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Anthony Lamarr
Every Year, Every Christmas

Adult; Romance; (Market)

In this heartfelt, romantic drama, Anthony Lamarr captures the magic of a chance meeting and instant romance between two strangers on Christmas Eve. Bryant isn't expecting much from the holiday season. He's just happy to be home spending Christmas with his family. That is until he meets Cassie on Christmas Eve. After an accident a few cars ahead of him shuts down traffic, Bryant gets out his car to see what's happened. He sees Cassie, the driver who caused the three-vehicle collision, get out her car--and without saying a word, go inside a corner café and sit in a window booth. Bryant feels compelled to follow her. He crosses the street, goes inside Pearlie Mae's Café, and asks her if it's okay for him to sit down. That begins an enchanted day that neither will want to see end. But it has to end. Or does it? Inspired by the classic holiday song, "Every Year, Every Christmas," by Luther Vandross and Richard Marx.
The power of love at first sight is tested in this charming and innocent tale by Lamarr (The Pages We Forget). Atlanta journalist Bryant Fuller returns to his native Chicago for Christmas and on December 24th stumbles into a chance encounter with Cassie Knight at Pearlie Mae’s Café–and, despite being total strangers, the sparks fly and a connection is forged. Cassie impulsively tags along with Bryant for some last-minute Christmas shopping, disclosing in the process that she is engaged to be married in the spring. The duo spend a companionable evening together, after which Bryant claims Cassie is “the girl I’ve been waiting for since fifth grade.” They regretfully part ways–Cassie is engaged–but not before Bryant makes a promise to wait for Cassie at the café every Christmas Eve in case her relationship fails.

Inspired by the evergreen Luther Vandross ballad “Every Year, Every Christmas,” Lamarr kindles a feeling of holiday warmth with this story of slow, simmering love. Bryant, a gentleman who holds open doors, is attentive to Cassie’s feelings, and the encounter causes her to question her relationship with her fiancé, Malcolm, a charmer who largely ignores her and has cheated in the past. But Cassie still goes through with the wedding, staying away from the café—and Bryant—to devote herself to making her marriage work. Meanwhile, Bryant faithfully spends several Christmas Eves waiting for her in their booth, while his own romantic relationships never quite get off the ground.

Lamarr’s sensitive handling of the sweet, budding intimacy between Bryant and Cassie will engage lovers of gentle grown-up romances, despite the story’s shortage of dramatic events. The abrupt ending, though happy, proves anticlimactic and unceremonious, given the extensive time both characters spend longing for the chance to reunite. Readers who fancy delicate romance and wholesome characters will find this tale of loyalty and love appealing.

Takeaway: A chance encounter turns unforgettable in this sweet slow burn of a holiday romance.

Great for fans of: Teri Wilson’s The Accidental Beauty Queen, Beverly Jenkins.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B-