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Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

I'm a sucker for a Hallmark Christmas movie.  Okay, really, I'm a sucker for any Christmas/romantic comedy type TV movie (ion TV channel also has their own Christmas movies and Lifetime TV channel does as well... don't ask me how I know this; I just do).  However, I don't normally read Christmas themed novels.  Winter Street might be the first one for me.  But it's an Elin Hilderbrand novel, and we all know I love her books.  This is the sixth novel by Hilderbrand that I've read and the fifth that will be reviewed here on the blog.  Previously I've read and reviewed The Matchmaker, Silver Girl, Beautiful Day, The Island, and The Castaways.  You can click the links to read those reviews.  I've enjoyed them all, and I do recommend you try them out.  I've also read Summerland, but I didn't review it.  For some reason, I just didn't like that one so much.  But I have a lot to say about Winter Street.

At its core, like some of Hilderbrand's other novels, this is a family DRAMA (the caps are necessary, trust me) that takes place in the days prior to and on the day of Christmas.  This Christmas it seems that multiple Quinn family members' lives are spirally out to varying spectacular degrees, and each Quinn is dealing with a major life change--some joyous, some heartbreaking, some illegal--but none of them knows the freight train of heart ache that will be visited upon them as a family by the close of Christmas day.

The patriarch, Kelley, has literally walked in on his (second) wife, Mitzi, kissing (the man who plays) Santa Claus (at the family inn's annual holiday party).  The shocking discovery expedites that which would have taken place post-holidays: Mitzi grabs her two pre-packed suitcases and leaves with Santa.  But not before revealing the affair that has been ongoing for the past 12 (!!!) years with no one, least of all her husband, the wiser.  Mitzi leaves behind numerous holiday decoration collections, but nary a photo of Kelley and Mitzi's son, Bart, a recently deployed, newly minted U.S. Marine, is left behind.  (This really chaps my ass that she took all the photos of Bart; that isn't right.  At.  All.)

Eldest son, over achieving Patrick, is dealing with a crisis on multiple levels when he is placed on an indefinite leave of absence from his cushy hedge fund job pending the outcome of an internal ethics inquiry.  However, the inquiry quickly escalates into a federal legal investigation so the leave of absence is probably permanent.  Upon learning of the former inquiry, his wife takes the kids and goes to her parents for Christmas.  And while the investigation is very stressful, it's the absence of his wife and children that really puts Patrick into a tailspin.

Kevin, the middle child stuck in a dead end job, is hiding a secret romance from his family as well as preparing for some rather terrifying yet joyous life changes.

Ava, the youngest of Kelley's children of his first marriage, is struggling to hang on to the boyfriend she desperately loves and wishes would propose.  Yet not only does he seem to be on a different page regarding their relationship and commitment level, but he's also unexpectedly high tailed it home to Connecticut and the arms of a recently divorced former flame for Christmas.  Her beau is incommunicado for much of Christmas.  Also he's a selfish, self absorbed twit, and he takes Ava for granted.

Bart, the spoiled baby of the family and the only child of Kelley's second (failed) marriage, recently joined the Marines, one of the only options left at the end of a troublesome, trouble making, misspent youth.  Having been deployed to Afghanistan mere days ago, he has been unreachable and (justifiably) incommunicado since arriving in country, and his family, parents and siblings both, are worried sick about him and his lack of communication.

Also included in this story is the mother of the three older Quinn children, Margaret, a world famous, national broadcast network news anchor, who is looking forward to a holiday with her elusive boyfriend.  Margaret is Kelley's (first) ex-wife, and despite the implosion of their marriage over two decades ago, she continues to be very much a part of the family (to Mitzi's ever growing insecurity and consternation).  Thus, she tries to offer as much emotional support as she can to her kids and her ex in these trying times.

Meanwhile, Mitzi's abrupt departure has left her family and the inn staff in the lurch.  There's still the huge Christmas party to prepare for that many Nantucket natives are invited to and to which the Quinn children look forward each year.

So.  DRAMA.  First of all, this is a fast read, and it's hard to put down.  Second of all, Mitzi.  I do not like that she took all the photos of Bart.  That was not right at all.  Neither was her affair, but for some reason, the fact that she took all the photos of their son, the one who is deployed, really sticks in my craw.  Like Bart is Kelley's son too!  He misses him, he's worried about him, and HE NEEDS PHOTOS OF HIS SON TOO.

Some other notes (I told you I had a lot to say; don't say I didn't warn you).  Patrick brought his mess on himself because he got greedy, and he needs to lawyer up.  Kevin needs to man up already and propose to his woman.  And Ava needs to ditch that boyfriend and find someone who treats her better and loves her too.  Dump his ass, Ava.  DUMP.  HIS. ASS.  That's it.  The end.

As this dramatic family Christmas careens off into the evening and toward one spectacular (if hypocritical, really, Mitzi is a piece of work, okay, SHE LEFT; she's doesn't get to be angry and indignant about how Kelley and the family carry on in her wake) meltdown.  Just as this story is wrapping up (though in a not-too-neat bow), just as we think it'll end on a contented note with everyone on the path they need to be on (well, except for Patrick, who's probably going to jail), Hilderbrand throws in a big, ol' cliffhanger.  And it ends right there.  And now I want to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.  Is there a sequel?  An epilogue?  Nope, nothing (so far).

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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