Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler

I had my doubts about this one when I started reading it. It's so much like a Hallmark Christmas story that I thought surely the "soon to be a major tv movie" blurb on the cover meant for sure it was on Hallmark. But it's not. I've checked Karen Schaler's website and scoured the internet and while it is going to be a TV movie, there's no date and no telling which network will air it. And interestingly enough, the movie was written and produced, then the novel was written--just in time for a holiday release in bookstores. 

I ended up enjoying this novel for a few different reasons. At first, I wasn't connecting much with Haley Hanson, the main character. She's risen in the advertising world, and now is just one step away from becoming partner in her Boston advertising agency. She works round the clock, and has been very successful. Her Christmas holiday involves taking her parents to the Caribbean for a week of no Christmas, just sun, sand, and beach. That's been their tradition for years. Getting promoted at work means Haley can help her parents financially; their large Victorian home needs a lot of work to turn it into a B&B and it seems to be a never-ending money pit. 

Haley's chance at getting that promotion rests on a new ad campaign for Tyler Toys, but one other employee has been tapped to produce a prospective ad campaign for it. Haley's boss reluctantly agrees to give her a shot, but only if she spends a week at Christmas Camp, in order to rediscover her Christmas spirit. 

Reluctantly, Haley travels to Christmas Camp, which is a lovely Inn run by Ben. A group of people attend a week of camp, where each day they focus on finding their lost Christmas spirit. Haley plans on working every moment she can, completing camp early, and heading back to Boston to create her ad campaign. She's in for a rude awakening, however. Phones and computers are taken away each day and only given back at night, so clients can focus on camp. She's stuck in a bedroom where angels are the theme, and the Christmas Camp dog Max follows her everywhere, and demands she take him for early morning walks. 

There's Jeff, the son of the owner. He's also from Boston; an architect who wants his father to sell Christmas Camp and move to Boston. He's a cutie, and there's a definite spark between Haley and Jeff--but neither has the time for a relationship. 

Will Haley's week at Christmas Camp reset her spirit and attitude? Will she win the ad campaign, and make partner? She's a bit of a scrooge, but slowly, very slowly, things change. You get to understand that Haley isn't anti-Christmas for any bad reasons, but simply because her parents were poor, and as a child, they didn't have Christmas. They made do, and Haley made sure she didn't show her disappointment or sadness at their lack of Christmas so her parents wouldn't feel any worse than they already did. I have to say, finding this out about Haley made her much more of a likable character. She simply didn't know what it was like to have a full-blown Christmas. Taking her parents to the Caribbean every year was a way to protect them from the memories of past Christmases where they didn't have much and still, after all those years, felt bad about it. 

There is a little bit of a surprise twist at the end, and I was happy with the ending. It was a better story than I expected, and captured the magic of the season without becoming too darn cheesy. I'll probably watch the tv movie when it finally shows up! 

Rating: 4/6 for a quick read that helps remind us of all the fun traditions we create to celebrate a special time of year. In our busy world, we need to shut off the electronics and concentrate on baking cookies, snowball fights, and spending time with loved ones face to face. An enjoyable read that will put you in the holiday spirit!

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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