A Holiday Book Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber

Before I get into writing this review, I wanted to give you a bit of background that isn't on our "About" page (yet).

I'm a book reviewer. I've been writing book reviews for about four years, and while I don't do it "professionally" (in the sense that I don't get paid for my book reviews), I do occasionally receive free copies of books in exchange for an "honest review."

This has put me in a bit of a difficult place on this blog. My intention for this blog is to provide you with a resource of excellent books that you'll love to cozy down with in the coming holiday season. I don't want to steer you wrong because I want to give you every reason to trust me. Now I have to decide: Do I review the books that I don't like (including the books that are marginal), or do I skip over those to books that I can recommend?

I'd like your feedback on this, and I'll be grateful if you could comment here or on our Facebook page to let me know what you think about reviewing books that I didn't love.

I'm going to start here, with a marginal book, and I'm going to tell you why I feel that the book was marginal (at best). I'm also going to do my best to consider the tastes of my audience and the fact that in exploring these Christmas novels, most of us aren't looking for high literature or deep meaning, but a sense of warmth and brightness throughout the season.

With that said, here we go.

Merry Knight has reached the end of a year-long contract. Coming into the holiday season, she's working long hours of overtime and wants nothing more than to have her time back so that she can spend it with her family (her mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and her brother, with Down Syndrome, plus her father who works long hours in transport). She has no room for a social life, let alone romance.

Her mother and her brother sign her up for an online dating site, filling out the long questionnaire in her stead and putting up a fake surname and a picture of the family's golden retriever, Bogie. 

Jayson Bright hopes to one day be the Chief Executive Officer of his uncle's consulting company, but first he's going to have to finish the report for the Boeing company. He's got everyone working over time, and he's not much in the mood for Christmas. His parents never wanted him, and his memories of the holidays are rooted in the memories of things rather than time spent as a family. 

When his best friend and cousin gets engaged, however, he checks out the dating site Mix and Mingle -- and is intrigued when he sees a profile with a dog as the photo. He sends the profile a "wink" and soon he's talking to an intriguing girl. 

Before long, Merry and Jay begin to fall in love with one another -- but neither knows that Jay is Jayson, Merry's tough boss who calls her "Mary" at work!

This is the first book by Debbie Macomber that I've ever read, and it left me with mixed feelings.

First of all, this is a "sweet romance." That's the kind that I like. The romance is not just a backdrop for adult content. I'd be comfortable handing this book to my ten-year-old to read (though she probably wouldn't be interested in much other than the dog!). If you enjoy sweet romances, like books that are quick to read, and have access to a library or a second hand book seller, then I can recommend this book based purely on those criteria.

There's just one HUGE problem for me: Christmas is the timeline rather than the setting. I'm a writer myself (albeit not a great one) and setting is, for me, everything, both as a reader and a writer. When I read a Christmas-themed novel, I want Christmas to be the "setting." I don't care whether it's a white Christmas or a Summer Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: I just want the book and its story to be infused with Christmas.

No. To be honest with you, that wasn't the only problem. There was another. The book is too You've Got Mail for me. The story felt "recycled." If you're unfamiliar with the movie, you'll probably enjoy the book more.

Finally, in a lot of ways this book was too "real" for my tastes. It's hard to put a definition on what it was about Merry and Bright that felt this way, but I think that it came down to the setting (again). I love settings that are a backdrop for the story, and the realistic atmosphere of this novel didn't cut it for me.

I'll leave you with a quote from this book that I did love.

Christmas is a condition of the heart. (p. 158, hardcover edition)

You can purchase Merry and Bright from Amazon. When you make a purchase through this link, I receive a small commission to help me continue blogging!


  1. I have this as an e-book, but didn't get a chance to read it this past Christmas. A lot of novels labeled "Christmas" tend to go for the timeline rather than setting. I wound up reading another sweet romance called A Whyte Christmas that was cute. There was Christmas decorating, an office party, snow, and baking. I also read The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans, who puts out sweet romances every holiday season. I would recommend him.

    I read Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series a few years ago. There is a Christmas book for that series that features all the characters, but it wasn't great. The series started out fresh. I loved the Northeast setting, but the stories began to feel recycled after a while. Ten books is too many for a series.

    1. Nearly every holiday book I've read (regardless of its genre) has been packed with Christmas. This is overall an unusual experience. Later, when there's available funds to do so, I plan to purchase another copy of A Bramble House Christmas. It's the novel that got me into the spirit to do this in the first place. I recommend it and think that you will find it heartwarming.

      Without realizing I was doing it, I purchased TWO novels by Debbie Macomber. I've begun the second and it has left me just as disappointed. If all goes to schedule, I should be reviewing it next week.

      The Noel Diary is on my list -- in fact, it's among the five that I ordered immediately after Christmas 2017 and is sitting in front of my television waiting to be read. The other three are Christmas at Little Street Bakery (Jenny Colgan), Winter Solstice (Elin Hilderbrand), The Noel Diary (Richard Paul Evans), and 12 Days of Christmas, by Debbie Macomber.

      Your recommendation was already on the list!

      Thank you for the comment, Sindie!


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