A Christmas by the Sea (Melody Carlson)

A Christmas by the Sea (Melody Carlson)

**Spoiler Alert**
I’ve read other books by Ms. Carlson before and enjoyed them, but this one was a bit too unbelievable to make it truly enjoyable. This was a short book (only 4 hours, 30 minutes on audio) and perhaps this is the problem. If the author had written this as a full length novel and expanded things out, it probably would have worked. As is though, it’s just not believable.

Wendy, a widowed, single mother, and her 12-year-old son Jackson make a road trip to Maine to fix up and sell her grandparent’s seaside cottage, which she has inherited. Wendy thinks selling this cottage will be the answer to getting their lives back on track financially, after losing her husband to cancer a couple of years back. Jackson wants to stay in Maine and not return to Ohio … he sees this as a chance for a new life. This entire premise is nice and makes for a nice story, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired.

First off, although I get that Jackson’s character wants to start over and have a new life in Maine, he’s just a little to “good” for a 12-year-old boy … he’s way too accommodating, helpful, etc. Not to say that a 12-year-old boy can’t be a nice and helpful kid, but he just seems too much so — I mean, he enrolls himself in school in a ploy to get them to be able to stay (which really, maybe things are different in Maine, but I don’t think a 12-year-old can really self enroll and the parent only sign the papers the kid brings home).

Secondly, the entire book takes place in about 2 weeks time. They drive from Ohio to Maine, fix up and clean out a cottage and have it ready to sell in two weeks. The day after they arrive in town they have a handyman come out to check out the bathroom floor. He tells them the floor needs to be ripped up, so Wendy agrees to have him do the work. A couple of pages later, Jackson tells her that the handyman says some of the floor joists need to be replaced. A week later (or less), not only is that bathroom floor fixed, the entire bathroom is done … they were painting walls before the bathroom floor was done?!?! I’ve done enough home improvements in my lifetime to know that redoing a bathroom takes longer than that, especially when it’s just a handyman working part time and a mother and 12-year-old doing the work … and usually you don’t paint the walls until the very end. When she’s buying paint at the hardware store, she buys only 1-quart for the kitchen cabinets … which she also manages to paint in about a day’s worth of time.

Wendy also goes back and forth between wanting to sell the cottage and wanting to find a way to stay in Maine. The only thing she ever really considers is trying to sell seashell art, and while I’m sure there are some established businesses out there that do that, it seems rather unrealistic to me that she could think she could really support herself and Caleb doing this … especially when there is already a well established store in town that does this. She has a marketing background, but never looks into other options she may have or whether or not she could work remotely for a business in a larger city, in order to allow her to stay in Maine.

Lastly, right off the bat, Wendy meets Caleb, and although it is obvious there is attraction there and they are starting to have a bit of a relationship, when he drops to one knee in the last few pages and asks him to marry her, when they have kissed once and really have only spent one evening together that could even remotely be considered a date …. it’s just not believable.

I wish the author had expanded this out to be a full fledged novel. I think it could have been a pretty good novel.  If you don’t mind reading a book that is a bit unbelievable, this one is fine, but I’d recommend the author’s “Christmas at Harrington’s” over this title.

A Christmas by the Sea Book Cover A Christmas by the Sea
Melody Carlson
Christian Fiction
Fleming H. Revell
September 2018
Available in hardcover, audio and eBook formats
169 pages (4 hours, 34 minutes on audio)

When Wendy Harper inherits her family's beachside cottage in Seaside, Maine, she sees it as a way to finally pay off the debts that have mounted since her husband died. But before it can be sold, the neglected property must be renovated. She and her 12-year-old son Jackson move in--temporarily, she reminds him--in order to do the work themselves, even though Christmas is coming. The charming town, along with local craftsman Caleb Colton, pulls on both Wendy and Jackson, who even registers himself for school in a bid to get his mom to move them there permanently. Wendy knows that the most responsible thing to do is to sell the cottage and return to Ohio, but the lure of the sea is hard to resist.

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