Special thanks to the author for providing a digital ARC via Valentine PR in exchange for an honest review!
The Holly Dates
Pub Date: 07 December 2022
Genre: Contemporary (Holiday) Romance
All she wanted for Christmas was a boyfriend for the holidays…
All he wanted was for her to take her crappy first dates elsewhere…
Quirky Holly Jackson was unlucky in love, yet her romantic heart refused to give up her search for companionship—even after her fiancé left her at the altar on Christmas Eve.
Grumpy restaurant owner Kai Kane wanted nothing to do with love after his last relationship crashed and burned. Romance was the last thing on his mind. Unfortunately for him, when an eccentric Holly kept entering his restaurant nightly with a different first date, his annoyance grew.
When Kai volunteered to help Holly find a suitor it was for one reason only: to get her out of his restaurant and on to a second date with someone at a different location.
Once Kai became Holly’s dating coach, her confidence grew.
It was all going great until Kai became increasingly jealous of the connection Holly developed with another man. The more Holly fell for Kai’s pick for her, the more overprotective he became.
Kai quickly realized that all wasn’t fair when it came to love and the holidays.
He was going to have to step up his game if he wanted a shot at the ultimate prize—being Holly’s favorite date.
*The Holly Dates is a steamy, full-length romantic comedy that will put you right in the holiday spirit.*
⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
Childhood abandonment and abusive parents (recounted), infidelity (on-page and recounted), manipulative gaslighting partner, body shaming (one incident on-page), cancer (former partner of one of the main characters)
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TL;DR: For the most part, I had a fun time with this book—there were lots of silly hijinks and laugh-out-loud moments, cute though sometimes pretty corny banter, but I also appreciated the more serious moments the story addressed. This was less of a rom-com than I expected and while I wasn’t a fan of how certain characters handled the conflict, I thought this was a heartwarming and swoony romance. Kai and Holly were adorable—their story is perfect for warming you up over the holiday season and would be a great addition to your holiday romance reading list!
This is my first book by Cherry but I’ve been meaning to read one of her books for a while now, so when I saw this holiday romance that looked like it’d serve all the fluffy rom-com moments, I immediately wanted to read it.
The premise of this book is very cute and I enjoyed the way it progressed. Their “meet-ugly” was dramatic but funny and though I didn’t really get why Kai wanted Holly away from his restaurant so badly, I’m glad his decision to help her “date better” moved their relationship forward from “I-can’t-stand-this-person” enmity to a strong friendship and eventually lovers. I appreciated the time it took for them to go through these phases as we got to see their connection really develop. Holly and Kai had great banter as friends and swoony interactions as lovers! It’s always fun when you see the grumpy reluctant MMC falling fast and hard for the sunshine FMC and Kai really got swept away by his feelings for Holly.
This was told in dual POV but of the two, I feel like Kai had a stronger arc compared to Holly. Kai has been through so much in his life and it broke my heart to hear about his childhood with neglectful and abusive parents and his history with his ex. I understand the reasons for his hardened heart but Kai experiences so much growth off-page over the years and on-page in the present as Holly infiltrates his life and his heart. I loved him so much, especially how he encourages Holly to be herself, to feel what she feels, and to appreciate her own worth. It melted my heart! I do wish that he had been more vocal when it came to his feelings though, especially because he had no issue speaking bluntly from the beginning even knowing it’d hurt to hear his words. It would’ve definitely cleared up some of the holiday drama!
Holly was also great although I feel she suffered slightly from being less developed. She’s very emotional but an absolute sweetheart. She’s been through a lot too and it’s hard to imagine getting back to dating after the betrayal she experienced, so I definitely admired her drive. At the same time, she was very oblivious/ignorant about many things that happen in the story and it made parts of her character feel unbelievable. Not to mention I really didn’t like how she handled the third-act conflict as it was irritatingly immature. I had to remind myself that (I guess) she’s still young enough (25) to not be making the smartest decisions and not be handling things well, but it was frustrating because of how much I thought she’d grown from the beginning.
That said, their romance was absolutely swoontastic! I think this was in large part due to Kai and his acts of devotion. 😍 The way he spoils and takes care of Holly even when they’re still “fake-dating” was achingly sweet! That (non-sexual) shower scene followed by the hair brushing to help soothe her frayed emotions was SO freaking intimate and SWOONY. What is it about seeing partners taking care of each other that’s so incredibly sexy? Whatever it is, Kai amplifies that feeling tenfold and it’s super hot! This does get a little steamy but the focus is definitely more on the emotional aspect of their relationship.
Other than our MCs, the character who really made me love this story more was Mano, Kai’s teen brother who lives with him and is in Holly’s corner from day one. This kid! He really had me cackling with this cheeky and devious though well-intentioned meddling! 😂 OML, the catfishing moment was too funny cos he wasn’t even sorry but so smug about it (and honestly, rightly so)! I adored the relationship between the brothers. It’s so clear they mean everything to each other and that they really are besties even with 15 years between them. Holly’s family was also really cute although I don’t quite know how I felt about her brother Alec and his drama. I’m glad it was well-resolved but oof, for a second there it was really gross!
Have you read The Holly Dates or is it on your TBR?