REVIEW: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

In brief: Mae’s Christmas hasn’t gone well as expected after she discovers it’s the last time she will be in her favourite place – a snowy cabin. Mae just wants to know what will make her happy – and suddenly she’s transported back to the start of her holiday. Every time she makes a wrong decision, she starts again – but how can she escape?

The good: It’s a sweet and lovely story.

The not-so-good: Occasionally the restarts of the holiday got on my nerves.

Why I chose it: I will read anything Christina Lauren writes because they always write delightful stories.

Year: 2020

Pages: 307

Publisher: Piatkus (Hachette)

Setting: Park City, Utah

Rating: 9 out of 10

Christina Lauren knows how to write a story that will make me smile. Their stand-alone adult novels have been angsty, sexy, hilarious, sweet and cosy. In a Holidaze is a holiday themed romance, combined with a Groundhog Day time loop. It’s a lovely story with some bite but it is also familiar and cosy.

I’m not one to read Christmas stories during the festive season (summer Christmas reality and winter book Christmas just don’t gel for me) so I decided to wait until winter to read this novel. It has a lovely snowy feel as the characters make snow sculptures and get cold the instant they go outside and winter felt just right. The main character is Mae, who tells the story in the first person. It’s lucky that she’s the one doing this, as she’s the only one to notice that her family and loved ones are repeating the holiday over and over. At the end of the holiday, everyone discovers that this was the last Christmas they would all spend together at the cabin in Park City. Mae feels that all her life is going wrong and frankly, this is the last straw. She just wants the universe to tell her what will make her happy. Suddenly, the car she’s travelling in is about to crash, but Mae wakes up on an aeroplane on the way to her Christmas break. If that’s not freaky enough, every time Mae puts a foot wrong from her journey to happiness, she’ll be sent back to the beginning after a nasty accident. It’s kind of like the end of a life of Super Mario Bros and going again.

But this isn’t a video game, but real life for Mae. As she progresses further on her second/third/fourth attempt at her holiday, she starts to find out things about herself. That she often plays it too safe. That she doesn’t make herself heard, or reach for what she really wants. What she really wants is Andrew, the son of her parents’ best friends (but the first holiday involved her making out with Andrew’s brother). Mae puts herself on the line only to find that sometimes things might just work out for the better, particularly if you plan ahead…

Besides Mae and Andrew, there are a lovable cast of characters that make up the other people at the cabin – friends of Mae’s parents and their children. I loved the inclusion of an Australian character, Benny, who is as chill as can be despite the implausible proposals Mae lays out for him. Mae’s parents and their friends are equal part overprotective parents and extended family. The traditions of the cabin and the group’s Christmas holiday are all very sweet and traditional (with a few twists). While the story may not be as ambitious and angst ridden as some other Christina Lauren novels, it’s comfy like an old pair of pyjamas. The repeat holidays were a little annoying initially, but once Mae got her groove and led with her heart, the story was head over heels fun. It won’t tax your head with complex twists, but just let it carry you along. Sweet without the tooth breaking part (possibly the best part of Mae’s redo – avoidance of major dental work).

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