From the back cover:
The best gifts are given from the heart...
When spirited Maeve O'Malley stumbles upon an unconscious man one snowy night in December, she doesn't think twice before coming to his rescue. But her good intentions are no match for her brother's sense of propriety, and before long Maeve is married to the nameless--and irresistibly attractive--stranger. It doesn't matter who he is, because she is certain that he's a gift from above...one she means to keep.
When his memory returns, Charles Rycroft, an art collector from one of Boston's oldest and wealthiest families, is astounded to learn that he's a married man--and that his lovely Irish wife is one of Boston's serving class. Intending only to give Maeve a bit of polish before ending their hasty union, Charles' primary concern is finding the valuable sketch of St. Nicholas that was stolen when he was assulted. Yet Maeve's presence in his home is a dazzling ray of light, and as Christmas nears, he suspects her love may be his greatest joy.
And my review:
I love Christmas-themed novels, so I decided to give COMFORT AND JOY a try, even though I'd never read this author's work before. And while it was enjoyable, it was nothing outstanding.
Things that worked for me: the author had well-rounded characters. Charles starts out as a stuffed shirt (though he quickly changes) and Maeve is a free-spirited Irish woman. But they developed beyond these basic character sketches into real people. I'm always a little wary when I read the words "spirited heroine", because usually it's code for "shrewish witch". But that wasn't the case here, thankfully. The Christmas theme was also well done, and woven throughout the story. It didn't feel like something just tacked on at the end to increase sales. Also, the author jumped right into her story, so that there wasn't a ton of introduction to slog through before the story got started, yet I never felt lost, either. That's a difficult balance for an author to strike, so I applaud Madden for a job well done.
Things that didn't work for me: the whole seance thing (Charles' mother wants to contact his late father) just creeped me out. Blame it on my Catholic upbringing if you will, but I think seances are gateways to evil, so they don't entertain me, they just creep me out. Not really what you want from a romance novel. Also, as another reviewer has stated, the characters were pretty quick to change. Sometimes the changes felt a little too quick. I kind of didn't like how Maeve was ready to basically hide who she was just to be accepted by society. Yes, I understand why she would, but it still made me sad. And Charles accepted his serving-class wife just a little too quickly, considering who unthinkable such things were in those times.
Not horrible, but not a "top shelf" book, either. I would recommend that you borrow this one from the library or a friend rather than buying it.