Good story. Jonas was deployed when his beloved stepmother died, leaving the house she had promised him to her new found niece instead. All he can think about is how this interloper has ruined his plans for the future. He is determined to convince her to sell the house to him, no matter what it takes.
Serena and her son came to Whidbey Island after her Marine husband was killed in action and she found out about her biological father. Dottie was her only family on that side and she enjoyed getting to know her. Serena was also ready to get away from Texas, its memories, and her well-meaning but slightly smothering family. She hadn't expected to inherit the house, but the idea of raising her son on land that had been in her family for years was very appealing to her. While she felt a little bad for Jonas, she refused to be bullied into giving up her new home.
I have to say that I had a hard time liking Jonas for a good share of the book. I felt badly for him that he had been disappointed about the house, but his attitude seemed rather selfish. No matter how many times Serena told him that she wasn't going to sell it, he kept badgering her about it. When he realized that attitude wasn't getting him anywhere, he then decided that being nice might get him further. All of his actions seemed to be motivated by that one thing.
I liked Serena a lot. She had been through a lot with the death of her husband and trying to get herself and her son through their grief. I liked the courage she showed in giving up everything to start fresh in a whole new place. She is also a fantastic mother, doing everything she can to make sure that he has everything he needs, physically and emotionally. I liked the way she has fallen in love with the house and is determined to fix it up. I liked the way she stood up to Jonas and his manipulations.
There are sparks between Serena and Jonas from the moment they met, and neither one is happy about it. Jonas first attributes it to his long deployment, but soon discovers that no one else interests him in quite the same way. That same attraction adds another layer of tension to that which is already there. It is kind of amusing to see the way that Jonas's feelings of attraction keep interfering with his attempts to get the house. He slowly begins to care about her and her son, though memories from his deployment haunt him and make him reluctant to get involved with Pepe. I liked seeing the changes he went through as his focus changed from the house to Serena. Serena is not very happy to discover that the first man to attract her after her husband's death is Jonas. There are too many issues between them to make a relationship possible. She doesn't want Pepe getting attached to Jonas and then have Jonas disappear from his life when the house situation is finally settled. As they spend more time together, their feelings start to change, but neither feels quite ready to make a commitment. As Christmas approaches, each of them makes a decision to help the other that is reminiscent of The Gift of the Magi, and opens their eyes to their true desires.
I also enjoyed the secondary story, told in flashbacks, of Dottie's parents. I liked the realism of what Henry went through from the time he was shot down to the time of his rescue. It was his drive to get home to his wife and daughter that helped him survive everything that he went through. I liked Sarah's confidence in his promise to come home. Their reunion was very sweet.