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Barb Szyszkiewicz reviews The Gift Counselor, a sweet Christmas romance novel that doesn't need to stay on the shelf until Christmas.

Lately I’ve been finding that good Catholic romantic fiction is out there–you just need to know where to look. I’m happy to share a great Christmas read by Sheila Cronin. (It may be too early to decorate for Christmas, but I’m always up for reading a good Christmas story.)

The Gift Counselor would make a great Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. I’m not saying that to disparage the book at all. It’s a wonderful, feel-good story with a main character I found to be easy to relate to.

gift counselorJonquil is a widowed mom with a 10-year-old son who, more than anything, wants a dog of his own–but she has her own reasons for denying Billy’s wish. Jonquil is a psychology student focusing on the topic of gift-giving for her doctoral dissertation, and when she finds herself out of a job at the Children’s Home, she takes a seasonal position at a local department store. Soon she’s blending salesmanship and psychotherapy, setting herself on a new professional trajectory as the Gift Counselor.

But let’s not forget the romance in the novel. Claude, the general contractor renovating a building in Jonquil’s neighborhood, falls hard for Jonquil and must prove that he truly wants what’s best for her and for her young son.

Sometimes it’s the peripheral characters in a novel who are among the most captivating. In this story, it’s the irrepressible Rita, who takes Jonquil under her wing in the fragrance department and becomes a mother figure to her. I couldn’t help but be charmed by Rita’s spunk and determination.

In every good story there’s a villain; Sheila Cronin has created a believable and vulnerable villain in Leigh, whose ambition and drive masks a heart full of pain.

I mentioned earlier that this is a Catholic novel. Jonquil and Billy have Father Tim, their parish priest, as one of their greatest friends and supporters. The flashback to how Jonquil and Father Tim met is one of the sweetest scenes in the novel.

Jonquil’s gift-counseling service at the store leads her to examine the motivations behind gifts, the reasons people give gifts and the reasons behind particular gift choices. The Gift Counselor is a great Christmas read, but why wait? Read it now, and you may gain a new perspective on your own gift-giving–just in time for Christmas.

Copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
Image: Canva
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