Everyone’s idea of a heartwarming Christmas Story is different, and these two are very different from one another. I listened to both of these books for my Christmas in July readathon and definitely enjoyed one more than the other.

A Season of You (Cloud Bay #2) by Emma Douglas, Nina Alvamar (Narrator)

Published October 3rd 2017 by St. Martin’s Press, October 23rd 2017 by Recorded Books

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the second book in the Cloud Bay series, but it can be read as a standalone. I did not read the first book in the series, and still enjoyed this book very much and never felt that I was missing anything. Mina Harper was happily married when her husband was killed by a drunk driver. She refuses to have anything to do with alcohol, so is surprised when she becomes friends with local bar owner, Will Fraser. Will believes in love at first sight, and has been in love with Mina for five years, but did nothing about it as she was married. Will and his brother Stefan, own the bar and have also been distilling their own whisky with their first batch finally ready to go, five years in the making. When Mina falls and injures herself on a stormy, wintry night, Will comes to the rescue taking her to the hospital and staying with her during the night when she is dealing with a concussion. Mina finds herself thinking about Will when he leaves and they become friends, eventually sharing secrets and having a Christmas fling. Will Mina be able to drop her shield that she has been protecting herself with and allow Will in, all the way in? Is a Christmas Miracle about to happen?

Mina’s story is one of grief, heartache and mourning. She has shut herself away with nothing but her painting and her sister. Everyone grieves differently and for different periods of time, so I liked that no one tried to tell her she needed to get over it. Will is adorable. I like that he has pined for Mina for five years and didn’t hesitate to come to her aid when needed. There is some background given about Mina’s family, which I liked or I would have had a lot of questions. Mina is adamant that she and Will can be nothing more than a Christmas fling, but feelings have a habit of changing things. They are cute together, but there were times I was frustrated with Mina’s reasoning. There is some angst, as all romances tend to have, but there are a lot of heartwarming moments. There are some steamy scenes which I am not a fan of, but there were few and they were not too descriptive. This was a sweet, holiday romance with good character development, an engaging plot and an uplifting ending. I will go back and read the others in the Cloud Bay series. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Nina Alvamar. She did a very good job with this story. Her voices allowed me to know who was narrating or speaking, as well as adding good tone and expression. If you enjoy an uplifting, holiday romance, then I recommend A Season of You.

Lizzie’s Christmas Escape by Christie Barlow, Penny Andrews (Narrator)

Published October 21st 2016 by Bookouture, November 05, 2020 by QUEST from W. F. Howes Ltd

3 Stars:⭐⭐⭐

Lizzie is in the empty nest stage of her life. Her husband Henry is pretty much set in his ways, working all day, coming home, plopping down in his chair in front of the television with a beer and ignoring Lizzie. Is it any wonder that her head is turned by the handsome new neighbour who pays her attention? Trying to sort out what she wants out of life and what changes she needs to make get influenced by how Marcus makes her feel, so time away with her BFF Annie help her put things in perspective, but is it too late?

I had very mixed feelings about Lizzie’s Christmas Escape. I enjoy an uplifting story around Christmas, but this book had me feeling a bit down. First, I am not a big advocate of cheating and lying, so that put me off. As the story went on, I did feel for both Lucy and Henry and wasn’t sure if their marriage could be saved, but with Christmas in the title, I was pretty sure it would have a happy ending. The characters were realistic as well as the situation, which is a sad comment on our society. Lack of communication is often the culprit when marriages begin to fall apart and this book is no exception. The secondary characters (children, boyfriends, acquaintances) all play a role, but they are small and serve a purpose. Overall, this was a story about relationships, honesty, family infidelity, forgiveness and communication. It takes place during the Christmas holidays with parties etc. playing a role, but for me this is not what I look for when I read a Christmas story. Penny Andrews does a great job narrating this audiobook. She does a good job with the voices using tone, expression and emotion to make the characters come alive and for the listener to easily identify who is speaking.