Deck The Halls
By Donna Alward
Author’s Website: www.donnaalward.com
With shades of It’s a Wonderful Life, one man must face his past to find his future this Christmas.
In the last year, George’s life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he’s still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.
Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother’s death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.
With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?
I am a sucker for happy ending Christmas stories. Deck the Halls is the first book I have read by Canadian author Donna Alward. I predict that it will not be my last ☺ I look forward to picking up the remainder of the series. I was surprised and happy to note that there were no issues reading this book without having read any others in the series. It is a stand alone story.
Deck the Halls begins with Amy driving down to Darling VT in hopes of connecting with George to finally get some answers regarding Ian’s (her brother) final moments. George and Ian were best buddies and stationed in Iraq together. Unfortunately, during a routine mission, an IED exploded and Ian did not survive. George was injured both physically and emotionally. He felt responsible for Ian’s death as he had promised Ian’s family he would look after Ian.
George has had it very rough since coming home and now, fifteen years later, he is finally on the path to recovery. He has a job he enjoys, a great boss and a home (though sparse of furniture) to call his own. Things are finally turning around. It is not an easy road to mental health recovery after going to war, but George is getting there, especially with the help of some very kind people in Darling. Then walks in Amy – Ian’s sister. And she wants answers. And answers bring up the past and all the angst that goes along with remembering the fighting over in Iraq. What Amy is seeking are the last moments of Ian’s life, some closure for her and her parents. One poignant part was when Amy lets George know he is not responsible:
“I wish it hadn’t taken fifteen years for me to tell you that it’s okay and that…I don’t forgive you because there’s nothing to forgive.”
George does not want the past disrupting all that he is built so he is not overly receptive to this intrusion into his orderly life. But as life often does, a curve ball is thrown and George must indeed deal with Amy. Over the next two weeks that Amy is in town, they re-connect and discuss all that happened, both in Iraq and since then. To read about George’s story was very emotionally draining and hard to hear.
What we learn early on is that there is “romantic history” between Amy and George, albeit a very brief romantic history…one kiss when they were both very young. But chemistry was there then and it is still there fifteen years later. That part of the story is also told very well. Some cute “first date” scenes with the usual awkwardness…and a bit of fun.
I loved how each of the main characters leaned on each other in their healing process. Very heartfelt and draining all at the same time.
And let’s not forget about the Christmas miracle. Oh…you must read the book to find out all about that ☺ It is worth the effort.
The cover art is great – I love the snow covered Adirondack chair next to a well decorated Christmas tree.
I found Deck the Halls a great introduction to the writing of Donna Alward. A definite heart warming, Christmas time book with depth and warmth. Just a few of the things I appreciate in a good book.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*