Photo credit: @chantelguertin via Instagram


It Happened One Christmas by Chantel Guertin

Welcome to STYLE Canada‘s Boreal Book Club: a monthly meeting narrated by Girl Well Read, for bookworms who’re looking to scour new pages. Since we aim to shine a spotlight on all things Canadian in life and style, beauty, and health and wellness, it goes without saying that every instalment of the Boreal Book Club will feature a Canadian author and their latest title. Be sure to use the hashtag #BorealBookClub to share with us on social!

Photo credit: @girlwellread via Instagram

Will her Christmas wish come true?

Zoey Andrews lives and breathes Christmas. She loves everything about the season, and after years of directing countless holiday movies, she certainly knows her way around a festive tale. So, when she finally gets the chance to bring her own script to life, she isn’t about to let anything, or anyone, stand in her way—not even the stupidly sexy, utterly frustrating plaid-clad tree farmer Benoît Deschamps. Moonlighting as mayor of Chelsea—the cozy Quebec hamlet at the centre of Zoey’s screenplay—Ben maddeningly refuses to grant her a film permit in his enchanting town.

With just four days left before Christmas, Zoey must change Ben’s mind, but not before an unscripted ice storm leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere, with nothing except . . . each other.

Will Ben’s chilly resolve shatter Zoey’s Christmas movie wish? Or will Zoey be able to melt his stubbornness and maybe even his heart?

Photo: Chantel Guertin (Christopher Shulgan)

Not having much luck in her romantic life, Zoe writes her own holiday movie with a HEA. Her love for Christmas is only rivalled by her tenacity to get her film made.

The grumpy/sunshine and forced proximity tropes work incredibly well. Geurtin has an impeccable ear for dialogue which is made apparent by both the cheeky banter and touching conversations. Zoe and Ben have interesting backstories that provide depth and insight into their characters and account for some of the more heartwarming scenes of the story.

Much like Zoey, readers will feel an instant connection to Chelsea, Quebec. With its cozy shops, Christmas tree farm, and ties to Zoey’s childhood, the setting becomes as much of a character as those that live there. It is also the perfect vehicle for Chantel to share her French-Canadian Christmas traditions with her readers.

With all of the charm and sparkle of a Christmas movie, It Happened One Christmas is the quintessential holiday rom-com.

CHANTEL GUERTIN is the bestselling author of nine novels—five for adults and four for teens.

Guertin lives in Toronto with her family.

Scroll to read Girl Well Read’s exclusive interview with Chantel Guertin about It Happened One Christmas.  

Photo credit: @chantelguertin via Instagram

GWR: This is your first holiday romcom, did you approach writing this book the same as your other novels? 

CG: This book had a super-tight deadline so that it could come out this Christmas. I had 2 months to write the book! So the outline was really important to make sure I knew the plot inside and out and didn’t stray off course. I always spend time in the setting of the book, but in this case, I used the trip to Chelsea, Quebec (where the book is set) as the kickoff session to write the book—and wrote the first half in a weekend. From there, I wrote at least 1,000 words a day to complete the first draft on time. I enjoyed this process because I proved to myself that I could do it, and meet my deadline. And the deadline made sure I didn’t indulge insecurities that I think most writers get, like “Is this terrible?” I had to believe that, given this is my 9th book, I know what I’m doing, and I could write the kind of book you can imagine being a holiday movie. And I think that I succeeded.

GWR: What was the inspiration for It Happened One Christmas?

CG: I wanted to set the book in Canada, since so many holiday romances are set in the US. My background is French-Canadian, and I’ve never read a English holiday romance set in Quebec, so I wanted to be able to add in all those delicious elements like la tire (maple syrup on snow), tourtière (meat pie), and Revéillon (the Christmas Eve celebrations). And aside from The Ice Storm (that 90s movie with Christina Ricci), I hadn’t experienced a movie or book set during an ice storm, which many Canadians have experienced. And that’s how the idea was born.

GWR: Give us your best Hollywood pitch for the book and who would you cast?

CG: An LA film director must convince the sexy—yet grumpy—mayor of a small town to give her the permit to shoot her Christmas move in his idyllic hometown. Starring Ana de Armas and Chris Evans.

Photo credit: @girlwellread via Instagram

GWR: What were the most important characteristics and dynamic that you wanted Zoey and Ben’s relationship to have? 

CG: I wanted Zoey and Ben to be complex characters who are both driven individuals, fighting for what’s important to them, and thinking about their futures, while holding on to their pasts. This struggle influences their every action and interaction. This is more than a holiday romance, it’s a story about how to move forward and carve out your future without letting go of who you are and where you came from.

GWR: Do you have a favourite romance trope?

CG: Enemies to lovers. There’s so much space for witty banter!

GWR: What are some of your holiday traditions and did you incorporate any of them in the story?

CG: My father is French-Canadian, so growing up, we would always have a big celebration on Christmas Eve. My dad always made my grandmother’s tourtiere recipe from scratch, and we would open one gift before bed (pajamas). We’ve continued this tradition, so now my husband and children and I spend Christmas eve with my side of the family, and then back at home before bed, we all open our pajamas. It’s such a fun tradition, and everyone loves it.

Photo credit: @marissastapley via Instagram

GWR: If your book was a beverage, what would it be?

CG: Hot chocolate with marshmallows. And maybe a splash of Bailey’s, because, why not?

GWR: Can you tell us what you are working on?

CG: After two books out in one year, I’m taking my time with the next idea, but I’m excited about it!

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