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review 2014-12-17 23:10
After The Music
After the Music - Christine Feehan

Jessica Fitzpatrick and her mother have taken care of Dillion's twin children ever since he rose to fame as a rock star. Jessica reunites the twins with their father for Christmas trying to escape the mysterious threats stalking them. The private island and its Gothic mansion bring back too many memories of betrayal, the occult, murder, and the deadly fire which left Dillion horribly disfigured. Jessica has always loved Dillion but his demeanor has definitely changed meanwhile dangerous accidents continue to happen.       

After The Music is a Gothic holiday read. This novella is available for individual sale but it was also previously published in A Christine Feehan Holiday Treasury, The Wicked And The Wondrous, and A Very Gothic Christmas.

It took me a while to get into the story because the beginning confused me. I didn't initially understand the relationship dynamics and the timeline in comparison to the characters' ages threw me off a bit. After the first couple of chapters I was able to adjust and become better engaged in the story.

The story has a sizable cast since Dillion's band is also present working on an album. The story incorporates their troubled past and the current state of their strained relationships. It was nice to see how Jessica and the twins positively influenced the other characters and better united them. Forgiveness and second chances are major themes throughout the story while dramatic revelations and confessions threatens the peace established.

Jessica and Dillion's romance was intense and complex because they both survived the darkness and tragedy his wife introduced into their lives. It makes an interesting statement about moving forward. I thought it was sweet how the sense of family gradually developed between them as the story progressed. 

Dangerous accidents combined with the supernatural added a sense of mystery to the story. At times it was difficult to determine what was responsible. It created interesting conflict that gave the story a suspenseful element. The ending settled past and present mysteries while giving the characters a miraculous Christmas and hopeful future. 

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review 2014-12-17 22:58
The Christmas Cat
The Christmas Cat - Melody Carlson

Garrison Brown must settle his deceased grandmother's estate. He's determined to honor her final request to find new homes for her six cats but his severe allergies complicate the situation. The new owners must also meet very specific criteria because each cat comes with a secret inheritance.

The Christmas Cat is a holiday read embedded with Christian messages on faith. I loved the way the cats were portrayed in the story. It was heartwarming how each cat was a positive influence on their new owner's life.

I liked how the story's setting and characters were able to give a sense of community. I really liked how interconnected the characters were and how they influenced each other. It was nice to see the main character find a place for himself within the community while reaffirming his direction in life.

Unfortunately, at times the prose felt a bit stilted to me. Character development was okay but emotions seemed overly restrained outside of interactions with the cats. It kind of lessened the impact of key moments and made the romance subplot seem hollow. Overall, I thought it was a decent holiday read and its novella length makes its shortcomings forgivable.

The Christmas Cat is light holiday read with a heartwarming portrayal of cats.

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