A small-town, interracial romance with holiday spirit.
CHRISTMAS IN ROSE BEND
by Naima Simone
"Nessa Hunt didn't do Christmas. As an ER nurse, she had seen the worst that humanity had to offer during the holiday season."
Christmas In Rose Bend is a feel-good Christmas story with just a touch of angst. I had the pleasure of meeting Naima Simone, the author, this past at Apollycon after I was drawn in by the cover. (In my defense, it's never too early to find a good holiday read). She immediately sold me by telling me it had everything I look for in a holiday romance: a small town, a Black main character, a pinch of drama, and lots of spice.
Nessa and Ivy are estranged half-sisters that find themselves spending the month of December in Rose Bend due to their father, Issac's, dying wish. With the only family, Ivy has left in the world, Nessa finds herself the guardian of a grieving tween. Now Nessa must not only figure out how to navigate this new role but deal with her mother's deathbed confession, which she must now keep secret. Despite her reservations, Christmas magic ensues, and sparks fly when she meets Wolf, the Innkeeper at the Kinsale Inn, where they are staying.
I loved this book. It balances the sweetness of the overall story with convincingly complex characters. They were incredibly well-developed. Nessa and Wolf are both flawed but strong in their own ways. It is their imperfections that make them such believable characters.
Simone made sure to give Nessa depth. The reader watches as she navigates the complex situation and her growing feelings for Wolf. However, Wolf doesn't swoop in and save the day. Instead, he offers her something better: support. He recognizes her agency and seeks to support her, not take over.
This is an interracial romance novel, which, if you dabble in the genre, can be very hit or miss in terms of fetishization. This, thankfully, was not that. There was also a multicultural element due to supporting characters that were a tad unrealistic but can be overlooked due to the feel-good nature of the book. The spice was lusciously provocative but also intimate, prioritizing the emotional connection.
As I mentioned, I was fortunate to meet Naima Simone and procure a signed copy. She wrote in her note to me, "Welcome to Rose Bend for the holidays," and I must say, holiday or not, I can't wait to read more about this marvelous little town and its characters.