“Christmas is a time for remembering.”
I've become a rather emotionally invested reader when it comes to this series. From the very first book, I was completely and totally hooked. The group of friends that we meet in the beginning – and continue to see throughout the rest of the books – is one that I rather enjoy reading about. The most anticipated story I wanted to read about, however, is Sophia and Ted's.
Sophia is hated by most everyone in town. She was the spoiled, little rich girl that just seemed to have everything and not care about anyone but herself... until she meets and falls in love with Ted when they were teens. Ted was a bit older, like a year or two but she loved him and he loved her. What could go wrong with that? Plenty.
When Ted graduated from high school and left to go away to college, their relationship took a huge hit. I mean, Ted came back during his breaks, etc, but he wasn't a constant in Sophia's life anymore. While I'm not excusing what she did at all, I'm looking at the situation from an unbiased perspective. I do not endorse cheating, at all. I do not. But Sophia wasn't your usual teen girl. She was the mayor's daughter, she was wealthy, and had a tendency to be rather reckless. Make that very reckless.
She cheated on Ted and got pregnant, and involuntarily caused the death of one of the town's finest young men. After that, well, her life was never the same. She lost Ted, who was beyond heartbroken. And she lost any amount of sympathy that some town's people may have had for her. She was essentially hated. And to be honest, I felt bad for her. If you've read the other books you'd know why I feel for her.
Take Me Home for Christmas tells the tale of second chances; at life, love & friendship. Christmas is supposed to be that magical time of year when things seem to work out, right? Sometimes, not always. While I'm a huge fan of Christmas, this story isn't all eggnog and sugar cookies and mistletoe. Nope. There was some serious angst thrown in and I ate it up like it was my favorite ice-cream.
It's more than 13 years after that whole debacle, but Sophia is still paying for what her teen self did. She's tried to be social by hanging out with the old crew that meets up every week or so for coffee at the diner, but she's not really a welcomed guest. She'd more than likely hurt or insulted everyone at the table at some point when she was a kid and they've found it hard to really forgive and accept her.
It's not until the unthinkable happens. Her husband, and father of her child, dies. I'll admit that while I don't wish bad on people, I did not wish him well at all. Skip was pompous, demeaning, and physically abusive. And Sophia bore that abuse for more than a decade? Atonement? I don't think it was worth it. She also stayed for her daughter, and the life that her father was able to afford her, but at the sake of her own well-being; physically and mentally. God, that was hard to read at times. I don't want to see a husband show a good face to his wife in public but then knocks her teeth out behind closed doors. Hell no. But throughout the series you see that Sophia feels like she deserves whatever happens to her because of the bad person she was before. It seems a tad bit extreme, but I see her thought process through the whole ordeal.
Plus Sophia is one big masochist. She endures all that, but also the meetings which her old-love Ted also attends. Knife, meet heart. He's mean to her, basically ignores her other than his short but hard jabs at her life and lifestyle. While I get that he felt jilted, I feel that people in the position to help others should.
So when Sophia's husband dies, by his own stupid fault I should add, she's left broke and again, a town pariah. Her late husband's been scheming the people and has lost all their hard earned money in a ponzi scam. Like the woman really needed any more hassle, right?
She's then forced to accept help from one of the women she considers a friend, but that's not all, she's begrudgingly accepted a job as a house keeper for none other than Ted. He's in need of someone to cook and clean and take care of his place since he's a famous writer and mostly holds up in his office writing, especially when on a deadline, and has no time to take care of anything.
It's hard, you guys. It's hard to read and watch these two - that you can't help but ship so hard – act so standoffish towards each other. Personally, I feel that Sophia more than redeemed herself and held her own after a major life change. They were homeless, she had to take a job as a maid in order to support her daughter and herself, while having to watch the man that she still loves so desperately live his life as if she doesn't exist.
Don't get me wrong, I feel for Ted, too, but he made some mistakes in this book that just screamed childish. I don't see how hooking up with someone who has been such a great friend to you for years is going to make feelings for another person go away. I honestly do not know what he was thinking. Blame it on the alcohol? Maybe.
I was glad to see the gradual changes in his and Sophia's relationship, though. He kept his distance... for a time. Until he couldn't help it anymore. Until he couldn't help but see the change in her. Until he couldn't help but care for her daughter, who is such an awesome kid that had to also learn the hard way that when life knocked, it knocked hard. I have to say that mother and daughter were such admirable characters in this story. I saw it and felt it much more as the story went on. Ted saw it, too.
He also realised that he was being an ass and needed to do something before he lost the love of his life again. Did I mention that this is angst-y? It is, but the good kind. The kind where the resolution and happy ever after doesn't come right away and when it does... it comes with a seriously high price to pay. But aside from the angst, it's a great love story. One love story that I've been waiting on for the last 4 books on. I wanted to see these two work their issues out and find some sort of common ground, and they did.
My only issue with this book was probably the somewhat rushed ending. I would have liked a page or two more to smoothly end this beautiful but sad tale of Ted and Sophia. But other than that, Novak is a pretty amazing romance writer that I've come to rely on for great story-telling. And the time period for the entire story just made it all so bittersweet but lovely. I very much recommend it as one of your holiday reads.