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Jubilant Montana Christmas by Ramona Flightner is a novella and the newest installment in her Bear Grass Springs series. Even though I’m a big fan of Ramona’s writing, I found myself with very mixed feeling about this series in particular. However, Karl and Leena’s story, which I didn’t really anticipate all that much seeing they were minor characters in the previous books, turned out to be a lovely read.
Ramona’s Banished Saga was/is absolutely marvelous and I always recommend that series. It’s more of a family saga spanning generations, rather than your typical story and HEA for one couple per installment. Bear Grass Springs falls under the latter category, though it’s beginning to stand out on its own. Ramona writes clean romances so if you love clean romances with sweet stories set in late 19th or early 20th century Montana (and Boston), then her books are for you!
Bear Grass Springs began with the stories of the MacKinnon brothers Cailean, Alistair and Ewan, in the first 3 installments respectively titled Montana Untamed, Montana Grit and Montana Maverick. They also have a younger sister called Sorcha. They’re from Scotland, but have settled in the Bear Grass Springs Montana in search of a better life. Cailean and Alistair own the only livery in town, which they’ve managed to make a successful business out of. Ewan is a carpenter and his business is thriving as well. The brothers were much sought after bachelors until they settled down with the love of their lives, Cailean with the town baker Annabelle, Alistair with Leticia who was a school teacher before she began helping Annabelle with her rapidly growing bakery business. Ewan finally found someone to love in Jessamine, a news reporter newly arrived in Bear Grass Springs; also the proprietor of the town’s only newspaper. The backgrounds of all 3 of heroines are told in their books. However my feelings for all 3 books were pretty ambivalent. The first two, the brothers were being obtuse and in turn, there were loads of misunderstanding and frustration that made me wanna kick their a$$. And for book 3, I didn’t like the heroine AT ALL.
Now Bear Grass Springs also have some wonderful secondary characters like Bear who has mixed heritage with Native American blood, works in the livery with Caliean and Alistair. There’s Fidelia, Annabelle’s sister who had the misfortune to arrive at the town long before Annabelle did and without any support or help from anyone, had to turn to the life of prostitution. She’s since been saved from that life by the collective efforts of the MacKinnons. We also meet Frederick, and his grandparents Harold and Irine who own the most popular café in the town. There is also the town lawyer Warren and his wife Helen, who had their story in Montana Renegade, a book I loved! Both are good friends with the MacKinnons, though their friendship had been tested more than once due to a singularly unpleasant character. In one of the installments, we were introduced to the Norwegian immigrants Nathanial, his sister Leena and his friend Karl, who’d arrived in Bear Grass Springs for much the same reason as the MacKinnons. Nathanial and Karl own a sawmill so Ewan had been their customer. Over the years they’d become good friends, but Ewan is closer to Nathanial. Leena, a gifted baker, had begun working with Annabelle very recently. She loves her job and appreciates the friendship of the MacKinnons with her own family just as much as she does the money she earns from her work.
There weren’t a lot about Nathanial and Leena’s background in the previous books but it was mentioned that Leena and Karl were already engaged to be married. When Jubilant Montana Christmas opens up, apparently they’d gotten married a few months ago. Even though the novella reads as standalone, I’m sure you’d find it more enjoyable if you know the characters from their own books because all the MacKinnons make appearances throughout the story.
Though all seemed okay from the outside, Karl and Leena’s marital bliss was not what it seemed. Karl, who turned out to be a bit of a lout, wasn’t happy with Leena’s job and wanted her to stop working with Annabelle. It was more to do with his dislike for Annabelle because of her somewhat of a rebellious (read: scandalous) status in the town. You’d learn the whys of it if you read the previous books.
This novella, in such a short space, also gives us some backgrounds on Leena, Karl and Nathanial’s life in Norway. Leena and Nathanial have family there, with parents and other siblings. Karl, an orphan, had pretty much grown up with them. It seemed like they sort of chose each-other in their childhood so a marriage between them seemed only logical. However, it’d also seem that they had a lot to learn about one another. Karl couldn’t understand why Leena wouldn’t be happy just to be his wife and stay at home, while Leena couldn’t get why Karl would be so angry when she’s actually earning money that’d help them in the long run because they weren’t really well off. So on and so forth.
I won’t give away much because the beauty of the story lies in reading it. It’s a novella after all. This story is all about our newlyweds’ own realization; coming to terms with the reality as well as their own feelings for one another, which apparently they never really thought to face before. But would Karl ever be reasonable enough to see it from Leena’s POV on her job and her sense of independence? Would Leena finally understand the depth of Karl’s vulnerability and where it stemmed from? As Christmas approached in Bear Grass Springs with its snowflakes and celebratory aura, both Leena and Karl had to find a way to face their fears to make their marriage work, hoping they’re not too late.
A lovely addition to Bear Grass Springs, Jubilant Montana Christmas is recommended for any fans of the series. I already have a good idea on the couple getting the next book, as the storyline has been set to motion from this novella (Sorcha and Frederick LOL – I knew they’d make a pair of course, from their banters in the previous installments). I was also hoping 2 other people becoming an ‘official couple’ for the series. From what little I read, I think I’ll have my wish granted. :D Now I wait for it to become a reality. 4 stars.