Alexis Blake has one chance to land her own show on the Home Project Network and nothing, not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer, is going to stand in her way. Elsie, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise. Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together. Can they restore more than just a house and bring about special, almost lost forever Christmas memories?
“You have plans to show me, Alexis?” Elsie slid the table’s salt-and-pepper shaker centerpiece to the side.
Time to get real. More real. “Yes. I hope you’ll like them.” She opened her laptop and pulled up the files. She skidded her chair closer to Elsie so both could see the screen. Gabe had seen them at breakfast. He’d claimed he needed to “reserve” his comments until after Elsie had a chance to look at the plans.
“I started with the end product,” Alexis said. “Then we’ll peel back the layers until we get to the heart of where we have to begin our renovation stage. Here you see the mockup of what your home will look like on Christmas Eve.”
Elsie said nothing. She crossed her arms and leaned on the table, turning her head from side to side as if considering the flat picture on the screen from unseen angles.
“Elsie? What do you think?”
“It’s . . . a lot.”
“A lot to take in? Certainly. Most of my clients feel that way at first. Take your time. Would you like me to explain anything about what you’re seeing on the screen?”
“It’s . . . there’s a lot of it.”
“Modern doesn’t have to mean minimalist,” Alexis explained. “Notice how I incorporated both hard and soft edges with the metal sculptural pieces and the soft billows of fabric puddled at the windows and covering the wall behind the Christmas tree.”
“Is that tree made of metal?” Elsie leaned closer.
“Copper. Isn’t it stunning?”
The older woman leaned back. “How many copper kettles are you going to have to kill to make that thing?”
She doesn’t like it? How can she not like it?
“Elsie,” Gabe said, pulling his chair nearer, “no copper kettles will be harmed in the filming of this video.” He thumped his fisted hand on his heart. “I’ll personally guarantee it.” Gabe winked at Alexis.
Not endearing. Not even a little.
“Every house can use improvement, Elsie. Even one as . . . sturdy as this one.”
With her hands still in her lap, Elsie began to rock back and forth. Thinking? Fuming? “I don’t mind changing some things.”
“Well, good. That’s a start.”
“But some have to stay the same.”
Alexis’s sigh rustled the dusty curtain in the window.
Elsie’s sigh beat hers both in velocity and endurance.
“What’s the name of that show you’re trying to get on again? Are you going to improve on Christmas or restore it, Alexis?”
Maybe neither, if she couldn’t get her client to cooperate.
If you’re looking for a read that will really get you into the spirit of Christmas, look no further! You don’t have to be planning a home restoration to get caught up in planning the perfect Christmas (read: turn into some kind of Martha-on-steroids) and miss out on the heart of Christmas. And I’m not even talking about the literal ‘reason for the season’ (ie. the birth of Christ), although that’s important, too. I’m talking about all that the birth of Christ encompasses: Hope, joy, love, peace, and – yes – restoration; and not just the physical kind. Enter Exhibit A: our protagonist, Alexis.
Alexis is one of three people competing for a place on next year’s Restoring Christmas program on the Heart-and-Home channel, by restoring and professionally decorating a home for the Christmas season and filming the process. Except nothing goes her way, right from the beginning. The videographer she hired has sent his son in his place due to a back injury; the owner of the home she is to restore and decorate doesn’t like her ideas (and frequently disappears to keep mysterious appointments); and the accommodation she booked for the duration of her eight-week stay is unavailable after being skunked. And things only go downhill from there!
But in the middle of this mess, there’s Gabe: “Serious when he needs to be, humorous most of the rest of the time” – a.k.a ‘the loveable irritant’. And he is rather loveable, although it takes Alexis a little time before she sees him that way. He has the ability to inject just the right amount of levity and perspective into any situation to prevent Alexis from being suffocated by her own seriousness, and he won me over from the start. The developing romance between these two is subtle, but satisfying – especially the ending! ❤️
However, the romance isn’t the focus of this story. And really, neither is the home restoration. As the project progresses, Alexis discovers that Restoring Christmas encompasses so much more than it did when she began – for herself, for Gabe, but particularly for Elsie. The home restoration (and all its set-backs!) becomes a beautifully visible metaphor for the deeper transformation taking place: Hope restored, painful memories retooled, good memories brought back home, and the past converted into something more suitable for the present.
This is the ultimate feel-good Christmas story, but in a wonderfully un-cheesy way. I think it will become a Christmas tradition to re-read this one!
I received a copy of this novel from Worthy Publishing. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 18 October 2016
Publisher: Worthy Inspired
Author’s website: http://www.cynthiaruchti.com/