Review: Always, in December by Emily Stone

Emily Stone
Publication date: October 12, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Random House/Dell
4.5 STARS

It started with a letter. It ended with a love story.

A chance encounter during the holiday season brings two people together as quickly as it tears them apart--until fate intervenes again (and again) in this romantic debut novel in the tradition of One Day in December.


Every December, Josie posts a letter from her home in London to the parents she lost on Christmas night many years ago. Each year, she writes the same three words: Missing you, always. But this year, her annual trip to the postbox is knocked off course by a bicycle collision with a handsome stranger--a stranger who will change the course of Josie's life.

Josie always thought she was the only one who avoided the Christmas season, but this year, Max has his own reasons for doing the same—and coincidence leads them to spending the holiday together. Aglow with new love, Josie thinks this might be the start of something special.

Only for Max to disappear without saying goodbye.

Over the course of the next year, Max and Josie will find that fate continues to bring them together in places they'd never expect. New York City. Edinburgh. The quiet English countryside. And it turns out, Max had every reason to leave and every reason to stay. But what does fate hold for Josie and Max as Christmas approaches again?

A devastating, romantic, life-affirming love story, Always, in December will stay with readers long after they've finished the last page.

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY

Let me start by saying that Always, in December is not a romance novel. I fear that it is being marketed as such, or at least labeled as romance by Goodreads users, and that will lead to some damning (and unfair) reviews. Calling it a romance will garner certain expectations (I’m being purposely vague here) and I’d hate to see that because Always, in December deserves all the love.

"I never thought I’d see you again, but I’m so happy that our paths were destined to intertwine."

Josie is at a crossroads. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend and she’s being laid off from her job (or given the option to take a less-than-desirable lateral move). To make matters worse, it’s Christmas, the season Josie dreads every year because while everyone else is bustling about, shopping, filled with merriment, Josie is filled with memories of her parents who were killed in an accident on Christmas Eve. While out mailing a letter to her beloved parents, her Christmas tradition, she quite literally runs into Max. And that collision, that chance encounter, sets into motion a series of events that will change both their lives.

I fell in love with both Josie and Max’s stories – because this is so much more than their story together – from the very start. Right away I had the feeling that I would come to love these characters and I wasn’t wrong. From their first meeting in London, and those magical few days spent together that seemed so promising, to a chance encounter months later in New York City, to a reunion of sorts in Scotland, Josie and Max’s paths continued to cross fleetingly before circumstances separated them again.

While Josie’s issues were more outwardly obvious – grief that she has carried into adulthood, career dissatisfaction, a cheating boyfriend – Max’s were less so and I appreciated the way Stone doled out small bits of information along the way. The more that is revealed, the more his past behavior makes sense. I savored every page as their stories – both separately and together – played out. Their interactions over the course of the year never felt contrived, but more serendipitous.

The secondary characters felt purposeful and Josie’s doting grandparents, in particular, were delightful. (I adored Memo and Grandad!) They all added a richness to the story, a bit of comic relief, and at least one of them truly surprised me.

Josie was a heroine who was easy to love, to relate to, and want the absolute best for. She had been shaped by loss in her childhood and Stone did an incredible job of showing how that resonated in Josie’s adult life. Her journey presented her with options that pushed her out of her comfort zone, if only she was brave enough to take them.

Let me reiterate that Always, in December is not a romance novel, but it is a love story. One that was poignant and engaged my every emotion. Always, in December was a remarkable debut novel and I can’t wait to read what comes from Emily Stone next.


  



32 comments

  1. Yes, this does seem like it would be a romance. Glad to hear you found the story so moving. I'm curious!

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    1. It was a bit misleading which is unfortunate because it's a fantastic story!

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  2. I am not surprised that this one isn't marketed correctly, too many of these type of illustrated covers aren't marketed very well. So good to know its not really a romance. Glad you enjoyed this one here. Sounds truly fantastic.

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    1. So true, Renee! They're slapping illustrated covers on anything and everything now and it's unfortunate when they truly don't represent the story.

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  3. Thank you for correcting the misconceptions about the genre! This book was on my radar anyway, but now I know to adjust my expectations a little! It sounds fantastic regardless.

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    1. The cover is rather misleading, and the synopsis to some extent, but don't let that deter you. It really was an amazing story!

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  4. Thank you for making it clear that it's not a romance. I'm glad you had such a great reaction to the book.

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    1. I really hope this one finds it's audience despite the misleading cover. It's amazing!

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  5. Thank you for pointing out this is not a romance novel. I would have guessed it was, but more and more lately I avoid illustrated covers because I automatically put them in the women's fiction category. I've been burned one too many times. That being said, this is one I probably would have thought was a romance based on the blurb and embrace. Now that I look closer, it doesn't look like a happy embrace.

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    1. This is just one of the reasons I get salty over the illustrated cover trend. Never mind that it's completely overdone and saturated the market, but it's used on *everything* now. Whether it actually represents the content doesn't seem to matter. Grrr.

      Okay, off my soapbox. :) Despite the misleading cover, this was a fantastic read!

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  6. Hmm. Not a romance. Now I'm worried I'm going to find it sad. It was already on my TBR, but you definitely have me more curious about it.

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    1. I hope you'll enjoy it if you decide to give it a try, Alison!

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  7. You really have me wanting to click that widget in my inbox. This sounds lovely and wonderful and like it would make me cry ( you know I love books like that!)

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    1. Well, I can pretty much guarantee it will make you cry!

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  8. Thanks for the warning that it isn't a romance. It sounds great and I'll read it but it's always a letdown when I'm mislead.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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  9. I love the sound of this one, how their paths keep crossing over the course of the year, and you get to know their stories along the way.

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    1. It was such an engrossing story. I hope you'll enjoy it if you decide to give it a try, Lark.

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  10. This sounds like an amazing read and one I would definitely like. I'm definitely adding it to my TBR.
    Great review Tanya.

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    1. Thanks Maureen! I hope you will love it if you decide to give it a try!

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  11. Okay, you've just convinced me that I have to read this one. It sounds incredibly moving!

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    1. It was amazing, Suzanne. Sam was DM'ing while she read it over the weekend and I was like, "I feel your pain!" LOL

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  12. This sounds good and I get your frustration of it being mismarketed as a romance. Happens to too many women's fiction books at the moment which is annoying because you go in with certain expectations when it comes to romance and publishers need to remember that. I will definitely check this out, I'm already thinking of it as a good winter read which means I'll probably read it in the middle of summer.

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    1. LOL It would definitely be a good winter read, Becky. Now to just make that happen... :)

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  13. This isn't the first time this has happened with illustrated covers like these. Makes me nervous to get one.

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  14. Feeling much more prepared to dive into this one after reading your review. I love the illustrated covers but only when they’re used accordingly. 😍

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  15. Good to know it's not a romance. It sounds fantastic though, and I love that the author has written some amazing characters.


    Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Not a romance but definitely a love story. It was wonderful!

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  16. I'm growling after finding out it's not a romance. I grabbed it a few weeks ago and I 100% expected an emotional festive romance which is probably on me... In the UK it's marketed as "gorgeous, heart-tugging and uplifting – the Most Romantic Christmas Love Story of 2021" but we all know love stories aren't always romances. *sigh* I'll read it anyway... At least I can adjust my expectations - thanks to you! :)

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    1. I'm so bummed that the marketing push for this seems to be so romance-centric. I think that's going to backfire and that's a shame but this really is a phenomenal story. I truly loved it. But letting people think it is a romance is misleading. I hope you'll still enjoy it if/when you give it a try, Nicci.

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