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The Gift is a book by Nora Roberts containing two short stories with a Christmas theme. Christmas is my favourite time of year and Nora Roberts is one of the my favourite authors so when I found this book for 80p in a charity shop I had to buy it. I don't tend to read many short stories but sometimes I think it's nice to read a short, romance story when you're in need of something to cheer you up quickly and you just want to get to the happy ending with minimal angst. I got exactly what I expected with this book.
-Home for Christmas-
The first story, Home for Christmas, is about Jason, a small town boy who wanted to see the world. He left his home town with big dreams and every intention of setting up a life for him and his girlfriend, Faith but when he finally calls home six months later Faith is married to someone else and pregnant.
Ten years later Jason is a world famous journalist and he's returning home to finally get Faith out of his mind and move on. When he returns Faith is divorced and he finds that he doesn't want to move on.
The problem that I always find with short romance stories is that there is never enough time to build up a believable, long lasting relationship, unless you skip over some major parts of the romance. Roberts manages to get around that very well in this story by giving Jason and Faith a history together. A lot of the relationship build up has to assumed because there isn't enough time to go into great detail about their background but this works quite well because their history together is so ordinary and you never feel like you've missed out on anything by not hearing about their initial relationship in detail.
Jason and Faith's story is very sweet and for many people very idyllic. Personally I can't stand the idea of getting married, having kids and living in a nice house in a little village but this didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story. Some novels it's nice to put yourself in the novel and let it feed your own dreams and ambitions but sometimes it's just nice to read someone elses happy ending. I think people who can relate more to Faith, a woman who wants to settle down with the man she loves and have more children, will get more out of this story than I did or will at least enjoy it in a different way.
There is one part of the story that is meant to be a big twist but it's so predictable that I spent the whole book thinking, just find out already! I think that Roberts should have just stuck to a straight forward romance story and not bothered trying to add any excitement. It doesn't add to the story, it just frustrates the reader.
-All I Want For Christmas-
For Christmas twins Zeke and Zack want the mum. Not a mum, the mum. And they're willing to give up most of their Christmas presents from Santa to get her. When they meet music teacher Nell Davis they know that she's the mum but will their father Mac agree?
Surprisingly I actually preferred this story to the first. Generally stories that focus too much on children annoy me but the twins in this story are just so cute and I actually found myself enjoying the interaction between the twins as much as I enjoyed the interaction between Mac and Nell. It was just so sweet and innocent and at times really amusing. Roberts really seems to know how children think and at times I could remember so clearly thinking similar things when I was a child. Some of what they say and do is really amusing and I thought that they added some comedy.
I loved the romantic story line in this story. It was very siimple and perfect for the length of the short story. Roberts does have to skip over periods of time in order to make the story work (who would believe in a romance that happens in a week?) but again she manages to do so in a way that makes the reader feel more like they've missed out on all the boring stuff that happens between the meeting and the happily ever after rather than missing out on anything important.
Although this story is short the characters were remarkably well developed and not at all two dimensional. This is definitely one of the better short stories that I've read in the romance genre and Roberts seems to have a knack for being able to convey a lot of information in very few words which is of course perfect for a story of this length.
Overall I enjoyed this book. The first story is written in the early 80s and the second in the early 90s and you can really see the difference both in the storylines and the writing style. The first story would probably be better suited for people who are more traditional and want a more traditional happy ending (marriage and children) whereas the second I would recommend more for women who still want a husband and children but want the career to go with it. The second story seemed to flow a lot better than the first and I think you can really see how much Nora Roberts writing has improved in the decade between writing the first and the second.
Both stories were real feel good stories and left me feeling a lot better than I had when I started reading them.
I'm going to give this book 3 stars, but if there was an option it would be 3.5. This book is enjoyable, it's sweet and it will leave you feeling good but there's nothing really special about it. Roberts writes very well in my opinion but the storylines are just too ordinary for them to really stand out and in another month I really doubt that I'll even remember these stories.