Woods revisits her Sweet Magnolias series in this well-plotted story, catching readers up with characters from earlier books and creating some new, equally memorable ones. This novel is sure to elicit some smiles -- and tears.

All her life, Jeanette Brioche has never had friends like Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue -- or witnessed marriages as happy as theirs. Working with Maddie at the Corner Spa in Serenity, S.C., keeps Jeanette almost busy enough to ignore her lack of male companionship -- until she meets the new town manager, Tom McDonald.

Tom makes no secret of his interest, and when Maddie "volunteers" her for the committee organizing Serenity's annual Christmas festival, Jeanette winds up working with Tom. Jeanette must face her growing attraction to Tom, and her distaste for the holiday season itself. Which isn't about Christmas at all -- it's about family, loss and complex emotions. Tom can relate; he has his fair share of relationship and family issues too. Winning Jeanette over isn't going to be easy, but Tom's a determined guy. (MIRA, Dec., 416 pp., $7.99)
Reviewed by: 
Catherine Witmer