So, I never knew this was a thing, Hallmark Channel original movies being adapted to book format. I sussed this out during one of my persistent checks to see if Christmas in Homestead was yet available on DVD or video streaming. Come to find, author Kara Tate has written an engaging prose treatment of it.
Christmas in Homestead resurrects the ghost of Notting Hill, which is only one of the best romantic comedies ever. The venue shifts from the London of Notting Hill to snow-piled Iowa, and then given a Christmas shine. The plot: Hollywood A-lister Jessica McEllis, star of the popular Asterlight movies, is branching out. The next movie she stars in is also the first movie that she'll produce. It's a two-week shoot on location in Homestead, Iowa, a tiny dot of a town that looks fairly isolated on the map. In her role as producer, Jessica has made bold promises, not the least of which is to have cast and crew home by Christmas Eve. This is how you can tell a rookie producer.
Some ***PLOT SPOILERS*** now.
Jessica arrives at Homestead one day before her cast and crew. Eager for a great start, she stops at the local bakery and orders one hundred cupcakes for her oncoming peeps. She orders them from this bemused hombre in the bakery whom she mistakes for an employee. On her way out, feeling a bit discombobulated, because the guy was cute, she fends off her sudden feeling of awkwardness by giving him her autograph that he didn't ask for. Still, one hundred cupcakes for her peeps. Whoo-hoo! Now if only Jessica can have as easy a time dealing with the mayor of Homestead. She's heard that guy's a real stick-in-the-mud.
It's just that Matt Larson, that stick-in-the-mud, isn't comfortable with change. He clings to traditions like a limpet, especially Christmas traditions. He looks forward to Homestead's annual Christmas tree lighting, and the snowman building contest, and the festive sleigh rides... And, now, here comes this film crew to potentially disrupt all that.
Matt isn't just the mayor, he's also an innkeeper. He and his enterprising younger sister, Zoe, operate a country lodge, the same lodge in which some of them Hollywood big-timers will be staying. Matt dreads what's coming. And to kick things off to an ominous start, he'd just gone to the bakery to pick up some pumpkin pies when some oblivious out-of-towner lady breezed in and ordered pastries from him.
Jessica checks into the country lodge, and her one saving grace is that she comes across a 10-year-old girl what's caught up watching one of her Asterlight movies. See, Helena Asterlight, a dragonslayer who regularly saves the world, and the actress who plays her - Jessica - are two of the kid's most favorite people. Jessica and the ten-year-old, Sophie, instantly get on like a house on fire. Which eases some of Jessica's embarrassment when her dad walks in who happens to be the mayor and innkeeper and, oh, the guy from whom she'd ordered a horde of cupcakes.
The plot of the movie Jessica is producing revolves around a Hollywood star who falls in love - and then has to leave - an innkeeper. Jessica is thrown for a loop when her plight in Homestead begins to parallel the plot of her movie. As she begins falling for the people and places of Homestead - and falling hard for the mayor - the conundrum becomes this: how close does she want her own story to stick to her movie's narrative? After all, the movie has a downbeat - and probably more realistic - ending.
I finished this book in one sitting, I was that caught up. The writer does well in diving in-depth with the character arcs, resulting in more fleshed-out characters that become that much more appealing. Well, except the paparazzi guy. No matter how hard the book and movie strive to make him likable, to me, he remained a sneaky, low-down tabloids reporter. I was actually mad at Zoe for even giving the rat the time of day, except the folks of Homestead are just that hospitable. But he's the only low point. Jessica is a sweetheart, a thoughtful famous star who longs for a measure of normality. Matt lacks a certain color to his personality. He's more a representation of an average guy who ends up being mayor. He's our bemused eyes into Jessica's hectic, glamorous world. Sophie, the vivacious little girl, and Zoe, the mayor's free-spirited sister who dreams of franchising the family inn, are the ones who really pop. And, of course, the mighty Gavin, Jessica's stern chauffer/bodyguard whom Sophie hilariously tries to steal from Jessica. Gavin really reminds me of Ving Rhames's bodyguard role from the 1993 movie, Dave. Heck, even Jessica's self-absorbed ex, matinee idol Vince Hawkins, who is her leading man for her movie, sort of grows on you.
Will Jessica fight for a happy ending? Or will she spend Christmas in Fiji, as she'd originally planned? Will the tabloids ruin her one chance at love and normality? Will Zoe please kick that paparazzi to the curb? And what about that mad dash at the end to make it to the actress's final press interview before she flies out of the country? Oh, wait, that last bit was from Notting Hill.
I recommend this book. A wonderful treat is that it goes past where the movie ends and catches us up with Jessica and Matt and Sophie and Zoe a year later.
Also, as a bonus, the Kindle read also comes with a Hallmark original recipe of the famous Homestead dessert, the Snowflake Cherry Pie. Yum.