All I Want For Christmas
by Sheila Rabe
(Jove, $6.99, G) ISBN 0-515-12925-9
I’m embarrassed to admit that when I saw All I Want For Christmas among the books I had to review this month, I immediately slipped it to the bottom of the pile. A holiday story featuring a heroine named Suzi Christmas and a hero known as Nicholas Claus? This book would surely be responsible for a saccharine overdose in this old curmudgeon of a reviewer. Well, I’m happy to report I couldn’t have been more wrong.

All I Want For Christmas immerses the reader in the true meaning of Christmas, without becoming overly sentimental.

Single mom Susan Carpenter is known throughout the town of Angel Falls as Suzi Christmas. Every holiday season the Carpenter home is transformed into a enchanting Christmas wonderland. Miles of blinking lights blanket the home and yard. A glowing plastic Santa complete with mechanical reindeer perch on the roof. Holiday music fills the air and even a nativity scene with live actors and animals holds a prominent position in the Carpenter front yard. Suzi, dressed as a jolly Mrs. Claus, welcomes the many who visit nightly with candy canes for the children and a large crate for the adults to leave canned food for the hungry.

Luke Potter is appalled. He can see why his tenants moved out of the house next door to the Carpenter’s. It was nearly impossible to get to the house with all the traffic. No wonder he got such a great deal on the place when he bought it. And his poor godfather, Don Rawlins, lives right across the street from this mess.

As far as Luke is concerned, the only good thing about Christmas is the increase in business the holiday brings to his computer stores.

When his godfather offers to finance Luke’s newest store if he will join his lawsuit claiming Susan Carpenter’s holiday display is a neighborhood nuisance, Luke immediately agrees. After all, she is responsible for his empty rental property.

But Luke’s ne’er-do-well brother Ben has another idea. Ben meets Susan in her job as the owner of a singing telegram company called Yours-For-A-Song and recognizes that Susan is just what his workaholic brother needs. He hatches a plan to have Susan deliver a singing telegram to Luke.

Knowing Susan would never agree to perform for the man who was suing her, Ben pulls out the ridiculous name of “Nicholas Claus” as his brother’s alias, and Susan can’t resist meeting the man who’s very name exudes the holiday spirit.

She delivers the telegram and as Ben expected, Luke is immediately hooked on this warm and loving woman. They begin dating and things quickly become serious. But what will happen when Susan discovers “Nick” is really Luke, the man who’s out to destroy everything that is important to her?

Author Sheila Rabe sets up a quite an impossible conflict, leaving me intrigued to see how she would extricate Luke from the deep pit he dug for himself. I am happy to report the resolution was convincing, with several surprises along the way.

Luke’s development from a Scrooge reviled by an entire town into a man filled with the holiday spirit, is nicely handled. Even Susan, who could easily have become too good to be true, displayed a fine amount of backbone when the going got tough.

There’s a secondary romance that seems a bit too coincidental and a couple of cases of vomitus interruptus that had me nervous every time Susan’s son, Willie, got near a plate of food. But other than that, this book passed my put down test. Once started, it was nearly impossible to put down.

For readers who are movie buffs, this book will be a particular treat. There are references to A Christmas Carol, It’s A Wonderful Life, Star Wars, even Joe vs. The Volcano. As I read it, Miracle on 34th Street and the character Linus Larrabee from Sabrina came to mind. If you’re in the mood for a Christmas romance reminiscent of those classic holiday films, you’ll want to add All I Want For Christmas to your holiday shopping list.

--Karen Lynch

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