314 pages? That's it, just 314 pages? Or 10 hours and 47 minutes listening time in audio. It seemed so much longer. This book absolutely wore me out. Maybe that's because I expected one thing and got another, I don't know, but other than the mention of the holiday, this book did not in any way make me feel Christmasy. Here's the thing - I saw the cover and read the title, both of which made me think lighthearted at the least. I did read the blurb, so I expected some angst, but good grief, the angst goes on and on, and just when you think it may lighten up... Nope, more angst. I didn't like any of the characters with the exception of Becca and RJ, and the only page time either of them has is on the other end of the phone. By the epilogue, Casey and Joel were okay, but by then, it was hard to care either way. Casey is whiney, and Joel is contrary beyond belief. Some of Joel's attitude is understandable given his circumstances, and I usually love a redeemable grouch, but Joel was so over the top that he's unlikable. As I said, Casey is whiney, which makes sense for a spoiled kid, but he claims to want to be his own man, so the spoiled little rich boy attitude doesn't do much toward endearing him, at least not to me.
The narrator, John Solo, is the only redeeming quality I found in this book. The story was depressing as all hell, but John Solo does a wonderful job with the characters and their emotions and attitudes. Everything: Joel's grouchiness, Casey's pushy attitude to get what he wants, Casey's mother's elitism, Joel's father's verbal abuse, and even RJ's laid back attitude. It all comes through very well in the performance, and honestly, had he not done the great job that he did, I doubt I would've even made it the end of the book. I rarely DNF anything, but had I not been listening, I'm pretty sure this one would've been on that very short list. John Solo is certainly the only reason this book got three stars from me.
In the end, I will say that the book is well-written technically, but it's incredibly slow-paced due in large part to the angst for the sake of angst. We do get a couple of steamy scenes, which is the only time I felt like Casey and Joel worked as a couple, but that's lust, not love. The rest of the story just depressed the daylights out of me. I typically read a Christmas romance to help get in the holiday spirit, but this book did not do anything for me in that area. We know it's Christmas time in Knoxville because we're told that, but other than that, it could've happened any time of year in any place USA.