Thursday, November 9, 2023

In a Nutshell Reviews - Holiday Edition

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

The Christmas Orphans Club
 by Becca Freeman
Published by Penguin Books on September 26, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

From bookfluencer and host of the BAD ON PAPER podcast, a riotous holiday rom-com about four friends in NYC who hold onto their unconventional Christmas tradition even when their paths diverge--but the changes they fear might be exactly what they need...

Hannah and Finn have spent every Christmas together since they were sophomores in college. Neither has anywhere else to go--Hannah's parents died, and Finn's disowned him when he came out. Their first makeshift Christmas kicked off a tradition of offbeat holiday adventures that grew only more outrageous as the years passed. When the pair starts their adult lives in New York City, they add stylish Priya and mysterious Theo to the crew, solidifying a found family that provides the sense of belonging they've always craved.

But ten years into their tradition, Finn announces he's moving to L.A., meaning that this Christmas will be their last. Hannah is terrified of losing the family she's built for herself, even as her seemingly perfect boyfriend nudges her toward commitment. Meanwhile, Finn struggles with the things he's about to leave behind--namely, his unexpressed feelings for Theo. What will this Christmas look like to friends who are doing their best to stay together even as they learn, finally, to grow up?

Since college, Finn and Hannah have celebrated Christmas together. Both were without family to share the holiday with - Hannah because both her parents had passed away, and Finn because he had been cut off when he came out to his family. Their "family" had grown a bit in the past decade, but with Finn accepting a job on the west coast, this could be their last Christmas together. 

My first impression of this book was that it was a lot of fun. Sounds hard to believe given the main characters' family situations, but it was. Orphans Club combine many of my favorite book elements, and it was done in a great way.

  • Found family is one of my top tropes. Most of these "orphans" really needed to find people to belong to as they had absent, dead, or horrendous parents. It warmed my heart that Theo, Finn, Hannah, and Priya had each other and could navigate life together.
  • Holiday books tend to make me happy, and I got to celebrate Christmas, over and over again in this book. Though some of the celebrations were a bit rough, most were festive and fun.
  • Getting glimpses into this world for a such a long period of time allowed me the privilege of watching each character grow and evolve. I also saw their friendships evolve, and there was one I was hoping would move to the next level.
  • I like funny books, and Freeman's humor worked for me. From snappy one liners to outright shenanigans, I found myself quite amused as I celebrated the holidays with this crew.

Overall, I couldn't go wrong with this tale of found family and holiday magic. The humor, the hijinks, the tender moments, and the touch of romance kept me fully engaged with this delightful tale that tugged at my heartstrings.

Wrapped with a Beau
 by Lillie Vale
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on September 26, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

In its heyday, Piney Peaks and its beloved Christmas house were made famous by Sleighbells under Starlight, a romantic holiday movie. Fifty years later, the small town is ready for a new love story.

As a successful film liaison, Elisha Rowe has her heart set on one thing and one thing only: putting her hometown back on the map. So, when she gets the chance to secure the long-hoped-for sequel to Sleighbells under Starlight, a beloved holiday movie, she's willing to do whatever it takes to make sure everything goes smoothly. Unfortunately, that includes claiming to have already gotten permission to film at the historic Christmas house—permission she was very much denied by the gorgeous new owner.

City boy Ves Hollins is only back in Piney Peaks long enough to sell the house he inherited from his great-aunt. The holidays have always been tough for Ves, and it's not any easier when he's distracted by memories of a Christmas long, long ago, and the irresistible charm of neighbor Elisha. He has no plans to put down roots or fall in love...even if Elisha unravels his hesitations like a bad Christmas sweater.

There's no question the two are opposites in every way. Ves is undeniably frosty. Elisha is brimming with warmth. He doesn't do commitment. She never runs from a challenge. But as the two grow closer, they quickly realize that the growing spark between them may be just what the season calls for.

Christmas in a small town is always a treat, and I throughly enjoyed my time in Piney Peaks. Elisha was the sunshine to Ves' grump, and it was wonderful seeing them fall in love. I did feel for Elisha and her painful past coming into her present, but it was Ves I was way more invested in.

Ves had people in his life who offered warmth and support, but he always felt on the outside of it. His parents were very hands off and shuttled him off to boarding school and other places so he wasn't underfoot. I loved the way Elisha's family and the people of Piney Peaks embraced Ves. They showed him the type of affection he always desired, and I swear, I could see his heart melting.

Overall, this was a sweet and fun rom-com that delivered the warm fuzzies I expect from a holiday romance.

Favorite holiday film?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Ves and Elisha sound like a fun combo! And of course, small-town Christmas is the best!

    1. I liked them together. Her and her family made Ves feel like her belonged. It was heartwarming for sure

  2. I love funny as well, so The Christmas Orphans Club is now on my radar!

  3. Found family is also one of my favorite tropes!!

    1. This was a great use of that trope too. People alone for the holidays and bonding to form a group who celebrate together.

  4. Replies
    1. Which is my number one expectation for a holiday book

  5. I really want to read The Christmas Orphans Club. I'm not into holiday reading just YET, but I do have some ready to go.

    Lauren @

    1. Tis the season, Lauren. The holiday books start coming out in September, so I am usually reading them in the summer.