The Last Christmas Gift
by Courtni Wright, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-430-7

I have better warn people, unless one has a great fondness of reading detailed descriptions of house decor, fashion plates, and lifestyles of the rich and whiny, the book title of The Last Christmas Gift may be more prophetic than the author would have liked it to be. Because that's what this book is: it's like an omnibus edition of all the fashion and house decor magazines I've read. The first ten pages of this book alone detail heroine Bobbi Chase's house and clothes in a more exacting manner than the author did for her characters' motivations and personalities in the entire book.

Bobbi Wright is a successful businesswoman but she's had zero luck in the relationship department. This woman could have come straight from a 1980s Harlequin category romance, where heroines are singularly convinced that all men are scums and treat the idea of dating a man the way one would contemplate a lobotomy performed by a backstreet hack. Her dates have been jerks with octopus hands, and for some reason, Bobbi also categorizes her ex Richard State in the same category. All Richard did was to get involved in some top secret government work and Bobbi drops him because he has to do his job instead of pampering her 24/7. Now Richard wants her back. Soon, it becomes apparent that Richard is anything but a jerk - he's a little bit bland in his goody-goody two-shoeness - but he's not a jerk. So this book sees Bobbi spending almost two hundred and fifty pages whining that Richard refuses to treat her right (like giving up his entire career and life to move in with her and other unreasonable non-compromises) so he is a Jerk and she will do stupid things like Making Him Jealous. Along the way, Bobbi whines about how she can never meet the perfect man even as, in the same breath, she complains that perfection bores her. Bobbi doesn't need perfection, she needs a reality wake-up bitchslap.

There's another supremely annoying character in this book: Bobbi's best friend Charlie. Charlie is a psychotic character whose function - and sole purpose in life, it seems - is to matchmake everybody that has the misfortune to know her or to be related to her. She calls up Bobbi every chapter to either insists that Bobbi go on a date she has arranged or tell her everything Bobbi did with the previous date. Maybe Ms Wright intends Charlie to be some amusing matchmaker, but in this book, Charlie comes off as a truly pathetic creature with no life and who gets her jollies from listening to accounts of her friends and family members making out with the dates she arranged for them. Won't it be more rational to get a porn habit instead of bugging people like this?

With a shrill and unlikeable heroine that makes incessant whining about petty issues an artform and her equally irritating best friend plus lots and lots of tedious descriptions of high time clothes, food, house decors, and vehicles, The Last Christmas Gift manages to be tedious and annoying at the same time. This book is one of those reasons why sometimes it is a good thing that Christmas comes only once a year.

Rating: 46

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