Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Series or Standalone: Love Unexpectedly #5
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Childhood cancer; death of sibling from cancer
I’m not a big fan of holiday-themed romances, but I am a big fan of Lauren Layne and An Ex for Christmas is such a cute, quick holiday read. An Ex for Christmas feels like a Hallmark movie in book form with a hint of a rom-com like What’s Your Number mixed in. You go in knowing exactly how it will end, but it’s fun to see how Layne will get our two lead characters together.
Kelly Byrne is a major Christmas fan, while her best friend and neighbor Mark Blakely is not. Never without her Magic 8 ball to help make decisions, Kelly’s also trust fate to help make decisions. When a fortune teller on the subway tells her she’s already met the love of her life, Kelly becomes obsessed with tracking him down before Christmas. As she heads back to her hometown of Haven, she makes a plan to track down all her exes and use a mistletoe test to see if they’re the one. Her best friend Mark is not a fan of this plan, mainly because he’s been in love with Kelly since forever. As they spend the holidays together, the sexual tension ramps up and Kelly begins to see her best friend in a new light.
This book is a bit cheesy, which is exactly what I want from a holiday romance. Layne delivers on the holiday charm and pulls in many tropes from holiday and rom-com classics. We get mysterious fortune-tellers, kissing under the mistletoe, and a holiday parade with our heroine dressed as a sexy elf.
I can see some people getting annoyed with Kelly as her personality is overly bubbly and she’s very much a glass-half-full type of person. She can come across as a bit self-centered, and her obsession with Christmas was a bit much, but I can accept all that in a Christmas-themed romance. Mark, meanwhile, is the exact opposite. He’s a glass-half-empty, gruff, handsome, not a major Christmas fan best friend who also lives next door. Kelly and Mark are yin and yang, yet they have a decades-long friendship. He’s also secretly been in love with her since they were teenagers, yet Kelly has never noticed until now.
The writing in this one is not Layne’s finest, but it gets the job done. There were a few minor errors (like a quote attributed to the wrong character), but honestly, I’m not reading this book for phenomenal writing – I’m reading it for a feel-good romance. And that’s where Layne excels. No one can write swoon-worthy romances like Layne. She always manages to make classic romantic tropes feel fresh and new.
I loved watching Kelly discover her feelings for Mark and realizing that there might be more to their relationship than just being friends. The sexual tension between them is fire. There’s an incredibly sexy Christmas tree cutting scene – something I would never think could be sexy, but it is. Kelly is a bit obtuse when it comes to the romantic relationship with Mark, especially once they sleep together. She’s so obsessed with her ex-list that she doesn’t see the person who is her one true love is right in front of her face.
If you’re a fan of Hallmark Christmas movies, you’ll be a fan of An Ex for Christmas. The story isn’t groundbreaking, but Layne manages to make it fun and fresh. It hit the spot for a holiday romance – I wish I had read it curled up with some hot chocolate in front of a Christmas tree as that fits the mood perfectly. If you’re looking for a quick, light-hearted cute holiday read, pick this one up!