The Twelve Dates of Christmas
By Jenny Bayliss. (G.P. Putnam, 368 pages, $16.)
Here it is, almost New Year's Eve, and nobody has ever been happier to see a year come to an end than you, but you have no date and because it's still a pandemic, you can't go out. What you need is a nice cozy rom-com novel, one with a bit of an edge, a larger meaning, and a satisfying ending.
Here you go: "The Twelve Dates of Christmas" is set in a charming small town in England. Our heroine, Kate, has no man in her life even though she's a very nice person, rather pretty, has a great job designing fabrics for Liberty of London, is a wonderful daughter to her wacky remarried mother and her aging dad, and is a devoted friend to her gal pals.
It's clear from the very first pages that the man who should be in her life is Matt, the affable hunk who runs the local cafe. (You will instantly be reminded of Stars Hollow and "Gilmore Girls" and Luke and Lorelai and you would not be far off.) Kate and Matt were best friends all their lives until they had a terrible falling out. And though they are back to being friends, romance is not a possibility: Matt has a sweet (if rather one-dimensional) girlfriend who Kate likes very much. He is definitely not available.
So Kate signs up for a dating service that fixes her up with 12 different men (one at a time) during the weeks before Christmas, and the fun begins. Some of the men are a disaster. Some seem fine but lack pizazz. One stands her up. One turns her head.
It's a satisfying romance novel that also works in the worthy issues of fidelity, respect, self-actualization and maturity without getting all preachy. Who does Kate end up with for the New Year? Or — maybe no one? You just might be surprised.