Rockin' Around That Christmas Tree
by Donna Hill and Francis Ray, contemporary (2003)
St Martin's Griffin, $14.95, ISBN 0-312-32195-3

Talk about a Christmas season rip-off: this $14.95 hardcover is only 152 pages long. One of the perks of being a bestselling author is apparently the power to charge your fans $14.95 for a story where you only have to contribute 76 pages of story to the joint-effort. I bought this book from Amazon, not realizing that this book is that short until it arrives on my doorstep. I think Rockin' Around That Christmas Tree is now laughing at me from where it is sitting smugly on the bookshelf. Wait until the UBS reopens after the holidays, you creepy thing!

Denise and Edward Morrison have been married for twenty-seven years. But Denise has been holding all her frustrations inside her heart until she can't take it any more. The last straw that breaks the camel's back is when Edward refuses to let her start her own business. After all that she has given up for him, after all the years that she has lovingly let him test the soles of his boots all over her back for almost thirty years, she's had enough. She files for divorce.

Edward doesn't understand why that woman doesn't just sit back and let Big Daddy here pay all the bills and make all the decisions. What's wrong with that woman doing all the housework - can't she be happy with him patting her in the head once in a while? So he decides to do what romance heroes always do when push comes to shove: he invites everyone's favorite Dotty Old People plot device (his Aunt Etta and Uncle Eddie) to teach him how to win back his wife. This includes him cooking for her and learning how to do the housework. Since Denise is just bluffing about the divorce, she takes him back quite easily and with minimum character development on everybody's part. ("Character development? You crazy? That means we have to write a three hundred plus paged book for Christmas! How unthinkable!" - the lovely authors.)

Along the way, their daughter Christine and her son run back home from a husband whom she suspects is cheating on her. That subplot takes up more space and spreads the minimum character development around even thinner. Bewilderingly, the authors waste quite a lot of pages on repetitious flashbacks and re-tellings of the characters' problems when they should be concentrating on fleshing out their characters. The result is a story that is bogged down by repetitive monologues and one-dimensional characters. There is no epiphany, just the younger people following Uncle Eddie and Aunt Etta's feel-good simplistic homespun advice (I wonder what this couple is doing during the last twenty-six years of Denise and Edward's marriage) to get a rushed happy ending for all parties involved.

Well, at least it's in hardcover and will make a decent gift for Christmas, I guess, as in the grand tradition of Christmas gifts you give other people, it's reassuringly overpriced just like everything else for the occasion. Maybe I should just keep this book to use as a gift next Christmas.

Rating: 49

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