Saturday, July 21, 2012

Christmas at Timberwoods by Fern Michaels

It's the most wonderful time of the year and for Heather Andrews, security manager at Timberwoods Mall, undoubtedly the busiest. But this Christmas, Heather has more to contend with than frazzled parents and disgruntled Santas. Angela Steinhart, a young woman who designed the mall's spectacular holiday displays, has had a premonition that tragedy will strike on Christmas Eve. And Angela's visions have a habit of coming true.

Heather would love to dismiss the warning as holiday stress. But the more she gets to know the quiet, lonely Angela, the more she trusts her. In Lex, her boss, Heather finds an ally and the glimmer of something more profound. And as the days count down, it will take all of her wits, hope, and unflagging courage to stop someone from destroying the season in one split second.

Type: Suspense?
Heat: 0 out of 4 absolutely none
Rating: 1.5 out of 5

This was my first time reading Fern Michaels and I was pretty floored by what I found. And unfortunately not in a good way. If Christmas at Timberwoods is typical of her writing I'm honestly amazed that she's a New York Times bestselling author. While there were some aspects to the book that I did enjoy and kept me reading I had two pretty major issues with the book that I just couldn't  seem to get past. 

1) Deceptive marketing--which really rubs me the wrong way

After reading the blurb and seeing the cover for this book I went in thinking it would have a kickass heroine that's strong, smart and saves the day. And with the threat against the mall there'd be some nice suspense going on.  And to top it off some heartwarming holiday romance happening between Heather and her boss to go along with the action. That would have made for a pretty awesome book, right? 

Well, none of that happened. The heroine with her claimed "wits, hope and unflagging courage" doesn't exist. At all. Heather plays such an incredibly minor role in the book I don't see how she can even be considered a main character. Her big part in the storyline was telling her boss she thinks the mall is in danger. And then she gets sent home to rest while the men take care of everything because she looks tired and shouldn't worry. The romance is practically non existent and all of the characters were either depressed, hopeless or hostile with multiple in need of serious mental help. Not at all what you'd expect with the cover and how the book was presented. 

And 2) the actual writing and story development.  

Really I think I could have overlooked the misleading marketing if the actual writing and storyline were well written because I like a gritty read just as much as a sweet fluffy one. But Christmas at Timberwoods struggled here too. The writing was choppy with no real transitions between POV changes and multiple spots that felt like big chunks of the story were missing which made for some very awkward reading. In one spot a chapter ends with the main couple leaving for their first date. The next 15 pages were about other characters. And then when you get back to the couple they're getting ready for their second date and talking about how "it'll be hard to top the first one!" I'm flipping back going "how the hell did I miss their date?" Well, I missed it because it wasn't there in any way, shape, or form. It was just glossed right over much like the rest of their relationship until [highlight for spoiler] on the very last page of the book he proposes. Because you have to have that obligatory proposal/HEA. Gah. Which again had me flipping back wondering how the relationship got to that point. 

There were also multiple secondary storylines where brand new characters were thrown in just to complain about the food they were eating and go on for pages about how they didn't have money to spend so they'd just put it on their credit cards because that's free money! Yay! Or a child dying of cancer and coming to the mall to meet Santa. They don't go anywhere or really provide any value other than making the book a little longer and leave me wondering what connection I was once again missing. 

The actual suspense/mystery behind the mall being threatened by a bomb explosion was laid out pretty much from the start and felt very outdated. Mostly due to the fact that the book was written pre 9/11 making a lot of the dialogue a bit ridiculous. Lines like "No one would dare blow up a mall! People just don't do things like that to innocent people! It's just a prank!" It was really hard to just go along with it when we all know better at this point.

The one thing I really DID like was Anglea. The troubled young woman who has visions of the mall's destruction. She's what kept me interested and reading the book until the end. Her flashvisions were well written and you could feel her terror and how scared they made her. It was heartbreaking to see her spiral out of control from lack of support and her fear. 

If you're like me and looking for a well thought out and heartwarming Christmas tale this is definitely not what you're looking for. Obviously Christmas at Timberwoods left me more frustrated than satisfied and I can't say it's one I'd recommend. But I know Michaels is a wildly popular author so her style must work for a lot of people out there so maybe it's right up your ally. I might give Michaels another try at some point down the line but I just don't know. 

Get Your Copy:   Amazon    Barnes&Noble    Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Are you a Fern Michaels fan? Is this her typical style of writing? 
Have you ever had an experience like this where you've read a very popular author and it really doesn't work for you? Do you give them another chance or move on to something new?

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