I did my annual Christmas in July readathon, but had a few books left to read that I had already downloaded. I think I left two of the best until the end. Both of these books were highly enjoyable with great stories of New Beginnings and Christmas Magic.

The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole, Bailey Carr (Narrator)

Published October 26, 2021 by William Morrow, Harper Audio

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I really enjoyed this uplifting story with themes of friendship, new beginnings, following dreams, family and a bit of a historical storyline, all set at Christmas. Fashion designer Meg Julliard’s father has passed and he left her an apartment building in Chicago, Parkview West. She has to leave her job in New York to deal with the building and its residents. When she arrives, she finds the building badly in need of repairs and with little to no money to do the work. The tenants are older, unable to pay more rent, and not able to relocate to a different residence of long term care. Meg knows some of the people, but meets many new ones. One woman, Ellie Ward is preparing to move into an assisted living facility because of her daughter’s insistence. As she is cleaning out her apartment, she gifts Meg an elegant, and timeless dress, one that holds both her best and worst memories. Meg wants to renovate the building and perhaps turn it into a retirement residence, but she needs money and someone to do the work. As she investigates the past of the building, she finds out information that might just save Parkview West for Meg, her father’s memory and the wonderful residents she has met.

I really enjoyed this story and all it’s storylines, characters and emotions. Meg was such a wonderful character. She was loyal, caring, smart, talented, and tenacious yet also insecure about her talent, skills and ability to save the building. I absolutely loved all the characters in this well-written story. All the secondary characters were interesting, some a bit quirky, but all relatable, especially to this 60+ reader. I enjoyed how the Christmas Dress was used in this story to build community, drive the story forward and share more about Meg. There is history in the Parkview West building and I thought that was a great plotline. It reminded me a bit of the television special “opening Al Capone’s Safe” it was the same kind of build up with a much better outcome. If you have not read this book yet, I definitely recommend it for your holiday reading this year. It is a light, engaging story with several themes that added to my enjoyment of this story. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Bailey Carr. I enjoyed her performance. She gave voice to the various characters that enabled me to tell who was speaking. Her expression and emotion pulled me into the story and I recommend the audiobook if you enjoy listening to them.

The Christmas Wishing Tree by Emily March, Amy Landon (Narrator)

Published September 25, 2018 by Blackstone Audio, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when her best friend died. She loves him and although she works a lot, she’s a great mom. Troubles begin when someone starts sending things to her house she didn’t order, she receives anonymous phone calls and is finally the recipient of Swatting, where she is injured, then Reilly is. To save herself and Reilly, she packs them up in a camper and heads out on the road. She ends up in a campground in Eternity Springs, where she has spent time before and always felt welcome. On an earlier Christmas trip there, Reilly was given a cell phone by one of the residents that he used to call “Santa”. He reached Devin Murphy who plays along. Devin is in Eternity Springs spending time with his family, but he lives in Australia where he runs a fishing business. He feels for the little boy who just wants his mom to work less and find a man who can be his dad. At this time, Devin is visiting his family once again, and he realizes who they are. He calls in his family, several who are in law enforcement, to help Jenna solve her problem once and for all. The problem is that the more time Jenna spends with Devin, the more she develops feelings for him.

I have enjoyed several books from the Eternity Springs series and this one did not disappoint. I love the community and how people are quickly pulled in to the families and friends. The “Christmas Wishing Tree” was in the background of the story, as it is set over a year or so, but it plays a part and adds the Christmas sentiment. This is definitely a romantic suspense as Jenna is dealing with a stalker and she is on the run for part of the story, but everything I love about Eternity Springs is here. The three main characters, Reilly, Jenna and Devin are so darn likable. Reilly wants Jenna to be happy, but he also wants a dad so badly. He is a sweet kid who cares about others, which I loved. Jenna was a great mom despite some critical remarks on her parenting skills at the beginning of the book. She worked hard, but spent a lot of quality time with Reilly as well. You can tell how much he loved her, even though it seemed he thought she spent too much time at work. Devin was swoon worthy. It isn’t until close to the end of the book that we find out what he is running from. He wants to do what he loves, but also wants to be with his family, so he is torn. I love the way he deals with Reilly, it is obvious that he would make a wonderful dad. There is always Christmas magic that leads everyone to their happily ever after, and once again brings two wonderful people together, well, make that three. A book I recommend that can be read anytime during the year. Amy Landon narrated this audiobook and does a nice job. I enjoyed her performance of this story.