Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Oh bloody hell. 2020 cannot be over soon enough.”
I told myself I couldn’t and wouldn’t read anything COVID related, but when I saw that this one was a rom-com, I felt that it couldn’t be that bad and made an exception – I actually rather enjoyed it! I’ve heard a lot about Maggie Aldrich in the book community and this is my first read from the author. I read through it in a few hours as it’s relatively short, but it’s worth a try, I must say! Very happy to share my review of this one in the run up to Christmas!
Mask-wearing, social distancing Kinsey Mullrooney would rather not bring a date to the annual work holiday party. How will she keep six feet of distance? Besides, skipping it altogether to watch British telly is much more her style.
But when attendance “plus one” becomes mandatory, she’s forced to scour singles sites for a suitable date. Blimey! She’s got just two weeks!
Bypassing Ted the Serial Killer, she finds a fetching match in the Daniel Craig look-alike, Wyatt. The adorable couple sets off to the party in matching facemasks, chemistry evident between them.
Wyatt is everything she’s hoped for! Fun, friendly, and gorgeous! But when his mood shifts as they depart the festivities, Kinsey realizes she’s committed an uproarious gaffe.
She’s left the party on the arm of the wrong masked man.
The book begins with a scene many of us can relate to in current times – working from home and those bloody Zoom meetings we’re forced to sit in on regularly. I could definitely relate to our main character sat desperately needing a wee in the middle of a long call, and I loved her creative thinking to subtly be excused from the agonising marketing talk for a few moments! We instantly get introduced to Dominic, and even though he has no clue how to use video calling, (much to his colleagues’ delight) he seemed to be quite the catch. I found myself laughing so many times at Kinsey’s thoughts and her friends/colleagues’ back and forth messaging. Different aspects of social distancing and COVID rules are visited that didn’t make me roll my eyes like I though it might! So far, so good…
I liked how relatable everything was so far and just how Kinsey goes through a lot of stuff we’ve all been through over the last few months. Even though it’s a time I’d rather forget, I felt it’d be a good book to teach new generations to come on how we all tried to live each day as ‘normally’ as possible! I thought it would also be a good book to just remind ourselves exactly what life was like ‘back in 2020’ which doesn’t make you depressed as hell, but which reminds us of a time where we came together and tried to make the most of every day. The tone of the story makes for very easy reading and doesn’t take much concentration, which I think suited the book well (who wants to concentrate on the pandemic?!) It already felt light-hearted with characters I seemed to bond well with, and the author’s storytelling had such a fun and addictive quality.
I don’t know if it’s because of how fed up I am with COVID but I felt that all the putting on of masks and forgetting masks was a bit repetitive at times, but saying that, it is a book about COVID at Christmas! Looking beyond this at the plot, I felt it was likeable enough and always seemed to succeed in making me laugh and keeping me reading. The fact that the story is set at the same time as I was reading (Christmas 2020) was something that I’ve not experienced before, surprisingly, and I really liked how well it worked! Kinsey soon receives an invitation to her work Christmas party (socially distanced, of course) and she soon has another problem to add to her list – she needs a plus one! Things were about to get even more entertaining, even if Kinsey’s bad luck was increasing!
“I went up nice and neighborly yesterday in an attempt to have a friendly conversation with Mrs Gibbons, only to find out she’s been dead for two months and replaced by a neanderthal!”
Kinsey’s niece is a really brilliant character and I loved her from the very first moment we learn of her staying with her aunt. As soon as she hears about the party, she makes it her mission to spruce up Kinsey’s online dating profile and find her the suitable guy to be her plus one. I loved Reece’s personality and how it shone through in each scene, and I loved how much she was willing to help Kinsey. As a 14-year-old, she sure acted older sometimes! With only two weeks to go until the party, time certainly wasn’t on her side to find the right guy. How could she be sure of the right one after being out of the dating game for so long? The opening to the book sets the scene well, and by this point, we’re ready for action! Would Kinsey’s bad luck continue, or was it time for positive change?
With regular issues with the new guy upstairs, Kinsey gets incredibly frustrated – can’t he even listen to simple instructions?! Even though she gets mad at him, she finds him unmistakably attractive behind that surgical mask – maybe, if they could eventually see eye to eye, he could be a potential plus one to the party? I was trying to think of who we’d met so far in the book and if any of them would be the right guy for Kinsey. It definitely wouldn’t be that strange neighbour of hers, Larry, who’d been trying it on for the past 13 years! It was a slow process, but I had faith in her. With a brand new dating profile ready to go, she’s already getting a few hits, but what would these guys really be like? The author keeps the humour consistent and there are so many funny scenes to keep that smile plastered on your face.
When Wyatt suggests a virtual drink, she’s got to accept, right?! However, before this, Kinsey has to sit through the shot game during the Friday afternoon buzzword meeting – I LOVED this game and thought it’d be the perfect game to play in my own meetings to spice things up a bit… I wouldn’t dare though! This made me laugh so much, and by the time the meeting is over, Kinsey is well and truly sloshed. A sense of dread ran through both my own and Kinsey’s body – the virtual drink with her date! It was surprising just how tense I felt here. How could she turn up drunk to her virtual date with Wyatt? At this point, I felt like covering my eyes for what we were going to experience, and I just hoped to God she wouldn’t embarrass herself. The more I read about Kinsey, the more I liked her character – she was very real and someone we can all relate to on some level!
I’d have liked to have gotten to know Wyatt a little more as the story progressed – his introduction felt a little rushed to me, but then again, how much can you get to know someone you’ve never met in person?! However, there’s another guy on the scene who has taken an interest in Kinsey, so she decides to try him out too. With more than one potential person to invite to the party, the pressure seems to be magnified! The humour was brilliant here once again as Reece is convinced Ted is going to be a serial killer, but I had to applaud Kinsey’s bravery to get back into the dating scene in such strange circumstances. I felt the subtle tension building as meeting the right guy in person quickly approached, and in some ways, I felt Kinsey’s nerves could partly have been a lack of human interaction from being cooped up for so long – who knows!
“A handsome man, melted cheese, a magazine detailing the latest in British entertainment. I may very well be in heaven.”
The party is a success, and after getting to know Wyatt a little better, Kinsey feels better in herself. So much better in fact that she feels brave enough to ask him back to her place! However, I was concerned at just how different Wyatt seemed compared to how he was when they first met, and those alarm bells started ringing in my head. What was this guy hiding? The author does a good job of making us question him, and this made my mind race – would Kinsey need to watch her step? However, it soon becomes clear exactly what she’s done when those masks are removed… she’s only gone and left the party with the WRONG guy! Oh my god, wouldn’t you just want to crawl into a hole and never emerge if that happened to you?! Not only was it the wrong guy, but it actually turns out to be someone familiar… Even though the book is very fast paced, it didn’t fail to make me laugh, cringe and feel hopeful, all in one!
Some of the book seems very predictable towards the end (not that this is a bad thing for a rom com) and I felt a lot of it could have been extended a little and explored in more detail. However, for a short read, it does the job and is entertaining! When the hilarity of the party has calmed down a little, Kinsey seems to have a bit of a dilemma on her hands. Is she really finding two men attractive right now, both of who seem to like her too? It seemed she’d soon have an important decision to make and it wasn’t going to be easy! The ending of the book did make me question what Kinsey wanted and who would be the right person for her in the long run. There was one of these men that shared a lot of interests with Kinsey, but they were both equally as charming. Which would she choose, and how would she know she’d made the right choice?
It was rather heartwarming seeing just how Kinsey and her niece spent Christmas day – helping out at a homeless shelter. There was also an unexpected guest (I loved how Reece stuck her nose in sometimes) which made Kinsey both secretly grateful, yet confused. She needs to work out her feelings and which man she’s going to let down gently! The story had the typical elements of a romance here, and the author had written this very well. We’re kept guessing right until the very end, and sometimes, it felt like she’d never make her mind up! I quite liked both of the characters she was indecisive about, so I knew that whoever she chose would make her happy. I was looking forward to seeing just how the author ended things and whether we’d hear more from these characters in another book!
With a New Year party coming up, it made sense for Kinsey to attend with the right person, but she still seemed so far off making a decision about who the right guy for her was. I had one person in mind who I hoped it would be, but I wasn’t 100% sure yet. I liked how she compared and contrasted the two men to try and make her mind up, but even doing this didn’t help much! As time went on, I noticed one of her love interests begins to take less interest in Kinsey’s hobbies and passions, which set those alarm bells ringing for me. If someone doesn’t seem interested in what you do, they very likely aren’t the right one! I began to feel more excited at this point and that maybe, finally, Kinsey might know who the right person is after all. But would she ever admit it to herself? The build up to the ending was written well and succeeded in making me speed read until those final pages!
“I’m negative for COVID. Just did a quick-test in my apartment. I didn’t want you to have to kiss me through the elbow of your sweater.”
Despite a few uncertainties throughout the book, (definitely only my opinion and nothing to do with the story or how it is written) the ending was incredibly satisfying, and I actually got the ending I was hoping for! I think the author has nailed the ultimate rom-com finale that will leave readers feeling full of love and warmth. Even though the story is short, I felt like it was a good representation of the world we’re living in at the moment and may even be quite relatable for some! It also gave me a little bit of hope after such a terrible few months – even though we’re not out of danger just yet, I know things will get better! A solid four stars from me; a book that I’d certainly recommend to rom-com lovers and those who’d be open to a surprisingly uplifting read in the current COVID climate!
A surprisingly good rom-com that’s easy to read and funny from beginning to end! Despite being set in a COVID world, this short story brings you all the positives of a good romance story but with some extra details that are very apt to current times. The author kept me laughing and filled my heart with a little joy for such a horrid time we’re living in! Perfect for rom-com fans and those who love a good giggle from a talented author!
Huge thanks to the author, Maggie Aldrich, for my copy of this book to read and review! You can purchase your copy of A Very COVID Christmas on Amazon, available on Kindle. Make sure you’re following the author over on Facebook and Twitter for updates!