Goodreads ~ Catherine Pine is hoping her Christmas is a bit more jolly than last year’s. That one was her first without her husband and with her kids and their families absent this year, she’s worried. But things change when her good friend invites her on a Christmas cruise to lift her spirits. Suddenly every day is an adventure and she’s making a bunch of new friends, including the lovable Sophie Miles.
It’s like a gift from Santa when Sophie and Catherine meet the charming Dr. Rudy Nichols, a perfect match for hypochondriac Sophie. But he comes with a two-legged lump of coal, his guard-dog daughter. And then there’s chocolatier Trevor March, who’s also interested in the scrumptious Sophie. Can he convince her that chocolate is the perfect cure for what ails her? Who knows what Santa has in store for these holiday travelers? Anything could happen this charmed Christmas!
Christmas is coming up and it's the first one since 60ish Catherine's husband passed away. She's going to be alone because her two adult children have made plans with their families and neither bothered to include their mother. Plus Catherine recently learned that she has cancer and will be starting chemo in the new year. When her friend, Denise, asks her to go on a week long boat cruise in Germany because another friend had cancelled at the last minute, she goes for it.
Sierra had bought the cruise as a surprise for her husband, Mark, but he's not able to get away from work so she takes her sister, Sophie, instead. Sophie is a hypochondriac but agrees to go.
Rudy is an older doctor whose first wife passed away and his second younger wife, who had only married him for his money, left him for someone with more money. He and his divorced daughter, Athena, will also be on the cruise.
Finally there's Kurt who is taking his German class of older teenagers on the cruise to help them improve their German. He convinces his brother, Trevor, who owns a chocolate making company, to go along.
Right away Sophie has her eye on Rudy ... she figured marrying a doctor would be a good fit for her since she is a hypochondriac. But Rudy has taken a shining to Catherine, who is more mature and his age, and she likes him back but doesn't want to start anything because she feels her upcoming year is uncertain because of her chemo. Athena will do anything to drive both women away from her father because she assumes that all they want it his money. Trevor likes Sophie right away and pursues her. Sierra doesn't get responses from Mark and assumes they are over so that dampens her mood and her trip. Denise is there for a good time and ends up having two men vying for her attention.
I've read many books by this author and this one was okay. It is written in third person perspective, with the focus shifting among the characters and you get to know what they are thinking. Despite all the turmoil, there are lots of happy endings so it's great if you are looking for a nice "feel good" story.
I wasn't crazy about the characters, though, and found them unrealistic. Though Catherine was nice, she seemed to be a bit of doormat. She acknowledged that her kids had been spoiled and now she is paying the price for that since they don't have time for her ... but she doesn't confront them about it. Sierra is afraid Mark is going to leave her. Instead of enjoying her cruise and sister-time and saying "Screw you, Mark!", she lets how she's feeling about the Mark situation ruin it for her. Sophie was just too over the top in pursuing Rudy just because he was a doctor, even when he made it clear that he was interested in Catherine. Rudy seemed to be blind to Athena's rudeness to Catherine and Sophie and she was very unlikable. I can't imagine there being anyone like Trevor and his devotion to Sophie even when she made it obvious she was chasing after Rudy. I thought the most likeable character was Denise ... she was an older gal who just wanted to have fun and had a great attitude.