Christmas Grace, by Leslie Lynch

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Leslie Lynch breaks new ground in her second Christmas novella. Although she invites us to spend Christmas on the other side of Louisville, Kentucky, she warns us to steer clear of Gertie, Ella and Natalie—three generations of brokenhearted women who dread the holidays.

Recently widowed, awash in grief, and stumbling through the shambles of her life, Gertie, 74, gathers more grief than consolation from her daughter. She avoids the domineering Ella, 50, during the holidays.

Mason, Ella’s husband, bemoans the fortunes of his slumping law firm. He sees Ella more as a convenience than a consort. He expects her to drop her own plans to exhibit her ceramic creations in order to arrange the “traditional,” client-wooing Christmas gala.

Pregnant with Ella’s and Mason’s grandchild, Natalie, twenty-something, plans to ignore the holidays. They remind her of her husband, Connor, deployed to a war zone. She tells her mother, “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to help you…No Christmas for me…. I’ve just turned into a Grinch.” She cherishes her moments on Skype when she can almost touch Connor through her laptop screen.

Gertie proves the most imaginative, if reckless, in mending her broken heart, plunging into an extreme makeover, planning a sky-dive, and taking up with a guy on a turquoise motorcycle, she sparkles as she weaves and crashes through the story line.

The bulk of the novella measures the accumulated weight as each family emergency presses against Ella’s shoulders and forces her resentment to bubble to the surface. Obsessed with his declining client base, Mason ignores Ella’s plight. While squeezing the “Merry” out of “Christmas,” he snuffs out the embers of Ella’s love for him. He not only stifles his family-life but the flexibility essential for his company’s survival. Much to his dismay, Ella decides to dig in her heels.

Can Leslie Lynch, the award-winning romance author, snatch these harried “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” before they go up in smoke? There’s no easy fix. Those who anticipate their own hectic holiday appreciate the pain of apparently insoluble family situations. Christmas Grace offers them hope, adjusts their frame of mind, and revives the meaning of the words Christmas, family and holiday.

Christmas Hope, by Leslie Lynch

Leslie Lynch creates such amazingly REAL characters, as we see again in Christmas Hope. Fortunately, she took time after the story to explain how she went into the real world to find her fictional protagonists among the heroes and victims of our crazy times. Fans of the Appalachian Foothills series will enjoy meeting Leslie’s latest characters and welcome another visit with Father Barnabas, who, up to his old tricks, plays a pivotal role in this novella.

We often see only our defects and assume that others hold the same perception. The Christmas season may add to one’s miseries as the holiday reopens family problems, especially for wounded souls desperately in need of completeness. If the family failed as a resource, Tennessee Williams, via Blanche DuBois, reminds us and the protagonists that “you can always depend on the kindness of strangers to pluck up your spirits and shield you from dangers.” Dreaded disasters that we all shun actually bring a couple together. The question remains, can they control their demons long enough to push beyond their first impressions and establish a loving relationship that heals their wounds?

Christmas Hope is the author’s fourth book of 2014, all of them segments in the Appalachian Foothills Series. Lynch has established herself as a formidable author who blends romance with grit and reality. Her characters come from life and reflect her interest in regular folks, the down and out, as well as law enforcement and the military. Louisville, Kentucky shines brightly as a venue. I look forward to another productive year as novels flow from the fertile mind of author Leslie Lynch.