A Fool's Gold Christmas - Fools Gold series, Book 9.5

Author: Susan Mallery

Publisher: Harlequin HQN

Release Date: September 25, 2012

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4


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The thing that I love most about Susan Mallery's books is that they're so easy to read.  It's like sitting down with an old friend and catching up—whether you read the series or not.  A FOOL'S GOLD CHRISTMAS centers on the small town's celebrations while two people try to avoid getting involved in them.  The main couple's repartee made for some entertaining reading.  The quirky antics of the residents and their unusual holiday celebrations add a spark to an already fun time of the year.  Even the animals get into the season's celebrations so animal lovers will get their fix too.

Dante Jefferson moved to Fool's Gold, California to set up his law practice with his business partner, Rafe Stryker.  Dante is not a fan of holidays or the cozy-family-thing since the death of his mother.  Feeling that her death was his fault, Dante has sworn off love so that he will never hurt anyone else.  But how can he ignore the holidays when the dance instructor and her students are clomping above his head everyday, getting ready for the big season production?  He should be especially leery since he has just realized that the sexy dance instructor is Rafe's sister.  He shouldn't have anything but platonic thoughts about his best friend's sister.  Dante soon realizes that even though the dancers are noisy, often interrupting his work schedule, he can't contain his attraction to their instructor, with or without Rafe's approval.

Evie Stryker's family meant well when they brought her to Fool's Gold to recover from her injury.  Evie's dancing career is over but relying on her estranged family's assistance is beyond what she can endure so she accepts the dance instructor job and moves into a townhouse temporarily.  She did not expect the other instructor to run off with her boyfriend and leave Evie to handle the season production of "The Dance of the Winter King" alone.  In addition to that, she has her brother's bossy business partner, who is also too attractive for Evie's sanity, stressing about the noise and tempting her into a friendship that she's sure she will regret.  Evie just wants to stay in Fool's Gold long enough to heal her injury, satisfy her student's expectations for the year end show and then move on somewhere else, away from the family who never loved her enough in the past.

Right away I was caught up in the witty exchange between Dante and Evie when they first meet.  Evie is beyond exasperated with the responsibilities that are now hers.  All Dante wants is to have the cloggers stop their incessant noise so he can finish his contract negotiations by phone in Shanghai.  His office is below the dance studio so unless they come to an understanding, one of them is going to have to leave and it's definitely not going to be Dante.  He never backs down.

When Evie discovers that Dante lives in the townhouse next door to her, and he arrives home bearing food with an invitation to join him, she knows she's doomed.  They settle in for food and wine together, where a friendship begins and much more promises to follow if their undeniable attraction to each other has any influence.

What I liked best from the beginning of A FOOL'S GOLD CHRISTMAS is the dialogue between Dante and Evie.  Their constant teasing back and forth was guarded, yet flirty.  Neither one of them wants a relationship, so they agree to help each other through the upcoming holiday season that they both despise.  Dante or Evie don't feel any special family bonding so it's them against the family-feel of Fool's Gold.  It seems simple enough but the reader knows that this sassy spark that they have going will surely develop into more.  That's the best part, knowing that they're meant for each other, even though they have some very rocky roads to go through to get there.

Fans of Susan Mallery's FOOL'S GOLD series will enjoy the cameo appearances of other characters from previous books.  As someone who hasn't read the series, I found that the catch-up with the various characters toward the middle of the book slowed it down a bit for me.  I had become very attached to Dante and Evie, so I was in a hurry to find out what happened next.  That said, I didn't feel lost as the characters' relationships were explained; I was just anxious to read more about Dante and Evie.

An emotional story about family dynamics and forgiveness, A FOOL'S GOLD CHRISTMAS showcases the protective nature of family.  Susan Mallery's characterization is fun-loving and addictive.  You're sure to shed a tear before Evie allows her estranged family's love to enfold her, but the upbeat repartee will keep you smiling.

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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