Why would a single mom who’s getting her PhD in psychology work for a department store during the holiday season? The answer is more compelling than you think.
There’s a lot about this book that reminds me of the Hallmark Channel holiday rom-coms. You have a single mom working in a Santa Monica department store after she gets laid off her therapy job with children. There’s the charming love interest, the grownup “mean girl” rivals, and quirky coworkers. What makes this book Catholic, however, is that there’s also a kindly priest who plays a supporting role in this story. Likewise, the theme of gift giving leads to spiritual insights into true gifts.
Jonquil Bloom is quite happy working at Children’s Home where she can develop her research project about “The Psychodynamics of Gift-Giving.” However, due to budget cuts, Jonquil gets laid off from work. She assures her son Billy that she can find employment at a local department store, it being the Christmas season. Jonquil starts at the perfume department, but customers store wide find value in her gift suggestions. Soon, she gets promoted to Holiday Gift Counselor, a dream come true.
Of course, having this new job comes with a whole new set of problems. Jonquil is “highly encouraged” to promote products sold at the department store. A conflict arises with the head buyer who doubts her loyalty to the store. The head buyer and Jonquil’s former boss at Children’s Home are the grownup “mean girls” who constantly question Jonquil’s work ethic and skills.
On top of that, Jonquil is dealing with the lingering grief of her husband’s death. Her husband died in a tragic fire accident seven months before Billy was born and ever since then, Jonquil has been avoidant of new romantic relationships. She’s also avoidant of owning a new pet, as the family dog also died in the fire.
However, shortly after taking on the new department store job, Jonquil begins a romance with a construction manager. She also has a supportive circle of friends. Father Tim Moran, a retired parish priest, is described as being practically family to her. She also has friends from her old job at the Children’s Home as well as a friend who works with her in the department store. Jonquil’s son, Billy, is finding his own special talent in taking care of animals. It starts with him pet-sitting for one of his neighbors and develops into his own little business.
Jonquil’s hardworking ethic is quite admirable and relatable. Billy is a very precocious, adorable child. And the romance between Jonquil and the construction manager is a very sweet slow burn. Her new love is an honorable, forthright man who starts out as just a friend of the family, but his reliability and handsome demeanor are very endearing qualities.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a cozy, nostalgic holiday read.