Spotlight Review: THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Debbie Macomber

October 25, 2022

From the publisher:

Two lifelong friends decide to trade places the week before Christmas and end up finding love along the way in this delightful novel from the queen of holiday stories, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Peter Armstrong and Hank Colfax are best friends, but their lives couldn’t be more different. Peter, the local pastor who is dedicated to his community, spending time visiting the flock, attending meetings, and, with the holiday season approaching, preparing for the Christmas service and live nativity. As a bartender, Hank serves a much different customer base at his family-owned tavern, including a handful of lonely regulars and the local biker gang. 

When Peter scoffs that Hank has it easy compared to him, the two decide to switch jobs until Christmas Eve. To their surprise, the responsibilities of a bartender and a pastor are similar, but taking on the other’s work is more difficult than either Peter or Hank expected. As the two begin to see each other in a new light—and each discovers a new love to cherish—their lives are forever changed.

In The Christmas Spirit, Debbie Macomber celebrates the true meaning of the holidays and the inclusive community spirit that binds us all.

“Bestseller and Hallmark Channel stalwart Macomber (Dear Santa) does it again with a candy cane–sweet holiday romance about two friends who swap lives for a week before Christmas. . . . An eclectic supporting cast—including cadres of strippers and bikers—and a comically disastrous climactic Christmas Eve church service make the narrative shine bright. It’s exactly what readers want from a Macomber holiday outing.”—Publishers Weekly

“This light, sweet Christmas novel is perfect for someone looking for a chaste love story with a happy ending.”—Booklist

https://amzn.to/3z9UBhm

Every year I read Macomber’s Christmas novel, but they run hot and cold for me. This was not one of my favorites. A pastor and a bar owner/bartender are best friends and each thinks the other’s job is easy. They switch jobs for several days leading up to Christmas and find out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

I found this book to be preachy and too religious for me, a nice Jewish girl who loves holiday romances with an emphasis on romance and the magic of the holiday season. The romances here – there are two – are not very engaging, and this book, with apologies to Marie Kondo, just didn’t spark joy for me. If you like the more religious side of Christmas, this may be your perfect book. It’s a sweet, Christian romance with a bit of humor. It’s a quick read at only 240 pages, and while I did finish it, I wasn’t terribly captivated. I’m curious to see if Hallmark turns this one into a movie.

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (October 18, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593500101. 240p.

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ANY DREAM WILL DO by Debbie Macomber

August 8, 2017

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I’ve been reading Macomber for years, and I’ve really enjoyed her Cabot Cove and Blossom Street series and especially her Christmas stories. Her books are all sweet, escapist reading with an occasional kiss but never any sex. I’ve met her a couple of times, and I get her newsletter, and I know that she is a Christian, and all of her books reflect her values.

To me, this book crosses the line from women’s fiction and/or romance, which she has been writing throughout her career, to Christian (or “Inspirational”) fiction. As a Jew, I am not always comfortable with that genre and I was not comfortable with this book.

The premise is that a young woman, Shay, has grown up in an abusive home. She turned to drugs at an early age, and her boyfriend was a drug dealing, violent abuser. But Shay never liked drugs so although she lived in that world, she didn’t really use, but her brother did. She got a job as a bank teller and her brother talked her into embezzling money for him, saying that her boyfriend would kill him otherwise. She does it and goes to prison for three years.

I’m not giving away anything here, all of this occurs in the first twenty pages or so. When Shay is released, the bus lets her off in front of a church. She goes in, and the pastor, Drew, offers to help her. He gets her into a reentry program where she excels.

Drew lost his wife a few years earlier, leaving him with two young children. He is doing the best he can but he is suffering from depression. Helping Shay helps him, as well. Their connection keeps leading them back to one another and while there are difficulties in their relationship along the way, they eventually find their happily ever after.

Much of this story really stretched the bounds of credibility, but I liked the characters enough to keep reading. The bigger issue here for me was all the praying going on, and a lot of “God’s plan” filling in the story, along with the political machinations of the church, which just made it too Christian for this Jew. I hope Macomber goes back to her heathen ways and leaves the praying for her personal life instead of injecting it into her books. I will be leery of reading this author again.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ANY DREAM WILL DO by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (August 8, 2017). ISBN 978-0399181191.  336p.

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