Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Once Upon a December by Amy Reichert
Published by Berkley on October 4, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, Apple
With a name like Astra Noel Snow, holiday spirit isn't just a seasonal specialty--it's a way of life. But after a stinging divorce, Astra's yearly trip to the Milwaukee Christmas market takes on a whole new meaning. She's ready to eat, drink, and be merry, especially with the handsome stranger who saves the best kringle for her at his family bakery.
For Jack Clausen, the Julemarked with its snowy lights and charming shops stays the same, while the world outside the joyful street changes, magically leaping from one December to the next every four weeks. He's never minded living this charmed existence until Astra shows him the life he's been missing outside of the festive red brick alley.
After a swoon-worthy series of dates, some Yuletide magic, and the unexpected glow of new love, Astra and Jack must decide whether this relationship can weather all seasons, or if what they're feeling is as ephemeral as marshmallows in a mug of hot cocoa.
The holidays are known as a magical time of the year. But what if Christmas is truly magic? A divorced librarian is out with her friends when she discovers the Christmas Market in Milwaukee. That baker who makes sensational coffee and kringle catches her eye. But, he knows a secret. This isn’t their first encounter. Amy Reichert blends sweet holiday romance with magical realism in her latest standalone that’s a perfect pick to fully immerse readers in all the feels of Christmas and romance.
Astra Snow goes every year to the Milwaukee Christmas market, but for many years it was always the first time and she never remember the previous encounters with handsome and darling Jack Clausen. She’s a divorced librarian fighting with her ex for custody of their dog and he only wants Bernie because he knows she does.
Jack Clausen lives in a magical always Christmas market that visits locations around the world for a month and then continue on leaving the people with no memory that the market even existed. He loves the holiday spirit, snow, decorations, and particularly his job as baker, but the growing feelings for Astra make him want to dare to step outside his routine and try for something more- romance that is longer than the time of his visit. Time moves swiftly and they come to the dreaded conclusion that one of them must give up their world.
Once Upon a December doesn’t stint on the Christmas atmosphere, setting, and activities particularly because much of the setting is a magical Christmas market. At first, I was as lost as Astra as to what was really happening. It was confusing and fun. She is intrigued by the gorgeous baker and needs the step away from reality. Her bad divorce and ongoing struggle with her ex was tough. Astra tended to be passive at first and let Trent walk all over her, but I loved seeing what being around Jack did for her sense of worth and saw her get some of her own back.
There were dragging parts where not much seemed to be happening plot-wise and a lot of time was spent on descriptions- descriptions of what Jack did and descriptions of what Astra did for a living and to keep busy, but it was sweet romance and tender bonding between the pair as they learned about each other so not an utter waste. I was definitely hungry for kringle and was not disappointed to see her librarian work was not vague and was a big part of her life since her dream of husband and family was gone. It was an immersive experience into the holiday day season.
All in all, I had fun with this modern holiday version of Brigadoon and it was all I was expecting in a holiday romance that included magic. Those who want something sugary sweet and far from stark realism should slip this onto your list for Santa
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