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Synopsis:

Cassie Beaumont is, at the age of thirty-four, an accomplished woman. A biochemist for a plastics company, she has achieved professional success, but her personal life has not kept pace. Holed up in a laboratory eight to ten hours per day, she has little opportunity to meet new people — more specifically, men. The holidays are approaching and she is feeling lonely and ready to settle down, especially after receiving a Christmas card from old college friends depicting their idyllic family: Husband, wife, son and daughter in coordinated red and green attire. Cassie complains to her friend Angie that her friends’ lives appear to be “perfect in every way” and dreams of the year when she too can send glossy photographic cards to all of her friends and relatives showing off her perfect husband and perfect children, “all looking forward to .”

Angie tells Cassie about Dr. Simon Dodson, a local psychologist and professional matchmaker. Simon’s fee is thirty thousand dollars, but he guarantees his services. Cassie can afford to retain Simon using the funds she has saved for her wedding . . . which may never take place if she doesn’t hire Simon. She completes the lengthy application and makes an initial appointment with Simon, during which he criticizes her wardrobe and hair, and tells her that she could stand to lose five pounds. He is brusque, arrogant, business-like, and quite dour. But handsome.

A few days later, Simon agrees to take Angie on as a client, assuring her that he has an ideal man in mind for her. However, before she can meet her potential suitor, she must perform three tasks successfully: 1. She must volunteer as a Salvation Army bell ringer at the mall for four hours during the weekend following Thanksgiving; 2. She must spend an entire afternoon serving as one of Santa’s elves assisting with taking pictures of children visiting Santa at another local mall; and 3. She must prepare an entire Christmas dinner, including homemade pies, for her neighbors, most of whom she either is not acquainted with or doesn’t like. Simon advises Cassie that he will be checking on her as she performs the first two tasks, so she decides that he might as well join her and her neighbors for the holiday dinner. Only after she performs all tasks successfully will he introduce her to John, the man Simon has selected to provide Cassie with the ideal family and perfect Christmas for which she longs.

Review:

Author
Prolific, best-selling and beloved author Debbie Macomber is known for providing her readers with heart-warming tales of love, romance, friendship, home, and hearth. With A Perfect Christmas, she does not disappoint her fans because this story is plain, old-fashioned fun to read. Easily completed in one sitting, it is a frothy, delightful mixture of broad, slapstick comedy adventures, as Cassie sets about performing the three tasks Simon has assigned her, and romance as her growing attraction to Simon surprises and frightens, but also delights her.

From the outset, it is obvious where the storyline is leading, but that doesn’t matter. Cassie is an empathetic character, a confident and assured professional who is frustrated by the fact that she meets very few eligible bachelors and the ones she has encountered thus far have not been suitable. She is intrigued when Simon describes his client, John, to her, explaining that he selects one and only one potential mate for each of his clients. Simon’s exhaustive application process ostensibly provides him with all the information he needs to discern which of his clients will be compatible.

But as Cassie moves through the process of completing Simon’s prerequisites, she finds that she is thinking about John less and less, while receiving mixed messages from Simon. His gruff, no-nonsense exterior belies the tender moments they share and leave Cassie wondering about her Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like matchmaker’s true intentions. Readers will wonder, too, if the mysterious “John” even exists or if Simon has simply conjured him up while he tests Cassie’s motives and heart before deciding if she is the right woman for him.

Supporting characters Angie, Cassie’s best friend with whom she also works, and Shawn, Cassie’s artist brother, a confirmed bachelor, lend support. Her cranky, newspaper-stealing, rap music-playing neighbors are an eclectic bunch who make a holiday meal both entertaining and surprising. Macomber is a master at creating endearing heroines and surrounding them with colorful supporting characters who keep the action popping, the storyline moving toward its always-obvious-from-the-outset conclusion. The Perfect Christmas offers no exception to that successful formula.

Simon’s real feelings and motivations are eventually revealed. His rationale for the three tasks? Well, that makes sense, too, especially when viewed in conjunction with the wishes Cassie expressed when she retained him to find her perfect mate.

Readers familiar with Macomber’s work will not be surprised to learn that Cassie does, in fact, have The Perfect Christmas for which she has wished. Knowing that in advance does not diminish the fun of reading about how she achieves it because, after all, in Macomber’s deft hands, a light-hearted romance like The Perfect Christmas is a perfectly delightful story, sure to evoke laughter at least several times and leave even the most Scrooch-like reader with a perfectly satisfied smile on his/her face after reading the last page.

I read The Perfect Christmas in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review, Christmas Spirit, and Holiday Reading 2010 Challenges.


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