Series: Christmas Camp #1
Published by William Morrow on October 16, 2018
Source: the publisher
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From the screenwriter of the Netflix Original viral hit, A Christmas Prince, comes another heartwarming holiday story about a beautiful Grinch who’s determined to get her dream job even if it means spending a week at a Christmas Camp where she discovers an unexpected love.
Haley Hanson’s idea of the perfect Christmas is escaping to the Caribbean to work so she can avoid all the traditional Christmas distractions. Over the years, she’s sacrificed her personal life to climb the corporate ladder at a prestigious Boston advertising agency. Now she just needs to land a coveted Christmas toy company account to make partner. But first, her boss, Larry, thinks she needs a holiday attitude adjustment, so he ships her off to a Christmas Camp at Holly Peak Inn to help her find her Christmas spirit.
Arriving at the charming mountainside inn, Haley meets the owner’s handsome son, Jeff, and feels an instant spark, but resists the attraction, refusing to be distracted from her goal of doing all the required Christmas tasks as fast as possible so she can get back to work.
At first Haley struggles with all the traditional Christmas Camp activities. It’s not until she finally allows herself to slow down, live in the moment, and let Christmas back into her heart, that she begins to grow closer to Jeff. But when he finds out Haley’s come up with a plan to help his dad save the struggling inn while he’s been trying to convince his dad to sell it, their relationship takes a serious holiday hit. Now it will take the magic of the season to bring these two hearts together.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler is the perfect grab-some-hot-chocolate, snuggle-with-a-blanket, feel good holiday story. It is positively dripping with Christmas and I love everything about it.
Haley works in advertising in Boston and dreams of becoming partner. She needs to land a huge campaign to clench the partnership, but that campaign centers around a Christmas theme. The problem is that Haley doesn’t celebrate the holidays at all and wouldn’t know about creating a Christmas-themed campaign if her life depended on it. Her boss decides to send her to Christmas Camp before he’ll even entertain her marketing pitch. Haley will be “enjoying” a week-long, all-inclusive Christmas intensive with a few other guests hosted by Ben and Jeff, an aging inn owner and his son. Ben absolutely loves Christmas and has been hosting these camps for years to share the joy of the holidays with people of all types. He used to host along with his wife, but sadly she is no longer alive to host with him, so his son has stepped in to help him carry on the Christmas Camp tradition.
At Christmas Camp, Haley meets couples that are looking to reconnect over the holiday, those that are alone for the first time over the holiday, and holiday enthusiasts just wanting to be around more Christmas. But she’s really the only one there without any desire for Christmas. She sneaks her laptop and phone so she can work whenever she can even though it is against the rules. This is a little frustrating for the hosts and the other participants, but over the course of the week, Haley’s begins to enjoy the holidays festivities little by little. Making snow angels, enjoying Christmas cookies and other treats, cutting down her own tree and decorating it with her own theme – these things become something that she enjoys rather than a burden, and she is able to relax rather than stress over the work she is missing.
This is a fairly straightforward story of person-who-hates-Christmas learning to confront why they dislike Christmas, then learning to have some holiday spirit. I love stories like this with main characters that almost seem Scrooge-like or Grinch-like that end up eventually softening their hearts. This one reminds me of Sarah Morgan’s Sleigh Bells in the Snow, although it is much less romance-y than Ms. Morgan’s story. Christmas Camp is overall a more feel-good story that I love because of all of the characters in it and because of everything that they do, and it just happens to have a very slow-burn romance with a little bit of promise at the end. (Hint: If you’re looking for a holiday romance-y romance, you are not going to find that here.)
I already added it to my yearly holiday reads rotation because it was super fun and I’d love to read it again. The setting is good, although I can’t remember which state the inn is set. I’m pretty sure it is definitely in the northeastern US, somewhere not too far off from Boston, which is where the characters live when they’re not at the inn. (Perhaps the inn location is mentioned in the story but I don’t remember.) At any rate, I love the inn with the snow and hills and forests, and the feeling of community and family between the hosts and guests. The Christmas vibe is also very present with the trees and decorations and hot chocolate and foods and activities. I think these may be the things I love most about the book, after the characterization which is fantastic.
It was a great idea for the author to place so many different types of characters in the camp together because I cared so deeply for all of them and felt curious about their lives beyond just how Haley saw them. Like Gail, for example, who is alone for Christmas because her son in the military is serving time overseas. And John, who is a divorced physician who works long hours, but is at camp with his two teenage children so he can spend quality time making memories with them over the holidays because they are growing up and will soon be moving out as adults. Great characterization made this story full and rich and robust.
The front of the book mentioned, in all-caps across the top, that this will soon be a “major TV movie” and that is exciting. But I honestly cannot imagine the movie being any better than this book. This is exactly the type of Christmas story most of us are looking for when we are making our holiday reading lists. A follow-up isn’t necessary at all, but I would definitely read it because I’m curious about what is next for the Christmas Camp itself and for Amelia and Jeff, and the rest of the guests from the camp. I’ll be revisiting this again in future holiday seasons. I love, love, love finding a good book to add to my Christmas reading list.