Please note that I gave this book 3.5 stars, but rounded it to 4 stars on Goodreads.
I read this for the Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season.Please do not read unless you have read all of the books in the series.
I have been reading the Lowcountry Summer books for years. There were some ups and downs. Ultimately I thought the stories involving the Muir family were good. This newest book focuses on Taylor McClellan, Harper's husband. I think the idea behind the book was good (takes a very good look at PTSD and service dogs) but the tension in the book was not really present because we already know that Taylor is alive and well with Harper, and we know that his family is okay too since they were mentioned in previous books. I did like how Monroe tied this story into "A Christmas Carol" though and I really got a kick out of that.
So I was never really interested in Taylor while reading the series. If anything, I wish this book could have followed up with the newest Muir Atticus. That would have been a nice swan song to the family. Instead this book has Taylor being happy in his life with his new wife and daughter. The book then flashes back five years to when Taylor arrived back home suffering from PTSD. The story switches between Taylor, his younger brother Miller, and then their mother Jenny.
The beginning of the book told from Taylor's POV really did not fit the book version of Taylor I had in my head up to that moment. He was way more eloquent then I thought Taylor had ever shown. The flashbacks to when Taylor goes home, interacts with his family, etc. read more like the Taylor that Harper had met and married.
The character of Miller felt off throughout the entire book. He is 10 at the beginning of this story and he does not have a "voice" like any 10 year old I have met. At certain times he sounded babyish and at other way too adult for the age he was supposed to be. He was either clueless about his family's finances or he was not clueless. But having him reacting badly to not getting a dog was not exactly making me want to get up and cheer this character. He does end up becoming more improved as the book went on, but I think that was because one Monroe has him interacting with his mother and brother more and more he felt more realistic to me.
The character of Jenny was actually written very well. Frankly I liked her POV's more than anyone else's. Maybe it would have been smart to just have Jenny's POV. I did not always get her (her having to constantly deal with her husband acting like an ass is a recurring theme) but you know she loves hers sons.
I really wish if Monroe was going to do this, she had included Taylor's father's POV as well. It seemed odd we didn't get his POV and I think if you are going to go all in about the McClellan's it would have worked much better if he got added in. The guy read like a jerk throughout the whole book until the end. I really wanted to be able to get a sense of his feelings and how he was dealing with losing his way of life, not being able to provide for his family like he wanted to, and having to acknowledge that there was something wrong with his oldest son.
The writing was fine in this book. Just a bit flowerly here and there for 10 year old Miller and older version Taylor. Also it was just weird to me the book starts off with Taylor remembering 5 years ago and the book just breaks it up to show Miller and Jenny's POV's as well as his. The book does set up the different POV's so even while reading you know who is "speaking" before each chapter.
The flow was slow to start off with. Things really don't start clicking more until Taylor gets home and his family starts to realize that something is wrong with him. I thought the whole "incident" put into the story was a bit much though. It read way too Hallmark for me and I was surprised Monroe included it. It didn't really fit the larger story she was telling.
The setting of the lowcountry is a familiar one and I do enjoy it. But this one besides location did not have the same set-up (obviously) or feel of the previous books.
The ending was okay but way too much information was spewed in the last 5 pages that left me with more questions than answers. Also I am wondering why the family scene was missing some people we know are important to Harper (her grandmother on her mother's side). Dora's son who we know is autistic also did not read as he usually does in these books. And I hated the big reveal about one of the sister's just kind of thrown out there.