Treadgold manages the complex relationships within the O’Connell family with grace, inviting in new readers while ensuring that veterans of the earlier books in the series will be rewarded with updates on earlier couples beyond just supporting the new pairing, including some warm and connected married sex scenes. Maddie’s characterization is strong, and her conflict about making it as an actress but not wanting to do nudity on screen feels authentic. The basic setup for the couple’s conflict works well, though David is difficult, prickly, and somewhat bland.
Secondary plots proceed unevenly: the brief reappearance of Ali and Liam’s homeless birth mother is emotional but, but it and the soft breakup and resolution between Teresa and Liam draw focus from the primary couple, who at times can feel a little lost in the story. A supernatural plot development is treated as an awkward quirk and a career challenge, and it risks making the story implausible to realist readers, but also underwhelming to those ready to lean into mystical stories. Still, the parade of seasonal celebrations in the household continually brings the family and these couples together in engaging moments of connection.
Takeaway: Big romance with lots of characters and heart, in which the main couple gets a little lost.
Comparable Titles: Nora Roberts’s MacGregors series; A. M. Hargorve’s West Brothers series.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B