Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christmas Spirits by Christy Gissendaner

Kia Mays has little time for anything as her lifelong dream of being a fashion designer comes to fruition. For Christmas, she takes time out of her busy schedule to visit her family in Georgia. Her beloved grandmother, Naya, reveals a secret of her Baule heritage. In Baule, located on the Ivory Coast of Africa, the people believe in spirit lovers, which you are separated from at birth. Tedros, her lover from the spirit world, appears to her and reveals that he is there to assist her in finding a mortal lover.

Elliot Melton, the brother of Kia's new sister in law, is also invited to share the season with the family. With the help of a meddling grandmother and an otherworldly spirit, Elliot and Kia soon find out that Christmas is the best time to fall in love.

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I found this to be a rather refreshing holiday romance story that doesn't rely on any of the "alone for the holiday" tropes that seem to predominate in this sub-category of romance. It read primarily like a contemporary romance to me, though with a large dash of the paranormal thrown in to spice things up a bit. There's no insta-love here, and wedding bells aren't ringing yet at the end; instead we have two ordinary people who are simply willing to take a chance and see where their instant attraction will lead them.

Kia is a modern, independent woman who's made a name for herself in the fashion industry through hard work and determination to succeed. Though she has been highly career-focused so far in her adult life, she doesn't neglect her family and maintains a particularly close relationship with her grandmother. She's understandably skeptical when her grandmother tells her about her peoples' beliefs and traditions regarding their spirit lovers--or at least she is until she meets him. That meeting sets her on a path that makes her willing to give things a chance when she finds herself attracted to Elliot and ultimately has her re-evaluating what she wants to be doing with her life. Though the character changes she experiences are perhaps small and somewhat subtle, they are apparent nonetheless by the end.

Elliot remains something of an enigma in the story as we never really get to know him as deeply as we get to know Kia. Like Kia, he seems to be dedicated to his career but obviously also values family since he is willing to take time out to spend the holidays at his sister's in-laws' house. His shopping trip with Kia also proves that he has a healthy sense of adventure (wink wink, nudge nudge ;)) All in all he's a caring and sexy man that it's easy to fall at least a little bit in lust with.

Their story isn't complicated, but it was a nice breath of originality for a holiday romance. While I've nothing against the "alone and depressed for the holiday" trope that seems so common, and some of my favorite holiday stories use it, I also found it to be rather refreshing to read about two ordinary, well-adjusted adults with plenty of family and friends around to spend the holiday with. I also like the fact that even though Tedros, Kia's spirit lover, does intervene to help expedite their relationship, Kia and Elliot don't rush into anything but take the time to get to know one another a bit first. Even by the end, though it's clear they're going to make an HEA of it, they're still taking their time and not rushing into anything but instead are simply taking the first steps to bring their lives more in alignment so they can be together.

Overall I greatly enjoyed this cheerful tale and would recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary romances, particularly those with a bit of paranormal flair. Even if paranormal isn't your thing, I think you'll find something to enjoy here. 4 solid stars to a fun and heartwarming story.

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