Jeff Bellmoor is a workaholic, the founder and CEO of a sporting goods company, and desperate to stay connected to his deceased father. So when an accident damages the car he restored with his dad, Jeff is understandably upset. A year later, instead of traveling to California for the holidays like he always does, he instead heads back to his hometown of Lighthouse Bay. He left when he was 18 and never looked back, but he is trying to find that connection with his father, and heading to the town his dad loved seems like the way to do it. When Jeff gets the idea to revive the Christmas hockey tournament he participated in as a child, he’s shocked to see the man he has to talk to is the one who hit his beloved car a year ago.
Mika Jones is an actor, who made a bad mistake with his previous lover. But when his health takes a bad turn, he wants nothing more than to be home in Lighthouse Bay to get well and recover. It’s taken a year, but he’s finally in remission. And though he still has some lingering side effects, he’s doing his best. Working with Zach on the Christmas Market has helped keep him focused, and when Jeff reappears, Mika doesn’t remember him at first. But he doesn’t hesitate to put Jeff in his place.
The two men definitely have gotten off to a rough start, but since Jeff is determined to revive the tournament and sponsor it through his company, they have to work together. It doesn’t take long for them to move past their beginning and strike up a friendship. Jeff sees Mika for who he really is, and Mika might be oblivious to Jeff’s obvious interest, but he enjoys spending time together. As the days progress, feelings deepen, and Jeff woos Mika in an interesting and unique way. When they get a chance to spend a couple of days alone together, their relationship heats up.
But Mika made bad mistakes in the past, and he’s scared of doing the same thing again because when Mika goes back to work, they’ll be living on opposite coasts. The magic of the season may have brought them together, but is it enough to give them forever?
This is the second book in Amy Aislin’s Lighthouse Bay series, but it’s been two years since the first came out. I’ll admit, I was hard pressed to remember the first book, and it definitely took some time for me to bring back the details. For the first few pages, I was frustrated that I couldn’t remember, especially because it felt like I should. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Mika to remind the reader of the history, and then it all came flooding back. This one can be read as a standalone, as it’s not necessary to have read the first one for this story to make sense. But it did have an extra weight to it, once I remembered who Mika was and how he appeared in the first book.
I enjoyed this story, after those first few moments of frustration. Jeff and Mika are both in their forties, and there’s an easiness to them and their relationship that really worked for me. Yes, their beginning is fraught with tension, but they move past it quickly and believably. I really enjoyed how their relationship progressed, and how Jeff’s affection for and attraction to Mika really shone here. Mika, as I said, is a bit oblivious, but he’s adorable while doing it, and when he finally gets with the program, they work on just about every level. In particular, I liked how they were open with each other. Even though the timeline in the book is only a couple of weeks, it feels like longer in the best possible way. There’s a gentleness to their falling in love that absolutely worked for me.
I also liked how the author dealt with and showed Mika’s recovery from his illness, and how the effects of treatment still plague him. He’s doing his best, and he’s grown as a person because of it. Managing his now chronic issues is part of his life, but I liked that Mika knows his limits and takes care of himself. When Jeff finally gets the whole story, he jumps in to also make things easier for Mika, which I loved. I will make note here that in the first book, Mika is painted as a villain of sorts. And there’s reasons for that. But we see what was behind his choice to do what he did all those years ago, and we also see the regret and remorse.
This book is filled with holiday cheer, in particular because of the huge holiday celebration that Lighthouse Bay puts on. Jeff uses it to his advantage to woo Mika in a clever way. And there’s just a general Christmas vibe to everything that goes on. I also really appreciated that there’s no big miscommunication to drive these two apart. There’s not really a black moment at all. Instead, two men have found each other, are falling in love, and are working toward a life together.
All in all, I enjoyed this Christmas romance. The characters are well drawn and believable, and their romance is sweet. If you’re looking for a holiday romance, consider picking this one up. And as a side note, I’m looking forward to more in this series, and hope we get a holiday romance between two secondary characters in particular.