Just Like Magic
The holidays were never her thing, until she accidentally conjures the Holiday Spirit...before her very eyes.
Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury, flaunting a collection of designer purses and an enviable dream home in Hawaii. That was before she lost all her money. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media. But the reality is Bettie is broke and squatting in Colorado, and her family has no idea.
Christmas, with its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when Bettie plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” backward and accidentally conjures up Hall, the Holiday Spirit, in the form of a charming and handsome (if offbeat) man. Once the shock wears off, Bettie knows she’s stumbled upon the greatest gift: a chance to make all her holiday wishes come true, plus a ready-made fiancé.
But as some of Bettie’s wishes lose their charm, she finds herself thrown off-kilter by Hall’s sweet nature. Suddenly, grumpy Bettie is finding her heart merry and light. But the happier she gets, the shorter Hall’s time on earth grows. Can Bettie channel the Christmas spirit and learn to live with goodwill toward all men? Or will her selfish ways return as soon as the holidays are over?
Hogle (You Deserve Each Other) brings a touch of magic to this cheery Christmas romance. Social media influencer Bettie Hughes can't admit to her ultra-competitive family that she's squandered her money in a string of poor business decisions, so she's squatting in her famous grandmother's home in Teller City, Colo., for the holidays. There, with some spilled wine and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You," she inadvertently summons the Holiday Spirit, "Hall" for short. Hall takes the form of a charming and attractive man, there to grant all of Bettie's wishes. After indulging her materialistic desires (including wishing for an oceanfront villa), Bettie soon falls under Hall's spell, learning that Christmas is about far more than who comes up with the best presents. And when it appears that Hall will be recalled to the ethereal realm, Bettie would give anything to keep him earthbound. Hall's unabashed, almost childlike love for all things Christmas—including Hallmark Channel movies, snowball fights, and sugar cookies—is flat-out sweet, and his influence on Bettie transforms her life for the better. This lighthearted and witty tale is sure to put readers in a holiday mood. Agent: Taylor Haggerty, Root Literary.
Magical Holiday Romance
Four and a Half Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭒
Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle is a family drama with a bit of magic and some romance. I really enjoyed this, but, it did take a bit to get into it.
Bettie Hughes is broke. She’s so broke that she’s living in a dead woman’s apartment, afraid the authorities will find out about her squatting. She’s used to luxury and still pretends to have a luxurious lifestyle on social media, but the truth is, she doesn’t have a cent to her name. She can’t go to her wealthy parents as they were the ones who cut her off.
One drunk evening, she plays a Mariah Carey Christmas album and spills her drink on the vinyl record and she ends up playing “All I Want for Christmas” backward and conjures up a Christmas Spirit named Hall (short for Holiday). Hall can perform magic and he can make all her dreams come true (as long as it’s not against the magic regulations).
Bettie takes Hall to her parent's Christmas week and they pretend they are engaged. Bettie soon finds Hall’s holiday spirit to be less annoying over time and she eventually grows to appreciate Hall, her family, and the holidays much more.
This book started off a bit rough for me. I didn’t like Bettie at all, she’s selfish and self-absorbed and downright annoying. And when Hall appeared, I didn’t like him much either. He’s too much holiday, too fake, and too cringeworthy. Then when the story moved to Bettie’s family house, I didn’t like most of her family either. However, once Hall started to interact with Bettie and her family, I warmed up to everybody. The author is very skilled at making these unlikeable characters very likeable, and I loved them all. I guess that’s the “magic” of Christmas, an author can turn unlikeable characters into charming, characters that I loved.
So, my advice is to hang in there, this is a wonderful story, and watching these jaded, cynical characters learn to love Christmas, and love each other is just the heartwarming story I wanted for the Holiday Season.
I highly recommend Just Like Magic to anyone who enjoys Christmas stories. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.