Heather Renée May’s CACTUS CHRISTMAS is an authentic-feeling tale of what happens when you wake up one day and think, ‘Am I truly happy?’. In protagonist Kate’s case, this means leaving her failing marriage and moving to a rented Airstream trailer in Texas to go on a wine trail and finish her next book. Kate is a well-developed and relatable protagonist with a full backstory that includes just enough of a hint of glamour to make her story intriguing. She is both a bestselling author with a hard deadline for her next book, and a recent divorcee struggling with the universal question of how to move on after a perceived life failure. For Kate, this journey involves both introspection and personal growth, and an affair with the handsome doctor, Zach. The jeopardy in their relationship is convincing and gripping.
The pace of CACTUS CHRISTMAS is highly readable and has a wonderful rhythm. The plot is finely tuned and carefully structured, and the formatting is professional, with some beautiful illustrations, barring the odd missing image at the top of a title, which only slightly impacts the reading experience. The setting feels well-developed and richly painted; almost as if the author is speaking from personal experience, especially when it comes to her life in the trailer. The topic of divorce stands out as an issue that is dealt with particularly well. Kate is treated by the outside world as having failed as a wife, and her ex sends her abusive messages that highlight this widespread perception of divorced women; for example he says ‘Everyone thinks you are selfish for not supporting me’. However, Kate pushes past other people’s opinions and ultimately understands that first and foremost, she is responsible for putting her own needs first. This is an inspiring message for any reader, and makes Kate a truly sympathetic character. Occasionally, the language could do with some editing, for example where passive voice creeps in, or where there is the odd clumsy line of dialogue, particularly where contractions are under-used in direct speech, giving characters’ sentences an over-formalized tone. All in all, CACTUS CHRISTMAS holds at its heart a powerful message for anyone who has experienced loss, whether it’s of a loved one, a marriage, or the belief in one’s own dreams.
Heather Renée May’s CACTUS CHRISTMAS is an uplifting and immensely readable novel about a woman’s journey back to happiness and love after a divorce, framed in a gorgeous Texas Wine Country setting.
~Eleanor Rudd for IndieReader