Emma is fed up with Valentine's Day, and in general, anything to do with romance. She moves in with her Italian grandmother, Noni, after her beloved grandpa, Poppi, dies. Emma relishes living in the old home filled with memories and the intimate time spent with her grandma. Her peace is short-lived, however, when her uptown mom moves in with a broken heart. With the spark of love dying between her parents, and her own sticky situation with a man by the name of Lane Forester causing her grief, Emma struggles to make sense of it all.
Melody Carlson is often known for her gritty teen novels/series. Lately, I've seen fewer of her original ideas being published, replaced instead with these light-hearted romances. What happened? She's penned over 200 books in varying genres and styles, but still, I was surprised to see her name printed across Once Upon a Winter's Heart. It's so different from what I remember of Melody Carlson.
I could see this as a perfect movie for the Hallmark Channel during Valentine's Day. So, why did Melody tackle this piece? Maybe Melody grew tired of the gutsy undertaking of the tween/teen genre. I'm guessing it was because she wanted to try her hand at writing something else, but we may never know why Melody switched.
The leading lady, Emma, named after a Jane Austen heroine, was steady and determined. Her focus was clear and her agenda was fleshed out well. The co-characters (besides Noni and Tristan) came across as emotionless and unfeeling. The leading man to win over Emma's heart lacked any real charm. His dull demeanor needed a hefty dose of enthusiasm. Because of this, he failed to reach out from the pages and convince me of his love for Emma.
I don't want to give the story away, but the relationship between Emma, her mother, and her younger sister, Anne, was overwhelmingly frustrating. The author tried to stress that Emma loved her sister and mother (which is understandable), but it seemed heavily pushed upon the reader. Their "love for each other" didn't convince me enough that they actually did.
I didn't feel much sympathy for Emma's selfish mother and sisterâ€”which was confusing. Was I supposed to care for these characters or did Melody wish for me to dislike them? I don't want to reveal any spoilers, but in the end, the story did not tie up Emma and Anne's relationship problems neatly. I wanted it to heal and mend. It was sort of disappointing.
Once Upon a Winter's Heart by Melody Carlson struck a par for me. It was okay. I recommend this book to women who like short reads with a tug-at-your-heart romance. It's perfect for Valentine's Day with a box of chocolates and a warm, cozy blanket.
This book was provided to me by Hachett Book Group in exchange for my honest review.
"Once Upon a Winter's Heart" is a great read; light hearted, but still makes you think about how we might handle the same situations Emma goes through. It's a great read for those that dread Valentine's Day, and for those that also love it! It takes us into the Burcelli family after the death of their beloved Poppi. Although in this book we didn't meet Poppi we come to know him through the family members that survive him. The characters are true to life in today's world, those we love immediately and those we just don't like, but hope that eventually they will embrace Poppi's thoughts on life. I would love to see more books with the same characters to find out what happens next in their lives.
Normally I like reading Melody Carlson. But this book was a disappointment. It bothered me that Anne and Sondra were so interested in being selfish and in seeking a divorce for no good reasons. The attitude of, "well, if marriage isn't what you expect then it's O.K. to leave," bothered me. Maybe this is how the world sees things. But Christians should have a stronger commitment to marriage.
For all who have given up hope in romance, Emma Burcelli is your kindred spirit! In the ups and downs of learning to love, many of us get a little jaded--Emma perhaps more than most. Her bitterness toward Valentine's Day is beautifully contrasted with her sweet (and sometimes mousy) personality. She is a complex character whose story makes you feel as though you're reading a friend's story.
What makes this story wonderful is that it doesn't give unrealistic expectations of love. Emma doesn't fall in love instantly and suddenly renounce her jaded spirit. Instead, her determined anti-Valentine's bitterness softens bit by bit until she begins regaining hope and learning to love.
Emma's story is a fast read with a gentle pace. Even though Valentine's Day has passed, her story still resonates.