Fiction - Holiday
264 Pages
Reviewed on 12/22/2018
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Claustrophobic is a holiday-themed romantic comedy written by Bernadette Franklin. Braving the mall on Black Friday was not something Chloe Mitchell would ever consider, even if she didn’t dislike Christmas as much as she did. Spending hours there dressed as one of Santa’s elves in a dress that was at least one size too small and threatened a wardrobe malfunction if she sneezed had somehow become her nightmare of a reality, thanks to her best friend, Kristine, who called in a favor at the last minute. Kristine was smaller than she was, especially in the bust department, and the red elf dress Kristine had loaned her seemed more a slutty-elf leftover from Halloween than was suitable for wholesome family fare -- not that the dads waiting for hours with their kids minded. The moms in line had better things to keep their eyes on and imaginations distracted, as Julian Carter was playing Santa Claus. There were few things better than watching Julian doing anything, and besides being heart-stopping eye candy, Julian was a nice guy.

Claustrophobic is a fast-paced and absolutely marvelous novel that will get even the most claustrophobic closet Scrooge feeling just a bit more in the Christmas mood. Franklin’s characters perfectly fitted her New York City environment -- I loved watching as the two main characters find common ground over a Scrabble game and couldn’t help but feel good about the quirky and loving relationship Julian has with his parents. The author’s writing style is assured and breezy, and her plot rocks on so many levels. Anyone seeking a change from the sometimes over-sentimental holiday fare out there will probably be as pleased with this nifty and sweet tale as I was. Claustrophobic is most highly recommended -- even for Grinches.

Liz Konkel

Claustrophobic by Bernadette Franklin is a romantic comedy treat for the holidays. Chloe has no time for the holidays and she has no love for Santa Claus. Her plans to avoid Christmas hit a snag when her friend calls in a favor and she suddenly finds herself taking a temporary job. Now she's stuck as a mall elf working alongside a handsome lawyer, a perfectly cheery Santa whom all the kids, and especially the moms, adore. Julian Carter brings out her competitive spirit which shines through their mutual love of board games. Julian has a plan of his own. He has every intention of bringing out her love of the holidays but she's pretty sure he has his work cut out for him.

Each of the characters has a lighthearted and spunky attitude which plays well off each other. The relationship between Julian and Chloe is amusing and charming as their differences cause a friction that's flirty and fun. Even though they're very flirty, they first strike up a friendship which adds depth to their growing bond. Their dynamic is playful with banter that's quick and witty. The competition between them is humorous, plays into the story, and also shows how nerdy and upbeat both can be. They're both lovers of board games so they first bond over Scrabble and this competitive angle gets them to making deals, which leads into Julian's determination to get her to love Christmas.

She's quickly drawn into his family with several scenes with his parents, both of whom are delightful characters. Even Julian's mother who seems harsh on the surface has an amusing nature. His mother is critical of him to the point where she calls Julian in red and white looking like a moldy strawberry. Little instances such as that should make her an unlikable character, but Franklin plays off the humor. Claustrophobic is a charming read with delightful characters, a sweet romance, and a warm holiday setting.

K.J. Simmill

Chloe was a Scrooge when it came to Christmas. She hated the holiday with a passion, and with good reason, although you wouldn't find her evicting children on Christmas Eve. She loved children, she was genuinely a nice person, but when it came to a certain person dressed in red and white, there were rumours she would sooner bind him, string him to a tree, and incinerate it all. The fact she was working as an elf in the Christmas village was a testament to her friendship with Kristine. What she didn't expect was to encounter a Santa like no other. Forget the crying children; the mothers were in tears because they couldn't sit on his knee. He seemed just the thing to help her get over her claustrophobia, maybe. With so much on her mind, hours of unpaid overtime, and an incident at the workplace, it seems she may be needing his help on another matter too.

Bernadette Franklin's Claustrophobic is the kind of book you are going to want to clear an afternoon for. I read it over two nights, and let me tell you that last night I refused to put it down, resulting in a very late night. I loved Chloe's and Julian's characters and how they complement each other. Every person you meet is a vivid character, from the extrovert fashion designer to the scumbag of a partner at the law firm where she works. There are no shrinking violets, although maybe Julian's father often finds himself overshadowed by his wife's magnificent presence, not that he would mind since he helped her blossom into the woman she is. Sass, fear, romance, complications, and a healthy dose of humour and addiction bring you a wonderful tale of Christmas romance. I couldn't help but chuckle at some of the situations and dialogue. I certainly wouldn't hesitate in picking up another book by this author.