Christmas has never brought out the best in the MacDougal family. Still, year after year they gather together in the Blue Ridge Mountains to try to make the season merry and bright. But this year is an especially strained one, with Shayne's impending divorce, Morwenna's slavish devotion to work and Bobby's reluctance to face what life has to offer. They've never felt less like a family.
Then, in the midst of a sibling shouting match, a mysterious stranger appears. He could be a criminal, a madmanor something far more unexpected. Despite their fears and the growing danger in the dark woods around them, the MacDougals take a leap of faith. But when another stranger arrives on the mountainside, they don't know which of them to believe. One of these men can't be trusted. And one is about to bring Christmas into their hearts.
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The landscape was crystal, dusted in a fresh fall of snow that seemed to make tree branches shimmer, as if they were dotted with jewels.
Of course, the same new snow that made everything so beautiful could also become treacherous, Morwenna thought, trying to adjust her defroster as the car climbed up the mountainside.
With her initial reaction of, "How beautiful," barely out of her mind, she wondered why her parents hadn't decided to buy a retreat in the Bahamas, Arizona or Florida instead of forever maintaining the centuries-old, difficult-to-heat rustic old cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If the snow started up againwhich forecasters were predictingthe beauty would definitely become dangerous.
"Other people opt for warmth," she muttered aloud. "Birds do itthey fly south for the winter!" If the snow had started up a bit earlier, she might have had a great excuse not to come.
That thought immediately made her feel guilty. She loved her parents. She even loved her siblingswith whom she'd been fighting all her life. But this was going to be a rough Christmas. She winced; Shayne was going to be miserable. His own fault. She'd tried to tell her brother many times that he needed to start working harder at communicating if he was going to save his marriage. Shayne always thought that he was doing the right thing, and, of course, if it was the right thing in his head, everyone knew it was the wrong thing. Then, of course, there was Bobby. Baby brother Bobby, hardly a baby anymore; he was on his third college, having come home midsemester twice. Bobby was brilliant, which made her all the more angry with him, but so far, he'd majored in political science, education and biology. Now, he was once again searching for himself.
She was about to stop the car; the flurries were growing stronger, and even in her nice little Audi, the defrosting system was beginning to wear out in the woods on the mountaintop. Her mother had grown up there, but Morwenna and her siblings had not. When Stacy Byrne had met the rising young attorney from Philadelphia, Michael MacDougal, she had fallen head over heels in love, and had left home behind to follow him, wherever he might lead. But she'd lost her parents at a young age, and the house had become hers. By then, of course, it had needed extensive repairs and just about a new everything to remain standing. Her father might have joined a zillion private firms as a criminal defense attorney and made oodles of money, but he liked working in the D.A.'s office, and that was where he had stayed. They had never wanted for anything, but she often felt sorry for her dadmaintaining the cottage in the mountains had precluded any possibility of him buying one of those nice little time-shares in the islands or a warmer climate.
They were all grown up nowwell, more or less. Bobby was twenty-one. But every time Morwenna thought about a brilliant excuse not to join her family for Christmas and accept one of the invitations she so often received to head to Jamaica or Grand Cayman for the holiday, she always chickened out at the last minute. Was that actually chickening out? No! Honestly, it was doing the right thing. Maybe she was feeling an edgeeven an edge of bitternessbecause Alex Hampton had urged her to join him for a jaunt to Cancun for an eight-day hiatus, a lovely bout of warmth from Christmas Eve until January 2. Of course, she'd asked Alex to join her in the mountains, but others from their office were going to Cancun, and, he'd explained, he had to go since he was the one who had instigated the trip.
Sure, he 'd had to go. Why? He couldn't have just explained that the two of them were datingno, more than dating. They were together. They should have been together at Christmas.
Well, he hadn't. Andperhaps because he'd been so stubborn, she'd been stubborn as well. And maybe she had hoped until the last minute that Alex would realize he was in love with her, and he had to come with her on a family holiday.
But he hadn't.
So Alex was on his way to Cancun, and she was nearly blinded in the snow on top of a frigid mountain in Virginia.
She should have given in, she thought.
But he should have wanted to be with her; Christmas was a time for family!
For a moment, the cabin looked like a shack in the wilderness. Then it seemed that the snow miraculously cleared. She saw the porches, and the extensions of the wings. And from inside, the lights from a Christmas tree. Red and blue, green and yellow, festive and glittering out onto the snow. Her mother's home was reputed to have once been the property of Thomas Jefferson, or at least the property of a Jefferson-family relative. It had been a tavern way back when, and had eighteenth-century pocket doors that slid across the parlor; at night, when the family had finished with the business of the day, children had been sent upstairs to bed while the doors had been opened, and all in the vicinity came to drinkand, she'd heard, plot against the British. During the Civil War, the MacDougals had been what would have been referred to today as "closet" Abolitionists, which had made the place part of the Underground Railroad. It did have history, she thought. She was amused to think as well that, since the area was known a bit for the Hatfield-and-McCoy kind of feuding, it had even survived the aftermath of the war, when grown men had dressed up in sheets as the Klan and come around burning down those who had aided the North in any way.
"So, it's still ours!" she murmured.
She had arrived.
Morwenna wasn't sure if her other siblings had arrived yet, or how they had come, but the garage door was open despite the snow. Her mother wouldn't have wanted them to have to stop to open the doors, and the kids no longer had automatic openers for the door.
She wished that, in all their great wisdom, they'd managed a garage that connected directly to the house. But they hadn't.
She grabbed her bag and, huffing and grunting, dislodged it from her small car. She slipped out the side door and headed for the house.
Once again, she stared at it.
"You're a white elephant!" she said aloud to the structure.
Naturally, it didn't reply.
She began the trudge to the porch. "Home, yep. Oh, yeah, home for the holidays."
Bobby MacDougal added another ornament to the tree, wincing as he heard what had been the low murmur of his parents' voices grow to a pitch that was far louder.
They were fighting about him, of course. They'd fought about him many times in his twenty-one years of life; he was the misfit of the family.
He didn't want them fighting about him. Then again, while his mother had a tendency to view the world through Pollyanna eyes, and his father was more on the doom-and-gloom side and was always practical. But, then, of course, he worked with the worst of humanity at times, and Bobby had to figure that swayed his thinking now and then. On the other side, his mother liked to believe that everything was going to be all right when there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that it would be.
Still, he didn't want to be the cause of their argument.
He'd triedgood God, he'd tried, reallybut he hated the law. His father always thought it would be great if he got a degree in anything that was academic, and he had always understood facts and figures, and he honestly loved the different sciences. But he only loved exploration as a hobby, he didn't want to dissect frogs or other coldblooded creatures that the powers that be had decided were fine to take apart. He now knew what he wanted; he just knew that his parents would be horrified, and so, since he had arrived at the mountaintop a few days ago, he'd tried to keep silent and listen to the lectures.
And those lectures were endless.
He understood that his father was a superachiever, but his father of all people should have understood. Mike MacDougal made a decent living; he might have swept the world away. He had chosen not to, which would make people think that he'd be understanding of the fact that his son wasn't looking to dominate the stock market, just something to do for a living that would sufficeas long as he was happy. Bobby had tried once to explain that he didn't need to make a fortune; he wanted to get along fine. He'd made the argument that when the economy went down, even computer scientists were struggling for a living, and that nurses might be in high demand, but hospitals couldn't pay them. His father always just stared at him blankly.
Bobby looked at the little ornament he held. He hadn't realized that he'd picked it up, or what it wasone of his mom's cherished antiques. It was a little angel with a trumpet. He assumed that the angel was trumpeting the birth of Christ.
"Ah, but maybe you're just a naked little cherubadvertising!" he told the ornament.
He could really hear the voices from the kitchen now. His father's voice was growing aggravated. "Look, Stacy, you're missing the point. He's going to wind up being a bum on the streets of New York, drinking out of a paper bag and asking for handouts. And for what? Because he 'can't find himself'?"
"Shh! He'll hear you," his mother whispered.
"He should hear mehe knows how I feel. You've got Morwenna, working more than sixty hours a week at that ad firm, and you've got Shayne, who works all day as a doctor, and comes home to take care of the kids."
"Shayne only takes care of the kids on his day," Stacy MacDougal reminded her husband.
Mike was silent for a minute. "The point is," he said. "He works hard."
"Too hard," Stacy said more quietly.
"If that bitch of a wife of his had just appreciated the time he was putting in for her and the kids, she'd still be with himand she and the kids would have been here, too," Mike said.
"I am going to miss the children terribly!" Stacy said.
At least they'd stopped talking about him! Bobby thought. Still, he was sad. He 'd cared about his sister-in-law. She had her eccentricities like everyone alive; she had probably just been fed up. Shayne was so seldom home; she had little help and no social life.
"The thing is thisno matter what, Shayne and Morwenna are going to be all right," Mike said. "They know how to work. They'll survive. You know, Stacy, life isn't one big Christmas holiday. It's reality. You have to work to make a living. You have to make a living to have food and shelter!"
Back to him!
He set the angel or cherub or antique-whatever on the tree. As he did so, he heard the purr of an engine and hurried over to the windowthe Audi. Morwenna had arrived.
Morwenna would jump right into the lectures with their father. Great. At least Shayne was just depressed beyond all measure, so tangled up in his own misery over his divorce that he wasn't about to pick on anyone else. He'd be able to let Shayne bemoan the loss of his wife as soon as he arrived. Better than listening to the same lecture over and over again.
"Hey!" he cried loudly. "Morwenna's here!"
Bobby hurried to the door, rushing out to help his sister with her bag. He grinned as he saw her; Morwenna was always the height of fashion. She'd grown into a stunning woman, tall and leggy, with eyes so deep a blue they were the kind referred to as violet. Her hair was their dad's pitch-black, although now, Mike MacDougal's hair was definitely showing more than minor touches of distinguished gray. Morwenna's hair, however, was the old MacDougal hair, as lustrous as a raven's wing. And stylish, of course. Perfectly coiffed. She was in advertising and marketing, and he knew that in her mind, people trusted you to make them look good when you looked good.
"Baby bro!" she said, dropping the suitcase to give him a fierce hug.
That's the way it always started out; hugs and kisses and warmth and happiness.
Then drumroll the sniping began!
"Hey, big sis," he said. He frowned, looking around.
"Where's the boy toy?"
She looked at him with irritation. "Alex is in Cancun.
He couldn't get out of it. I guess he planned it before he knew that I had to come home. He kept trying to get me to go, but "
"Ah, poor girl! Cancun. Hmm. And he went without you," Bobby said.
"It's business, Bobby. He had others in the firm going with him."
"Sure," Bobby said.
"Let's get this inside. I can do the carrying. Was it bad getting up?"
"I hope that Shayne is close behind," Bobby said.
"Hey, I'm just glad that Shayne is coming! I've talked to him, and he is just about the most depressed man in the world right now," Morwenna said, her voice troubled. "I hope he doesn't back out and work hundred-hour emergency shifts just to have something to do."
"Shayne is coming. He said he might not have the ex or his kids, but we'd be the best place a depressed lonely guy could be for Christmas," Bobby assured her.
"Our family is the best group to be with when you're depressed?" She laughed.
He grinned. "Familythe only people you can rip to shreds in the name of love! Naw, we'll make him feel better."
"Good. At least, I think so!" Morwenna said. She glanced at him. "Well, how's it going for you?"
She looked at him skeptically. "Honestly, though, Bobby, you dropped out again?"
He sighed. "I didn't drop out, Morwenna. I finished the semester."
"But you're not going back?" Lord, save me! Maybe God heard; before Bobby could answer, he heard the crunch of a car's tires on the snow.
"Hey, it's Shayne!"
He should feel guilty; his manically depressed brother had arrived. Now, they could all worry about Shayne's problems!
"Yeah, it's Shayne," Morwenna said. She shaded her eyes against the glare on the snow. "He's not alone. Who is that?"
"Think he picked up a hot babe for Christmas?" Bobby asked.
Morwenna elbowed him. "Shayne with someone he met in the last few days?"
"No, no, too small. It's the kids," Bobby said. "Looks like Connor is in the front, and that's Genevieve in the back."
Shayne stopped the car in the driveway. Bobby thought that the kids were so excited that they had to get out. Connor had just turned nine, and Bobby was sure that the divorce was hard on him. Though Genevieve was just six, it seemed that she actually comprehended the change with the flexibility young children seemed to have.
She jumped out of the car. "Uncle Bobby!" And rushed him like a guard about to tackle. For a moment he caught his sister's expression. She seemed a little hurt, and a little jealous.
But, then, he'd taken a lot more trouble to make sure that he'd seen his nephew and niece over the years; he knew that Morwenna always meant to.
She was just busy.
"Hey, little one!" Bobby said. He hiked her up on his hip. "Give Aunt Wenna a nice smooch right on the cheek there!"
Genevieve did; and she reached out with a cherubic smile. Morwenna took her, giving her a good hug and a kiss back. She looked at Bobby. Was there even a bit of gratitude in that glance?
Then Connor came flying out of the front, racing to them. He just gave Bobby a hug; Bobby opted not to pick him up. It might be against the boy's dignity. Besides, at nine, Connor was tall and solid.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If An Angel for Christmas were dessert, it would be the literary equivalent of rainbow sherbet - sweet and light, universally liked and lacking anything heavy. It is a traditional, heartwarming story of a family gathering for Christmas, dealing with disappointments and failures, but still brought together by tradition and love. It takes the arrival of Gabe, an injured state trooper hunting an escaped prisoner, to shake up their routine and help them realize how lucky they are to have each other. His quiet presence at their home acts like a mirror held up to each MacDougal, helping each to realize who they really are, and what they want in this life. There are lots of sweet, mysterious moments. I especially liked that the mother, with her quiet faith and belief in the goodness of others, is the only adult who does not undergo a transition or have an epiphany. She is a calm, steadying presence, just as she has been all their lives. Readers looking for romance will find very little of it here. Rather, this is an inspirational tale combining the magic of the Christmas holiday with a good angel versus evil angel theme, a family rediscovering their bonds of love, and gentle, anecdotal meditations on faith. This is perfect for a quiet afternoon of holiday warmth and fuzziness.
An Angel for Christmas is a sweet holiday story with a message. The three MacDougal siblings are coming to their parent's vacation cabin in the woods for Christmas. Shayne, the oldest, is bitter about his recent divorce and missing his children for the holidays. Morwenna, the middle, whose boyfriend has gone to Cancun without her and she is debating her choice to come home. Bobby, the youngest, has just decided to leave a college that is not preparing him for the future he wants. Into the middle of this holiday bliss, Shayne's children turn up and then the family finds an injured stranger on their property. The man Gabe Lange, claims to be a State Trooper chasing a white collar criminal who injured him and then escapes. Lange states the man, Luke Defeo is not a killer but he would be dangerous he if turned up. The rest of the story proceeds with Gabe being cautiously brought into the family's holiday celebration. Gabe seems to have a talent for talking to people and helping them see their inner self and what they would like to have their life be about. Defeo turns up and becomes the worm in the apple. He claims to be the good guy but he spends all of his time spreading poison into the ear of whoever is nearby. There is a dramatic rescue of another family member and a final fight between Gabe & Luke before the resolution. I enjoyed the whole Gabriel/Lucifer allegory in this book. The family is fractured but loving and they need someone to help them see how they have been allowing negativity to take hold in their lives. For example, Shayne needs to realize he can't slam his ex around his kids because the children love both parents and it hurts and confuses them to hear the comments. Gabe really helps the family get the spirit of Christmas in spite of Luke's attempt to pull them apart. The message of love and hope is especially nice in the crazy time we are living in.
My Review: This was a different book. For years, I have read Heather Graham's holiday book. I enjoyed this one, but it seemed to have a more spiritual/inspirational feel than they traditionally have. Not that that is a bad thing, but it just gives a different kind of feel to the overall novel. The MacDougal family have had a hard year and this year, more than most, they seem to be taking it out on each other with constant fights and bickering. Shayne, the oldest and doctor in the family has gone through a divorce that took him by surprise over the last year. Bobby, the youngest, is struggling with finding a balance between his passion, music, and doing what his family wants. Morwenna, the middle child, is struggling with an unsatisfying career and boyfriend. They are each struggling and have all lost focus with what is important in life. When a stranger literally stumbles into their lives during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve, he helps to guide them and show them through little things where they have gone wrong. Like I said, this had a very spiritual feel to it. It's definitely a book that is focused on what is really the meaning of Christmas and what should be the focus of our everyday lives. We can get so caught up in those lives, that we lose sight of the big picture. It's a great lesson and the book can definitely help to enrich your enjoyment of the holidays. It has an interesting twist at the end about the "bad guy" and the good guys interpretation of his actions. Rather thought-provoking and inspiring. I liked it.
RATING 4.5 STARS An Angel for Christmas is by Heather Graham. I listened to the audio version of this book. An Angel for Christmas centers around the MacDougal family coming together for their yearly Christmas celebration at their cabin high up in the Virginia Mountains. There are three siblings. Morwenna, the only girl, has more or less given up her dream and works in the corporate world. She is in what she thought was a good relationship with a co-worker. But when it came time for the Christmas holiday, her boyfriend insisted he had to go to Cancun with their co-workers instead of going with Morwenna to meet her family. Shayne, the oldest son, is a doctor. He is struggling with a divorce. His two children were supposed to spend Christmas with his ex-wife but at the last minute, she allowed them to go with their father to spend the holiday at the cabin. And the youngest, Bobby, wants desperately to pursue his dream of a career in music, much to the chagrin of his family. These three have grown apart and can’t be together for long without arguing. They hadn’t been at the cabin long when they discovered an injured man nearly frozen to death in the woods near the cabin. The man had no ID but says his name is Gabe and claims he is a cop. He said he was pursuing an escaped criminal when he was hit in the head and knocked unconscious. Can the MacDougals trust this man? He could be the criminal for all they know. And what about the safety of the children? A terrible snow storm has hit the mountain so they allow Gabe into their home and lives. Somehow, the three siblings find themselves drawn to him and find they are able to confide things to him they haven’t been able to tell anyone else. Gabe somehow brings peace to the MacDougal family. Morwenna especially feels drawn to him. There is still a criminal running around loose in the woods and he eventually also shows up at the cabin, claiming that ‘he’ is the cop and that Gabe is the criminal. Who do they believe? So they decide to tie them both up and after the storm passes, to walk them down the mountain to the nearest town to try to contact the authorities. I really enjoyed this one. It was a very different sort of Christmas story. Some time is spent getting to know this family and all that is going on in their lives. But there is also suspense as we try to figure out what is really going on. Is Gabe really the cop? And there seems to be something else going on with these two men. Why does everyone seem to feel such peace around Gabe? I always enjoy adding in children to stories and Shayne's two kids in this book are adorable and won my heart. This was a great addition to my Christmas reading for this year and I’m so glad I added it to my list. “Sometimes you just have to have faith.”
A simple, beautiful story which leaves you smiling and full of hope. I think it is appropiate reading for teenager girls as well as older ladies like me. I have read several books of this author, I enjoyed each one of them. This book is a bit different than the others, it was a very nice surprise!
Heather Graham - love her books -always worth reading
Its a charming family in an old family home they have had for two hundred years, The family always come together for christmas. This time thier is added tension. Shayne is now divorced doc. with two kids that wasn't supposed to be with him this Christmas. Conner age 9 and Genevieve age 6. Morwenna is thier but her boyfriend is in Mexico with co-workers She is work acholic supposed to be using her art but now in management. Bobby is the youngest and keeps changing colleges and what he wants. Now he wants in Juliard even though his father keeps telling him he cant make money on singing. Mike is a proscuter and see's lot of bad people. He wants the best for his three kids. Stacy is mom and grandmother and is a homemaker. This year they all got to cabin okay and surprise Shayne has his kids. Cindy wanted them to have a family christmas. So they had already most of presents mailed to them. The internet was out and so was cable and no cell phone coverage. Which would not have been bad but they found a wounded man outside with head injury. His name he said was Gabe and he was a police officer chasing a bad guy who hit him over the head and stole his uniform. They could not call to get him help but at least Shayne could take a look at him and offer first aid. Mike was not trusting him at all. Too entertain the kids Morwenna told a story with old art pictures while bobby played some music. Shayne with a mop on head face cold cream became aboniable snowman gabe became a christmas elf. Which they acted out the story for kids and had a great time. The next day was Christmas an another man showed up in police uniform but no id. Saying Gabe was crook. So they handcuffed both one in garage and one is shed till they could walk down to tavern and see if they could help. Gabe was understanding that they where trying to do what was right but Luke kept telling them they could be arrested for aiding Gabe. Genevieve was sneaking out of house and fell down a mountain. Morwenna was in tool shed gaurding Gabe and started running before she slid down and Gabe ran past her and slid down was able to stop Genevieve before she fell further he was using his body and holding on tree. Morwenna was above them aways and was holding on somthing. Right away Genevieve was missing so grandmother and bobby saw and got rope. Shayne was in back and bobby in front of rope got the rope down to Morwenna and she got it over Genevieve and thay pulled her up. then pulled up Morwenna than Mike came and helped pull up Gabe. The family was grateful all where okay but still did not trust either man. They had more adventures before they figured out who was telling the truth. Prayers where answered and the family all got closer and closer even Cindy the kids mom showed up. It was full of Christmas and angels. It was a nice Christmas story you felt good at the end. I would read other books by Heather Graham. I was given this ebook in exchange for honest review.