A Magical Christmas
AUTHOR: Heather Graham
PUBLICATION DATE: November 1, 1997
LENGTH: 330 pages
GENRE: Holiday/Christmas, Romance
Jon and Julie Radcliff are facing the last Christmas of a marriage in trouble. The love they once shared has been tattered by time and torn apart by divergent goals. Their teenagers, Christie and Jordan, are rebellious, and their youngest child, six-year-old Ashley, is showing the hurt and confusion of her family's turmoil. Yet somehow the Christmas season must be gotten through even if it is only a game of let's pretend we are the way we always were. The perfect place for this make-believe is the Oak River Plantation in Virginia, a place of simple values, far from their sophisticated and difficult life in Miami. Here the Radcliffs are promised a traditional Christmas with all the Yuletide trimmings. So imagine their surprise when they are met by the quaint couple in charge, Jesse and Clarissa Wainscott, dressed in costumes dating from before the Civil War. Have they somehow entered another world that spans the gulf between past and present? Before Jon and Julie and their children can uncover the secrets surrounding their mysterious but marvelous hosts, they become aware of some profound truths about themselves. And suddenly they discover that love lost can be found again, making the bond of marriage and family strong enough to survive, even triumph.
I am definitely not a Harlequin girl, but I absolutely loved this holiday romance!
The book starts off in 1862 at the time of the American Civil War, and General Custer has ordered the hanging of five Confederate soldiers on Christmas Eve. The 25 men are supposed to draw straws, with the ones drawing the five short ones to be hanged. The Captain simply cannot stand by and allow five of his men to die, so he volunteers to take the place of the youngest, a 13-year-old boy who happened to wind up with them only because his parents were believed to be dead and he had nowhere else to go.
The story then moves to the present day, where we meet the Radcliff family. Things are not going well between Julie and Jon. Jon makes Julie feel that her job as real estate agent is second fiddle to his job as a lawyer, and he leaves her with the responsibility of getting the kids off to school and the housework plus working full-time. Julie feels like she is doing it all, with no help from Jon. They have three children: Ashley (age 6), Jordan (age 13), and Christie (age 17).
Jon sees an advertisement for a holiday vacation at a remote, old-fashioned Virginian plantation. He wants the family to get away for Christmas and to disconnect from their demanding jobs to focus on their family. For him, he sees it as a last-ditch effort to save his marriage. Julie has so much resentment and anger towards Jon, who had an affair, that she really just wants to end the marriage and move on. However, she agrees to go away on a family vacation one last time to give the kids a nice Christmas.
When the Radcliff family arrives at Oak River Plantation, they are in awe over the rustic and historical feel of the home. The owner’s wife, Clarissa Wainscott, is dressed in a period-appropriate long dress with petticoats which is very fitting for the home’s style. At first, Jon and Julie engage in outdoor activities with the kids separately but they both find that they long to do things together. The magic of Oak River Plantation does wonders for the couple, and they come to the realization that what each of them wants is not so dissimilar.
Heather Graham is a new-to-me author, and she totally blew me away with this captivating story! I literally could not put it down! I cringed at how Jon and Julia treated one another. They were downright mean and disrespectful towards each other, and I was a bit horrified! However, I do think that it is probably more realistic and common than people want to admit. My heart ached at their pain, but I also revelled in their times of joy! I was utterly swept away with the historical aspect of the story and Oak River Plantation’s history. I loved how Graham weaved the two eras together seamlessly. This is an emotional second-chance holiday romance, that gave me all the right feels to put me into the Christmas Spirit! I loved it, and I plan to add this one to my annual Christmas reading list. I can’t wait to read more books by this author.
This book qualifies as:
Task #1A for my Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge