Friday, December 7, 2018

New Release Review: The Christmas Lights Battle: A Shelby Beach Romance by Skylar M. Cates

New Release Review: The Christmas Lights Battle: A Shelby Beach Romance

Buy link: Amazon


For a single dad and his neighbor, the Christmas competition is on!

Julian Moss wants to give his children a happy Christmas. Since his divorce, Julian has no time for a social life; he’s been doing the tiring work of two parents while his cheating ex-husband dodges his responsibilities. If that isn’t stressful enough, he has to deal with his new—and ridiculously good-looking—neighbor and his noisy dogs. Christmas used to be Julian’s favorite holiday, but lately all he sees is the cost. Then Julian’s young son tells him about a Christmas lights competition with a much-needed prize. 

Leo Adams is going to be alone for Christmas…again. All he’s ever wanted is to be accepted by his family, but he knows that will never happen. Deciding to focus on his career as a personal trainer, Leo develops a boot camp program on the beach, but he needs publicity. The lights competition offers Leo a way to get some free press, and if it annoys his snooty neighbor Julian—all the better. 

The battle is on, and both Julian and Leo want to win. The stakes are high, the reward is great, and the neighbors are in it to win it. There’s nothing like a little competition to make Christmas at Shelby Beach extra merry and bright.

4 Stars! 

This had unexpected and hidden depths to it that I loved. A blurb that promises, and a tale that over delivers. Yay!!

OK, so the tale does follow the blurb, but what I wasn't entirely prepared for was the add-ons that the author included, via the characters and their willingness to stand up for what is right, to take on the bigoted, to show kindness and caring in the face of adversity, hostility and prejudice, and to show Xmas spirit to those who should have known better than to be who and what they are. It was an Xmas tale that wasn't one dimensional, wasn't all about sex and romance, that wasn't faux and it didn't have one single trope, yay!! I don't think it even had a Santa, come to think of it?

Leo was so much more than his build and his looks - I think you always get the measure of a person when you see how they treat animals, and there were big clues here. And I did not see his past coming. Not at all, and when it was revealed, entirely organically, it was heartbreaking and then more heartbreaking when you learn about how he got his hopes up, only for the disappointment that no child of parents worthy of the name should ever face. And, he was really sweet, really natural and good with the kids. He broke a few stereotypes, did Leo, and all done very naturally.

Julian was a great dad to a couple of kids who were not the easiest to deal with, and I admired that he'd adopted them because of their difficulties, because he wanted them and knew he would and could give them a loving life, and he did. He was a bit of a pushover in some ways, but when a particular incident made him find his dad 'protector' credentials, the bad guy in the picture? Well, that guy got told, and that guy backed off. I loved how he found his confidence, how Leo supported him as a friend, and how his standing up to his nemesis made him seem bigger.

The kids came across as real. Ordinary kids who weren't angels, but who also weren't brats. No perfect, OTT kiddies with amazing skills and manners and vocabulary well ahead of their age range, like we often see in tales. Nope, these were real kids. Everyday kids, just with a little added extra that didn't faze Leo.

Julian's mum and sister were a hoot - mum encouraged him to get back out and date, and tried to pair him off with Leo, as well as finding herself a Morgan Freeman lookalike. His sister was an activist in the very best of ways: one with her heart and mind in the right place, and without a chip on her shoulder, and without attitude. And even her boyfriend and his family were just plain decent people with manners, with morals, even in the face of racism and bigotry.

Robert, the cheating ex, got what he deserved, in more ways than one. I kind of would have liked for this tale to have ended a ways down the line, so I could see how things panned out with him.

In fact, I wanted more of the tale for many reasons, as it felt as if the leads were building a HEA, though nothing was said or implied. It just had that feeling. I wanted more of the kids and Leo. I wanted more of Robert getting his dues. I wanted to see Julian's mum dating and doing things most OAPs don't do. I wanted to see how things panned out for Julian's 'I don't ever want to get married' sister, and her loving, family-orientated boyfriend. And I wanted to read more about Zane. Zane, the doggy daddy and the guy who's embracing the rest of his life following something life-changing.

I suspect the tale is one that's either part of a series, or linked to a series set in a beach community, and if so, no doubt Zane will get his own tale, from the hints that I got towards the end of this one. I'll be looking out for that.

For an intro to an author, this was a really sweet tale, despite the copious amount of overly descriptive sex that tbh, I ended up skipping. I think that sometimes authors expect that readers expect a certain quota of sex in a tale, but when it gets too detailed and too step-by-step, that's when I skip. Sometimes a little less is more, and a little imagination can work wonders.

ARC courtesy of the author and Bayou Book Junkie, for my reading pleasure.

No comments:

Post a Comment