Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Sometimes you have to let go of trying to control everything and have a little faith. Faith that, in spite of anything that’s happened, you’re right where you’re meant to be, at just the right time.”
There’s always something extra special about your first book of the year, and The Holiday Plan was the perfect book to get me excited for a whole new year of reading in 2022! It’s one of the sweetest, most uplifting romances I’ve read and is filled to the brim with excitement and emotion at every turn. I’m so so happy to be joining the blog tour with Harpeth Road Press. Make sure you take a look at the reviews by all these other brilliant book bloggers!
About the book
Native New Yorker and author Verona Scott has lost faith in happy endings, both personally and professionally. Coming off a disastrous split with her ex, she’s struggling for inspiration to write her next book. And she’s lost without her favorite Aunt Theoni’s wisdom and guidance.
Hoping for a fresh start and to avoid the holiday completely, she’s planned a Valentine’s detox: a luxurious trip alone to the historic Courtington Castle hotel, near the adorably quaint town of Camelot Creek, tucked into a picturesque valley in the Adirondacks.
But escaping the heart-shaped balloons and red roses won’t be as easy as she thought.
She’s forced to face the romantic music: this won’t be the restful retreat she’d imagined. Instead, she’s just walked into one of the biggest singles events of the year. Not to mention, the incredibly attractive single dad and dating coach Troy Turner is heading the whole thing up, and he’s on a mission to include Verona in the matchmaking festivities.
Troy is in the midst of a professional crisis of his own. After a bit of unfounded bad press, the very last thing he needs is a guest to cast doubt in the minds of his attendees. It’s imperative for future success that this event run smoothly.
Will Troy change Verona’s mind about the most romantic day of the year? Just when sparks begin to fly, an unexpected visitor checks into the castle, stirring up the past. No matter what, for Verona, Valentine’s Day is the day where everything changes.
I loved the opening to The Holiday Plan! It’s set on Valentine’s Day and we get the most brilliant, in-depth introduction to the main character, Verona. I had to have a little giggle; “This wasn’t how twenty-nine was supposed to feel.” was the first sentence of the book, and in the midst of a pandemic and with the last year of my twenties not being like I planned at all, I felt like we had an awful lot in common already! However, joking aside, we learn that Verona has had her fair share of heartache; her Aunt passed away, and the one person she thought she’d settle down and start a family with just got up and left her one day. If that wasn’t enough to process, she finds out that the latest book she’d written had been rejected by her editor. I felt so sorry for her, her hopes and dreams for her future slashed in what was supposed to be her best year yet. I did have a feeling her best friend Luz would be able to give her those confidence talks she so desperately needed though!
The way this author writes felt perfectly conversational and so easy to digest. That’s what I need from a romance, and it was just a pure delight right from the get-go. Even though we weren’t far in, I was hoping Verona would find her happily ever after, but I knew her journey would be far from simple. It isn’t long before a scene plays out that had my face distorted in horror, one that breaks Verona’s heart even more. I’ll admit, I was glad to see the book fast forward to one year later and focus on a different character for a while so I could get over that shock myself! Troy Turner is introduced and he has a very interesting job. He’s a dating coach, with Valentine’s Day understandably being his most busiest time of year. Could this guy be Verona’s happily ever after, or even be the person to help her find it? When would they meet?! I was getting pretty obsessed with Verona’s life already, and was very excited about what was to come! The opening drew me in just as I’d hoped it would, and I had high hopes for this book.
“Getting others their happy endings was how he made amends. His heart wasn’t part of the game plan.”
The author has taken both Verona and Troy, developed and moulded them so well into unique people, and as a result, they’ve become realistic characters who you’re instantly interested and invested in. That’s some achievement! I continued to love Verona’s character and felt her having a planned week away to a snowy mountain lodge was just what she needed to take her mind off the heart shaped season and to write that new book. The visions of what were to come for her sounded idyllic and relaxing, and the author’s description was just beautiful! Would everything go as she had imagined? I didn’t think so! I loved how, even when trying to get away from everything Valentine’s Day related, she finds herself in Valentine’s paradise, being bombarded with pink balloons, hearts and roses. I did have a little smile on my face at her misfortune (sorry Verona, it was just too good!) I did understand her annoyance though – enough with the hearts already!
Verona finds herself with a ticket for a singles event after her package at the lodge gets upgraded (plus she does a little bit of complaining that actually goes in her favour). I thankfully didn’t have long to wait before she and Troy meet at this event, and it was quite the conversation! She didn’t want to be there and simply turned up for the yummy buffet. He wasn’t sure why she didn’t know who he was and why she seemed to hate everything and anything Valentine’s-y at a singles event. This scene in particular was brilliant; two of the most important people in the book not seeing eye to eye, but two characters who I just knew would meet again soon enough. The start of the book created a list of questions in my mind and I became very excited to find out how Verona and Troy’s journeys would collide. The author’s talent for a compelling romance (whether the characters involved knew it yet or not) was clear already, and the plot was turning into something so sweet, so cosy and memorable that I could happily read it forever and a day!
I felt the pacing of the book was a little fast when compared to some of the romance novels I’ve read in the past, but this didn’t affect the story in any way. If anything, it seemed to be matched well, and you don’t have long to wait before the next brilliant scene plays out or the next big event happens. There was always something going on, something to think about, which was a huge positive, something I loved! A twist I didn’t expect was Verona actually agreeing to take part in the Valentine’s event. Purely for research purposes for her writing, of course… There was so much excitement in this, something I was dying to experience, and I wondered just how Verona would cope in an environment like this. Maybe it would be exactly what she needed for inspiration for her book, or maybe, just maybe, she’d find her own happily ever after. The book was quickly becoming cleverer and even more enjoyable (if that was even possible!) My love for all the characters, even the minor ones, was growing by the minute!
Troy’s relationship with his daughter was written perfectly and it was truly heartwarming – their story was such a moving one! As well as the reader learning more about Troy’s life and what he and his daughter have been through, we also see Troy and Verona sharing intimate details of their lives as they get more comfortable with one another which I loved, especially knowing exactly how Verona felt about love these days. Their conversations begin to flow much easier over time and their banter felt so natural and easy. It was obvious they were getting feelings for each another (of course, this is what we all want to happen) and I was curious to learn how easily they let those feelings in after the traumas of their pasts. What I’d read so far gave me so much hope for these characters. I wanted Troy to fill the hole his late wife had left in his heart and I wanted Verona to take a chance on love and embrace it after her ex left. Hopefully they’d be able to find what they needed in each other!
“He scanned the crowd disappearing out the doors and down the hall, wondering how he could win over the only woman there not looking for love.”
With many, many romance novels out there, the ex has to turn up and ruin things, to make the main character’s heart break. Verona gets her own surprise, but the complete opposite happens which I was glad about! After a very unexpected meeting between someone who well and truly broke her heart, Verona has some sort of realisation that actually, this guy wasn’t her person. Never was. What mattered right then in that moment was healing, forgiving and forgetting, and making sure she allowed everything good into her heart from that moment onwards. I loved this part of the book and these specific scenes; it felt like I was watching Verona grow with my very eyes and it was a truly wonderful thing to experience. The author has written this exceptionally and I just wanted more of it! However, there were even more surprises at the retreat. There’s one more character I was shocked to hear about, even more so when he asks for Troy’s help. How would Verona react? There were so many unexpected elements to this book and I loved how all these weaved together.
The book very quickly became much more than a sweet romance. It was also about repairing family ties and even finding it in your heart to let people back in and forgive people for their past mistakes. Life is too short to hold grudges and the deeper the author went into all this, the more emotional things became for me! As well as this, I also began to really love another minor character, Charlie, who was Troy’s best friend. He first comes across as a bit of a joker who doesn’t take things (or himself) too seriously, but as time goes on and as he finds someone he gels with at the retreat, it was surprising how much life advice he was giving to Troy, and I agreed with him on every point! Would Troy take his advice on board and tell Verona how he really felt? Would Verona ever feel like she could let him in? I didn’t want the book to end, but I SO needed to know what happened and how her life would change in more ways than one… if only she would let it!
There were a few moments towards the end of the book that were a little predictable to me, such as Verona and Troy having a little bit of a falling out just as they were getting closer, but then again, it’s to be expected in a romance really – there needs to be that ‘what if they can’t fix this’ moment before that grand finale. (I’m not sure I’ve read many romances where this doesn’t happen when I think about it!) Saying this though, I totally understood Troy’s reasoning behind what he did, as well as why Verona would have been a little annoyed at his actions. The author has written these scenes well, so well in fact that they tug at your heart and really make you feel for both of our main characters in some way. I had a feeling that a few more conversations and a little more banter would fix any problems they were going through though! With the Looking for Love event coming to a close, there wasn’t long to go before everyone would be heading home. Would my two favourite characters be keeping in touch or going their separate ways?!
I just have to mention another of my absolute favourite scenes here. Picture this; a surprise trip with a special person, snow storm, cosy fireplace, stranded… then a relative shows up. Ha! This scene was so much different to how it sounds and it was written beautifully, something that sucks you in and really makes you think about Verona’s younger years and everything she went through. Not to mention the dramatic difference from then to now. In the 300 or so pages of this book, I felt I had gotten to know Verona more than I have with the majority of other character’s I’ve met over the years, and she’d certainly got a little place in my heart! It felt like the author was unleashing more of her passion for the storyline as we get to the end of the book, making it an ending to remember, something that will stick and something that I’ll most likely be recommending to all the romance lovers I know!
“There was that feeling creeping up again, like her life had spun out of control, like everything she’d worked so hard to overcome had come pouring back in all at once.”
That crucial time in the book arrived that I was most desperate for – that moment where the start of a new love blossoms, that moment where characters you’ve grown to love declare their feelings and the part that always seems to make me tear up in a romance… and the author has nailed it. The way this was unveiled couldn’t be any more perfect, the wording was beautiful and characters did me proud by going out of their comfort zones and letting love (and a little risk and excitement) into their hearts. They both needed it more than ever! I was surprised by how much this event affected me; it made me think of my own past compared to the happiness I have in the present, and it certainly made me open my eyes and learn to appreciate and celebrate the little things. The lessons to learn in this book were extensive and I just knew so many others reading this would feel uplifted and joyful. I can’t fault it!
With more surprises (both good and bad) being thrown our way, I thought the book could have a much different outcome to what I expected, but to know what that is, you’ll just have to read the book yourself and find out! The author tackles Verona’s thoughts and feelings impeccably, and the back and forth feelings of “will she get her happy ending or not” built up a great amount of suspense. But… that finale! I don’t even think I have the words. All I can describe it as was romantic, spontaneous, beautiful and full of surprise. I’ve never read a book crammed with so much love and with so much hope, and it was truly wonderful. Enough of my questions were answered but there was still some room for the imagination to run free. I wouldn’t mind a sequel to The Holiday Plan one bit! An excellent debut, one that I will most certainly be recommending!
I loved every moment of this book and I know everyone else who gives it a chance will feel the exact same way! It gave me feelings of warmth and of hope, the author’s words and the story she’s created lingering in my mind days after reading that last page! It’s magical, and Verona and Troy have very quickly made my list of all time favourite fictional couples. There’s so much heart and a very clear passion for storytelling, and it’s the perfect book if you’re looking for something light and truly romantic for your next read. I’m very excited to see where this author goes next. She’s going to be BIG, I can feel it!
A huge thank you to the author, Emma Lynden, and Harpeth Road Press for my copy of this book and my place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of The Holiday Plan right now on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!
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