Review: Home for Christmas by Susan Craig (2019)

Cedar Hill, Book 4

Reviews of Cedar Hill Book 1, Book 2, Book 3

Heat Factor: Some nipple action, then fade to black

Character Chemistry: He pursues her aggressively, and she seems to like it

Plot: She’s the one for me! Now I must convince her of this immutable truth

Overall: People who are fans of one-sided courtship books might really enjoy this one, but it seriously did not work for me

Reading this book was a strange experience. I kept wondering whether Susan Craig was performing a brilliant deconstruction of the One-Sided Courtship trope and the ways in which it is extremely problematic, or whether she and I have dramatically different ideas about what actions are romantic. Turns out, it’s the latter. 

Here’s the basic set up. April goes off the road while driving in white-out conditions; the next morning, Mac notices her car and rescues her. Yes, he saves her life. Once she’s settled in a motel and has a tow for her car lined up, he takes his leave – and asks for her phone number. She declines. (Reasonable, in my opinion.) He (internally), is like, “I saved her life and she doesn’t even have the decency to let me take her out?!? Bitch.” Nevertheless, once he gets settled in St. Louis, he proceeds to stalk her. Because she was his childhood babysitter and the first woman who fueled his masturbatory sessions, doncha know, so it’s totally fine. It’s fine! 

Mac does eventually find April again, and even has a good excuse to spend time with her – she’s a Realtor, he’s trying to buy a house – and they do their dance. He pursues, she blows hot and cold. 

I can kind of see the romance in this idea that someone will keep pursuing you if they really love you no matter how many times you push them away. But for me, the situation is just uncomfortable and unfair for both of them. Mac has serious issues with boundaries. He never takes no for an answer. When April breaks things off, he decides that he’ll just talk her out of whatever opposition she’s feeling. He asks her questions but then cuts her off before she can give him an answer he won’t like. He camps out in her favorite coffee shop so he’ll run into her “by accident.” I could continue. I should note, however, that he never acts in an overtly aggressive way. Craig walks a fine line with making him kind and gentlemanly and also chock full of toxic masculinity in a way that felt immediately recognizable as a guy in the real world the way many alpha heroes in romance aren’t. And I must note that while I sympathize with April’s position, she does treat Mac unfairly. He pursues and she acquiesces and then has second thoughts and runs. Wash, rinse, repeat – until he stops pursuing (and is nasty and cold about it) and she regrets it. The grovel is hers, by the way. While it is probably true that she caused the most purposeful hurt in the relationship, I wanted Mac to recognize all the ways he was manipulative and also grow and change, and he didn’t. 

I’ve been thinking about romance and desire and fantasy a lot in the past two years, since I started writing reviews and examining romance on a deeper level. With that in mind, I think the reason this particular book didn’t work for me is that it cut too close to home – there wasn’t the distance of fantasy for the one-sided courtship to be outrageous and therefore fun. Instead, Mac’s pursuit was familiar and therefore unwelcome, which meant that I wasn’t swept along on the rest of the romance that followed. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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