Bride Needs Groom

The Nine Month Plan


The Best Gift by Wendy Markham
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, G) ISBN 978-0-451-22844-4
The Best Gift is billed as an unforgettable book and a wonderful holiday romance. The best thing that I have to say about it is that the story certainly isn’t predictable.

Clara Becker is a happily married woman who has just found out that she’s pregnant with her first child, and she plans to tell her husband Drew on Christmas morning. On Christmas morning, Drew surprises Clara with a puppy and Clara tells Drew about the baby. What would have been a very exciting day turns sour when an earthquake rocks the San Florentina area where they live. 

Suddenly, Clara is catapulted forward three years to another Christmas. She finds herself in a packed-up house, Drew isn’t anywhere to be found, and there’s no evidence that the baby she was pregnant with three years earlier has ever been born. She quickly finds a newspaper that’s reporting the three-year anniversary of a massive earthquake in the area. The Christmas Day earthquake that Clara remembers was only a very small one compared to the Big One that came along afterward. 

Clara jumps wildly to conclusions, thinking that Drew has left her, and she can’t find anyone she knows well enough to ask about what’s been happening in her life for the years she’s missed. However, she does find a few people who know her that she doesn’t remember, leading to some strange, choppy meetings. 

Clara is transported numerous times back and forth between now and three years later, becoming more confused and acting strangely while she tries to puzzle out how her future can look so bleak. There is also a great deal of back story involved in the telling of this tale, as the story of Clara and Drew falling in love was detailed in Markham’s If Only in My Dreams. In that book, Clara time-travels and meets Drew first in the past and then later as a reincarnated man her age. When they meet they have a quick courtship and marry. Clara had never explained to Drew that she time traveled, or explained about his previous life. She decides to tell him about all of it after her time-traveling in The Best Gift, which causes major marriage strain as Drew feels completely betrayed.

Clara tries to deal with Drew’s anger while she desperately searches for answers to her jumpy time-travel Christmases.

The Best Gift had an interesting premise, but it didn’t play out well for me. The time-traveling is confusing and annoying as the reader has very little clue about what’s going on. Not having read If Only in My Dreams, I was extra frustrated because the book really isn’t a stand-alone story, it’s more of an add-on to the previous book.

Neither Clara nor Drew are particularly memorable. Their marriage seems lukewarm at best, unless you consider the perfunctory “I love you” comments or Drew bringing home melted ice cream for the pregnant Clara romantic.

There are a host of background characters that add to the melee, most of the time Clara doesn’t know who they are or what they are referring to, and neither did this reader . I think my biggest issue with The Best Gift was that I simply didn’t care what happened in the story, because I didn’t love Clara or Drew and I didn’t understand the point the story was leading to. Unless you’re a fan of Wendy Markham’s and you loved If Only in My Dreams, I wouldn’t recommend The Best Gift

--Amy Wroblewsky    

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