REVIEW: The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durreson

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It’s Christmas 1946 and wounded doctor Laurence is struggling to find a way to live during peacetime. Lost in the Hampshire countryside on a snowy Christmas Eve, Laurence stumbles across lonely Mistletoe Cottage and its owner: Avery.
Avery is bright and beautiful, welcoming Laurence to his home with warmth and joy. But Laurence can’t stay forever, and Avery’s secrets mean he can never leave. When everything goes wrong, it’s up to Laurence to find a way to secure a happy-ever-after for their midwinter fairy tale.

Dear Ms. Durreson,

I’ve read several of your stories but not this one. I think others have mentioned it though so I went in, hoping for the best. Ah, what a charming story this is. 

I love how the awful British winter of 1946 is worked into it. How Laurence’s “broken brain” is not the PTSD I was expecting. His neurological issues also help him accept what Laurence considers at first to be Avery’s eccentricities. Avery is not quite historical but not quite contemporary (for Laurence’s time). Avery knows a bit about trains, has a range to cook on rather than cooking in the oven. Laurence’s upbringing has taught him that when he’s in a new environment, he needs to accept, be agreeable, and watch to see how to act so he doesn’t totally flip out when Avery uses some magic. The magic is also revealed at the start of their time together so the standard “what is happening, can’t be happening!” scenes can be eliminated.   

Both men know their preferences already but the realization has to dawn on them, through some subtle flirting, that they both feel this way. The relationship between Avery and Laurence does start fairly quickly but then they’ve only got twelve days to kickstart that. Or do they? The way that Laurence and Avery “connect” over the course of the year is clever and gets me ready for them to actually be in love When It Counts. Having Laurence discover something that helps him accept what is actually going on works for me, too. 

I wasn’t expecting the last half of the story but it’s lovely and filled with other people who are not quite what society expects or will tolerate. Lady Althea and her “secretary” Millie (who knows how to fly spitfires but was not allowed to fight during the war) are obviously a couple, while Elspeth, the village lass and daughter of the local vicar, longs to apply to Oxford while her sister did “something mysterious” during the war. Even these things would have been beyond the dreams of Avery’s sisters but the world is changing. And as the village gets used to the fact that Laurence’s head injury necessitates that he needs some form of long term help, there might be a way forward into a HEA for him and this lovely man to whom Laurence has given back spring flowers. A-

~Jayne

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