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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Christmas Wager

Narrators: Lauren Ezzo, Adam Verner Penguin Audio

ISBN: 978-0593544051

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

Publication Date: 09/26/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

From a bestselling Canadian author comes a delightful enemies-to-lovers holiday rom-com set in the quaint town of Maple Falls, about a city girl and a small-town boy who compete in the town's annual holiday games in order to win the right price for a Christmas shop, perfect for fans of The Hating Game and One Day in December.

One rivalry. Eight days until Christmas. Let the holiday games begin.

When L.A.-based real estate developer Bella Ross arrives in the sleepy, mountain town of Maple Falls, she has one mission: to acquire the local failing Christmas shop, Always Noelle, securing the promotion of her dreams. Nothing can get in her way. Except the shop owner’s stubborn grandson, Jesse Harrison.

Both refuse to budge, until an unlikely wager is struck: Bella and Jesse will compete in the Maple Falls Holiday Games, an annual tradition of eccentric feats of strength and skills. Winner decides the selling price. They’ll give each other a run for their money, but as the competition heats up, Bella and Jesse’s icy feelings toward each other begin to thaw. It’ll take a Christmas miracle for them to admit there’s a spark, but what if it’s just another game?


THE CHRISTMAS WAGER by Holly Cassidy aka @hannahmarymckinnon releases on September 26, 2023 and I can’t wait to read this sweet, charming, and hilarious holiday romantic-comedy.

It might not be the holidays yet, but THE CHRISTMAS WAGER is available for pre-order now. Check out her thrillers while you’re there.

My Review

Hannah Mary McKinnon returns following The Revenge List with her latest, THE CHRISTMAS WAGER, writing as Holly Cassidy—a fun, lively, and romantic comedy rom-com Christmas story set in a quaint small town with two competitors fighting for a chance at a failing Christmas store. In the process, they may get more than they bargained for.

Let the games begin!

"Rivalry adds so much to the charms of one's conquests."

—Louisa MayAlcott

Bella Ross is a real estate developer, a city girl from LA, California. She does not care for the holidays. She is ambitious and driven, almost 30 years old. She had been with her company for three years. Her boss has given her an opportunity of a lifetime.

They are opening a new branch in Denver, Colorado. Bella is being considered as the leader to build and lead the sales & marketing team there with the new title of Associate VP of West Coast & Central Sales.

First, they give her an assignment to see what she is capable of, and then they will decide. She must go to Maple Falls, a picturesque and idyllic small mountain town. She is not sure about 'small' town. But she will prove herself, return, and take her boss' job one day.

There is a property the company has its eyes on— a building—an ancient knickknack store that sells holiday trinkets and more. It is failing, and they want to transform it into a high-end duplex and more expansion throughout the small town.

Bella's job is to negotiate the purchase of the property with the older owner. He is old-school and will consider an offer presented in person. Not a cent more than she has specified. She has strict orders from her boss.

She must get it for the lowest price to prove she is up to the challenge. She will receive a very nice bonus if she gets the property for a steal. Her boss wants it wrapped up before Christmas.

Nothing or no one could stop her. That is until she meets Jesse.

Jesse Harrison (about the same age) is the owner's stubborn, hunky grandson, an electrician. The business is called Always Noelle on Town Square in Maple Falls.

Maple Falls has about three thousand people and is full of community spirit. Always Noelle had been in Maple Falls and their family for generations, named after his great-great-grandmother. In its heyday, customers traveled for miles year-round to visit the Colorado Mountains' premier holiday shop. Unfortunately, not too much anymore since most people do their shopping online.

Christmas is Jesse's favorite holiday, which was only one week away. Always Noelle had turned a profit for decades, and his mother took over the daily operations of the general store from his grandparents when he was 15. Jesse had returned to his hometown two years earlier when they lost his Grams to cancer, but now Pops was alone and needed him.

Bella and Jesse meet. They are on opposite sides.

Bella wants to buy the store for practically nothing. Jesse is totally against it. Neither is budging. Jesse hoped he would not see her again. However, an unlikely wager leads them to compete in the town's quirky annual Holiday Games, a feat of strength and skill. The winner decides the selling price.

Both are competitive, but soon, sparks fly between the city girl and the country boy. They are drawn to one another even though they are different.

Do they have any outside help? You must read it to find out what happens!

THE CHRISTMAS WAGER is a charming holiday tale, highly entertaining, with a quaint town filled with traditions and pride in its community. It is a fun, cute story full of holiday charm, humor, competition, and a budding romance from enemies to lovers. Two people on different trajectories whose lives collide with new beginnings! A perfect Hallmark Christmas story.

Ideal for book clubs (discussion questions & Q&A included) and holiday gift giving!

A big fan of the author, I enjoyed the inspiration behind the story and visiting the fictional town of Maple Falls and all its supporting characters! If you are looking for a fun holiday read, look no further! For fans of Viola Shipman & Debbie Macomber's holiday books

Thanks to PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons, for a gifted e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I also ordered the audiobook narrated by two favorites, Lauren Ezzo and Adam Verner!

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Sept 26, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars


One of Library Journal’s ‘Tis the Season for Romance Reads

One of Scary Mommy's 8 Holiday Novels to Buy This July—Because Christmas Can’t Come Soon Enough

One of Cultress’s New Romance Books of September 2023

One of Nerd Daily’s September 2023 Romance Book Releases

“The perfect holiday romp full of laugh out loud shenanigans amid a delightful small town loaded with wintery charm. Bella and Jesse are simply magical…in this swoon worthy Christmas romance that will warm the coldest of hearts.”

—Jenn McKinlay, author of Wait for It and Summer Reading

“Full of wit and charm, The Christmas Wager is better than a hot cup of cocoa after a fresh snowfall. I was smitten!”

—Karma Brown, author of Recipe for a Perfect Wife

“[A] fluffy rom-com that would be right at home on the Hallmark channel...This simple, feel-good tale is just right for fans of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Escape to small-town life where the holiday spirit takes on a whole new meaning as tradition and family are tested by love, money, and one wacky community.”

—Library Journal

“[A] really fun, well-written rom-com, that has everything you would want in this type of book. A good early holiday read.”

—Red Carpet Crash

“A delightful Christmas story, sure to envelop you in holiday cheer.”

—K.A. Tucker, author of The Simple Wild

“Hilarious, warm and romantic…With a charming setting and a lovable cast of supporting characters, readers will root for Bella and Jesse in more ways than one. Let the games begin!”

—Elyssa Friedland, author of The Most Likely Club and Last Summer at the Golden Hotel

“Sweetness and spice blend perfectly in this rivals-to-lovers story….Idyllic, snowy Maple Falls is a town you’ll never want to leave and Bella and Jesse are characters you’ll love to root for….Pure swoony, escapist fun. This book deserves to be on your classics shelf, reopened and savored every Christmas.”

— Ashley Winstead, author of The Boyfriend Candidate and In My Dreams I Hold a Knife

“Romance readers are the winner in this spirited holiday romp that turns love into sport in all the best ways.”

—Jean Meltzer, author of The Matzah Ball

"A delightfully witty romcom that will have you laughing and cheering as the holiday antics and romance rev up! Holly Cassidy’s talent for setting a scene shines from the first to the last page, sucking you in and bringing all the feels with her charming characters and heartfelt moments. Read up, Brinches! Your new favorite holiday romcom has arrived!"

—Codi Hall, author of Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist

“As delicious and comforting as a warm cup of cocoa with cinnamon, The Christmas Wager is sure to delight!”

—Uzma Jalaluddin, author of Ayesha at Last and Hana Khan Carries On

“A sweet and witty story with all the warm comfort of your favorite holiday rom-com movie!...Full of holiday hijinks, hilarious side characters, and the perfect cozy small-town setting….A complete delight!”

—Farah Heron, author of Kamila Knows Best and Accidentally Engaged

“This book is for you if you love a good tussle, a spark of romance, and a competition of wills and skills. This isn’t your typical Rom-Com, it’s a Rom-Competition, and I’m here for it.”

—Ann Garvin, author of I Thought You Said This Would Work

“An absolute treat! Like a hot cup of cocoa laced with a shot of Irish cream, it has all the small-town charm of a Hallmark movie and so much more. I laughed, I cried, I swooned. With a clever twist on the rivals to lovers trope, this is one of those cozy rom coms I’ll read again and again—perfect for a cold winter day, long flight, day at the beach, or anytime at all!”

—Meredith Schorr, author of As Seen on TV

About the Author

Holly Cassidy is the pen name for internationally bestselling author Hannah Mary McKinnon. Her suspense novels include The Neighbors, Her Secret Son, Sister Dear, You Will Remember Me, Never Coming Home, and The Revenge List publishing May 2023. McKinnon was born in England, grew up in Switzerland, and now lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and three sons. The Christmas Wager is her first novel writing as Holly Cassidy. WEBSITE







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