It's Always Christmas in Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert
GENRE: Adult Romance
LENGTH: 336 pages
PLOT Jack works at a magical Christmas market that only exists in Decembers and travels randomly around the world. Years ago, he fell in love with a patron named Astra and over the years he got to know her. Through the market's magic, however, she would always forget him. This year will she finally remember?
Astra is a librarian who is trying to move on with her life after a bad divorce while Jack is a baker and woodcarver on the side. Both happen to love Christmastime and are family oriented. They were individually lovely and together super cute. You could really feel Jack’s yearning. I did have one gripe with Jack, though, and it's that he wasn’t as willing to compromise as Astra was. It just seemed like their relationship was too one sided in that aspect.
I will say the conflict between them was so refreshing because there wasn’t any miscommunication on either end. More often than not that's the source of the third act conflict in romance books. Here, though, Jack is transparent with Astra about life in the market and how the magic works. Both express their desires and concerns openly with each other.
Besides Astra and Jack all the side characters were great. I love seeing friendships in books and Astra has a solid group of girlfriends (and also a dog – who doesn’t love a canine companion character?). Jack, meanwhile, has brothers who are both playful and responsible. Both Astra’s friends and Jack’s brothers were so supportive of them. Having these characters was so important to the story because it made the stakes even higher. Both characters had a lot they would be leaving behind (whether Astra chose to live in the market or Jack to join her in the outside world).
This novel is told from the third person perspective of Astra and Jack. It takes place both in present day as well as past Decembers during Astra and Jack’s previous meetings.
The overall vibes of the story and the setting are perfect to put you in the holiday spirit. Reading this book is like drinking a hot chocolate while wearing a cozy sweater and strolling through the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights with your family.
The magic in the book was definitely more magical realism than fantasy. The rules of who could remember the market and its residents and why seemed a little too convenient for the characters. Don’t get me wrong, I found the whole concept of a village where it’s always Christmas to be super sweet and festive. I just think the groundwork for the magic was a little shaky. You’re probably not picking this book up for the magic system, but as a fantasy lover it’s something I noticed.
Astra and Jack are kind of an instalove couple but also not really. There's definitely an immediate attraction between the two and the little moments they share are sparking with electricity. They fall very hard very fast. Obviously for Jack it’s a little different because he has memories of Astra, but I do think she was a little too ready to explore the possibility of giving up everything for a man she didn’t remember. I got the feeling Reichert was trying to sell you on the idea of the two of them being fated.
This was my second Christmas romance after the book I reviewed last week (Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once for Me). Initially, I planned to compare the two in a singular blog but after reading them both I don’t think they’re really all that comparable. This book was definitely cozier but I prefer Kiss Her Once for Me a little more for the representation and the main couple. I do still recommend picking up this book. It would be perfect for something to read on a snowy December day while curled up on the couch in front of a roaring fire.
FINAL RATING: 4⭐