|When I was assigned a Janet Dailey novel to review, people kept saying to me, “Janet
Dailey? She’s big, you know. She’s a best seller.” So I had high hopes going into
Santa in Montana, as it’s the eighth book in the Calder series. Maybe if I had
read the seven that came before it, I might have enjoyed it more, or understood more of
what was going on.
From what I was able to gather, Santa in Montana is supposed to focus on
Cat Calder and her journey in finding a partner after the death of her husband several
years prior. Cat, like pretty much every Calder, lives on the Calder family-owned Triple
C Ranch in Montana. She lives with her father and five other relatives. Cat focuses
her attention on taking care of her aging father, Chase. Her father, however, has other
plans. To get Cat to stop pestering him, he calls a family friend’s son and asks him to
come out and see the ranch.
Wade is that family friend and he has always wanted to see the Triple C Ranch. While
he is there on business he meets Cat and he is attracted to her. The business is a
mystery up until the very end of the book, and when it is revealed, I was left to wonder if
Wade was even there for Cat in the first place, but I’m going to assume he was at least
partially there to meet her. He asks her out and she declines, but then retracts her ‘no’
and says ‘yes.’
Wade and Cat decide to go out for dinner and Wade comes back to the ranch. They
hit it off, grab dinner, share a dance and a few kisses and then Wade goes home.
What got under my skin is that those few kisses and some hand-holding is the extent of
the romance. Christmas is a romantic holiday, and while yes, Cat and Wade are older,
they’re not dead. Last time I checked, sex wasn’t only for the young. Not that the book
needed sex, but a little something to let me know that Santa in Montana is a
romance novel and not simply a story that had some Disney caliber romance added in
for good measure.
The big Christmas climax scene had very little to do with Cat and Wade. Cat just so
happened to be in the room. That was the extent of her participation. I was led to
believe that Santa in Montana was supposed to be primarily about Cat, so why
isn’t she participating more?
I will give Dailey credit for creating interesting and varied characters, which is difficult
when you have a massive family featured in one novel. I didn’t figure out who everyone
is and what their relations are to each other until the end of the first third of the book,
but they were interesting people. Jake, the grandson, was full of energy and was
very well done. Watching Jake bound around through different scenes was a hoot.
The Triple C Ranch is massive, complicated, intricate and impressive. The Triple C lived
up to expectations and I enjoyed being taken all over it by Dailey. There were some
parts that had nothing to do with the book that felt to me like unnecessary tangents.
Perhaps they are explained in other novels.
In my opinion, books about Christmas and the Christmas spirit should give you that
warm, fuzzy holiday feeling and that happy and settled feeling a good romance novel
leaves you with. This book had neither. To me, it felt more like a story that just so
happened to take place in the fall and winter and Christmas just so happens to occur
every year in the winter, so Dailey threw in some scenes about making Christmas treats
and putting up Christmas lights. I will give the book credit for one cute Christmas scene
in which Cat’s grandson Jake participates in the ranch’s annual Christmas concert.
Overall, I felt like Christmas took a back seat to the day-to-day lives of the Calder family
and to Cat and Wade’s (barely) budding romance. Christmas had very little to do with
any of it.
All in all, if you’re looking for a book to get you in the Christmas spirit, look elsewhere.
Santa in Montana is more about family and ranch life then it is about romance