JUST LIKE MAGIC by Sarah Hogle 

From the publisher:

The holidays were never her thing, until she accidentally conjures the Holiday Spirit…before her very eyes.

Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury, flaunting a collection of designer purses and an enviable dream home in Hawaii. That was before she lost all her money. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media. But the reality is Bettie is broke and squatting in Colorado, and her family has no idea.

Christmas, with its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when Bettie plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” backward and accidentally conjures up Hall, the Holiday Spirit, in the form of a charming and handsome (if offbeat) man. Once the shock wears off, Bettie knows she’s stumbled upon the greatest gift: a chance to make all her holiday wishes come true, plus a ready-made fiancé.

But as some of Bettie’s wishes lose their charm, she finds herself thrown off-kilter by Hall’s sweet nature. Suddenly, grumpy Bettie is finding her heart merry and light. But the happier she gets, the shorter Hall’s time on earth grows. Can Bettie channel the Christmas spirit and learn to live with goodwill toward all men? Or will her selfish ways return as soon as the holidays are over?

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If you can’t have a bit of magic at the holidays, when can you? Hall is some sort of spirit, the Holiday Spirit to be exact, come to earth in beautiful male human form to help Bettie get her holiday spirit back. She measures less than 2 on the holiday spirit scale, and he needs to get her back up towards 10 again. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Bettie so I didn’t really care if she had holiday spirit or not.

But don’t worry! Bettie learns to be a better person because of Hall, but I had to slog through almost half of the book before I started enjoying it. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t put it down was because Caitlin (a former reviewer here) recommended it. She also warned me it was slow going in the beginning, but because I read on a Kindle, and the Kindle provides stats as you go, it wasn’t until I had read 44% of the book that I started to like it. By the end, I understood why so many people are raving about it.

Bettie comes from a family of super successful people, starting with her grandmother, a retired movie star, and her namesake. Bettie is a social media influencer with millions of followers. She was also super successful until most of her money was blown by her crazy, out-of-control spending and the rest stolen by the people around her. She is pretty much flat broke, homeless, and feeling vindictive. She is squatting in a house where the owner had died several months earlier. She keeps waiting for someone to show up and kick her out, but her luck is holding.

When she accidentally spills something on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” record and plays it backwards, Hall appears, her Holiday Spirit guide, if you will. She can ask him for anything and if she adds the magic words, “make my wish come true” he has to do it. Within reason. Apparently, there is “legislation” regarding holiday spirits that involve all sorts of rules. Nonetheless, he helps her get revenge on some people, conjures her up her own home, and goes with her as her fiancé to her family home for Christmas. She is wearing Elizabeth Taylor’s engagement ring, since she wished for it.

As Bettie and Hall spend time together and she sees how is able to charm her entire family of self-centered miscreants, Bettie’s own behavior starts changing for the better. Actually, her whole family is changing because of Hall. Bettie is full of the holiday spirit by Christmas Eve, and sometime during the night Hall disappears. His work here is done – except there are so many more things he wants to try, human/Earth-type things, and he really misses Bettie, and she really misses him.

There is some magic involved in getting Bettie & Hall to their happy ending. I loved the second half of the book enough to recommend it. If you like some holiday magic in your romance, this is the book for you.

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

JUST LIKE MAGIC by Sarah Hogle. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 4, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593539859. 368p.





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