Canadian author Jacquelyn Middleton’s engaging fifth novel (after 2020’s Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye) is a standalone contemporary romance set in London, an inspired setting for this story about a grieving woman stranded alone during the holidays.
Bostonian Madeleine Joy, a content programmer for a popular music streaming service, is supposed to meet her sister in Paris for the holidays. But as fate would have it, an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano has temporarily grounded air traffic all over Europe, and she’s stuck in London indefinitely. All alone in a big city a few days before Christmas and still struggling with the upcoming one-year anniversary of the tragic death of her best friend Kellie—whose lifelong dream was to visit London during the holidays—Maddy vows to honor her beloved friend in some way. Helping her navigate the sights of the city is a cute cab driver named Julian Halliwell, whose charm, sense of humor, love of music, and “firm butt” help Maddy work through her grief and begin to see life from a different perspective.
Middleton’s impressive descriptive skills are spotlighted throughout this narrative as she makes Christmas in London come alive on the pages: “…they stepped onto the cobblestones of Covent Garden’s east piazza where a gigantic silver reindeer dappled with white lights captivated every cell phone in sight. Ready to take flight, the reindeer’s antlers were tilted back with glee while her front hooves pranced majestically above a green sleigh filled with presents and a minty candy cane or two.”
The real power, however, is in the author’s ability to create identifiable and emotionally connective characters who readers can’t help but root for. Madeleine and Julian, both struggling with loss in their lives as well as trying to find their place in the world, remind readers that where there is love there is always hope.
Heartrending and heartwarming, this is an undeniably endearing romance, perfect to read over the holidays.