Greg Cabot is the 3rd generation owner of Cabot’s Christmas Wonderland, a tree farm in rural Vermont he inherited from his father and grandparents, who began the farm. Greg’s lived in the house where his parents and grandparents raised their families, and he’s ready to sell and move on, because his one and only child, Sam, died ten months ago in an ambush in Afghanistan. Despondent, Greg can’t feel the cheer of Christmas anymore, and that’s not the kind of attitude he can have while running a seasonal business. When a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep—addressed from Sam—it’s almost more than Greg can bear.
A chance encounter unites Greg and Sergeant Robbie Sparks when Greg picks up the military vet hobbling on the roadside, hitchhiking, in the face of a snowstorm. Robbie doesn’t have a home awaiting him for Christmas. His parents are dead and he’s only just recovered from a debilitating injury suffered in Afghanistan. He has a permanent limp and some scarring, but he’s on his feet again and not really sure what his future holds. But Robbie remembers the stories of the tree farm he heard from his fellow soldier, and he has one last mission to complete. It’s likely fate that Robbie’s immediately attracted to Greg, and he isn’t too proud to accept Greg’s extemporaneous offer of a job at the tree farm, including room and board. The farmhouse is more welcoming than Robbie’d expected, especially once he convinces Greg to break out the holiday decorations. Their easy companionship breathes new life into these grieving men and healing begins.
This is a sweet and tender romance, watching two brokenhearted, lonely men begin to build a friendship, and an unexpected love. I really enjoyed how Robbie showed Greg that he had a family of people around him—that he wasn’t just one lonely man. All his staff are super dedicated to the business, as are the customers who return year after year; Robbie helps Greg to see it for the priceless experience it is. Not to mention the precious memories Greg holds about his home and the farm that no buyer could ever know. Meanwhile, there’s a homophobic neighbor who’s lurking in the wings, hoping to buy Greg’s land for a song, and his conniving ways cause big problems. Expect some steamy moments to balance out the struggles, and a bold and bright future that is big enough for everyone to share.
I flew through this story in a morning and enjoyed being in both Greg and Robbie’s headspace. The pacing is well driven, with a run-up to the holidays that lasts a few weeks, giving Robbie and Greg time to determine that they are well-suited, and able lean against each other to prop themselves up. It’s sweet to meet Sam’s mom, who is a good friend of Greg’s from high school. She really helps Greg embrace the love he’s building with Robbie, especially once Robbie shares his secret about knowing Sam. Watching these men shed their grief and embrace the love that exists all around them is so heartwarming. Experiencing their happy ending is just pure enjoyment.