by Carly Alexander

October 2005
ISBN: 0-7582-0925-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Kensington Publishing
Trade Paperback

An old-fashioned Mrs. Claus suit is about to bring some holiday magic into the lives of three lucky women.

In The Nutcracker, Olivia Todd has just moved back home to Baltimore after a leg injury forces her to quit The Rockettes. Sheís taking some time off and doing all she can to heal her leg, but in the mean time, she has to get a job. She auditions and lands the role of playing Mrs. Claus at Rossmanís Department Store. She wants to be more excited about the job, but all she can think about is getting away from Baltimore, and away from The Nutcracker, the new TV show based on her, created by her ex-boyfriend, the man she thought she was going to marry. Now heís got everyone in Baltimore believing that Olivia is a bit of a nut job, a drama queen, and the most selfish and conceited woman in the city. Olivia wants a do-over. She wants her old life back, but it seems that Santa Claus has another plan in store for her.

Humorous, sentimental, with a nice cynical edge to keep you interested in the story, The Nutcracker was a cute story about what happens when life throws you one too many curveballs at once. Oliviaís over angsty dramatics and woe is me attitude gets a bit tiring at times, but the gradual shift in her attitude about life, love, Baltimore, and Christmas is subtle and positive enough to endear her to the reader. A sweet romance involving Olivia and a man from her past also helps her to see some the more positive side of the holiday season. This is a nice start to the anthology.

Christmas Mouse features single mom Cassie Derringer and her five year old son, Tyler. Cassie is part of the design team at Rossmanís Department Store. Unfortunately, this Rossmanís store hasnít been doing so well numbers wise and a new boss, Samuel Buchman, is sent in to shape up the store. He assigns Cassie to play Mrs. Claus in Santaland, but thankfully allows her son Tyler to dress up as an elf and stay in Santaland with his mother. Buchman is proving to be a conundrum to love-starved Cassie. Heís attentive, sweet, and very good with Tyler, but heís also her boss. Added to that, Cassie is trying to get Tylerís father more involved in his life so her son can have a real sense of family, something she didnít have while growing up. Unfortunately, Tylerís dad is proving to be pretty resistant to her efforts. What will it take to show Cassie that family is what you make of it, not the dream image she has of it in her head?

Christmas Mouse is this reviewerís favorite story of the three. Cassie struggle to do the best for her son is very touching, while also being realistically portrayed. Not all men are fatherhood material, as Cassie finds out. I liked the sense of love and emotional rapport Ms. Alexander built into her characters. Cassie, Tyler and Buchman connected very well right from the get go, making their eventual happily ever after all the more sweet.

Miracle on the Magnificent Mile is the story of Rossmanís heir, Meredith Rossman. She wants to be CEO of the company her parents left behind, but her cousin Daniel is proving to be more of a competitor than she ever thought possible. When Meredith is assigned to work as Mrs. Claus, in the hopes that she will get a better understanding of the company she longs to lead, she is a bit dumbstruck. Meredith excels with numbers, project proposals and reorganization efforts, but working retail? Thatís a whole other box of Christmas ornaments. However, Meredith finds some unlikely allies in the form of her elf Gia, and one very special Santa Claus, Nick. As her tenure as Mrs. Claus progresses, Meredith finds herself better understanding the legacy her parents left behind, and in the process, opening her heart to the Christmas spirit she let go of when her parents died on Christmas two years ago.

Miracle on the Magnificent Mile rounds out this trio of tales in The Secret Life of Mrs. Claus. Meredithís growth as a person becomes the central focus of this story as she lets go of some of her bah-humbug attitude that has plagued her most of her life. It was great watching Meredith open her heart to the holiday season, and at the same time, allow herself to move past her parentsí death for the first time since they died. This was another fun and fresh take on the role of Mrs. Claus, the woman behind the scenes at Christmas, but who, in all three of these stories, takes center stage to shine. The Secret Life of Mrs. Claus is a great stocking stuffer that will surely soften the heart of any Scrooge this season.

Reviewed in December 2005 by Sarah.

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