I adore Lori Wilde's romances, and The First Love Cookie Club has a very emotional story behind it. Read the acknowledgments at the beginning of the book and you'll understand why. Lori excels at writing small town romances, and with this latest, the heroine, Sarah Collier returns back to Twilight, Texas. This is where Sarah spent most of her holidays and summer vacations with her grandmother since her cold and distant doctor parents had no time for their sweet, sensitive, very romantic thinking chubby daughter. Her grandmother fed into Sarah's fantasy of finding her one true love, and when Sarah is only fifteen, she thinks she has found that with her handsome older neighbor, Travis Walker. But Sarah is crushed when she finds out that Travis is getting married on Christmas morning. Sarah goes to stop the wedding and announces she and Travis are meant to be together because of the dream she had thanks to the Kismet cookies she put under her pillow. Sarah is mortified in front of the entire town when Travis basically pats her on the head and tells her to run along.
Nine years later, Sarah no longer believes in romance or true love. She lives in New York and is a best-selling author of a children's book under the name, Sadie Cool. She has lost all her baby fat and doesn't care if her parents don't love her. She also hates the holidays, including Christmas, but is cajoled into going back to Twilight for the Christmas Festival where she'll be treated like a star because she's a small town girl who has done well for herself. Sarah is more than nervous about returning. What if she sees Travis again and he makes fun of her? She still hasn't lived down her humiliation over her very childish outburst years ago.
Travis is a single father trying to do his best where his sick daughter, Jazzy is concerned. His wife walked out on them because she couldn't deal with Jazzy's life threatening breathing problem. Jazzy is Travis's whole life, where he'll do whatever he can to make sure she stays well and alive. Jazzy adores The Magic Christmas Cookie by Sadie Cool, and her dream is to meet the author. And when Sarah meets Jazzy, she falls in love with the fragile little girl. She's also still very much attracted to Travis who doesn't ridicule her, but welcomes her back in his own special way.
Sarah slowly finds the joys of Christmas again with Travis and Jazzy's help. Travis has thoughts of romance on his mind when it comes to Sarah, although she'll only be in Twilight for a short time. And then when Jazzy has a turn for the worse, including someone from Travis's past who comes back into the picture to causes problems, he turns to Sarah to lean on. She begins to question if she can go back to her sterile, hermit life back in Manhattan when all she could ever want was in Twilight.
The First Love Cookie Club is uber-cute. The reason this book struck gold for me wasn't the courtship between Sarah and Travis, but the deep love and devotion Travis has for his young daughter. Jazzy's own story will tug at your heart, and she is the true spirit of Christmas from her innocent excitement and her strength to have a fulfilling life for as long as she can even though she may not have a future.
The ending is way too pat and eye rolling ridiculous, as if someone waved a magic wand over Sarah and Travis to make sure there is no more drama or heartache in their lives. The sudden appearance of a few characters took something away from the plot. And I also found a strange inconsistency regarding Travis's ex-wife that didn't make any sense. It would have been better left out of the story and really irked me, when up to this point, I was really enjoying what I was reading.
Can we say this would be a perfect Hallmark movie that would evoke an ending much like The Grinch That Stole Christmas? Why yes, I think I will say that it is.
Other than my issues with the last few chapters and an annoying misunderstanding that comes out of the blue between Travis and Sarah, I really did enjoy The First Love Cookie Club. It's one book to read while snuggling in your snuggie with a cup of hot chocolate at your fingertips. A lovely holiday romance story for those who need some joy and sweet optimism in their reading material.