the real time for their wedding, it would be June.

So, this is the last chance in the series to get everyone name-checked.  All of the couples from the previous books are bridesmaids or groomsmen, natch (hey, no had feelings towards Josh, I guess!), except for Allison and Sam, the bookstore couple, who just got married themselves and are on their honeymoon.

(In fact, five out of the six couples, I think, get married between January and June

And there is at least one bright spot in this book, because this happens:

Melissa Montclair, nee Sweeney, dashed up at the last minute to take her place as one of the bridesmaids.  “The cake’s fine.  Brian put the finishing touches on it without getting frosting on his tux,” she said breathlessly.

So I am taking this to mean that Brian told Josh and Robert Randall that they could take the job in the new tech plant and SHOVE IT, and he is still wearing an APRON and working with his wife.

Yeah, this is actually the only thing that is cool about this book.

In fact, bizarrely, we get no mention whatsoever of Coraline, Robert, or the plant.  Now, I know we’re supposed to assume that everything went to plan and the town was saved…again.  But hey, at least I can dream that a few people told Robert exactly what they think of him, “nasty ex” or not.

Anyway, we can’t have something cool happen without also having weird and/or jerks things happen, and Whitney condescendingly spares a smile for bridesmaid Gracie, “delighted that she and her Patrick had finally tied the knot, too.”  Emphasis mine, because…finally?  They are the Book 3 couple and that book came out in August, which means they went from meeting to wedding in ten months, at the very most.  So what this really is, is a catty comment on Whitney’s part, because Gracie had been engaged before, and became a “runaway bride” when her fiance cheated on her.  So, ha-ha, she’s finally married.  Tee.  Hee.

So it’s a big wedding, so basically the whole town can come, and this becomes important as Whitney is standing there waiting to walk down the aisle: Whitney tells her mom that Josh thought she wanted a big wedding.  Her mom reveals:

“It’s my fault.  And Susanna’s [Josh’s mom].  We were the ones who convinced him you needed a fancy shindig so everybody in Bygones could share the moment. … It’s a good thing you and Josh never compared notes about it or we wouldn’t be standing here right now.”

Yeah.  I…guesses.  Man, if there’s one thing this book isn’t lacking, it’s multiple manipulative women.

No word on whether the nasty ex comes to the wedding, btw.

Anyway, when Whitney gets up there, she tells Josh, and he’s blown away, because turns out they both would have been just as happy eloping.

Whitney says:

“From now on, we need to promise to talk more.”

I mean, really?  Once we got engaged, my now-husband and I started a discussion on wedding size, like, two days later.  And this discussion lasted over multiple weeks.  And I just for the life of me cannot envision a scenario wherein our mothers could have convinced each of us that the other person wanted something completely different than what they actually wanted.  So, yeah, some lessons in basic communication just might be in order for Whitney and Josh.

But hey, from a RTC standpoint, at least they got to have the wedding of their mothers’ dreams.  And that’s what’s important.

Man, overall, this year’s Wintermas selection just didn’t fire on all cylinders for me.  It was just kinda low-level offensive and dumb, but without the goofy insanity of our own gold standard, Christmas Town.  Eh, better luck next Wintermas.

And in the meantime, I might hit a Christian movie or two before my next planned book.  And speaking of Hank, I might rope him in…



Cozy Christmas: Chapter 21

Here we go, guys: the big reveal to the whole town!

Josh is backstage at the movie theatre, thinking that his “perfect plans” (his words) will be all spoiled if Whitney doesn’t show.  Heh, like there’s a chance she won’t show.  She does, of course, thirty seconds later.  Whew!  For a minute there, there was almost tension.

“I like that red sweater.  And leaving your hair down, too.”

Yeah, thanks, jerk.  (No word of whether Whitney is wearing the despised glasses or not, but I’m betting not.)

Every soul in Bygones must be out there.  People were crammed into the seats while the overflow crowd stood in the back and lined the outer aisles against the soundproofed walls.

Yeah, that’s how I like to watch classic movies: standing up in an aisle for two hours.

He heads out with Whitney and introduces himself:

“Those of you who know me as Josh Smith may be surprised to learn that my last name is actually Barton, although anybody who read the logo on the side of my helicopter has probably figured that out.”

Wow, smug to the end, eh, Josh?

There was an undercurrent of laughter in the crowd, along with a few louder exclamations.

So we’ve transitioned to everyone in town (including, I suppose, the other SOS businesspeople), just being a loud, formless mass of vague approval of Josh’s actions.

Then Josh immediately, right there on stage in front of God and everyone, proposes to Whitney…with a plastic mood ring from a local store.

There was a twinkle in Josh’s eye as he dropped to one knee and offered the ring as if it were an exquisite diamond.

Smiling, he said, Whitney Leigh, I love you.  Will you marry me?”

No one breathed.  Especially not Whitney.  Not only was he asking her to marry him, he was doing it in front of hundreds of witnesses.

He seems SUPER sure of himself, considering this is actually the first time he has told her he loves her.

And I wish she would say no.  That would be hilarious.

(Full disclosure: Hank proposed to me in a public place.  But it wasn’t in front of the whole town, on an actual stage.  Also we had told each other “I love you” many times.  Also we had discussed marriage.  Also there were, like six people there, not six hundred.  So this isn’t a comment on public proposals so much as a comment on public proposals when…you legit might get a “no,” or maybe even a “let me think about it.”)

(Actually, this is more like the proposal in Working Girl, where Mick proposes to Tess, impromptu and because he is scared of losing her, at her best friend’s engagement party in front of everyone they know…and she says (sensibly) “maybe.”)

But OF COURSE Whitney nods yes.

And the crowd goes wild!

“Yay!  This guy who pulled the wool over all our eyes and wouldn’t let locals get grants to open businesses just proposed to a local journalist who probably knew all along!  Yay!”

They cheer for several minutes.  Seriously?

Then Josh continues with the actual pertinent information:

“I’m not looking for praise or thanks…”

Oh sure you are.

“…I’m asking you all to forgive me for deceiving you…”

“…but not for having a weird cockamamie scheme that did not allow locals to participate in any meaningful way.”

“I’m happy to report everything turned out a lot better than even I had imagined.”

A few people started to clap for him.

Um, yay?  Woo.

And then he drops the news of the new Barton Technologies branch in town.

This time, he stood back and accepted the loud applause and hoots of joy…

Yeah, I bet he did.  The Poor Little Rich Boy still needs and craves and lives for the accolades of others.

“You all know Robert Randall.”

Heh, yeah, they know him.  They know they’d like to punch him in the face a lot.

“He’ll be available after the movie when we have our supper out in the lobby.  If you’re interested in applying for a job, be sure to see him.”

“Especially those of you who have to wear APRONS on the job.  And I’m MAINLY talking to you, Brian, you girly-man, you!”

“Actually, I really love my work and my fiancee and I love working together, so—”

“Shut up, Brian, you’re desperately unhappy!  You wear an APRON, man!”

“Dude, it’s no big thing.  And hey, Josh, if you really cared about my happiness, why didn’t you give me a grant to open a mechanics shop, like I wanted to, six months ago!”


“I mean, why DID you decree that only outsiders could open businesses?  What was UP with that?  I mean, was there any kind of logical reason why you couldn’t throw a bone to the actual residents of the town?”


“And if you think I’m going to go crawling back to Robert Randall, of all people, now that you’ve thrown money at him—”

“But it was his nasty ex, Brian!  It was a woman’s fault all along!  By being emotionally blind, she forced him to close his business and put seventy percent of the town out of a job!”

“Yanno what, man?  Screw this!  You know we can watch this movie any time we want, right?  Like, it’s after Christmas now.  Allison and I watched this days ago in the comfort of our own home!”

*they leave*


Sorry, got carried away for a second.  Of course the Stepford town has no problem with any of this.  They’re just excited about this delightful little piece of news, and now they can sit back and watch It’s A Wonderful Life.

Yanno, It’s A Wonderful Life is a bit of an odd choice for this book.  George Bailey discovers that, even though he feels he has accomplished nothing in his little conner of the world, he as in fact accomplished great things.  And not with money, but with sincerity and responsibility and compassion and dedication.  He has spent his life unwittingly earning the respect and love of everyone in town, just by being himself and having their backs.  Which is kinda the opposite of Josh, who swoops into town secretly, funnels money (mostly badly) wherever it strikes his fancy, and thinks of himself the whole time as a “superhero.”  And if there’s one thing George Bailey would never compare himself to, it’s a superhero.

And the romance: Mary has loved George Bailey since they were kids.  She always saw his great qualities.  And as they grew up, he suddenly realized he loved her too.  And they had some traits in common: both a bit awkward, a bit march-to-the-tune-of-your-own-drummer.  And they were also hot as hell for each other: the phone scene is honestly one of the sexiest movie scenes I can think of.


Somehow I’m just not getting this vibe from Josh and Whitney.  And I don’t remember George Bailey ever negging Mary, either.

Hey, why didn’t Josh screen A Christmas Carol?  His own mother thinks he was a Scrooge.

And the weird thing about this book is that, as opposed to It’s A Wonderful Life, Josh learns no lessons about anything.  He doesn’t even get a comeuppance that could spur a lesson, since Whitney is the single, solitary person who has a problem with his lie.  And we never do learn any details that might make sense of Josh’s weird grant stipulations.  Why only six five businesses on Main Street?  Why no locals?  Why not just open a new Barton plant in Bygones in the first place?

But the really hilarious part is that when Josh and Whitney take their seats for the screening, Coraline and Robert are sitting right in front of them.  Yanno, speaking of It’s A Wonderful Life, I’m surprised the town hasn’t gone all Lost Ending on Robert’s ass:

Now THAT would be a Christian romance worth reading!

Cozy Christmas: Chapter 20

Chapter 20 (out of 21) is the get-Josh-back-to-Bygones-and-setup-for-the-big-reveal chapter.  It’s just as riveting as you might imagine.

Actually, it probably is riveting for the citizens of Bygones, since Josh swoops in with his mom in their private helicopter.  Coraline, “chauffeured” by Robert Randall, picks them up, because they land in the parking lot of the old plant.  Also, I guess Coraline and Josh’s mom are old friends, not that I care.

Randall, “jilted” into closing his own business by his “nasty ex,” immediately asks about Josh’s plans.  Why am I not surprised that this loser is completely reliant on others to solve his problems and save his reputation?

Josh confirms that he will indeed by opening up a branch of his computer business here, and will “pay my current staff to relocate [to Bygones] as well as adding local workers.

Okay, again, SEVENTY PERCENT of the town was employed by Randall.  So how is hiring a few locals and trying to flood the town with a bunch of St. Louis natives (who I’m sure will be just THRILLED to uproot their lives and families on Josh’s say-so) going to fix this failing town?

Also, there won’t be a coffee shop anymore, I guess.  So one-sixth of the savior-ness of the Main Street initiative will be gone.

Randall is super-psyched that Josh is going to name him “local consultant,” but asks for time off immediately, to marry Coraline and take her on a honeymoon.  Again, how has the rest of the town not…run him out of town yet?

“Thanks for making me local consultant, Josh!  I’ll teach you how to screw everything up with the best of ’em!  The secret is to always find a woman to blame all your failings on.”

Oh, and this bizarre arrangement happens: Josh doesn’t have a place for his mom to stay (what, there isn’t a single motel anywhere nearby?), so Randal proposes that Coraline’s grown sons bunk at his place, while Coraline, Coraline’s daughter, and Josh’s mom all bunk at Coraline’s place.

So…Randall and Coraline are engaged.  And both have been married before.  And it’s still not okay for them to share a bed?  Weird.  Also this has a very weird summer-camp vibe to it: boys in one house, girls in another.  And why who in the HELL is going to cook and clean for the menfolk if all the womenfolk are hanging in one house together, hmmmm???

They talk about the It’s A Wonderful Life screening, and Josh hilariously says that the whole town is invited, “as many as can squeeze in, with overflow in the lobby if necessary.

Um, you can’t watch a movie from the theater’s lobby, Josh.  I’m sorry, someone should have told you that sooner.

Oh, and in his coveted new role, Randall suggests Brian Montclair as a manager.  Yanno, he’s the girly-man who works in the bakery with his fiancee, because only a girly-man would be into working at a bakery with his fiancee, because everyone knows how hilarious a man in an apron is.

“Do you think he’d consider leaving the bakery?”

Robert laughed again.  “For a job that doesn’t require him to wear an apron?  That’s a no-brainer.”

Josh frowned.  “Well, I heard that Brian really enjoys his work and the bakery is really successful—”

Robert was now doubled over with laughter.  “But an apron, Josh!  An APRON!!  What kind of Real Man would wear an apron???”

Even Norman had to take a moment to appreciate Luis's awesomeness

Josh nodded.  “I guess.  But I work in the same block as Brian and Melissa, and they always seem really happy together and they’re always going on about how great it is to be running a business together and be with each other all day—”

Randall wiped away a tear of helpless laughter.  “Oh, like a Macho Man would really want to work with his wife.  I mean, she’s like, a girl, dude!

Yeah, but hey, a MAN…in an APRON…amirite?

Anyway, Josh goes to see Whitney and discuss the screening.  He mentions that his mom is in town, and Whitney is like a swoony teenage girl and is thinking, “ooooh, of course he brought his mom to town to meet me,” and Josh is just explaining it like, “yeah, it’s the holidays and also this is her hometown.”

In added hilarity, word has already reached Whitney (so, presumably, many others), that Josh private-helicoptered himself into town.  And Whitney has her editor holding space for her on the front page of the paper, so she can file her story as soon as Josh makes his announcement.  Which…isn’t the whole story supposed to be a scoop?  And doesn’t it kinda destroy the scoop-ness if the whole town finds out the secret and THEN Whitney publishes the story?  Wasn’t the whole point of the story to break the news to everyone herself?

Man, this is going to be the weirdest, lamest screening of It’s A Wonderful Life ever, isn’t it?