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One Last Gift

[A quick note: This wraps up my final Christmas contemporary romance read. I had so much fun reading seasonal reads this December. It really put me in the mood. There are tons I didn’t get to yet, but that’s okay, I can save them for next year!]

After her brother’s tragic death, Cassie finds a envelope, the first clue in a scavenger hunt Tom was supposed to give her on Christmas Day. As a means to cope, Cassie sets out on a journey of healing through each of Tom’s clues. This hunt is Tom’s last gift to Cassie. It’s another chance at life and even…love.

What an unusual holiday read! This book is wrapped in grief and healing. It’s all about moving forward after a deep loss, about being brave and following your passion. It wasn’t the most “holiday-ish” book I’ve read, but it was sweet and very emotional! The romance wasn’t front and center (be warned!). It was a lot more about Cassie’s healing process after losing her brother.

Our story starts when Cassie and Tom are children, right after they lose their parents, setting the stage. We learn about Cassie and Tom’s sibling relationship relationship, about Tom’s best friend Sam (who Cassie has a crush on), and the Christmas scavenger hunts. Every year, Tom gives Cassie a clue beneath the Christmas tree. Year after year, Cassie has come to treasure these hunts. But this year, Tom promises the best one of all…and then he dies.

The first twenty-five percent of the book is a race through time. It allows us to understand what happens between Cassie and Sam that drives them apart. A fated kiss, followed by an awful betrayal, as Sam tries to hurt Cassie to drive her away. Over time, Cassie develops a deeply rooted hate for Sam, as Sam grows to be someone Cassie disapproves of. But during this time, Tom is the bridge between them. When Tom dies, Cassie can finally rid herself of Sam. Except…Sam might not be ready to give up Cassie.

I found the storyline so unique. We get a few chapters in the beginning that jump and span several years at a time, until we get to the main story, Cassie’s life after Tom’s death. The reader is right beside her as she copes with tragedy. I loved following Cassie’s scavenger hunt, seeing her heal over time.

The hunt spans a full year. During this time, she finds clues that take her months to solve. And each time, she gets a note from Tom that gives her a flashback into a point in their life that inspired the clue or activity. It’s a way to further connect with Tom after his death.

The characters are deeply fleshed out, and you feel for both of them. Both Cassie and Sam have things they must overcome, namely grief, and both learn to grow. Especially Sam, who has the bigger character arc in this book. I really enjoyed getting to know both of them during their POVs.

My only disappointment was the romance between Cassie and Sam. It wasn’t the center of the story, and that’s fine. The center was Cassie’s healing journey. However, the moments when Cassie and Sam were together later in the story didn’t hit me as hard as I’d hoped. Their romance started strong, made me emotional, but…their interactions later on felt too…sparse. The moments felt kinda “whomp-whomp,” especially because the entire middle book they are apart, and you’re waiting for this big lead up, this huge moment, and it just doesn’t hit strong like you want it to. This isn’t a spicy romance, either. Sex scenes are off-page. I guess my mistake was thinking this was going to be more contemporary romance based, and it just didn’t feel that way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It was heart-warming and sweet. It made me feel. It brought tears to my eyes. I definitely want to check out this authors other books. It was even one of my more favorite Christmas reads. But…it wasn’t a home run. 𝐌𝐘 𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟒/𝟓⭐️


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