A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley
No one wants to be single at the holidays.
Even Little Miss Grinch, Nikki, a successful and independent woman, must face her bachelorette status at the most horrible time of the year. December is her personal version of holly-jolly hell: a merry torture made of couples kissing at every corner, forced vacation days, and an inescapable family reunion. And when her baby sister announces she’s engaged—to Paul, the man Nikki is secretly in love with—and that he’s spending the holidays with them, Christmas starts looking bluer than ever.
Nikki can’t possibly survive an entire week trapped home as the family’s spinster. But she has no time to meet men or to try the newest dating app, she’s too busy working as a video producer for an advertising agency. So what’s a girl to do?
Nikki has the perfect solution: to hire a fake boyfriend.
Luckily, her job gives her access to an endless catalog of gorgeous actors to choose from. But Nikki will soon discover that keeping business and pleasure from mixing isn’t so easy, and that she might not be immune to a little mistletoe magic. Especially not when she picked out the perfect man as her Christmas date…
A fun, festive romantic comedy with lots of bad behavior and Christmas spirit. Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously hilarious novel down.
First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels, however, each book in the series can be read as a standalone.
Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Sally Thorne, and Jo Watson.
I must confess that this is my favourite time of year for romance novels – all that Christmassy falling in love stuff. I’m a sucker for it! A Christmas Date kicks off my seasonal reviews, and what a brilliant start it is. What can I say other than I was so hooked on Nikki and Diego’s story, that I read it in one sitting.
After a very stressful period of playing hide-and-seek with my internet connection, I was left with missed deadlines, missed reviews, and… well other missed ‘stuff’, but Camilla Isley gave me the perfect antidote and a wonderful stress reliever! If I have any ‘moans’ about the book they are trivial and all about me! (eg: Diego is a Spanish name not Italian – meh!)
At first, you’ll think the four main characters are just typical tropes of the romance genre:
Nikki – thinks she’s not so pretty, work driven, pitied by family for not having a boyfriend
Julia – younger sister with all the golden good looks, popular (Prom Queen), just got engaged to Paul, Nikki’s friend and long time secret love
Paul – the nice, steady, reliable guy, in job he loves that others think is boring
Diego – head-turning male model and actor, and all round hottie, hired to play the boyfriend
Knowing the type of characters, you quickly wonder in which direction the story will take the reader. You want Nikki to get her guy – but which guy? While there is always the chance that it will go in a certain direction, Nikki herself observes that it’s the norm that hot male model/actor ends up with hot female. Will Diego prove her right? What will the author do?
Camilla Isley cleverly starts with a grumpy Nikki not wanting to talk with her mother, trying to brush off her sister, dreading the thought of Christmas with her family with their questions about boyfriends, and their pitying reactions when she says she doesn’t have one. The reader won’t necessarily take to her character immediately, but they’ll certainly grimace at her mother and the messages she sends. As we roll on into the story, our sympathy levels rise, and we quickly appreciate Nikki, warm to her, like her, and understand why she has these ‘family and holiday’ issues.
Julia isn’t unlikable per se, but she doesn’t endear herself to the reader. Everything is centred around her; she must be the centre of attention and thinks of herself first, always. The tension between the sisters is palpable. Her engagement has thrown Nikki into turmoil, and the catalyst that creates the need for a fake boyfriend is her insensitive mother’s request regarding Nikki’s bedroom at home. When Julia confronts Nikki over the bedroom issue, asserting that she can’t make Paul sleep in her childhood princess bed. Nikki says she can change it, but selfish Julia doesn’t want to, ‘But I love that bed.’ She does not seem to be able to appreciate that her stance is heartless and totally self-absorbed. It is little wonder the sympathetic reader will identify with and cheer Nikki’s response:
‘Well sorry… You’ll have to pick: either Paul sleeps in the princess bed or the bed goes.’
That is also the scene when the ‘new boyfriend’ penny drops for Julia. Her attitude towards her sister, and her estimation of Nikki, is revealed clearly in the statement that she thought their mother was mistaken. Nikki can’t have a boyfriend, the golden child cannot have anyone steal her thunder, certainly not her sister.
Nikki’s best friend since childhood is Blair, and she is a great foil to Julia. Both Nikki and Blair are confident and highly successful, but where Blair has a steady relationship, goes to parties, and has an active social life, Nikki doesn’t. It isn’t lack of opportunity, rather more because her work often precludes an active dating life, and she’s fallen into the habit of not going out. It is to Blair that she turns for sympathy and advice, and it is Blair who bolsters Nikki when she seems to have lost her nerve. They know each other’s strengths and foibles, weaknesses and habits, and Blair provides an insight into her friend’s character and life. It speaks volumes for the reader that she truly understands the situation with Nikki’s family, and doesn’t make light of it. Their families live opposite each other so during the holidays, she is the bolt-hole Nikki runs to when her family become unbearable and she needs some space.
Diego and Paul are characters that defy the trope or archetype. We don’t see as much of Paul as we do Diego. We do, however, get to know enough about him to appreciate he is a good man with a good heart, and very much in love with Julia. He needs it all to put up with the nonsense that Julia inflicts upon him (and her family) when it comes to food. The ‘pizza betrayal’ and his attitude that Julia would ‘get over it’ made me laugh, and no-one will deny smiling when he realises, towards the end, that he holds an ace card to play when it comes to Julia’s food.
Diego (apart from his name) is everything unexpected in a hot, fantasy, male model, and the author portrays him cleverly. He’s domesticated, thoughtful, intelligent, and wears his good-looks unpretentiously. The family background he is given is rooted in the macho world of police and firemen, very far removed from the life he has chosen, and yet we see that reflected in the man he is, and the character he has. Strong and confident, and yet as easily hurt and broken when it comes to romance. He ‘gets’ Nikki, understands her, and although suprised, if not shocked at his insights into her personality, she puts this down to his observation skills as an actor. In reality, Diego is clearly invested in her personally.
The ending is just a heart-melting, eye-watering, total delight.
All in all I just loved this romance. While the general pace of the novel is quick, taking place over a matter of a few weeks, it isn’t rushed either. There were no parts where I felt the author has hustled us on to get to the next part sooner. A gentle humour is woven throughout the story and adds a lovely level of enjoyment and delight. The romance between Diego and Nikki is, by comparison, more slow-burn. There is a strange juxtaposition with this romance. On the one hand they fall in love quite quickly, and yet the physical side is very slow, sweet, and tender. It was a pleasure to read and revel in. What is also a pleasure is the knowledge that this is one of a series of novels where each can be read as a stand-alone, so Camilla Isley has just increased my ‘TBR’ pile significantly.
We are heading to that time of year when I start collating my 12 Books of the Year, and this is certainly a strong contender. Do yourself a huge favour, read this one.
Amazon Geo-linked http://hyperurl.co/s3dxdc
Camilla is an engineer turned writer after she quit her job to follow her husband on an adventure abroad. She’s a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She’s a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveler, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn’t want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.
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