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It’s a Not So Wonderful Life . . . Unless You’re Willing to Change
This is a sweet and sometimes poignant Christmas tale that feels in parts like a spin on both A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. The hero, Sam, is a near Scrooge-like businessman who demands as much from his employees as he does from himself, not taking into account that they have lives and families outside of work. A freak accident where he hits his head hard on icy ground gives him retrograde amnesia; at first, he can only remember fragments of his childhood. Angie, the heroine, is surprised at the new way her boss is acting. She had always suspected that somewhere buried deep inside was a decent, caring man; the accident rendered him more compassionate, kind, and even funny at times. Because Sam is estranged from his only living relative, Angie agrees to let him live in her home while he recovers and hopefully gets his memory back. Sam finds Angie’s home, which holds four generations of her Cuban and Puerto Rican family, to be a haven of belonging as he recuperates.
I absolutely adored all the characters in this story, especially Angie’s son and grandmother. I loved the sense of family provided by the interactions between the four generations; I do enjoy romances where a strong family element is a part of the story, and in this book, this is incorporated on several levels. All the characters were very well written. Sam definitely grapples with his memories and his sense of self as he recovers. That’s where the twist on It’s a Wonderful Life comes in. As Sam’s life is slowly revealed to him, unlike George Bailey, he doesn’t like the man he gradually learns about. Which Sam will he end up being if he recovers from the amnesia: the new Sam, the old Sam, or perhaps a blend of the two? And we can’t forget the romance, of course. The new Sam seems to fall for Angie pretty quickly; maybe old Sam had a crush he hadn’t acknowledged. Aside from this rather quick attraction, the rest of the romance is a slow build as the other elements of the story interweave and sometimes take precedence. All in all, I thought this was a charming, heartfelt Christmas romance.