I am ashamed to say that prior to this book, I had not read Jill Shalvis. Her books have been on my TBR for months (okay, maybe years), but as I’m sure is the case with so many romance readers, the books that I was once enthused about get buried under a pile of new releases, Kindle Unlimited items and audiobooks.
But this challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to sample one of romance’s most prolific contemporary authors, and I’m glad I did. I really liked her writing style in One Snowy Night, though the book itself had some issues.
Rory Andrews wants to use this Christmas as a chance to finally mend the tear she created in her family when she ran away as a teenager. She’s planning to get the long train and buses to Lake Tahoe by herself, but who should be waiting for her outside her office other than Max Straton, ready and willing to drive her home through the cold, snowy weather?
Rory and Max have a history, and not a good one, so she’s not sure why he’s offering to drive her home, but she doesn’t have much of an option. She settles in with him and his canine companion, Carl, for a long night of driving, but a number of mishaps mean that she and Max are stuck in a motel in the early hours of the morning, and by Christmas morning, Rory has fixed both her relationship with Max and her parents.
This book started out great—a sexy hero, a heroine looking for a second chance, a cute dog, and forced proximity. It was, however, hard to get into the book because we don’t find out about Rory and Max’s history until midway through, so for a while, I felt like I was watching a movie with the sound off, having no idea why he was waiting outside her office, how Rory knew the dog, or what the cause of all the sexual tension between them was.
I also found the plot holes and gaps in information in the book really frustrating. I understand that novellas are hard to write, because a whole relationship has to be believably built in less than two hundred pages, but I hate it when things are mentioned in books and then disappear or are contradicted, or worse, when things don’t get explained at all. The first instance of this was Rory and Max’s crushes on each other. We find out that Rory crushed hard on Max in high school, yet somehow she’s fine basically ruining his life back then to save hers? And though Max hates her for what she’s done, he is also supposedly in love with Rory, visits her at work all the time, checks on her, but remains oblivious to his feelings until he’s in bed with her, and then suddenly, he wants a relationship with her. Like, what?! Too fast, too fast! Rewind! Also, I’m a bit over the alpha male-discovers-he-has-feels-trope. Emotional intelligence needs to be the theme of romance in 2019.
There is also the issue of Max’s sister, who calls Max on speaker while he and Rory are driving and implores him to ask out the next woman he feels attracted to. This just felt like too much of a set-up. Again, I know time is of the essence in novellas, but this was just too cheesy! We also don’t find out why she’s saying that in the first place. Is it because he’s been pining for Rory? Other reasons? Let a bitch know!
However, the single biggest issue I had with this book is one that the romance community has discussed again and again: the prevalence of heroines who are made to seem more interesting because they have a history of sexual abuse or assault. Rory running away from home was more than enough to give her character some troubles to work through, but no, she also has to have had her drink spiked and maybe have been raped. I’m going to say it: CAN WE HAVE A HEROINE WHO HAS SOME ISSUES AND NOT HAVE HER ISSUES RELATED TO SOME VIOLENT ACT AGAINST HER BY A MAN? CAN WE? All I want for Christmas is a heroine troubled because her dog died, she broke her arm as a teenager and now she can’t achieve her tennis dreams, her best friend moved away and she wasn’t able to ever feel as close to anyone—basically, any backstory that gives the story some meat but doesn’t involve violence against women.
Now, there’s a part in the book where Rory very nicely shares her PB&J sandwich and hot cocoa with Max. It’s nice and sweet and free of issues, so I decided to use that scene as inspiration for the PB&J thumbprints I baked below. I based the recipe off Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything, one of the best Kindle Daily Deals I’ve scored this year. Eat these and forget about bad plot devices, confusing love, and blizzards.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 20
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup vegan butter
3/4 cup sugar (I used golden caster, but the recipe calls for granulated)
1 flax egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soya milk
1/2 cup fruit jam (I used strawberry)
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. In a large electric stand mixture, cream together the peanut butter, vegan butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, then gradually add it to the butter mixture. Pour in the soya milk and mix on a medium speed until the mixture resembles large, pea-sized crumbs.
- Scoop 1.5 tablespoon’s worth of dough into your hands and roll into a ball. Press onto unlined baking sheets, making an indent the size of your thumb. Fill with jam. Bake 8-12 minutes until edges are just getting golden brown. Wait until cool, then eat. These will last 3-4 days in a sealed cookie tin.