Deck the Halls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Oct 2017

Member Reviews

This is the first book that I have read by Mrs Alward. This is a very sweet Christmas read. George and Amy knew each other years ago when her twin Ian was in the military with George. They have not seen each other since before Ian was killed in action. 

George took Ian’s death very hard because he was his commanding officer. Amy and her parents really don’t have closure because they only know that her brother died in action. Amy tracks George down and asks him to talk with her about her brothers last days. 

George eventually agrees to tell her about the day her brother died and they seem to connect on another level as well.

This is a sweet book with dual POV and forgiveness. 

I received a free copy for an honest review.
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Deck the Halls by Donna Alward is part of her Darling VT series.  Amy Merck appears suddenly in Darling VT at the workplace of George Reilly. George had been the best friend and army buddy of her twin brother Ian until an IED took Ian out on a routine convoy.  Amy wanted closure that George felt unable to give.

George had lived a life of guilt and remorse since he was discharged from the Army, much of it homeless and on the streets. When Darling natives Laurel and Aiden took George under their wings, giving him a job and helping him get the veteran’s assistance he so richly deserved, he was able to turn his life around and begin the trek back to normalcy.  But when Amy appeared it almost disrupted his progress.  The one thing he did not feel he could face was Ian’s family and the guilt he felt from Ian’s loss.  But facing that could just be the key to finally healing. Forgiveness and acceptance can be two of the most important  Christmas gifts one can receive, but often the hardest to request.

This seasonal story of love, family, and forgiveness is poignant as well as heartwarming. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and do recommend this tale to all seeking an uplifting Christmas story.
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I was given this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

If you are a fan of Debbie Macomber or Melody Carlson's Christmas books will find this book charming. It may be a tad predictable, but that is what I am looking for when I read a book like this. I could easily see this book becoming a Hallmark movie, and I would definitely read watch it!
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Deck the Halls is one of the best holiday romances I've ever read. Alward made sure it was heartfelt and sweet. The characters were very well written, and this has easily hit number one for holiday romances for me.
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Very sweet, tender, heartfelt, redemptive, clean romance, just right for the holidays.
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A second chance Christmas story, this was a good read and the characters were well written
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I've got to say, this author didn't gloss over the harsh realities of military veterans. PTSD. Financial trouble. Difficulty dealing with reality. Guilt hanging over his head. The hero is a real heart-wrencher, and I couldn't help but root for him to find his happy ending, and did he ever! This romance is sweet, full of heart and passion, and has plenty of Christmas-themed joy!
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All the  things   i look for in a holiday  romance was in ythis story .  Sweet romance  and a nice resolution and holiday  cheer
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Cute and quick Christmas romance. In this book, the reader gets a look more into George's past. I'd recommend at least reading the first book in this series before this one, to at least get introduced to George. He was a soldier whose best friend was killed, which caused him to have PTSD. He went into a destructive mode, and ended up homeless. He's finally getting his life back on track, but he still has some issues. In this story, Amy is George's best friend's sister, and she has tracked George down. She wants to know more about what happened to her brother, but George doesn't want to get into it because it brings up bad memories. Amy has tenacity though, and they begin to rekindle an attraction they had when they were younger. This is a story full of hope, redemption, and the romance is sweet. It was great to see George open up more about his past, and work towards healing. Good read.
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George Reilly, a former veteran, lost himself after he returned home from the war. He still feels guilty that his best friend died in an ambush. After all these years he's finding purpose in Darling, Vermont until Amy Merck, his dead friend's sister, tracks him down and wants to know about her brother's death. Both have suffered severe emotional trauma. Can they help each other find the peace that they need? This is a deeply emotional story that touched my heart. The characters are well written. I was immediately pulled into their story. I could feel the pain. Donna Alward highlighted how difficult it is to deal with loss as well as the guilt that can destroy a person's life. Many of the people in Darling give George both hope and support. I liked that. it was nice to see the goodness in people.
I received a copy of this book which I voluntarily read and reviewed. My comments are my honest opinion.
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As I always do I want to start by thanking St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing us with a copy of this book so that we could bring you this review.

I have a strict rule no Christmas anything before Thanksgiving, so right on Thanksgiving night I began reading all my Christmas books for this year. So for the next few days you will be a new Christmas book.

What a great way to start the season than reading a book about a man who has seen the lowest one can see. He has been homeless, struggled with dealing with the after effects of war and has suffered indignities no one should have to go through. Then he finds his own kind of angel and starts to work towards turning his life around. He works hard to get things moving in the direction he needs and working towards a better future. The only thing he never plans on is his past coming and looking for answers. But he finds that facing this past helps him find redemption and ways to heal even more. This was such a wonderfully sweet and heartwarming Christmas book. It was a wonderful way to kick off my Christmas reading.
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George and Amy's story was just too real for me. Instead of enjoying the story, I ended up deeply empathizing with the characters. The novella depressed me more than entertained me. Donna Alward is an amazing author and this story was well-written as well. But, I couldn't get out of my own head to enjoy the story. 

However, I do think this would be great for the right readers.
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DECK THE HALLS - Donna Alward

#3.5 in the Darling VT romance series


Plot - 4 stars - George is starting over in Darling VT after a difficult time in the military, then spending time homeless and wandering. Amy has been searching for him for years. When her brother Ian was killed in battle, she wanted closure by talking to his best friend George, but she hasn't been able to find him until now.

Writing - 4 stars - Alward always adds such a sweet quality to her writing that I'm immediately drawn into the warmth of the story and the setting she describes so well. Even though she is discussing some difficult subjects in this book (PTSD, survivor guilt), there's a sense of peacefulness and hopefulness that surrounds the characters.

Characters - 4 stars - George has been struggling for years against PTSD, survivor guilt, and despair. After years of homelessness, he found himself in Darling VT and given a second chance by a local woman. After several months, he now works in a nursery, has an apartment, and a truck. He's hard on himself, though, and still fights against the guilt he feels about Ian's death. Amy, on the other hand, came from a warm and loving home, but she and her parents are still grieving the death of her twin brother. Now that she's tracked down George, she wants answers. Instead she finds herself attracted to him just like she was years ago. 

Title - 4 stars - A holiday theme, and it represents the fact that George is finally beginning to celebrate Christmas and wake up to a second chance at life and love.

Cover - 5 stars - Gorgeous cover! Lots of holiday beauty, rich colors, and a sense of glowing warmth.

Overall - 4 stars - Alward always captures my attention with her sweet style and warm characters. I loved that George and Amy are older than the usual romantic pair (in their 30's and 40's), both lonely but not really actively looking for romance. But when Amy tracks him down and offers her friendship, they rekindle the attraction they always had for each other and begin to grow their relationship. But's not all heat and chemistry, it's just a nice slow kindling of love.
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George is trying to move forward from his past. He is no longer has a job and finally has a job he likes. His past comes back right before Christmas as his former brother in arms sister visits him while at work. Looking for closure after her brother’s death in the Middle East she is hocked by how much George has changed. Both effected by their past and healing one another ina time when the Christmas spirit is alive.
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This installment in the Darling, VT series focuses on George. Homeless and a vagrant when helped by Aiden and Laurel, he has been working at The Ladybug Garden Center for a while now. With the help of his new friends and a compassionate town, he now has his own little apartment. Despite his good fortune, he still suffers from his past that landed him on the streets. Like many veterans today, George lost his best friend in combat. Returning home to face his friend's family was impossible. He didn't keep his friend safe, and he lost his life because of George. Instead, George returned home and followed a few different paths before landing on the streets. 

Fifteen years later, the twin sister of George's friend finds him at The Ladybug. Amy shows up just weeks before Christmas following her own disaster of a divorce. George isn't ready to face Amy - or the nightmares she brings back. While Amy is looking for closure for herself and her family, George cannot go back to that dark place. The guilt and PTSD kept George from contacting Amy's family all these years. Amy is not leaving town until she can get George to share her brother's final days and minutes of his life.

I loved the Christmas setting! Amy is installed in a rented farmhouse for her visit, and she does her best to spruce it and make it ready for the holiday away from home. George is making holiday wreaths at the Garden Center. Together they go shopping and decorate George's apartment for Christmas, including a little tree. The cheer and moments that reminded me of the season helped to alleviate some of the pain you felt for George and Amy and all they lost. 

I applaud Donna Alward for writing about the reality that many veterans face when they return to the United States after serving a hard deployment. This is just a touch of what it is like to live with the horrors they have seen while serving their country. PTSD is the silent killer of 22 veterans per day who take their own lives. Coming home from war, a six-month deployment on a ship, or simply transitioning from a life in uniform to a life without one, can be difficult and the various state and federal systems set up to deal with this transition and life after military services are unable to meet the need. The challenges of adjustment and transition, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and physical disabilities, all need to be addressed especially as these things result in barriers to education, employment, healthcare, and overall individual well-being. There are just too many gaps in the system and our veterans suffer. 

With George and Amy having a shared past and connection, it was easy to see they would be drawn to one another. While there is no moving on from a veteran's past, they are able to move forward with their lives. Amy found herself wanting to be part of George's moving forward. 

The running theme throughout the book is second chances, and the heartwarming love and friendship from Amy really made those second chances possible beyond what George already had.
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Deck the Halls is a lovely second chance romance in the Darling, VT series written by author Donna Alward. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the advance copy.
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Amy Merck headed to Darling, VT, with one thing in mind: to locate her twin brother’s best friend George and find out exactly how Ian died in combat fifteen years earlier. She entered the Ladybug Garden Center with determination, and faced off with George in a quiet corner of the lot. Realizing her straight-forward questioning was not successful; Amy tried a softer way, by bringing George lunch and agreeing not to discuss Ian’s death.

George refused to talk about Ian, because he felt responsible for his death. His deeply held guilt drove him into homelessness, and until he’d drifted into Darling, he hadn’t known acceptance and friendship in fifteen years – since his days in the Army, when he had the love of the Merck family. Laurel trusted him to work at the Ladybug, and he had recently gotten an apartment and a truck of his own. 

I love the Darling, VT characters! The Gallagher family is warm and accepting, and Laurel’s ability to connect with George and lift him up is wonderful. George’s situation is unfortunately too common, veterans discharged with few supports in place, and it’s easy to cheer for him as he slowly begins to heal. I was impressed by Amy’s acceptance of George and of the warmth and forgiveness she offered him from the beginning. This was another enjoyable read from Donna Alward, and I’m looking forward to the next installment of life in Darling, VT.
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I received an arc copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of it and this book was just okay. Amy is searching for answers about the death of her twin brother who was killed while deployed. She finally finds George, who was with her brother when he died. George suffered from PTSD, was homeless and really didn't want to go back to that time when his life was slowly coming back together.
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I do love a second chance romance. This one was so sweet. I fell in love with the small town of Darling. It certainly lives up to its name. George has led a difficult life, a veteran who lost his best friend on the job. He feels so guilty it majorly impacts his life. Ultimately it makes him homeless. Thanks to a few kind people, he starts to rebuild his life.When we meet George he is quietly living his life, working at the local garden centre. Trying his best but not really dealing with his ghosts. Georges peaceful life comes crashing down around him when Amy arrives, looking for answers as to what happened with her brother. George doesn't want to relive what happened,he feels too guilty and dealing with undiagnosed PTSD. I really felt for both George and Amy, life hadn't been kind to them. I wanted to give George a hug, he really didn't know what a great guy he was. The ending was so sweet. Highly recommended for fans of second chance romance, small town romance and contemporary romance. ARC received from Net Galley in exchange for a honest review.
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