Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber was a novel I found entirely predictable and a story I could have foretold from as early as page nine. Granted, any slight novel even with the loosest connection to Christmas is by nature a feel-good story with a predictable happy ending. But when we are introduced to Merry Knight and her antagonistic boss Jayson Bright before the pagination even hit the double digits, the story could have written itself. In fact, before I even got to page nine I just knew that the love of Merry’s life would have the name Bright. A cutesy pairing of thematic and rhyming names: they just had to come together over Christmas.
Both Merry and Jayson have profiles on an on-line dating site yet they don’t upload photos of themselves. In Merry’s case, her mother and brother created a profile for her as a birthday present, in the hope that she would meet a future boyfriend. Instead of using Merry’s photo, her family used a photo of their golden retriever, ostensibly to allow men to get to know her deep down without being lured by her looks. When Jayson discovers Merry’s profile, he is interested enough to set up a profile for himself, and also chooses to use a photo of his family dog–a golden retriever. In spite of hour upon hour of cyberchatting, they reveal no overwhelming curiosity for either of them to send along a genuine photo, which I found thoroughly unbelievable. When they finally agree to meet in person, Merry sees that her mystery beau is in fact her boss and hightails it. Merry, armed with more information than Jay in knowing who the other is, is torn between Jay (her on-line beau) and Jayson (her arrogant workaholic rules-obsessed boss). Jay never realizes the identity of his mystery love until just before Christmas, when Merry agrees to meet him at a party. Drama ensues of course when Jay mistakenly believes another woman at the party is Merry and the real Merry witnesses this interaction and leaves.
A minor character who works his matchmaker magic is Merry’s brother Patrick. He is eighteen and has Down Syndrome and senses when problems arise between Merry and Jay. He logs in to his sister’s account and patches things up when his big sister needs a little prodding, such as getting them back together after the Christmas party debacle. Patrick has a history of logging in to Merry’s account and chatting with Jay, and I suppose Merry never saw the need to change her profile password to keep her brother out of her intimate on-line business. The couple wouldn’t be together without Patrick’s work and we wouldn’t have a story otherwise, yet I think most people who have an on-line dating profile would change their passwords to keep their little brother out of it.
Most Macomber Christmas stories are light reads without much to do with Christmas at all, other than that all the happy endings occur over the holidays. I didn’t enjoy this novel as I did with the others, mainly because I found the protagonists so unbelievable with their virtual dating interactions.