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The Ex-Mas Holidays

A holiday romance set in the Scottish Highlands? Yes, please!

Thank you, @berkleybooks and @berkleyromance for my #gifted ARC and for including me on this pub week tour of The Ex-Mas Holidays by Zoe Allison!


Maya quit her high-paying job and got out of a long-term relationship. The thought of heading home to explain all this to her family is too much, so she stops at a friend's party. There, she unexpectedly sees Sam, the guy who broke her heart years ago. He's helping a friend by secretly working an extra job slinging drinks...in the nude. Sam is, by day, a ski instructor in the Scottish Highlands, where Maya now returns as a coworker. Sam and Maya eventually realize that the reason they broke up all those years ago may not have been what it seemed at the time.


I'm a sucker for a Scottish Highland setting! And this one is beautifully set in a snowy ski resort during the holidays. This is a second-chance romance with miscommunication a feature of the earlier break up between the MCs. Dual POV, this book focuses on the character growth of both MCs as much as it does the romance, and I felt like it read like a cross between romance and general fiction. The author does not shy away from the topics of complex family dynamics or toxic relationships. Issues stemming from family dynamics affect both MCs, and they have some finallthings to work out on their own before they can find their HEA.


I rooted for Maya and enjoyed her character growth, including leaving a job she felt pushed into by her father and figuring out what genuinely made her happy in more ways than one. Sam also has some emotional trauma that began after his father left the family and continues with his unhealthy relationship, as he has been involved on/off with a woman who mistreats and gaslights him.


Maya and Sam have supportive friends to turn to, and these secondary characters are vividly depicted and fun. The story had some heartfelt moments, and I enjoyed getting to the second-chance romance. There were a few pacing issues, but overall, this was a quick and charming read. I was happy once Maya and Sam finally cleared the air, they were really cute together.

...

My steep was Sip and Be Merry from The Republic of Tea. A black tea with vanilla and cardamom, it tastes like dessert!


PUBLISHER'S SYNOPSIS:

It’s hard to escape your ex when you’re working together over Christmas in the Scottish Highlands, but being stuck together might be the best possible present in this sparkling new contemporary romance.

Maya Bashir is dreading her drive home for Christmas and having to explain that she's just left her high-paying job and a long-term relationship, so a brief detour to her friend’s festive party doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Until Maya walks in to find the last person she wants to see. Sam, the boy who broke her heart eight years ago. And he’s serving drinks. Naked.

Sam Holland is working an extra job on the sly to help his friend get by. But little did he expect Maya Bashir to come barrelling back into his life, learning about his secret side-hustle and taking back her old job alongside him at his daytime role as a ski instructor on the slopes of the Scottish Highlands.

As both Sam and Maya realize that their reason for heartbreak so many years ago wasn’t entirely as it seemed, they must learn to stand up for what they want the most…or else miss their second chance at love.



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