Author: Janet Dailey
Narrator: Graham Winton
Audiobook Length: 7 hours 12 minutes
She’s all he wants for Christmas. Maybe even forever . . .
Conner Branch still hasn’t stopped thinking about the sultry singer he spotted on stage during last year’s Cowboy Christmas Ball. So imagine his surprise when he discovers the demure kindergarten teacher who comes home for the holidays to Branding Iron, Texas, is the very same woman. And once he’s up close and personal with the mesmerizing Megan, he’s downright determined to keep her by his side for good . . .
If only Conner Branch were simply the star struck cowboy she once believed him to be, Megan wouldn’t have to worry about losing everything to the rugged – and wildly romantic – rancher. With Christmas in the air, it’s a little too easy to imagine spending the holidays, not to mention her whole life, wrapped in Conner’s loving arms.
But this songstress has hopes for a big career back in Nashville. And no little holiday romance will ever get in the way of that. So what’s a woman to do when she finds herself facing down a love as bold and exciting as Texas itself?
Holding Out for Christmas is the third novel in The Christmas Tree Ranch series, which has three friends in small town Branding Iron, Texas and each has their own novel that intertwine together. While this is the third novel, it is the first one that I read and can be standalone. In this story, the main character is Connor Branch, who is a retired bull rider and now runs a Christmas ranch with his two best friends, who are featured in the other two novels in the series. After his two friends have found love, Connor is wondering if it is in the cards for him. The closest he has come recently is a Lacy Leatherwood, a singer that performed at the annual Christmas Cowboy Ball. As it turns out Lacy will be returning to this year’s event, but, unbeknownst to Connor, she is the alter ego of kindergarten teacher, Megan Carson from Nashville.
In addition to the secret identity plotline, there is also the added obstacle that Megan is semi-dating her boss, Derek, who is the principal of the school where Megan works, back in Nashville. Aside from him being presented as a “safe” option for her, there does not seem to be a huge connection between them. Additional members in Megan’s life is her mother, who works from home and has MS, her younger brother Daniel, who has Downs Syndrome, and her father who is trying to support his family. He works at the local supermarket and is dating his co-worker turned girlfriend, Katy, who also has Downs Syndrome. While the story does center around Connor and Megan, I found myself more drawn to Katy and Daniel’s story. Both of them are navigating their independence with supportive, but protective families. On Connor’s side is his close friendships with Rush and Travis and I loved their relationship.
Connor and Megan were cute together as Megan not only is involved with someone else, but also hiding her alter ego from Connor. As the story is duel perspective, it was nice to see both Connor and Megan’s sides of everything. Megan’s secret identity plays a huge role and her insecurities that everyone only wants Lacy instead of her weighs heavily on her mind. There are some “classic” overblown reactions throughout the story along with some heart-warming Hallmark-style moments, which made this a very sweet novel.
Overall, the novel read well as a standalone and I would be curious to eventually try the other two in the series. The seven puppies with bows on the cover was one of the factors that drew me to this novel, so it was very disappointing that they were not featured in the story. While the cover does portray the heart-warming holiday spirit, it seemed odd to have the image not match the contents of the story. Megan and Connor made a cute couple, but I felt there was something missing in their connection that was difficult to pinpoint. I think it is just the timing of events throughout the story between them where some were more rushed than other ones. As a whole, however, I greatly enjoyed this story and it is a nice read for anyone looking for a heart-warming tale.