You, Me and the Christmas Tree

You guys, it’s here! Hallmark Countdown to Christmas 2021. We have a full week before Halloween but this is just our thing now and everyone is just going along with it. Some countries have neither Halloween nor Thanksgiving so it really isn’t UNHEARD of to put decorations out this early. Just saying. Anyway, I don’t feel like I’m overstating that this movie was HIGHLY ANTICIPATED. And we’ve only just begun so let’s get after it.

Our movie begins by taking us back in time a few ::cough:: decades. Young Olivia gets in trouble for having her nice clothes on and climbing a tree. She runs through the trees and suddenly is all grown up wearing the same outfit. Today she is a “Christmas Tree Whisperer” but she corrects the person, telling them she’s an “evergreen specialist” because it’s not a Christmas tree until someone decorates it.

Meanwhile, Jack is having trouble on his tree lot. Customers’ trees are just shriveling up right and left shortly after purchase. But the customers like him so much they won’t accept a refund. He promises to provide them with a replacement by Christmas eve. He doesn’t know what is happening!

Olivia has an actual degree in forestry so maybe there is something to her evergreen expertise. Most people use that degree for the working at the Forest Service, not helping sell Christmas trees but to each their own.

Her mom calls and wants to make sure she packs a specific outfit for the “gala” (of course) and on brand for all moms everywhere. She panics because she thought the Gala was cancelled. She was engaged and broke it off! Justin was too…something. Anyway, she doesn’t want to face all those people.

Meanwhile Jack’s mom(whose name I NEVER catch) is at his house…well, her house. She recently moved into a retirement community but she is still cooking there for poor lonely 40 something Jack. She’s got a Christmas apron on. He talks about trying to keep his family’s business in the black…and find out what’s wrong with the trees. His friends show up to eat his mom’s food. They bring a big jar of…alcohol? Maple syrup? Anyway, it’s a consolation for all the bad trees. He is calling a tree expert to figure out the problem. Oh is he?

Olivia is working in her little office and her coworker is wearing one of my favorite Christmas sweaters TO DATE. Olivia tells her friend that she’s “Christmased out” now. Her parents are A LOT. Olivia promises her friend she will try and have some Christmas cheer.

Jack calls Olivia for help with his trees. Olivia works at a college in their forestry program. This is ALL ADDING UP. Olivia, dodging her family obligations, jumps at the chance to check out his tree situation. Also, Jack gives directions and they actually say goodbye to each other! So yay for real phone conversations.

In Avon, as they both enter the roundabout, Ben drops his phone in his coffee and then they get in a little fender bender. She quickly realizes he is the person she’s supposed to meet. They’re kind of bickering about how much damage there really is to her car. Also, I’m not sure why she doesn’t immediately tell him when she realizes but maybe we’re trying to stretch out every last minute of this movie. She finally tells him. Sheesh. She tries to start her car and something drops down from underneath it. It is the TAILPIPE. Oh we’ve got a classic “stuck in a small town with car truck scenario.” GIDDYUP. Except, this time, Olivia is super stoked about it. The part won’t be here until tomorrow. Surprise, Surprise.

Ben takes her to the Avon Inn and it is decorated as beautifully as you all hope. Things in this hotel are more modern than years past. A CODE for a hotel room not a key! The front desk clerk is perky and helpful, telling Olivia about all the Christmas goings on in town. Olivia calls her mom to let her know what’s happening. Olivia’s mom continues to hold her phone at arm’s length while she talks. WHY. Olivia’s mom wonders if she should run a comb through her hair and change her outfit. MOMS am I right? My mom’s rebuttal: Sometimes moms just know when their kids need to run a comb through their hair.”

Olivia looks at the tree at the party in the lobby downstairs. There is a hot chocolate bar but boring wet sandwich Olivia wants hers PLAIN. She prefers things in their “natural state.” So she doesn’t even like Christmas trees to be decorated Also, hot chocolate is CERTAINLY great on its own. But if there are toppings, you MUST take some. Isn’t that a rule of hot chocolate bars? Olivia has a thought based on what she sees from the tree in the lobby. She says she’s going to do some more thinking and they can chat more tomorrow. She tries to head back upstairs and he encourages her to stay for caroling. They start singing O Christmas Tree but she still heads up to her room.

The next morning Jack and Olivia meet at the Christmas Tree Farm. She sees a handful of disappointed families. They exchange a few tree puns back and forth but Jack wins. Olivia observes that the trees look great, until they’re cut. So she asks to see a tree cut within two days. Jack’s friends Elliot and Kelly arrive. Kelly is wearing a FANTASTIC sweater. Wow. 2 for 2 on sweaters.

Kelly suggests some hard cider after hearing Olivia’s bummer of a Christmas memory. (She had to be fully glammed up before coming downstairs to see what Santa brought.) We all say out loud, isn’t it like 8 in the morning? She opts for regular cider and amazes them with her refined palette. Is that…vanilla? She wonders? They stare at her in awe. How does she know what vanilla tastes like? AMAZING. But she is a TOTAL nerd. Then she suggests that Jack diversify his inventory/crops and he shuts her down hard. Kelly and Elliot jump into wingman mode. We’re all here for it.

Another day another dollar. Jack’s mom has NO CHILL. As per usual. She rushes over the next morning to return that pencil she borrowed. Did I mention how great the house is decorated? Jack’s mom becomes wingman AGAIN and urges Olicia to join them for the “Christmas Cocktail Competition.” Jack’s mom wonders if he’s just afraid of losing. Olivia obviously knows about chemistry. So now it’s on. This is a new angle on competition and it seems fun!

Jack sees his mom flirting with a guy and wonders what’s going on. Nothing she says. Jack and Olivia square off. The only rule for the cocktail is that they have to use some of the cider in the drink. Jack and Olivia chit chat as they mix their drink. She is straight up using a chemistry set. Olivia shares she always felt happiest in the woods. JACK TOO.

Okay now it’s time to taste test. Elliot and Kelly get absolutely HAMMERED tasting all the drinks. Olivia also put pine needs in her drink. That seems gross! Jack goes by what feels right and Olivia goes by what is right. Boy they are just two peas aren’t they? Elliot and Kelly thinks Jack’s drink is truly awful. Olivia WINS. Is anyone surprised? I am, considering that pine need business. But what do I know. Wow. Olivia does a little victory dance. It’s…fine. I’m proud of her for doing it.

Dwayne, the Christmas tree lot competitor shows up to thank Jack for giving him more business.

Back at Jack’s house THERE IS GARLAND ON THE LIGHT FIXTURES. An ornament drops off one of the sad dying tree branches. Then Jack gives Olivia an overview of all the ornaments on the tree. They add a new special one every year. Olivia’s mom hires a decorator and chooses a theme every year. This year’s theme was supposed to be a Christmas wedding she admits. So then Olivia has to kind of talk through that whole mess. Then Jack sneezes. They wonder if he’s getting sick but it gives Olivia an idea. She wants to dig up a root ball with one of the trees. She agrees to stay one more night to figure this out. He knows why she’s really staying. They head out to cut down and dig up a tree. It starts to snow. Jack loves it. And to be honestly, they both get a little weird about the snow fall. Case in point, Olivia just wanders away and lays down in a sad little pile of snow. She says being in the trees is her favorite thing in the whole world. Jack stresses about his whole business going under. A little city cop strolls by and shines a flashlight in their eyes. Jack tells them they’re doing scientific research. The fifteen-year old-cop asks, “Oh is that what they’re calling it these days?” They die of embarrassment and I laugh out loud.

They both compete for who is more of a New Englander as they try not to slip on the ice and lift the tree into the truck. For some reason they bring the tree back to her hotel room. She vows to just stare at the tree all night. Surely she could set up a camera? They have a MOMENT as Jack leaves.

The next morning, Santa is downstairs meeting kids. Oh well what do you know, Jack is Santa. Olivia overslept and rushes downstairs to meet him. The candy set up in the lobby looks wonderful. Olivia knows her next step now apparently. She needs to bring the samples back to the lab on campus. Jack offers to drive her back to the campus because she’s so tired and that’s the only reason.

Back at the lab, she is running all the tests. For some reason, there are boxes and boxes of mistletoe in front of her office. They were supposed to be wedding favors. Why would they be delivered to her office though? They decide to take them back to his craft fair and sell them. Not going to bother trying to return them or see if they were sent in error? Okay. They now have to wait ten hours for the test results. Jack says he’s going to go nuts waiting. So she suggests they do some of the town’s Christmas activities.

Oh good. First up is gingerbread house building. MY FAVORITE. But there are NO TREES with which to decorate their ginger yard. What are they going to do? No tree cookie cutters or candy. They head back to the kitchen and I don’t know what their plan is but they do make some trees out of…I don’t know, the gingerbread walls? But by the time they come back someone has taken all the house pieces. They decide to make his tree lot instead. Olivia tries to temper his expectations for her work and ability to fix things. She mentions diversifying again. He thinks his dad would be so disappointed if he diversified. This gingerbread house activity was kind of a bust, in my view. So they move on to the next activity.

Did they have to construct a reindeer out of wood? I’m not sure, but the old barn is all ready for the craft fair I think. And then they wrap empty boxes. Then Jack gets an email from the mayor about the town’s Christmas Eve tree. Olivia wonders why they wait until Christmas Eve to light the tree. Jack tells a wonderful story about the town coming together during a power outage and storm and decorating a big tree in the town square. Very Whoville of them.

The mayor says he needs a tree by Tuesday. He says they can’t risk waiting until the last minute. He’s going to use Dwayne Colson’s tree instead. NO! He’s the worst! Jack asks that he wait and see if he can get the tree figured out by then. The mayor agrees.

Olivia gets a call from her mom. She wonders if Olivia is avoiding going home. Her mom has made a nail appointment for her. Olivia is like well I am SUPER BUSY with this tree mystery so BYE. Then Olivia gets the lab results. Still no answers! They now need a full genetic sequencing. That takes WEEKS to get done. She still doesn’t know how to save this year’s trees. He asks her to tell him what she’s really thinking. She says she’s worried because she doesn’t know how to save them.

Melissa, the Inn Manager, suggests Jack make an actual MOVE. He thinks its not the right time. We all disagree.

Upstairs, Olivia has a breakthrough.

Olivia shows up in the morning with an idea for Jack to try! She thinks she can come up with a plan to save the trees temporarily. She said she can make it seem like this whole thing never happened. And Jack says “except for the part where I met you because I could do that again and again.” OMG. I could watch THAT SCENE again and again. Jack wonders if she shouldn’t do this all back at the lab. And she is like, oh shoot yeah I’ll leave. And then they decide to do some of the craft fair outside so she can stay and work there. At this point my dad walks in and wonders, aghast- You didn’t tell me there was a craft fair in this movie? My mom replies, there is ALWAYS a Christmas Craft Fair.

Everyone loves having the craft fair outside. Who wouldn’t when it’s 100 degrees outside? Jack’s mom things its fate that Olivia’s here. Inside the barn, Olivia works away at her little slow release tree medicine. Jack comes and grabs her to hang out at the outdoor Christmas Craft Fair. We see Jack’s mom and Harry having a MOMENT.

Jack invites Olivia to go for a walk. They HOLD HANDS. Olivia has another breakthrough about the trees. She’s going to add some sap to her little concoction. And then she makes a little nutrient pellet. Now they just need a tree to test it on. They add it to the water of the tree at the house and wait. Olivia wants to wait up and see what happens. She tells Jack he doesn’t have to stay up but he wants to see what happens too.

The next morning, Olivia fell asleep on Jack’s shoulder and feels embarrassed. Jack’s mom and Harry arrive with some breakfast. Olivia tells them they won’t know if it worked for sure until later tonight. So, why did she have to wait all night? Then Elliot and Kelly arrive. They wonder if everyone is going to sit and stare at the tree all day. Jack’s mom wonders if this will impact her gift exchange party. Olivia says she doesn’t have a gift to exchange. Jack asks the friends to watch the tree while he and Olivia go pick out gifts to contribute.

They arrive at a very expensive looking boutique and Jack tells Olivia they can only spend $20. There is no way anything in that store is $20. Yet, they do each find something and have to keep it a secret from each other. Wow the store does gift wrapping.

Later, they do their white elephant gift exchange. Everyone takes turns explaining the rules. Olivia has never played this game? Bless her heart. Wow. Jack and Olivia picked the EXACT same thing at the store. A book about Christmas trees. Olivia gets a robe and slippers. How is that only $20? Anyway, she makes a great pun and swaps for the book. For some reason they swap identical books? And now Jack’s mom has prepared a yule log. They invite her to cut into it to find the ornament to hang on the tree. She resists because she’s not family but they all agree she is! She finds the ornament right away.

Jack’s mom gives Olivia some good advice about speaking up for herself. She says she can’t expect her parents to fix a problem they don’t even know he has. I mean, yeah is that the case? I didn’t realize. Anyway, Jack tells Olivia he trusts her to fix their tree problems. Kelly hopes the tree isn’t fixed quite yet so Olivia stays longer.

It’s time to check the trees! It worked! They hug and he picks her up. As a tall girl, this is something I’ve never been comfortable with. Olivia makes it awkward and asks for a double high five. But I felt that awkwardness in MY BONES.

Jack and Olivia pass out their tree pellets to all his customers to revive their trees. Olivia takes a look at a tree getting loaded into the back of a truck. She tells the tree good luck. It is the town tree. They get it all set up in the town square. The mayor is RELIEVED.

Olivia tells Jacks she is actually enjoying Christmas. She wants to take this feeling home with her. But she has to go home because her parents would never forgive her. But Jack wants her to stay for the Christmas Eve event. Olivia wonders what would happen after Christmas. She lives an hour away for heaven’s sake. And then they KISS. He asks to meet her there in the morning.

Back in her hotel, Olivia tells her mom that she’s going to stay in Avon and head home on Christmas morning. She is finally honest with her mom. She tells her they have ALOT to talk about. Maybe like 30 years of suppressed emotions? SOUNDS FUN. Actually, it sounds more like Festivus.

The next morning Olivia and Jack meet up at the town square. They are happy until they get a text. The tree in the town square is dead and brown. Dwayne arrives just in time to gloat. He says his tree will be there in a few hours to save the day. Olivia feels terrible. I wonder if Dwayne was up to some sabotage? Olivia then brings up diversifying Jack’s crops again. Then Olivia kind of has a little melt down about her own personal problems. So she just bails. She heads straight to the hotel to pack up. She slowly packs up her little mixology award and ornament from the yule log.

Back at the town square, Jack and his mom pack up ornaments and Dwayne asks to use them to put them on the good tree. Jack’s mom wonders where Olivia is. Jack tells her she left. She’s like why? She gets the whole run down from Jack. Her mom is like, this seems like manufactured drama. His mom wonders why he doesn’t diversify. Jack sings that song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof. His mom is like, Jack you are a silly goose. So she encourages him to go after Olivia. Olivia is on her way out of town and is stuck in that same silly roundabout. She runs into her parents! They meet at the coffee shop.

She gets a little huffy with her parents about having tree branches in her hair. She goes on a little rant about how she’d like to celebrate Christmas. Her parents seem to take it all in and they apologize for making her feel bad about herself. They agree to revamp some of their traditions. Just like immediately. No push back. Then she tells them about Jack. She thinks she blew it with him and wants to just go home. Did they really just drive that whole way for a ten minute chat in the coffee shop? As Olivia walks to her car she hears two idiots bragging about helping Dwayne make sure he gets the town tree. Olivia sees all the weed killer in the back of their truck. She smartly gets a “selfie” with those two idiots and the weed killer displayed prominently in their truck. She runs to the town square and puts a little tree tablet in the soil and explains to the mayor what happened. Dwayne digs in and says they should still use one of his trees.

Our favorite little fifteen year old cop takes Dwayne down to the station.

Now it’s time for the special moment. Oh wait, Jack’s mom says “Tree now, Talk Later!” Haha so then it’s time to decorate the tree as a town. I hope she let her parents know. Oh they stayed! They don’t care about that silly old yacht club party. And Olivia is wearing the coat her mom loves so that’s all good. Then they meet Jack! They are now super cool, breezy parents. Olivia is like, yeah I was wrong about my parents for my whole childhood I guess. Jack tells her he IS going to do some diversifying of his crops. They have their silly little “ no I was wrong” chat and then they kiss again! Then the whole town counts down to the tree lighting. It looks beautiful despite the dead branches.

My mom and I agree this movie really got us in the Christmas spirit. It was SO Christmasy. There was a lot more comedy infused into this than a typical Hallmark Christmas movie and I loved Ben and Danica together. I don’t think I’ve seen a Benjamin Ayres movie I didn’t love, honestly. Cranberry Christmas was one of my faves last year. So yes, this was a great way to kick off Hallmark Christmas season and honestly gets me excited for the rest!! Let’s GO! What did you think?

Love Strikes Twice

Okay so we’ve all been anticipating this one because it looks cute and funny. But, this movie premiered in the “Fall Harvest” line up and there was nary a pumpkin or colored leaf to be had. I don’t understand why these fall movies have not been focused on the season like Christmas and winter movies are. I would Love some fall feels. Sheesh. Anyway, let’s dive in.

We’ve got a busy business woman working while she cooks. Maggie is a no nonsense attorney. She only has time for her cases, not her husband, not personal errands, and not cooking. Her husband Josh has to cancel a class to pick up some anniversary gift for her parents. Girl, ship it! What year is it? Why are either of you running around town picking things up the old fashioned way? She tells her boss that she is leaving early but taking work with her. Oof I would not make it in a big law firm like that. I would just crumble.

Her friend, Keri walks in with a bright pink dress on. I feel like they’re just friends, not coworkers because you would NOT wear a bright pink dress to work at a law firm. Oh she is a friend and client? Okay. Ooof. She had a boyfriend named Lester. She dumped him because of his name. That’s fair, honestly. Maggie vents a little about the pressure of making partner and investing in her marriage. I mean, yes that’s legit. Lots of lawyers end up divorced. Keri tells Maggie she ran into “Rick” downstairs in the lobby. Maggie is surprised that he remembers her and Keri is like, girl you dated all through college. Like why would she be surprised, honestly? Her college boyfriend? Of course he’d remember her. She literally bumps right into him in the lobby and he asks her for coffee. She’s too busy but he wants to meet for lunch next time he’s in town. She looks at him like he’s the one who got away. So what’s that about?

On the way to the anniversary party, Maggie and Josh bicker about work, etc… He asks her to pull over and they reminisce about the old library and what a dump their town is. Josh says Maggie felt sorry for him and that’s why they started dating. Maggie isn’t sure that’s wrong. Hmm. At home, Maggie’s mom says she didn’t feel up for planting flowers in the front yard. Seems ominous. Her dad hobbles down the stairs. Maggie’s brother, Ash pops by. He seems weird. Ugh again with the junior partner thing? Guys, it’s REALLY not a thing. There are a few different kinds of partnerships you can get as a lawyer and “junior” is not one of them.

That evening, Josh asks Maggie what is going on with them. He says her parents still like each other and Josh wonders if they ever should have gotten married. They decide to talk about it when they get back to Chicago. She wonders if she should just sleep in her old room? And then she decides to go for a walk. She sits by a fountain and decides to make a wish. She wishes for a do over. BUT FOR WHAT. She drops her phone and hits her head and then seemingly gets knocked unconscious.

She comes to in her bed…in what looks like her old room. She’s got an old flip phone. She wants to blame Ash for her stupid phone but her mom says she just bought it for her! Her dad comes in from a run and she sees that the calendar says June 2006. What!! Keri calls and Maggie tries to like furiously explain what’s going on and Keri is not having it. RICK is waiting outside in a red sports car. Wait, young Rick looks like grown up Josh. These guys are WAY too similar. Flanigans is back! The restaurant Maggie loved that went out of business. Oh wait Josh is a different guy. Rick and Josh have opposing view points about saving the library. And Josh and Rick may as well be identical twins.

Rick and Maggie head to the beach with all the other youths in 2006. Also the AUDACITY of this movie to FLASH BACK to 2006 as 15 years ago. Poor Rick keeps trying to kiss Maggie but she is not having it. Good for her. Uh oh. Her dad is about to go up on a ladder, which is I believe how he jacked up his back or whatever so she tells him to throw it out. Inside, she goes downstairs to see her weirdo brother. He’s perfect to tell about her weird situation. I love this line about her dreams usually involving Sonia Sotomayor. Ash asks her to tell him something from the future and she almost spoils Game of Thrones before he stops her. I am loving the sibling nonsense as well. Ash posits a theory that makes sense to Maggie. She IMMEDIATELY breaks his Lego contraption. I can’t tell if she does it on purpose.

Maggie tries to force herself back to the present before going to bed. It doesn’t work. The music sure does try! She chats with Rick on the phone. She seems to love it. Again, how is she surprised earlier that he remembered her? Ash asks her if she’s still a time traveler and she fills him in on her present life. Maggie vents a little and asks Ash to come with him to the library rally. She thinks if the library is saved, Josh will be happy and she can be with Rick. Like does she really want to be with Rick? I don’t get it. Ash makes a funny line about how he thought the future would be cool but it’s just her boring drama. I love it. And then she totally like pumps him up about himself in the future. That is really sweet.

Maggie runs into Josh at the rally. He seems REALLY happy to see her. I had low expectations for Ash initially but he’s actually CARRYING this movie. Josh gives a big speech about the library and libraries in general. She asks him what saving this library is all about? Because they’ve already built a new one and moved everything over. That’s a pretty good point, actually. It is purely nostalgia from his childhood. Also this is the FIRST she’s heard of this story. IN FIFTEEN YEARS. Then, the police show up. Maggie says she’s “got it.” And they immediately get arrested. That doesn’t make any sense. And frankly, this whole piece of the story adds some comedy but it would not happen this way and is so wrong across the board. I need to release it but I can’t. Also, no one was wearing that overall situation in 2006. And, her parents are funnier in 2006. They make so many jokes about her being in jail and how the dad wanted a dog and not kids. I love it. Then her parents dance together at a restaurant. They’re ALOT.

Another day in the past. Maggie has to go to court. Her parents are still cracking jokes about going to jail. Maggie thinks because she practices corporate law she knows criminal law. I am guessing these guys were charged with misdemeanors? Oh she called it an infraction. Which is LESS than a misdemeanor. It’s like, taking your case to traffic court. Which is what this whole proceeding would be like. Evidence? And they have a permit!! End of story! All she had to say was that they had a permit. That would have settled the whole thing before they got to the police station. UGH okay. That’s just not how any of this works. I just… Okay. It’s fine. Anyway in a round about way the judge dismisses the case. Then Maggie makes a case to the judge about the library. She wants to file a temporary restraining order to stop the library demolition. The judge is just tickled with Maggie. Well, she’s been practicing law for ten years so maybe she should chill. But the judge grants them a 14 day restraining order against demolition.

Rick shows up at the court house and he is like a total jerk. He gets all territorial of Maggie and apparently his dad is upset that he’s dating a “jail bird.” And the dad has requested a dinner with her that night. And then Keri asks if she can ask Josh out and Maggie says okay. Guys, I just need to get this out here. There are a handful of noticeably terrible actors in this movie but I also think they are likely doing their best with the dialogue they’ve been given. But it is pretty absurd and noticeable.

Oh dear. Rick’s dad is the worst. He gives Maggie a real “talking to” about the jail business and helping save the library. The dad shares that he is planning to invest in the new project that is replacing the library. But we found out earlier that the developers of the new building took the investors’ money and ran. Rick seems like a total pushover and just wants to keep the peace. Maggie holds her ground. Good for her! But I would die. I actually don’t understand why she likes Rick though. He mostly seems annoying and a bit of a wet sandwich.

At home, Maggie and her mom look at old photos. Maggie asks how she knew her dad was “the one.” And her mom gives LEGITIMATELY GOOD ADVICE. Like if there is just this “one” that means you don’t have to work at it. And love is a choice. Maggie decides to head to Flanigans to get banana cream pie. Girl, pick a different flavor, gross. At Flanigans, she sees Josh and Keri having just a fantastic time.

Maggie runs into Ash and he is VERY CONFIDENT. He has a date with “Veronica.” Maggie panics when she hears this and tells her mom he can’t date her because she basically destroys him and he never recovers. That adds up. She comes downstairs and JOSH is there.

Maggie is muttering to herself about helping him meet with some lawyers in Chicago about saving the library. I believe its her old firm. Yes, it is. Her boss is not yet partner and is “senior counsel” on this case. Baxter, her boss, offers Josh a stipend for his trouble and his nostalgia. Pretty fair considering their ONLY argument to save this building is his personal memories. It sounds like there are legitimate historical reasons for preserving the building but no one has actually articulated those in a setting where it matters. So, Maggie rips up the first number. He writes another number and slowly slides it down the table. It’s hilarious. Is it bad that I am kind of rooting for the developer (forgetting that he will eventually defraud the town)? They already have a NEW LIBRARY. It’s not like they’re losing a library.

Baxter grabs Maggie after the meeting. He is still trying to pay her off. Since they have not articulated any legitimate reason or claim for saving the library, I am surprised he’s going so hard. He is kind of mean to her! She suggests he look into his client more. Guess what? He does not.

Now it’s time for the trial. Maybe the next day? Because that’s how it works. Ugh. The whole court proceeding is nonsense. Except for when Maggie tries to talk about the developer’s intentions. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any proof yet. Surely his financial records are a mess? Shouldn’t she have filed a discovery motion? Is this an actual complaint to prevent the development contract with the city or just an injunction to temporarily stop demolition while they litigate the merits? Anyway, she loses the case and she’s bummed.

Rick is waiting outside the courthouse and he wants to take her to dinner. At dinner, Rick is REALLY worried about his dad’s feelings on this whole business. He is like, maybe now my dad will forgive you and let’s not mess stuff up for him. He is kind of a small little wet sandwich of a man. Ha! He thinks he’s capable of being part of a power couple? He is so weak! Oh dang he’s proposing? And she accepts? WHAT DOES SHE SEE IN THIS GUY? And he proposes at a restaurant? Like I have yet to see one thing interesting or likable. Oh and her parents haven’t even met him? He didn’t talk to them first? He waits outside all the time and never comes to the door. YOU GUYS. Like why? I feel like she would have noticed right away what a little weasel he is but she is like, yeah! Rick is the guy!

That night, she finds Josh at the library. He notices the ring and congratulates her. He gives another big speech and says he loves her! They have a deep conversation and Maggie is talking from the perspective of 15 years on about their relationship. He asks if Rick is the one and she smiles and says yeah. WHY DOES SHE LIKE HIM. He asks her about the wedding and that triggers her memory about the developer. She wonders about his financials. Didn’t I like, suggest she do that before her trial? But, she only had like one day to prepare instead of the typical 1-3 years so I shouldn’t be too hard on her. Anyway, they decide to sneak in to the country club the next day to get a peek.

The next day, the heist is on. They wear country club employee shirts and Josh freaks about wearing someone’s else’s clothes. It’s pretty hilarious. They get a key from the security guard to get into all the lockers. This is all very easy. What are these two kids up to? Oh they are inspecting all the lockers to find the developer’s (Michael) briefcase WITH ALL HIS FINANCIAL INFORMATION. Idiots. He’s going to have that with him? But, apparently not. He does in fact carry ALL his important fraudulent documents with him in his briefcase and stores it in the locker room of this country club. So yeah, this is the guy you want overseeing a major development in town. I love the heist music in the background. They grab the briefcase and take the contents to make copies. Josh is an idiot. He stops to text Maggie instead of just getting to work. Maggie gets scolded by a woman playing tennis. This woman is in the middle of her tennis match and runs over to Maggie and tells her the laundry/towel bin has been full for 20 minutes. Like lady do you really need the towel bin emptied while you’re playing? You have to stop your game to scold Maggie? Sheesh. Out on the course, Michael Williams hurts himself. Then Maggie stops to reply to Josh. Why would she text right in the same place as she got scolded? Meanwhile, Josh makes a mess of himself in the copy room and jams the printer. He…bless his heart. Maggie stalls by trying to call in a heart attack on an emergency phone line outside for Michael. She buys them a little time. Then, she almost runs into Rick et al, while Josh tries to load the briefcase back in the locker. Josh almost gets caught too but he is willing to be a real weirdo for the sake of not showing his face. They make it out of there!

That night, Maggie has a whole crew working on the data. One of the girls, Tracy, notices a discrepancy. Maggie wink wink tells her to definitely not hack into the accounts and sends her downstairs to ask Ash for help. I love when the lead plays wingman!

Alright, so they are back at court. The judge. Oof. Doing her best with her material. Anyway, Maggie’s strategy is to present the information she obtained without having to explain how she found it. She could have filed a discovery request like earlier?! I need to stop. Maggie gets “highly offended” which is her strategy to avoid explaining how she found the material. I’m releasing this whole court room business. Michael Williams seems to realize he’s been caught. And then the assertion that the documents were obtained illegally basically proves that they do belong to Michael so that backfired. So they win! After the case, Baxter pulls Maggie aside and offers a recommendation for law school and possibly a spot at his firm. She’s like, nah I’m good.

Maggie and Josh hug outside. For a long time. Ash pushes them away from each other. I love it. Then she makes Josh drive over her dad’s ladder to break it.

The next morning? It’s still 2006 and Maggie is inexplicably STILL engaged. And it is the night of her parents’ 25th anniversary party. They like to have BIG parties for their anniversaries apparently. Keri tells Maggie that Josh is in love with someone else. Oh, who could that be?

Rick the wet sandwich approaches Maggie at the party. Maggie thinks Rick is going to apologize and that his dad is going to be so happy about saving his money. But Rick says his dad is mad about being proven wrong. And Rick is like, I thought we were just going to be doing what my dad wanted? Like for everything? So Maggie dumps him. FINALLY. She finally sees how lame this guy is. Then Maggie sees Josh and runs toward him and slips on the dance floor. She wakes up at her parents’ 40TH Anniversary! Keri is dating a doctor instead of Lester. Fingers crossed for poor Keri. And Ash is married to Tracy! And they’re having a baby! And living with Palo Alto which means he must be a fancy software developer or whatever. And Maggie and Josh don’t live in Chicago. They live in their hometown. Oh that was a twist on a classic I didn’t see coming. And her dad isn’t crippled! Maggie and Josh stroll through town and see the “library” which turned into her social justice law firm. That’s a pretty big building for what can’t amount to much work in a small town. Anyway, they kiss again and that’s the end of it.

Okay so you guys this movie was absurd. ABSOLUTELY absurd. There was ALOT of classic Hallmark nonsense. But guess what? The PREMISE of this movie requires us to go along with the idea that a person can make a wish, hit their head, and go back in time. So I really do need to release it when they get other things wrong in the plot if I’m going along for the ride here. Surprisingly, this movie had a lot of humor. Like, ALOT for a Hallmark movie, which, in my opinion, TOTALLY saved the movie and made it real fun to watch. Did I ask yet why this movie was included in the “Fall Harvest” line up when it takes place in the SUMMER? Is there going to be an actual fall movie or what? Anyway, I liked this one. What did you think?

Taking the Reins

https://anchor.fm/cally-younger/episodes/Taking-the-Reins-e17v9s2

Okay y’all. I am back for the remainder of the fall movies and on to Christmas. The last several months have just been crazy you guys. I swear all my weekends this summer were PACKED with something. So, I missed all these great summer movies and connecting with the 5 or so of you that take the time to read these. But I’m back through at least the Christmas season. Of course. Let’s not waste anymore time though.

Our leading lady, Sam mansplains horse riding to a guy in a bar. Then we discover she is a writer. Her stories sound cray. And by “cray” I mean crazy boring. Like how is an actual traditional magazine publishing these? Very Hallmark style articles that don’t exist in real life. Also, I love that just run of the mill, non Olympic horse riding is playing at a bar. She gets a little riled up at the guy next to her for not caring as much about horse riding as she does. Too bad she’s not sitting next to Snoop Dog for this scene.

She switches gears. And gets his name wrong I guess. I didn’t hear her say the wrong one but oh well. I also didn’t realize this was a date but there was a lot of commotion in the living room as we were getting started…new puppies, popcorn…it was a whole thing. Anyway, later, she facetimes her Mom. A big horse competition is taking place in her hometown and HENRY SPENCER IS HER DAD OMG and he will be riding in the competition. He’s a little salty about her not visiting more or riding horses anymore. Also, Sam has (way) more throw pillows than me so I have a little something to mention to my husband about whether we have too many after this.

Later, Henry Spencer (Preston in this movie) and his wife have a chat and I think he asks whether he, himself is an OLD MARE? Like an old female horse? Surely there is a better comparison. Anyway, they are arguing about Henry not taking time to connect with his daughter when she visits. He is emotionally stunted.

At the magazine office, Sam has a heart to heart with her boss, Amanda. Amanda is like, your stories are super lame. Do better than personalized dinnerware and macramé. And honestly, yes. This is the constructive criticism Sam needs right now. Amanda tells Sam she needs to write a story only SHE can write. She needs to write from her HEART. Not her head. Uh oh. A song from my youth is starting to weasel its way into my brain.

I’m loving Sam’s dress right now. Blue. Pleated. Love it. Sam chit chats with Shadow the horse and his driver (Chauncy?) in Central Park. At this point my dad asks if the horse driver is magic or if the horse is magic. I remind him that this is not a Christmas movie so there is no magic. Anyway, Sam obviously decides to write about the horse event back at home.

Back at home, we learn that Sam’s parents haven’t told her about Luke. They figured it would be a fun thing to surprise her with something to do with oh, just her EX HUSBAND. DRAMA IS COMING.

Dang business must be good at the Compass Magazine. Sam is rocking at LOUIS VUITTON in her hometown bakery. Sam’s friend obviously owns the hometown bakery. Sam sees a picture of LUKE on the wall. Well what is a picture of her ex husband doing on the wall in the town where he lives?!!

Sam’s mom is no nonsense about party planning. Sam heads into her room, untouched since her childhood. Have we talked about this? How many parents leave their 40+ year old daughter’s childhood rooms untouched? You don’t have any other use for that room at this point? You didn’t make her take all that nonsense with her when she got a house of her own? Whatever.

Sam runs into her sister, Alexandra and then heads to see the horses. Grouchy old Dad arrives and gives her a hug, begrudgingly. Sam shares with the help, Matt, that she stopped riding a few years ago. Uh oh. Sounds like she’s gonna find out about Luke the hard way. There it is.

Luke is helping out in the stables. Luke is training Sam’s dad for the competition. Sam is pretty upset about it. Who should have told her? I guess we need more background here. Sounds like she and her ex husband do not speak anymore. Sam’s mom and dad apologize and Sam agrees to suck it up for the two weeks left before the competition. I think everyone is at fault here. But they all thought it wouldn’t matter because Sam was not planning to visit.

Sam goes upstairs and screams into a pillow. As you do.

Later, they have a very fancy dinner in their home. For some reason, Luke is there. Sam and Luke basically rehash their whole marriage in front of everyone…so that is awkward for everyone. Why are they all so dressed up to eat dinner in their own home? A dress? With no actual company?

Sam works on her article in her (very cute) but too fancy for a dinner at home dress. She has titled her article “untitled article” and underlined it, which amuses me. Her sister comes into her room and that’s when Sam learns that Luke is living in their family’s carriage house. She storms over there, still in her fancy dress.

Sam wonders what happened to their old house? How does she not know? Wouldn’t he have had to like buy her out or it would need to be sold? She just like disappeared, Sweet Home Alabama style? They do some more arguing that is not really about him staying in the carriage house. They reminisce about a tiny little leather couch they had in their old house.

The next day, everyone is out in the…fenced area where you train the horses. What is it called? Sam is looking cute with her little riding boots. She politely calls her dad old. I like the expression she uses-“a man of a certain vintage.” He invites her to do some riding and she is a hard pass on that. Her dad mutters how she could have been in the Olympics. I WONDER WHAT HAPPENED.

Out front, Sam’s sister and Matt have a little love connection moment. Sam struggles with her article. But what does she have to write about yet? Isn’t she just writing about the competition? She must give up on it because she and her sister head into town to get a drink. They see MATT. Alexandra wonders why Matt hasn’t asked her out yet.

Uh oh. Luke is dating the bakery owner, Ashley. Sam is a little bummed. She and Alex wonder why he has to be all out loud about it. I appreciate the sister support of this totally unreasonable feeling. Sam and Luke run into each other as they both order drinks. He brushes off the seriousness of his relationship with poor Ashley. They have a pretty intense convo while they wait for their drinks. Sam says she misses dancing with him. If I was Ashley, I would be ON EDGE.

Sam just can’t get this article started. She gives up on it again. She’s got a cute belt situation happening and I wonder if I should give belts a try. Also, can we talk about just the casual spread in this kitchen? Donuts, fruit; it looks lovely. Just casual breakfast at the farmhouse!! Okay is this supposed to be an old/updated farmhouse situation? It looks like the fridge is mounted into the wall and there’s like 3 ovens? Cray.

Henry (I mean Preston) the crank monster comes in and makes Sam feel bad about not riding anymore. She heads outside. Luke follows her. She vents about her difficulty writing her article. She can’t get out of her head to write it. Here we go again with that song from my youth; a lesser known boy band song-Evan and Jaron? Anyone? From my Head to My Heart? Okay.

Okay now they’re both giving a horse a bath to get her back to her roots. There are some weird cuts and then the horse grabs the hose and sprays them both. Wait maybe Luke is spraying her? I can’t tell.

Okay now Luke is taking her (after they’ve changed their clothes) to a surprise. He wants her to ride a horse again. She says she doesn’t ride anymore!! She is very reluctant, but he tells her they’re just for fun. The horses have funny little Maleficent hats on their heads. What are those for? Turns out they are for bugs.

She decides to get on the horse. They couldn’t find an extra with the same color hair as Nikki for heaven’s sake? Her parents watch from the window, just beaming with pride.

Sam and Luke walk along on their horses. Sam tells Luke why she quit riding. It was a disaster of a competition right after they divorced and her dad was really mad at her. So she just quit. Then, Sam and Luke are DEFINITELY OUTSIDE and not in front of a green screen while they sit and continue their heart to heart. Man, they are really connecting. Wait, maybe they are really outside. It looked fake before. OMG ARE THEY GOING TO KISS. OMG YES THEY ARE. What about poor Ashley?

They head back to the house to find Sam’s dad is hurt. I DON’T BUY IT. He is faking it FOR SURE, right? He said some bales of hay fell on his wrist. Okay, there’s a doctor there so maybe it’s legit. Maybe he isn’t trying to trick Sam into competing instead because he seems like he still wants to do the event. Sam tries to talk him out of competing. Then Sam learns that her parents are thinking of selling their whole farm because it’s too much for them to handle. I mean, fair.

Later that night, Sam watches her dad and Luke train. Her dad is struggling with his “sprained” wrist. Are we buying this? The next morning, the horse is knocking in to obstacles on the course. He is really struggling. OH WAIT. Look who decided to try her hand at competing again?! Well this would be a pretty PERFECT plan for a dad who only loves his daughter if she’s good at horse competitions. So, Sam gets back on the horse as they say. Her mom comes out to see this MIRACULOUS turn of events. Uh oh. Right before the hurdle, the horse stops abruptly and Sam falls off him. She is undeterred though. She asks Luke to train her for this competition. WHAT IS HAPPENING. But also, like, what else was he going to do? He’s living at the GD carriage house for heaven’s sake. She calls her boss, Amanda to let her know. The boss is like, cool thanks for the update. How long does it take to write one GD article?

Back on the track, Luke and Sam seem to be starting from square one. Wouldn’t she remember at least some stuff? He’s even telling her how to fit her feet in the stirrups! I mean, how long has it been?! Oh and here we go. Sam is finally able to start working on her article. Now we have the privilege of watching a narrated montage that includes some heated arguments between Sam and Luke while they train. At the end of the montage (and her article) she finally makes the jump over that pesky hurdle. At this point, my dad checks back in and says, “oh she’s going back to jumping now?” Welcome back dad. Just to be clear, he is sitting in the same living room but watching a football game on his phone with his headphones on. A million TVs in their house but this is what’s happening.

Anyway, the next day, poor Ashley drops by with some cinnamon rolls from the bakery. Ashley apologizes for the awkwardness from the other night at the bar. But Ashley says it hasn’t worked out because he talks about SAM the whole time. Sam seems to be the only one that doesn’t know that Luke still loves her!! Well, Sam should know now anyway! Sheesh. Then Sam asks Ashley to take some pictures for her article. Because everyone is just super chill with each other all the time now.

Sam’s parents have a heart to heart in the tack room. Preston says he’s really proud of Sam and maybe also Alex. Sam’s mom encourages him to actually tell her that for ONCE IN HIS SORRY LIFE. Why does everyone have to talk about everything? He wonders.

Preston then goes and tells his other daughter Alex how much he appreciates her working for them.

OOOOH I am living for this party spread. My dad, checking again, asks, “What is this party about?” And to be honest, I’m not sure. Is this what horse competitions are like? With snacks and parties? Where have these been my whole life? Ashley is getting lots of great shots of everyone at the party but nothing from the horse competition. Oh and Sam’s boss shows up. My dad thinks I ought to cut the boss’s bangs a little. But, I’m not allowed to cut anyone’s bangs anymore, as per my hair stylist. Luke and Sam see each other and agree they both look much nicer in dressy clothes. Preston and his wife greet the guests and he thanks Alexandra for her hard work. Preston also gives Sam a shout out and says some nice things about her. He is doing his BEST, poor thing.

Wait did the horse competing happen already or was the first day just a party? I do not understand horse competitions. Sam asks Luke if he’s still in love with her straight up! Luke says yes immediately. Luke asks her the same thing and she says, well it was never about love! Luke tells her to stop thinking so much. And they kiss again!! Oh my gosh, what is this rated?

Alright so today is the day of actual horse competition. The announcer is…doing his very best. Sam looks so cute in her riding outfit.

The first contestant kind of prances around the track. I think she messed up on one but the rest were fine. I’d like more of that hip hop horse dancing like we saw in the Olympics. Another competitor’s horse dodges the last hurdle completely and is disqualified. Now it’s Sam’s turn. I thought she went first. She does knock down one hurdle. My dad scolds her. His headphones are off now and he is into the horse competing.

She is pretty frustrated with herself. Sam’s dad comes up to talk to her. She apologizes to him. In a surprise twist, he is kind and encouraging to her instead of berating her for her mistake. He takes her back to the house and wants to show her something. It’s a box with all her articles saved. They have a lovely heart to heart. He tells her not to worry about winning anymore.

Now it’s time for Round 2! Sam is ready to just have fun. Sam takes her turn and she is able to clear all the hurdles because she is riding with her heart, not her head. She learned her lesson! I love when a Hallmark character learns a lesson. Poor Ashley is stuck taking pictures of her (not)boyfriend and his ex-wife. But Amanda LOVES her pictures and wants to talk. Ashley is like, you know I own my own business right? Like I don’t need a job as a photographer. Unless she’s tired of making cinnamon rolls for her crush’s ex wife all the time.

At the after party, poor Alexandra meets Matt’s boyfriend. No wonder he wasn’t asking her out. Suddenly, a man named Scott appears and Alexandra learns her lesson too! She fearlessly asks him to dance.

Sam’s parents tell her how well she did. They tell her they’ve decided not to sell the farm. Sam is relieved. Sam hears that Alex is getting promoted and she tears her away from dancing with Scott. RUDE. Then they offer Luke a job at the farm too! Wait, what would you call this place? Not a farm. A ranch? A horse storage center? Anyway, he agrees if Sam is okay. She IS okay with it.

Then, Sam and Luke dance. The thing she missed most from their marriage if you remember from earlier. Okay wait what is happening? Are they making any plans? Is someone moving somewhere? WE DON’T KNOW.

Back in New York, Sam autographs a copy of the magazine with her article in it for her handsome cab friend. Luke is there with her and they ride in the carriage together. She calls him “Babe.” I don’t have time to get into that one. I guess they’re just going to work out the details about their distance later.

Alright so that was Taking the Reins. I was excited to watch this one because I believe Nikki DeLoach wrote this one. I don’t watch a ton of non-Christmas Hallmarks but I did enjoy this one. There were some unique approaches to the standard Hallmark template. Like, a genuine attempt at working things out between two ex-spouses and everyone learning lessons. But there was still a lot of Hallmark silliness. But, that’s what we’re all here for, right? I don’t think there’s a Nikki DeLoach movie I didn’t like so there’s that too. I’ve heard from some that this is one of the best Hallmark movies to date. Considering I can’t remember a single title of a previous Hallmark movie at this moment, I am dying to hear whether you agree?

The Trespasser-By Tana French

Well, a few of you said you might read a book review if I wrote one, so here I am, finally getting around to writing one. And unsurprisingly, most of you Hallmark fans are also reading fans like me. So let’s get into my thoughts on the Trespasser.

I recently heard of Tana French after reading a handful of books by seemingly similar authors-Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley. I guess they are similar because they take place in Great Britain. I did not realize I would be reading the 6th installment of a detective series. Initially, I was pleasantly surprised. While I strive to be as #basic as I can be, I do prefer fictional crime novels over true crime.

Let’s briefly cover the plot and then I’ll share my thoughts. WARNING-SPOILERS AHEAD. I learned after reading this book that this is part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. I’ve now read two of them and I think each book follows a different detective within the squad. It also doesn’t seem like you need to read the books in order, though as I read this, I kept thinking I was missing something in the lead character’s back story. Again, google tells me that the previous books don’t actually cover this so maybe future books will or do.

Antoinette Conway is our lead character and the narrator of the book. She was raised by a single mom who told her various wild stories about her biological dad as she grew up. She is…altogether totally unlikeable. She assumes the worst of her colleagues (mostly without reason) and has no interest in being a team player. Personally, books with an unlikeable main character can be difficult for me to enjoy. But let’s put a pin in that for now. Antoinette is paired up with Stephan Moran, who I believe IS featured in previous books. He seems more willing to “play the game” or go along to get along, if you will. He is also seemingly the only person on the squad who seems to tolerate Antoinette.

So the book begins with Conway and Moran getting a call right near the end of their shift-a woman found dead in her home, probably domestic violence. The body was reported by a mysterious and anonymous person to the local police office. As Conway and Moran are somewhat new, they’re told they need to include a more senior detective in the case as well-Detective Breslin. This particularly annoys Conway so she and Moran make a plan to begin a game of phone tag with Breslin so they can take the lead on the case. By all accounts, they expect it to be an open and shut domestic case.

Upon arrival at the scene, Conway realizes she recognizes the murder victim, Aislynn Murray put can’t place her. By all accounts, the murder seems pretty open and shut, but Conway and Moran can’t help but let their imaginations run wild. They wonder if Aislynn might have been caught up with organized crime or drugs or some other terribly exciting thing. Their first interview with Aislynn’s best friend only encourages this line of thinking because she is definitely hiding something. They agree to keep their suspicions to themselves.

Unfortunately, their interview with Aislynn’s boyfriend, Rory, doesn’t really settle matters. He seems to be a whiny, wimpy man who is probably not capable of murder. However, Breslin is totally convinced. He quickly grows tired of Moran and Conway’s attempts to look elsewhere. Eventually, Conway remembers that she met Aislynn when she worked in the Missing Persons unit. Aislynn had been trying to track down her dad. Conway had no interest in being helpful and pawned her off on someone else. They wonder if there is any connection to this case? It doesn’t really seem like it.

As the book progresses, Conway seems increasingly paranoid that the entire squad is against her and colluding to get her to either quit or be fired. Again, I missed any back story so from this book’s context, it is totally unfounded. Instead, through her own actions, Conway seems to make things harder for herself. She seems to find a way to take offense in every single encounter she has. It’s exhausting. Eventually, she accuses Moran of…I don’t know, trying to step on her as he climbs the ladder and they temporarily part ways. At one point I just want to shake this imaginary person and say-no one cares about you as much as you think they do! But Conway is now so in her own head and so caught up in her own paranoia that she ultimately plans to leave the force as soon as this case wraps up.

The actual story-the mystery of who killed Aislynn Murray does keep me on my toes. While Moran and Conway ultimately dismiss the gang theory, it also seems unlikely that Rory, while creepy in his own way, killed Aislynn. They start wondering if perhaps it was Breslin! The very man tasked with the case, who is absolutely convinced that Rory did it and wants to just quickly tie this whole thing up. As they dig deeper into what happened with Aislynn’s dad, they begin to suspect that another detective in their squad, McCann, may have had something to do with it. This is a bit surprising because, well, McCann is not the type of person a young, beautiful woman would be interested in. It doesn’t add up…UNTIL

Conway and Moran interview the friend again and the whole story comes tumbling out. Aislynn, obsessed with crime fiction and the disappearance of her dad, decides to find out once and for all what happened to him. Her plan is to charm the detective originally involved in the case to find out what happened. Surprisingly, this kind of all goes off without a hitch. She charms the married McCann and they begin to spend time together. Finally, the opportunity arises for her to casually ask about old Missing Persons cases and he mentions her dad’s! (without naming names, of course.) Unfortunately for both parties, this information sets Aislynn on a path towards destruction. McCann tells her that they discovered that her dad had skipped town and started over with another woman, but he determined that Aislynn’s mom was too fragile for this information and never told her. So Aislynn and her mom spent their whole life wondering what happened and Aislynn strongly believed this ruined the rest of her mother’s life. So naturally, Aislynn initiates a very complicated plan to destroy McCann’s life. She plans for him to get so caught up with her that he decides to leave his wife, at which point Aislynn will dump him and he’ll be left with nothing. Her friend tells her that it insane (correct) and she should just move on. But no. However, while this is all going on, Aislynn meets Rory and kind of does feel like ending things with McCann. However, McCann has begun to like seeing Aislynn on his own terms, coming and going as he pleases and maybe is considering leaving his wife for her. So ultimately Moran and Conway surmise that Aislynn has set up a dinner with her new boyfriend as a new opportunity to make McCann jealous or hurt his feelings or whatever. Except that McCann ends up killing Aislynn when he arrives unannounced and discovers the dinner is for someone else. He calls his partner, Breslin, and tells him there’s been an accident and can he buy some time? Or that he got there and she was already dead but he doesn’t want his name mixed up in it. Refreshingly, when Moran and Conway take their findings to their supervisor, O’Kelly, he does actually hold McCann accountable rather than try and sweep it under the rug. Conway comes to her senses and realizes that the majority of the squad is not actually out to get her and that Moran is probably just a nice guy that wants to be her friend. She decides to stay at the Squad.

I liked the actual mystery component of this book, though I felt Aislynn as a character was a bit too unrealistic for me. The idea of a secret affair with a seemingly honest cop was an interesting concept (and twist!). But I just don’t buy a character like Aislynn and her whole plan to ruin this guy for not telling her mom and her what happened all those years ago. It may have been more compelling had Aislynn also been a narrator, but we only hear of her plan through other people. Oh and fact that her murder didn’t have anything to do with that plan was tough too. Like, McCann never knew that she was playing him. He just straight up got jealous. He didn’t know about her plan until Conway and Moran told him during questioning. So it’s just one of those things where you’re wondering, what’s this all been about?

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, despite disliking the main character. ( I don’t know that we’re meant to like her, but I don’t like disliking a main character if that makes sense.) I found myself comparing this to other detective series I’ve read and for now, I’m placing this series at the bottom, behind Louise Penny, Michael Connelly and J.A. Jance. Perhaps I need a few more books to get into the world. But I do LOVE getting into a series so after this, I started at the beginning of this series. That review will be up next!

Tell me what you thought of this book in the comments! What did I miss?

Baby, It’s Cold Inside

Our lead, Hannah, is a travel agent. This travel agency office is filled with lots of REAL definitely NOT STOCK PHOTOS of tropical locations. Her boss pulls her aside to talk about cold weather vacations. This agency normally focuses exclusively on tropical vacations. I think the name is actually “Tropical Vacations Travel Agency” or something creative like that. Her boss tells her they want to expand to cold weather vacation packages and Hannah may just be the girl to lead the new division. So, she is getting sent to “The Ice Hotel.” There is, of course, a real hotel with that very generic name. It’s in Sweden. However, as we continue with this movie, you may find this, as I did, quite puzzling. Hannah doesn’t want to go because she hates the cold. Also, she planned a tropical cruise with her family. So she can’t go. Her boss lets her know that she’s in line to be “manager” so she really needs to cancel her vacation and head to the ice hotel. And obviously she has to go RIGHTTHISMINUTE. It can’t wait until after her week of vacation.

While packing for the trip, Hannah’s recently dumped friend, Phoebe decides to tag along. I love how everyone in Hallmark movies can just drop everything and go on an expensive trip at the last minute.

The girls pull up to the hotel and guys. It looks SO COOL. Literally and figuratively. Inside there are ice slides, ice sculptures. Again, like SO COOL. Would I want to sleep there after seeing what I’ve seen? No probably not. As you’ll see, they still have to sleep in their coats and stuff.

Hannah gets bumped out of line by someone. It turns out to be someone she has booked travel for frequently! What a coincidence. Peter (?) I think, gets a complimentary room upgrade just for being there. The girls are in separate rooms. And like, not even close to each other. That is kind of a bummer I think? For a friend vacation? I would have asked to be next door or maybe even to turn my room into two queens at least. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like my privacy but if the point is the hang together then I wouldn’t want my friend on the other side of the hotel. Hannah gets lost on her way to her room. She runs into a guy sculpting right in the middle of the hallway. (Our lead, Ben) Also, this was totally meant to be a winter movie.

OMG. This ROOM. It looks so so cool. Ben says she’ll get the best night sleep of her life there. Why am I freezing? Also why doesn’t anyone sound Swedish? Guys, not a single person in this movie, who alleges to live in or around the Ice Hotel is Swedish or even pretending to be Swedish.

Later the girls sit outside in a hot tub with jackets on! I feel like that doesn’t make a difference? I’ve sat in an outdoor heated pool in the Winter in a regular swimsuit. I don’t get the jackets. I just don’t feel like an extra layer really adds anything in the water unless it’s an actual wet/dry suit…? Someone explain! Hannah’s friend drops her phone in the water and runs to find rice for it. These are straight up hot tubs. Hannah gets out and can’t figure out which robe is hers? And she is way too calm about standing outside in that temperature. Like WAY. Phoebe at least danced around and pretended to be cold. Ben helps her get her robe on and again, I must reiterate that she is way too calm about the temperature.

Later, Hannah video calls her mom who is DEFINITELY on a cruise on a tropical beach.

The next morning, Hannah discovers that Ben is the co-owner of the hotel. Ben, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, is NOT SWEDISH. Bridget, the front desk lady (also not Swedish) tells Ben that Peter is actually a hotel reviewer. I think she likes Ben also.

Then the girls have breakfast. Phoebe tells Hannah she is going to spend the whole day talking on the phone to her ex boyfriend Sean. Hannah calls her a wet sandwich to her face. Hannah tells Phoebe she plans to go on a tour of the ice hotel with Ben. She’s already admitted that she likes him too! Despite the fact that Hannah sat down mere moments ago, Phoebe decides not to eat any of her breakfast and runs off to her room.

Now it’s time for the tour. Ben talks Hannah in to sliding down the ice slide. I can see their breath but they are being so chill about being cold. I apologize for the pun. I have witnessed real life ice slides and as my children can attest, they are in fact, very fun. I love everything in the hotel! The rooms all have a different theme with different carvings into the walls and stuff. However, the rooms don’t have doors. Just curtains. So that’s weird. No one is worried about their valuables? Also, where do you shower? Or use the bathroom? Surely you can’t do any of those things in your hotel room? I tried to look up the hotel online to see how they managed these logistics and the website kept freezing. Again, no pun intended.

Hannah tells Ben she is a travel agent but she’d love to be managing a hotel. Then Hannah finds out that Peter is the super secret hotel reviewer.

The next day, the girls go cross country skiing. They somehow end up right where Bridget is unloading a kransekake for the traditional Nordic dinner that night. Then obviously, Hannah knocks it over with her skis. Because of course Bridget is trying to set up outside where everyone is cross country skiing even though later we see that the dinner is inside.

Inside, Bridget and Ben are wondering what to do about the cake. Apparently their chef can only make pudding. Shall I repeat this-THEIR CHEF CAN ONLY MAKE PUDDING. Okay. So LUCKILY, Hannah seems to know everything about Nordic desserts and offers to make ebelskivers. I thought those were breakfast items, but what do I know?

Ben obviously helps her make them. This is so insane. It is just Ben and Hannah making dessert for the hotel guests that evening. Not another person in sight. Hannah shares that she’s always wanted to manage her own hotel. She did manage a hotel once but it flooded so she got fired and became a travel agent. As you do.

That night at dinner, Hannah catches Phoebe up on the day. Where was Phoebe though? Shouldn’t she should have helped with all the baking?

They bring out the ebelskivers…which actually looks like a French wedding cake. Is that also how ebelskivers are presented? Again, not in my experience but what do I know? Peter loves it. Apparently he is putting on an American accent for the hotel to be super sneaky. He loved the dessert! Like he had never in his life had such a thing. It’s basically a donut hole dude. Get a grip!

Phoebe heads back to her room to talk to Shawn. How many different ways can I spell this guy’s name? Doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, Hannah and Ben hang out over specialty cocktails. They start with homemade cider. Hannah says the cider is better than any tropical drink she’s ever had. But like, that’s totally circumstantial! You don’t want a tropical drink when it’s freezing, right? So when you’re cold, cider is definitely going to taste better than a cold fruity drink. Cider is definitely another signal that we were meant to view this in winter though, right? Then Hannah facetimes her boss. She’s up for the big promotion still so that’s good news..

The next morning. Hannah runs into Peter and suggests he try snow shoeing. But, UH OH. All the snow they got stopped staff from getting to work. So there is no one to lead the tour. Does Bridget live there then? So, Hannah offers to lead the snow shoeing tour. With Phoebe. Because apparently you need one person at the front and one at the back but other than that, there are no requirements of a snow shoe tour guide. Luckily, Phoebe is like a fitness instructor so that’s all the same thing, right? Bridget points out that they don’t know the trails but let me argue that they are presumably…trails? Right? So you could probably figure it out? Then Ben is like, I’ll go too to help them. He offers to CLEAR HIS WHOLE DAY to help facilitate a snow shoe tour rather than tell Peter the weather has impacted the activity. And also, if Ben is going, then surely they don’t need all three people? Ben could probably just handle it on his own. No matter. Hannah goes to break the news to Phoebe. Phoebe is reluctant to help but Hannah gives her some lame sob story about how she always screws everything up and she needs to redeem herself so Phoebe agrees.

Phoebe dives right in to instruction and they hustle these people along the trail. Also, Hannah is right next to her so what was all that “someone stays in the back” talk? They get to a point where Ben is not sure where they’re going. So then they get lost. Poor Peter looks like he is about to have a heart attack. Good thing Ben was there to navigate!

They see a house and stop in to ask directions. The home owners are NOT SWEDISH. These guys invite the WHOLE TOUR GROUP in for tea. The tour group has no idea that this isn’t a planned stop. They learn these home owners are glass artists. The husband shows them how to make glass and they each get a turn rolling the glass around. Then the husband asks if the guests want to try their hand at glass art as well. So this has really turned into a great tour.

They finally make it back. Bridget is not as freaked out as I thought she might be about them being gone because the guests all loved it. They said they should officially add that stop to the hike “next year.” Do they only do that once a year? Hannah suggests they make a brochure and Ben is just out of his mind about that idea. Like no one’s thought to do a brochure. Not a single brochure in this entire hotel apparently. He is ready to hire her to manage their brand new ice hotel in Finland. Bridget seems a little miffed by that. Then they walk around a beautiful lighted path and find their way to the “maple syrup party.”

Then Ben shows her how to make maple syrup. All the guests ten learn how to make maple taffy. I remember reading about this in Little House on the Prairie and I’ve always wanted to try it!! Hannah gets so excited she flings her little taffy sucker up and it sticks to Peter’s hat. Apparently it is HIS FAVORITE hat from some very specific place. Then Peter gets taffy stuck in his hair. Hannah just feels like she keeps screwing everything up. But also, she totally is.

The next day, Phoebe and Hannah wait for Shawn to arrive. Because he can just drop everything and fly to this hotel. Hannah finds Ben ice sculpting. Ben invites Hannah to help him sculpt the block of ice he’s working on. Hannah suggests a…seashell. He lets Hannah etch the design. Ben asks her about the whole hotel flooding business. It’s boring. Who cares. Ben encourages her generally.

Wow. They do a great job on the sea shell. Phoebe and Shawn arrive, arm and arm.

Hannah and Ben go on a carriage ride later.

Bridget catches Ben and relays a message from his dad-they closed on the Finland hotel. Like Ben’s dad would relay that message through their manager to him. Geez Louise. Bridget invites Ben out that night to celebrate. He has plans with Hannah already. Then Ben spills to Bridget about Hannah’s flooding dilemma. So Bridget googles ” New York hotel incidents” and THE FIRST HIT is a ridiculous picture of Hannah and something that says “New York Hotel Floods” or something like that. I don’t even want to type that phrase into my search engine. I guarantee a flooding incident from several years ago would not be top of the list. Also, I SWEAR to you earlier when she tells this story, she was managing a hotel in the Bahamas. Am I wrong?

After dinner they run into some guy that helped get the hotel set up. He said he makes time to help in between hockey periods to help out but that’s not how that works so what? Then he tells them they can see the Aurora Borealis. Wait are they not in Sweden? WHERE ARE THEY? This hockey reference plus the complete lack of accents makes me think it’s supposed to be Canada but why would the NEXT location be Finland? Then Hannah tells Ben she has a surprise for him the next day.

They head to the glass studio the next morning. They make a mini glass ice hotel. Hannah suggests that they give the guests each one to take home. OR SELL THEM FOR LIKE $50 each in the gift shop. Doy. They inexplicably have live music in the lobby and ol Peter jumps in on the keys. Hannah and Ben get up to dance. Then Shawn steals the mic from Peter. He gives a pretty weird speech but then proposes to Phoebe. Yay.

Ben asks Hannah if she wants a job in Finland. Poor Bridget has been BUSTING HER BUTT and he’s going to give the job to Hannah?! Because Hannah suggested they print a brochure with suggests activities on it? I am not sure honestly what Hannah has done aside from tell Ben she wants to manage a hotel to deserve to BECOME a hotel manager. Then Bridget arrives and is like, so Hannah are you going to bed right now? YOU DEFINITELY SHOULD.

Bridget stops by Hannah’s room and basically reminds her what a screw up she is and that she better not mess up Bridget’s chances in Finland…Delores Umbridge style. Then Hannah promptly drops and breaks her cup. So maybe Bridget is right.

The next morning after the girls check out, Hannah tells Ben she is not going to take the job. Peter creeps on this exchange from around the corner. And then she’s like, well okay BYE! We’ll get email addresses later.

Oh my gosh, Hannah’s mom’s house is GORG. And totally decorated for WINTER. Her mom knows something is up with her. Hannah tells her mom she is scared of screwing things up again. Her mom is like GURL get it together.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Ben catches up with Bridget who is setting up at a wedding. He offers her the Finland job. Bridget wonders if he really wants her there. He’s like, well not really, but I don’t really want to go through the hassle of interviewing anyone. Plus the girl I was trying to impress rejected the job and you’re the only warm body left. IRONIC choice of words for an ice hotel employee, I know.

Then everyone reads Peter’s review. It is GLOWING. Is that a pun too? I guess I just can’t help it.

Hannah finds out that she got the management job at the travel agency. And then Peter shows up? At Hannah’s work? WHY? From where? Since when is he so invested in her? He gives her the glass ice hotel. He tells her “safe travels.” But Ben already gave the job to Bridget!

Later, Bridget tells Ben she wants to stay at the current hotel and admits she scared Hannah off of the job. Then Hannah shows up and gives her speech. She’s like, yes I want to start a new romantic relationship and also be your employee! And then they kiss. So this is going to work out just fine.

Guys, my view of this movie is elevated because of the ice hotel moments. But otherwise, I find it unsurprising that this is a filler movie. It is full of nonsense. It is mostly fun nonsense though so I didn’t mind. I will say that I really do hate the trope of the two leads beginning both a romantic and work partnership as that would likely end in disaster. But it is what it is. What did you think?

Hearts Down Under

A busy chaotic weekend almost made me miss “Hearts Down Under.” But have no fear, dear Hallmark friends. I watched it. Let’s get after it.

We begin with a very…unmodern cooking prep montage. Our lead, Caroline, is a no-nonsense, busy business woman chef. Her…mom? Or boss is wearing a GIGANTIC flower on her dress. I honestly don’t hate it. Caroline is also an extreme micromanager. She is prepping an engagement dessert and only she knows how to do it. She takes the plate from presumably her sous chef Molly and does it herself. PS the music is WILD. Like very 90s New York type show music. The whole staff creeps from behind a wall like they’ve never seen an engagement happen at a restaurant. Caroline is only bummed that the newly engaged woman didn’t appreciate the dessert after her boyfriend JUST proposed. She doesn’t have TIME for ROMANCE OKAY?

Oh, good. Caroline’s mom opens some random piece of mail to discover that Caroline has INHERITED a café in Australia from a long lost aunt. They didn’t even go to her funeral. She hasn’t seen her since she was 10. Her mom talks her in to making a trip down to check out the café. YOU GUYS. This aunt had no one to give this to? Or any plans to make sure that the café would be able to continue to operate after her death? Honestly.

Then, Nathaniel stops by. This is Caroline’s former fiancé. He makes some kind of snippy comment about the restaurant actually doing well. So now we get a back story. He wasn’t supportive earlier but now I guess he is because things are going so well for Caroline. He wants to get back together. She suggests they catch up when she gets back from Australia. He looks to be a solid decade older than her, or am I off? Also, what is that restaurant called? Labratorie? Does NOT sound appetizing.

Anyway, Caroline makes it to Australia. I guess her mom isn’t coming with her. She is greeted by a VERY GOOD PUP. She talks to the dog for a really long time. Then Simon, the owner of the house, creeps up from behind her and introduces himself. Caroline is vague about her intentions for being in Australia.

Guys this MUSIC. It is so wild. I hardly ever notice the music in these movies but I can’t handle this. Caroline pulls out a paper map but just then realizes that the café is right across the street. It is open and busy. None of the workers know who she is and she just wanders around surveying the place. She sits down and a waitress, Beth comes over to take her order. She keeps saying Australian slang like Caroline will finally understand what she’s talking about. Caroline essentially gets one of everything and takes notes. She doesn’t tell anyone what she’s up to. What’s the end game here? Caroline has notes on EVERYTHING. Simon walks up and she tells him all the problems with the menu items. Turns out, HE is the cook at this restaurant. So that is awkward.

Back at home, “Dale” arrives to talk to Caroline, presumably about the restaurant. He is maybe the executor of Doreen’s estate? Or manager of her finances? I’m not sure. Dale says that Caroline’s aunt Doreen talked about her ALL the time. How is that possible if they hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years ago? If that’s true, and Caroline and her mom couldn’t be bothered to ever see this woman in DECADES, what is going on.

Dale talks to her about potential buyers. Their best option is someone who wants to turn it into a race car themed restaurant. No talk about prices or anything. Dale gives her the run down of all the problems with the restaurant. It needs a new roof, namely. She seemingly needs to be there for all of that. I can’t imagine why.

She video chats her mom, who is dressed fabulously again. Caroline tells her about the buyer. She doesn’t see how she could run both restaurants. I mean, I guess that’s fair. Oh and Nathaniel is sniffing around again. Caroline tries to micromanage the restaurant from Australia.

Dale and Caroline stop by the restaurant to tell the staff about the sale. Dale seems to like the head server, Marla. She tells them that she is selling the place. Marla is like, do you really think Doreen would have wanted that? And honestly, Doreen probably should not have surprised Caroline with the burden of a restaurant in her WILL. It is not the gift Doreen thinks it is. Especially a relative who lives all the way across the world that she hasn’t spoken to about this at all.

Meanwhile the restaurant staff panics. Rightly so! Doreen and her family are kind of screwing over all of these people by not having a plan in place for this restaurant.

Caroline chats on the phone with a couple of bags of groceries. Simon happens to be swimming midday at the beach. He notices Caroline. Simon offers to show her some of Doreen’s recipes. Simon mentions Doreen’s dream. Guys. If her DREAM was for Caroline to move to Australia and take over this little café after not seeing her for over 20 years then Doreen is insane.

Anyway, Simon seems to know how to do ALL the repairs around the restaurant so he is going to do it. Why doesn’t he do it in exchange for owning the restaurant? He asks her to meet him at 4 AM the next day.

She shows up in her little chef’s outfit but Simon arrives with fishing poles. She gets to carry them now. They head to a boardwalk and Caroline has wisely ditched the chef’s outfit. It is now fully daylight and Simon has finally offered Caroline coffee. What is Caroline’s hounds tooth pant situation? Would you even want to cook in those?

Caroline catches a fish so she and Simon have a MOMENT while they try and reel it in. Caroline has caught…a HAT. How did that bend the rod like that? Caroline the good sport takes a picture of her first catch.

Well, those two bozos must have caught enough fish for the restaurant and they do some taste testing in the kitchen. Caroline messes with his seasoning. Marla thinks Simon is up to something to save the restaurant. He says he isn’t. BUT HE DEFINITELY IS RIGHT?

Caroline learns that Beth kind of likes to cook too. Them Simon realizes that Caroline has reorganized the kitchen a little. He isn’t super stoked about that. He lets Caroline know that all the repairs will be done by the end of the following week.

Later, and by later I mean MIDNIGHT, Caroline can’t sleep. She blames jet lag. But she’s been up since 4 so shouldn’t she just be tired enough to go to sleep at a normal Australia time? Maybe I don’t get how jet lag works. She digs into a casual plate of macarons on the counter.

Then Caroline decides to do some baking. And somehow BURNS a pan of bread. There is no smoke and yet the smoke alarm is going off. Very touchy apparently. Simon runs in to turn it off, which startles Caroline even more than the smoke alarm. Caroline is experimenting but nothing is working. Simon says sometimes less is more. I guess this time he’s right. I don’t really know what he did aside from dip a berry into a bowl of powdered sugar but I guess that settles that.

Simon is about to ask her something when Caroline’s mom calls to facetime. Doesn’t realize it’s 1 AM in Australia. This mom as per usual has NO CHILL. He shows up on facetime and introduces himself. The mom tells her that the inspection of her New York restaurant is next week. They apparently only have this one date next week or not until NEXT YEAR. What about the original date? Ugh. That makes no sense.

The next day, Caroline stumbles in to Simon baking her aunt’s bread recipe. She jumps in to help him. Caroline tells Simon that she has to go back to New York early so HE NEEDS TO START THE ROOF TODAY. Apparently some kids are coming to the restaurant that day too so Caroline makes them entirely TOO fancy of sandwiches. She’s serving KINDERGARTNERS lettuce, tomato and cheese sandwiches on WHEAT buns. What is she thinking.

She heads out to give Simon some iced tea and he asks what she’s doing later. Apparently it is restaurant related. I’m not so sure! Caroline hopes they’re not going fishing. Apparently they only had fish at the restaurant that one day.

Simon and Caroline take that little pup, “Spatch” on a walk. Glad he is getting more screen time. Simon has decided to take Caroline “clamming” but he uses the Australian word for it. Caroline tries raking or whatever and falls back and Simon catches her. WHAT A MOMENT. Then we learn that “Spatch” was Caroline’s Aunt Doreen’s. Simon took him when she died. Caroline asks Simon what he will do when the cafe is sold. Spatch lays down in the mud and whimpers. Simon doesn’t have a solid plan.

Then Simon shares an unconventional approach to clamming. Caroline gives it a try. I could never. SO MUCH MUD. I’m dying. Spatch couldn’t be happier. Oh good, now a splashing fight. Mud and water and splashing while wearing regular clothes. My nightmare.

Later, Beth tells Caroline the clams she made her a big hit. And then Simon asks Caroline on a date! Beth makes up an excuse about…washing her cat. I do love that. Why is everything Caroline wears straight out of the Babysitter’s Club movie?

Anyway, that night, Simon takes Caroline to his house boat, where he lives when he rents out the cottage. Which is apparently HIS OWN HOUSE. Is he really hurting for money? I mean, he has this boat. Why rent out his entire house?

Caroline shares how much she loves New York. They have a moment and I kind of tune out. They are about to kiss but Caroline pulls away. She doesn’t think this is a good idea. Well what was all this about then, Caroline!! He recovers quickly and asks if she wants ice cream. What a good sport.

They sneak into the restaurant to get some ice cream. But Marla overhears them and comes in. They pretend they are cooking and not looking for ice cream? I am not sure how that is any better. Marla and DALE are also hanging out watching a movie. So what’s up with that? Anyway, all that commotion has blown a fuse and now the whole breaker box has to be repaired? But we can’t call that one guy because his wife just had a baby. So they’ve got to figure something else out I guess.

The next morning, the Seagull is having a straight up backyard bbq. Caroline needs to blend her bronzer a teensy bit. Simon decides to repaint the restaurant’s sign right in the middle of where everyone is eating. Then Simon pitches letting the existing employees run the restaurant instead of selling. Honestly, like, why can’t she do that? Then Caroline and Simon argue over the flavors of meat pie. I think it will probably be gross, regardless.

Then Caroline rage cooks in the cottage kitchen while she vents to her mom.

Later, Marla, Dale, Caroline and Simon are all headed somewhere dressed very nicely. I think they are having a party. I don’t remember anyone mentioning the purpose of this party? Are they just having a party for the sake of having a party? Marla and Dale head off to dance. Caroline is holding a small basket of maybe 10 meat pies so like, who all is coming to this party? Caroline suggests they don’t talk about work and then Simon asks her to dance. I thought she said them dating was a bad idea? Also, need to point out this wild music again. Caroline hears it too and she says she loves the song.

At the dinner portion of the party, Beth gives the toast. She is wearing a very cute space-inspired dress. Caroline eagerly awaits Simon’s reaction to her meat pies. She does need to blend that bronzer a teensy bit again. Everyone else loves them. Simon agrees. He thinks Doreen would have liked them too. Later, Simon plates everyone’s cheesecake. What a disappointment. I mean, it’s fine. But I’m never just dying for cheesecake. Caroline realizes that Simon used her cheesecake recipe.

After all of that, everyone is just dancing and having a good time. Then a slow song comes on. Simon and Caroline slow dance. The music is SO LOUD. Just me? They are just staring at each other. Is it weird? I think it’s weird. Then Simon tells Caroline he made her something. It is a GIANT shell necklace. It is pretty I think but it’s also giant. It seems like they might kiss; like their noses are even touching. When NATHANIEL arrives.

THE BOYS! The BOYS are going to Bali so Nathaniel had the jet drop him off in Australia to talk to her. Dude what is this guy’s deal. He says he misses her. Then she says she misses him too. But does she? He seems like a giant tool. Somehow, Simon overhears this from outside! Like dude give her a minute to talk to this guy, sheesh. Anyway, he obviously only hears her say she misses him but doesn’t hear the rest of the speech. But he basically admits he wants to get back together because she has the trendiest restaurant in town. She’s like, girl bye. And he’s like, I don’t have anywhere to stay. That was a pretty presumptuous.

Caroline catches up with Simon outside. He doesn’t want to talk to her about any of it. Spatch decides he wants to stay with Caroline that night. What a good boy. Then Caroline looks through her aunt’s recipe book. This poor old woman saved newspaper clippings of Caroline, saved old photos…I mean, how sad? And neither Caroline or her mom see this woman in decades? Then Caroline appears to get an idea.

Caroline sprints down the stairs the next morning in the first cute shirt I’ve seen so far. She has finally decided to keep the restaurant and let the gang keep running it. Caroline overhears Marla talking about trying to trick her into keeping the restaurant. So then she comes in all huffy. She has now changed her mind and is selling the place. Caroline asks to get a walk through and then Marla locks Caroline and Simon in the pantry.

Guys, I am not a fan of these high waisted pants. Caroline gets mad at Simon for trying to trick her into keeping the place. But he wasn’t! Marla was but she did a terrible job. Oh great. Now they’re having a food fight. Oh I hate this. I hate food fights. They are going to make such a mess. Oh no. Not the flour. Ugh. It’s going to get everywhere.

Caroline gathers herself in the bathroom. Okay is she done with her little temper tantrum?

Caroline walks out and talks to the gang again. She tells them she isn’t going to sell. So there you go. Caroline tells Beth she wants to see a new dessert menu next month. I thought we kind of all agreed that Beth’s ideas were bad? I guess not. Then Marla apologizes for her mischief.

Then Caroline and Simon finally get to talk again. She apologizes to him. And then she’s like, okay well I guess I’ll see you later.

Caroline is back in New York. Caroline studies the prepared sample plates back at the restaurant with her mom and Molly. She tells poor Molly that everything is correct, but it’s all wrong! They need last minute specialty items and to rework the menu. Are we talking for THAT NIGHT? Or what?

Suddenly the kitchen is just TONS of fun. We have some truly wild music happening and even mom’s hair is a little looser. Then Caroline lets Molly plate the dessert with her! WOW. Big moment for Molly. Doing more smoke infused desserts. Honestly, so weird. Then they both peek at the reactions of the guests. Are these inspectors or critics? Why would they be inspecting the food? I don’t know what is going on here.

Later that night, Caroline and her mom split a tiny plate of food. Guys, I hate this restaurant. It looks like each plate is just a tiny slice of something with a bunch of inedible garnish on the edges. Oof I’d be so disappointed at this restaurant. Caroline’s mom tells her she is back mentally. So that’s good I Guess. As they prepare to dive into this tiny plate of weed scraps, she sees the clam shell necklace on the plate. Then Simon pops out! Always SO DRAMATIC. Honestly.

He is finally ready to tell her how he feels. So he gives her his speech. How will they make it work though?! He wants to keep going with his speech but they kiss instead!! WILD MUSIC again. The whole kitchen staff peeks from behind the curtain again. Then the picture of Caroline as a child and her aunt Doreen comes to life. So that’s weird. And also-no plan in place for making this relationship work. So yeah, I don’t see this working out.

Whew. Guys. I don’t know about this one. I really don’t. I liked parts of it. But dang there were some really dumb moments too. I think this had the potential to be a super cute destination movie but I just don’t think they quite pulled it off. What did you think?

Right in Front of Me

Guys, I went into this movie pretty cold. I hadn’t seen many previews, didn’t really know the premise. So, I came in to this viewing experience with NO expectations. In fact, this weekend was so busy I wasn’t even sure I’d have time to watch it. But I did. AND I AM SO GLAD. Spoiler alert, I LOVED IT. Let’s get after it!

Our lead, Carly, chats with her pal at their bridal salon. Oh good-a classic Hallmark Job-wedding planner. No. She’s not a wedding planner. She is a bridal stylist! So even more niche than a wedding planner. And somehow busy enough to like have a store front. Bridal stylist? Is it just a wedding dress store? Her best friend, Sydney wants her to come hang out at the lodge she manages for the weekend. But Carly is a busy business bridal stylist so she can’t go. BUT WAIT. Some fancy bride is moving up her wedding by THREE DAYS. Dang. So they now have NO TIME to get prepped.

Carly gest the dresses organized in time and brings them to the bride and bridal party. So, the bride’s mom insisted on getting her own dress and she hates it. Luckily Carly is prepared. She somehow knew to make and bring a different dress for her. Totally the right size and everything. Obviously, she loves it. Okay so Carly like…sources all the bridal outfits? I mean, I guess that’s what a stylist does. Is this enough of a job? My dad says he likes the blush color more than the blue. I agree.

At the wedding, Carly talks to her old boyfriend-the wedding photographer- who is not our leading man so I guess that’s not happening. After talking to this old boyfriend, Carly decides to take her friend up on that lodge offer. It seems to be in San Fran.

Now we finally get a glimpse of our leading man, Nick. He is a chef at this lodge and he is trying something fancy in the kitchen. The head chef is not into it. He has his menu for the resort restaurant and he is not interested in any fusion. Nick is hoping to get more “foodies” to the resort but old Ed the stick in the mud thinks they get plenty already. So, Nick is basically just messing around in the kitchen while everyone else is working. Our lead tries to get their server Patricia to serve his fusioned empanadas to somebody…ANYBODY in the restaurant.

So Patricia dumps these empanadas on Carly. She loves them. Oh wait, no she doesn’t. She said she thinks something is kind of “off” with them. Nick immediately comes out to see what’s up. He needs to know specifically what was wrong. After she describes them as “bitter,” he decides to try some for himself and well, she’s right. Then Carly runs into a random college friend. This friend is here for a wedding. EVERYONE from their dorm is there but Carly wasn’t invited. She was too busy working to pay her way through college so she only made that one friend-Sydney.

Nick is back and has solved the mystery. He used the same knife for two different things so that messed it all up. Do you cut up horseradish? Is it an actual type of radish? I always assumed it was just a sauce. And it is DISGUSTING. Nick gives Carly a whole speech about his culture to get her to try it again. Good news! She likes it. She’s like, cool so I’m all set here now-BYE. Nick learns Carly isn’t in town for the wedding there at the lodge that weekend. They are sharing quite a lot to each other right out the gate. For example, Nick overshares that his parents wanted him to be a doctor.

Oh another old pal-Matt is here for the wedding. Nick wanders off. Matt wants to catch up with Carly. How many love triangles are there going to be? Nick returns. He’s like…oooh you like Matt? SPILL GIRL.

Then, Carly FINALLY runs into her friend Sydney. And then Sydney sees Matt too. She wants Carly to reconnect with Matt. They tried to go on a date once ten years ago so obviously there is definitely still something there.

Uh oh. There’s wedding trouble. The bridesmaids got their own dresses and they are clashing shades of pink. The bride thought she was going to be laid back, breezy bride but she’s since changed her mind. Carly steps in. So now Carly works her clothing magic. She’s found…a RIBBON. That’s it. So then the bride invited her to the wedding. Great. FREE CAKE. Nick returns for round one of wedding happy hours. I believe there will be 4 total. And then Matt comes creeping around the corner and makes small talk with the bellhop.

Later, Carly and Sydney chit chat. Are we still at Wedding Happy Hour #1? Or are they just in the hotel restaurant? Anyway, Syd is wiped so she heads home. Carly helps herself to the dessert table. And somehow MATT is here again. He just keeps creeping at every turn. Carly turns into a giant disaster every time he’s around. Dude what is his deal. He says “I’m really glad you’re here.” And then WALKS OFF. So realistic. Nick sidles back up and asks how it went. Then Matt pops up again and asks Carly to come with him to the wedding. Nick teases her about it. This is great so far.

Then Nick vents a little to Carly about grouchy old Edward. Carly offers to help him make some connections so he can open his own restaurant. Nick offers to help with Matt. Dude. Matt creeps up AGAIN. It’s getting weird.

Carly calls her coworker? And asks her to send some clothes for the wedding. MANOLOS. Dang business must be GOOD. They chat about Matt the wet sandwich. Carly is still super in to him.

The next morning, is Carly wearing the same shirt? It’s cute but…come on Carly. Carly runs into Nick again downstairs. I am not sure what this wedding event is. Is it Happy Hour #2? When will this wedding actually take place? Then Nick makes Carly soda water with like 16 maraschino cherries. BARF. Oh yuck. They bond over their love of skewered food. Then Matt the wet paper bag returns.

Carly tries to catch up with these old college acquaintances by herself. I FEEL FOR HER. Nothing worse than trying to jump in on conversation with an established friend group that you kind of know. They kindly invite her to be in their college girls group photo. Matt gets his thumb in the picture FOR SURE. Then Matt sees an embarrassing text from Sydney. Matt and the groom somehow have a football inside and are gonna toss the ol pig skin around, apparently. How old are all of these people supposed to be?

Later, this established friend group does more reminiscing. Carly tries to hang for it but I think we all feel uncomfortable. Carly and Matt finally have a normal conversation. Ugh. They take a selfie together. SO GENUINE.

Man Carly is just HANGING. Nick tops her off with more soda water and cherries. So weird. Carly offers to set Nick up with a private chef opportunity. And then Nick gives Carly her own special side plate. Ol Ed the stick in the mud comes out and says the ribs Nick made have too much spice. So is he actually a terrible chef or how is he in charge if he has a reputation for making bland food? How did he get Michelin awards? I don’t get it. Carly loves his secret skewers though. Uh. Nick’s secret sauce has sesame in it. Which Carly is ALLERGIC TOO. And she starts breaking out in hives. She is pretty cool about it though.

Later, the wedding guests make smores. Carly is just hanging with these people. What happened to her weekend with Syd? She is nowhere to be found. I think another girl-Lily- is angling for Matt’s attention also. But she just gives up too quickly and heads to bed. Carly chickens out on a walk with Matt after Nick suggests she plays it cool.

So Carly has a weird thing about dessert I guess? She wants to take it home and eat it VERY SLOWLY. She said she’s taken an hour to eat a piece of cake before? I can inhale a piece in about 5 seconds.

Syd is finally back. She and Carly stroll down the sidewalk but then she bails again! Carly sees Lily trying on a dress in one of the shop windows. She heads inside to help. Lily needs a new dress so Carly offers to help. Carly puts her in a bright red dress. It looks cute! But it is kind of plain.

Then Carly runs into Nick at the grocery store and then Matt too. He is wearing a vest. All three of them head to the food truck. Matt is like old frat boy to the max. And his face looks like a permanent Instagram filter. Neither boy is up for spicy wings. But Carly wants to win the free hat. So she takes the spicy wing challenge. Matt and Nick change their minds and join in. They each just have one wing. What kind of challenge is this? Matt and Nick are sweating after taking one bite. Is Carly even eating hers? Then the boys just chug a bottle of milk. They try to talk her out of eating hers. She dives in and pounds that solitary wing. Even the food truck employee is impressed. BUT ALL YOU HAD TO EAT WAS ONE. What kind of challenge is one spicy wing?!

Later, Carly and Nick walk and talk. Nick has one small bag of groceries. What’s that for? Certainly not for the restaurant? Carly gives Nick a little “Devil Wears Prada” speech about fashion. Nick wonders why Carly doesn’t design her own clothes. Then they run into a vacant café. AVAILABLE FOR RENT. Apparently Nick tried to start a restaurant before but it didn’t work out. Nick shares that his grandma is in a nursing home and he helps pay for her care. So he needs a steady income. Carly’s excuse is that she doesn’t like being in the spotlight. Not that designing your own clothes and starting your own line is COMPLETELY different than shopping for people.

Nick has to rush back to the restaurant to make a charcuterie board for the evening. We are now at Happy Hour #3. For this event, the bride and groom have a raffle for someone to win a private dinner with Nick. Matt wins. So that’s awkward. Oh Matt invites Carly to this private dinner. SO THIS IS SO AWKWARD. Nick seems bummed.

It’s private dinner time. Wow. Three appetizers. They are tiny though to be fair. Matt hates ALL OF IT. He is not the most adventurous eater he says. How many times can I call this guy a wet sandwich before Carly figures it out? Carly tells Matt how she got into styling. Matt doesn’t get it but has Matt mentioned yet how much he LOVES GOLF? Could he be any more basic? Matt gets a…work call? If you told me he was a professional golfer I would not be surprised. Mentioning how much he likes golf comprises about 75% of his lines. This poor one dimensional wet paper bag of a character. Nick brings the main course out while Matt is on the phone. Nick tells her it’s okay to eat it because it’s hot and also, screw that guy. Carly just GETS Nick and his approach to food. Matt and Carly quickly realize they have nothing else to talk about. Then CHEF EDWARD shows up! So Nick and Patricia hustle to clear up the whole thing. Carly offers to help. She tells Nick it was the best meal of her life. But also, would Ed come by late at night like that?

After dinner, Matt and Carly run into Lily. Matt thought that dinner was fine but Carly obviously LOVED IT. Matt and Lily both think cilantro tastes like soap! Match made in heaven. And dude, as a cilantro hater myself, it would totally ruin the best of meals. There’s just nothing to be done about it. Matt remains a wet sandwich regardless. I think Carly reads the room at that point about Matt and Lily. She excuses herself and Matt heads into town with Lily and one of the other girls. Carly finds Nick. Nick gives Carly a to go bag for dessert. He even includes a tiny fork so she can eat it in her little weird way.

The next day, Carly looks for clothes at a clothing store. For what? I’m not sure. Carly runs into Nick and thanks him for the rice cake. He tells Carly he is doing a trial run for Georgina-a connection Carly made for him. He’s nervous. Carly is not excited about the dress she found. She thinks about remaking the whole thing and Nick thinks she should.

Oh good. A dress making montage. Carly’s dress ends up being SO CUTE. Sydney pops in again and encourages her to do more dress making or whatever. I think the necklace is…ALOT. Too much. Carly tells Sydney they she and Matt are not going to happen. But she admits that she might like NICK. Then Carly heads off to help the bridal party. They all look great. The bride’s dress is very pretty. Carly asks Patricia how lunch went for Nick and she says it went so well!! They don’t have time to chat but they both say they have so much to tell each other. Then Nick gets a phone call. He seems bummed whatever it was.

Lily bows out of the conversation with Matt and Carly again. Carly runs after her. Lily is just sitting on the floor like a weirdo. OH Lily and Matt used to date. So that makes sense now. Carly is like, girl you and Matt belong together. Then Carly pulls Matt aside to talk about Lily. I have a feeling that Nick is going to see it and misinterpret. Matt knows she likes Nick too! What! He doesn’t see and misinterpret? Matt and Lily just reconnect no problem. That was unusual.

Then Carly runs into Nick and he tells her that Georgina passed on investing and then Chef Edward fired Nick for all of that. Carly apologizes. She offers to help. He says maybe they should have just kept their dreams to themselves!! NO NICK. And then he leaves. WHAT.

The next morning, Carly talks to Syd about the Nick fiasco. She is wearing the cutest coat situation.

Carly is back at her salon, sketching her own line of bridal wear? Dresses? You get it. How much time has passed?

At the grocery store, Nick picks up a hand painted bottle of sesame seeds and then walks away. Syd calls and wants to do a pop up shop of Carly’s dresses in her lobby. Syd wants her to talk to Nick again too. Carly thinks she needs to move on. Again, why has nobody called anybody in this amount of time?

At the resort, Syd puts on the cutest blue dress. Carly made it just for her! Syd mentions a new restaurant they should go to on Main street. So yeah just a new place. No big deal. They sit down and Carly reads the menu. The restaurant is called THE TINY FORK. Nick pops his head out and Carly goes to talk to him. WHY DIDN’T EITHER OF THEM CALL. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN. WHAT IS HAPPENING. So all of Georgina’s guests did want to invest and tracked him down. Not sure what Georgina’s deal was. And why didn’t Nick ever call then after that? It has to have been six months right?!

Just get on with it you two. Sheesh. Carly is about in on her speech when Nick’s grandma (Lola) pops out. She knows all about Carly. So like OKAY why are we just now reconnecting if even Lola knows the whole story? And what is she doing there? Finally Nick admits he made a big mistake not going after Carly. Is Lola going to hang out for this whole speech? Then Carly follows Nick outside. Carly tells Nick how she feels. And obviously he feels the same way. And then they KISS. Finally. An again!! Yay. I am so relieved those two dumb dumbs got their act together.

Alright, so I think I liked this one BETTER than last week. I love a resort movie. I love a wedding movie. I love a FOOD themed movie. And I LOVE these two leads! LOVED them together. It just hit all the right points for Ol Cal. This is definitely my favorite Spring Fling movie. (Are we done with Spring Fling now?) And now it is my favorite of the year. For sure. What did you think?

As Luck Would Have It

So it’s time for the most anticipated (by me) movie of Spring Fling. You know me, I try to keep my expectations low but there are some movies I just can’t help but get excited about. This was one of them. I don’t watch Downton (sorry) but I do love JoAnna Garcia Swisher in pretty much everything I’ve seen her in. So, shall we dive right in?

Lindsey is a busy business woman. She is closing deals on the streets of New York, so she is a VERY serious business person. She even has plans to go to Paris I think too. But then, in a meeting, her boss announces that he wants to expand their hotel chain to Ireland. He’s found a GREAT location. But there is this pesky historic castle right in the way of their future modern resort. So now, Lindsey can’t go to Paris! She has to go to Ireland…you know because of her red hair; I mean experience.

Meanwhile, Irish people be Irishing-hanging out in a “rustic” pub. Our leading man, Brennan, even has a hipster apron. The whole Irish gang is planning for the town’s big “matchmaking festival.”

Lindsey and her company waste no time and soon she is winding her way through the Irish countryside. I do not think she enjoys the ride. She ends up at that pesky castle and meets Brennan. He is working on stuff there I think? They chit chat. I forget what they say. I don’t think he likes her snooping around. Then Lindsey heads to a cute B&B, because of course. They think she is in town for the matchmaking festival but she is quick to tell the cute little elderly owners that she is there for business purposes. As she walks to her room, she meets three eligible ladies. They can’t wait to get matched up. They invite her to go out to eat. Lindsey must be extroverted because I don’t think I would have even made eye contact with these three fellow humans, let alone accept a dinner invitation. But that’s a pretty boring movie. Anyway, at the restaurant, traditional Irish music is playing of course. I’m sure there is such a thing as modern Irish music but we are not going to hear it. The girls fill Lindsey in on the festival. they are all working on the festival’s matchmaking questionnaire in the hopes of getting paired up. Lindsey tells the girls why she’s in town and Brennan overhears. He is outraged that she might tear down the castle for some silly hotel. Regardless he leaves the girls with complimentary glasses of whiskey.

Outside, there are several booths set up to sign up for matchmaking activities. So that’s pretty cute. This is shaping up to be the best matchmaking themed movie I’ve seen this year. Our leads meet again in the town square and Lindsey heads to the council meeting to give her presentation. Lindsey has to sit through the council’s ordinary business before it’s her turn. Naturally, Brennan does his best to stall the meeting. By the time it’s Lindsey’s turn, the entire audience has left. Lindsey jumps right in to her presentation. I find her arguments very compelling. The council says they’re not interested in selling without an agreement to keep the castle in tact. So that’s too bad. I guess it’s time to go home. They don’t like the idea of an outsider who knows NOTHING about their town to swoop in and buy the land. Lindsey did loads of research before she arrived but that means absolutely nothing. She can’t know the town until she EXPERIENCES the town.

Lindsey decides to take the head councilman up on his advice and signs up for the matchmaking festival. She is going to LEARN about this town if it’s the last thing she does! She tries to make the pitch to her boss. He has an English-ish accent. So why didn’t he make the pitch himself?

Alright so now it’s time for the first activity. Baking. The teacher scolds Lindsey for using a pastry cutter. She would rather her spend hours using a fork to mix the butter and flour and end up with a sore hand for the rest of the day. Then Brennan puts a bunch of salt in her dough while she wasn’t looking. She takes a bite and immediately tries to hide her distaste.

Brennan leads an outdoor sport while Lindsey learns to knit. Are they playing cricket? Is that cricket? Oh, Lindsey is doing that too. Cute pony tail. Lindsey is not great at knitting. How are these activities coupling anyone up? This is just a lady’s knitting circle. Lindsey is VERY competitive at cricket or whatever that is.

Later Lindsey hangs out in her adorable room with a fireplace. The B&B owner drops by with some cookies…I mean, biscuits. Obviously the B&B owners met at the festival. Apparently there is some event that evening. It must be the middle of the night! But Lindsey the extrovert decides to change her clothes and go.

Wait, Lindsey chats with the girls and they say they hope they get some classes with Lindsey that week. HOW LONG IS THIS FESTIVAL. One of the gals makes eyes with Brennan’s friend. Brennan admits he added a bunch of salt to Lindsey’s bread dough.

Okay now it’s time to do some Irish line dancing. Kill me. All alone and being forced to join into a group dance? Oh no thank you. Frankly, this whole movie is an introvert’s nightmare. Brennan and I are on the same page as he informs Lindsey that he doesn’t dance. But then he DOES dance. So, what’s up Brennan? They have a moment on the dance floor. He seems impressed she knows how to dance I think? I don’t know. They are looking at each other intensely. It’s weird if I’m being honest.

Later, Lindsey chats with the head councilman, Elroy. He is leading the kayaking tour which she was planning to do that morning. But he’s overbooked apparently. So he’s like, maybe try cooking? BYE!

Brennan’s mom? talks to him about how the festival is just not bringing in the money it used to. Maybe they should consider selling that castle that is literally collecting dust.

Brennan obviously joins the cooking class too and they chit chat while Lindsey slices carrots in the most ridiculous way imaginable. Brennan can’t take it anymore and teaches her how to slice the carrots. Then they all eat lunch together.

Later, Councilman Elroy does official matchmaking business in his office. Elroy admits to Brennan that they may have to sell the castle to stay afloat. Elroy also alludes to the fact that maybe Brennan got matched before but it didn’t work out. So obviously Brennan is never going to date anyone ever again.

Brennan finds Lindsey reading his dad’s ancient cookbook. She agrees to help him do some cleaning in the castle. She’s wearing the cutest sweater. After a few minutes of cleaning, Lindsey and Brennan sit on a window bench and chat. Lindsey gets to know Brennan a little more. She tells Brennan she is “really good at closing deals” but she actually studied architecture. I have a feeling she is going to find a way to make the castle the hotel or something. I’m not sure why no one else has thought to make use of it rather than let it sit and crumble to pieces. She’s got the loveliest sweater cape situation happening too.

Later, she catches up with her friend from work. The friend thinks she’s met some cute Irish guy. She totally has obviously. Work friends NEVER want to talk about actual work.

The next day, Lindsey is on a charter bus headed to see some cliffs with a very chatty seat mate. Brennan sits behind them chuckling. Once they arrive, Lindsey asks Brennan to tell her the history of the cliffs. He has some old Irish folklore story for them.

Brennan admits that he got matched once-even engaged, but it didn’t work out. And like I said, this naturally means he will never date again. She didn’t want to stay in Ireland. Poor chatty seatmate keeps third wheeling everyone. Then Brennan shows Lindsey his favorite spot. Wait, we don’t get to see that?

Later, Brennan works at the pub. He seems to be doing inventory. Brennan tells his dad he doesn’t want to expand his whiskey business so he can keep helping at the pub. Everything always needs to stay exactly how it’s always been!

Lindsey strolls along the street alone and eyes an Irish ring in a jewelry store window. Then she decides to stop in to Brennan’s pub. He invites her to help behind the bar. Because of course. She just makes herself right at home obviously.

After closing, Brennan talks to Lindsey about making whiskey. Lindsey samples all the different variations. She likes his first batch the best. Then Brennan’s mom calls for him to help with the dishes. What a total moment ruiner!! Moms are supposed to be wingmen in Hallmark movies!

Oh good. It wouldn’t be a matchmaking weekend without a speed dating session! Lindsey and Brennan have a nice little chit chat. I learn they were not playing cricket. They were playing…hurling? curling? Uh oh. Chatty Cathy bumps the line to catch up with Lindsey. So I think Brennan and Lindsey pretended to be matched to get out of finishing speed dating? Or “pretended” wink, wink. And then Brennan invites Lindsey to join him on a whiskey making errand. The person at the house conveniently works at the National Archives so Lindsey asks for a favor. I don’t know what she’s up to actually. I missed who she would want to search for. They head to whoever’s childhood home but it’s been torn down. Is it a relative of hers? It must be. Upon reflection, I believe it is her grandmother. Super cute mint coat too.

Then they head to the ocean. They walk and talk. Lindsey asks why he doesn’t dive head first into whiskey. He is worried it wouldn’t be as fun. She says she’d like to stay in one place long enough for a hotel to be finished and Brennan says she’d be great at that. “That” meaning…staying in one place, maybe?

Lindsey heads to see Elroy to get on the calendar for the next Saturday. He invites her to go for a walk. He tells Lindsey he thinks his wife would want to sell the castle.

Lindsey runs into Brennan at City Hall and tells him how she and Elroy have been scheming. He’s all-when were you going to tell me this? And she honestly tells him that she was afraid. THANK YOU. But also I feel like her chat with Elroy was in the morning and she’s now seeing Brennan a few hours later, so he can chill. He is still mad because he is STUCK IN THE PAST okay? He needs to get a grip. Then Brennan essentially gets called to the principal’s office. Maybe Elroy can set him straight.

Later, Lindsey stands out in front of the castle and stares vaguely.

The town council meets behind closed doors, but now Brennan is all on board with the plan to sell the castle.

Lindsey calls her boss and discovers this may all have been for nothing. He maybe just wants to scrap this headache and build a hotel in Dublin. Frankly, that makes WAY more sense but he’s now allowed Lindsey to stay in this town for what, at least two weeks? Without letting her know? Anyway, he wants to come by and decide between the two.

Then Lindsey and Brennan serve as witnesses at a wedding for a couple who met at last year’s festival! She has that same Irish ring. The couple tells Lindsey about the hotel they’re staying at and it gives Lindsey an idea. MY IDEA. Using the castle as part of the hotel. I could have saved ALL OF US 84 minutes.

Lindsey calls her boss and invites him to the party the following evening at the castle. Because now the whole town is DESPERATE to sell the caste. Funny how that worked out. They have A TON of work to like, fully restore? the castle? So best of luck to all.

Brennan stops by Lindsey’s room to invite her to dinner!! They have a lovely picnic by a waterfall. He tells her that he put a bunch of salt in her bread dough earlier. But she’s on her own for knitting. They are JUST ABOUT to kiss when Chatty Kathy interrupts to say hello. He found someone! Yay.

It’s party time! Lindsey is wearing a truly GORG dress. Brennan looks cute too. They have a funny moment where two girls think Brennan is proposing. Then Mr. Crispin arrives! Lindsey and Brennan are very pleased with themselves. But it looks like big old house inside, not a castle.

Mr. Crispin is getting so stoked about this place and the dessert in cups. Then Elroy makes a toast. Lindsey tells Brennan that she started a business plan and found a bigger distillery space for him. He is NOT PLEASED. Like, honestly WHAT IS HIS DEAL? Why is he so reluctant? Lindsey is like, okay well I guess I will just talk to you later.

Then Lindsey makes her pitch to Mr. Crispin. He is like, dang Lindsey that is a massive undertaking. We could never afford to turn this castle into a hotel. So he decides to move forward with Dublin. Okay so this has all been for nothing, I guess. Lindsey says she has to go back to New York because she doesn’t have any reason to stay. Brennan is like, no you definitely don’t have a reason to stay now, so bye.

The next morning, everyone says their goodbyes. Lindsey’s outfits have really been top notch. She gives the B&B owners a tearful hug goodbye.

Elroy and Brennan have a chat at the top of the castle. They both lean casually on the wall. Brennan is like, Lindsey doesn’t want to be with me or stay here so forget about her.

We flash forward 3 months. Lindsey is in a group chat with all her Irish friends. She takes off her ring and notices something inscribed inside. So naturally, Lindsey decides to quit her job. She gives Ellie this whole speech and Ellie is like whoa this is ALOT.

Meanwhile, Brennan actually does start expanding his whiskey business.

Then Brennan heads to the castle and sees Lindsey. She is evaluating the castle for the new company she works for! Well, well, well. They have their chat. She should have called. No he shouldn’t have let her leave like that. No she was wrong and he was also. You know how it is. Lindsey tells Brennan she is basically going to be living there full time now. Oh now I get it. Her ring is from her grandma and it was made in that town that I’m not going to try and spell. And then they KISS! Big time Yay.

Okay I really liked this one. It was SO cute. I even had too high of expectations and I liked it anyway! They had lots of twists on old classic tropes and I liked them all! I think this is my favorite movie of 2021 so far! What did you think?

It Was Always You

Well, I think I speak for everyone in Hallmark land when I say I have been excited about this movie for MONTHS. If you follow Tyler or Erin on social media, they shared lots of behind the scenes pictures during filming. And I was really looking forward to seeing this pairing. And now obviously I want them to get married in real life. So, fingers crossed. I tried my best to keep my expectations low, but I really couldn’t help myself. I was so eager to watch this one. Let’s dive in.

Our leading lady, Elizabeth, is a dentist. She is getting married to her business partner and fellow dentist, George. And also this person is definitely not Tyler Hynes so too bad for him. The patient Elizabeth is chatting with in this first scene is VERY interested in their engagement. The patient lies about flossing (same.) And then shares how he and his wife went on a SIX WEEK vacation recently. MUST BE NICE. Shouldn’t they do that for their honeymoon? Because that’s a vacation any regular person could take.

Later, Elizabeth and George talk about going to some island (Echo Island?) to see George’s family. Then, Elizabeth talks to her friend about her old dream of traveling. She was so nervous about her parents fighting the whole time that asked to stay home from a trip to Europe. YIKES.

Then Erin brings up the six week honeymoon idea to George and he hates it, naturally. He’s like, how could we take a six week vacation? We run a dental practice. Erin seems to have forgotten about that. I think we’re supposed to think George is a big stick in the mud for this but honestly can practicality win out FOR ONCE in one of these GD movies? Can the two dentists who run a dental practice really both leave it at the same time for six weeks? I just don’t see how.

They load up their car and head to George’s family. Erin makes them stop at this insane oyster bar before they get to George’s family’s. I’m not sure why she wants to stop. It seems like they are close to his house but she wants to eat lunch or dinner maybe? But then they sit down and she asks for pie. WHY? Did I miss her saying she heard this place was known for that? Oh, and also, they can’t just get pie. They have to eat an entire plate of oysters first. They can’t drink what they want either. SOUNDS SO FUN. George hates it. I hate it. I think we are not supposed to hate it. BUT I VERY MUCH DO.

Finally, they arrive at the house, probably starving. Louise, the sister is too busy to hug George but not too busy to hug Elizabeth. Louise is off to pick up David, their brother. He is a traveling nomad. And then George’s mom promises Elizabeth to act surprised for her birthday party. Elizabeth keeps alluding to preferring being over at this house to her own. Her childhood was probably a bit chaotic? Elizabeth tries to reminisce with George. But then George reminds her he is too old for scavenger hunts. Um, did he not see Tyler Hynes’s LAST Hallmark movie? It was all about adults doing scavenger hunts! Then Elizabeth looks fondly at the treehouse George’s dad built in their backyard. It is basically like the treehouses from that HGTV show. Like massive apartments. So yeah. Insanely jealous at this point.

In the morning, Louise and Elizabeth chat about David. HE IS SUCH A FREE SPIRIT. Then Eugene, the mail man stops by; actually, he COMES ALL THE WAY INSIDE THEIR HOUSE to drop off the mail; and tries to ask Louise on a date. Louise brushes it off. Elizabeth encourages her to consider Eugene. Louise is like, NO WAY. And honestly, no, I don’t see it. But this is Hallmark where any two B story characters are forced together regardless of who plays them.

Meanwhile Elizabeth goes into town to get a very specific ice cream order for Diana’s party. And guess what? David is there. He is teaching in Mumbai so he plans to be in and out JUST for this engagement party. That adds up. He can definitely afford a plane ticket like that on his salary FOR SURE. And then Elizabeth really bums us all out with her engagement story. It sounds like maybe they didn’t even date? They were like, hey we work together and stuff so we should get married.

Guys, Elizabeth’s bangs are SO LONG they are basically covering her eyes. WHY! Why is Hallmark trying so hard to bring bangs back?! Don’t they know how we all always regret it? Anyway, David and Elizabeth walk and talk about how annoying they find each other. So FUN.

Okay SUSH. It’s surprise party time. Louise realizes her mom knew about the party. But David covers for Elizabeth. Diana gives a speech about each of her kids. It’s really lovely honestly. George is too busy to listen. Why is George taking the all the phone calls for their business? Why isn’t anyone calling Elizabeth? George has to go back to do a dental procedure in the morning.

Also, this is the first time I’ve seen this ADORABLE Golden Retriever!! OMG. Based on all the behind the scenes pics, I figured this dog would feature more in the movie. It does not, unfortunately. As George walks to his car, he and David have a nice bro moment, honestly. Oh the weather is turning.

Elizabeth wakes up at 2 AM to loud music absolutely BLARING from the kitchen. She is furious and David is like, what’s the big deal? I’m on Mumbai time. He hands her a slice of cake and keeps blaring the music. Elizabeth mentions that the cake is peanut butter flavored. WHAT? I’m not sure if I would like that honestly. David is just being a nonstop silly goose. And Elizabeth just fully melts down about that. But honestly it is 2AM. So like, what is wrong with him? Why does no one hear this music? Why is he so unapologetic about it? I mean, in no world is blasting music at 2 AM while the rest of the house is sleeping acceptable, right? Anyway, since apparently Elizabeth is the only person bothered by all of this, she tells David she plans to steer clear of him the rest of the weekend. That will definitely prevent her from being woken up in the middle of the night tomorrow!!

Well, well, well. Because of the storm, now George can’t get back across the bridge. FOR WEEKS. So Elizabeth is probably stuck on the island for a few weeks too. But what about all her patients and stuff then?

The next morning, David exchanges pleasantries with the dog. And then Elizabeth gets a call from George. But this is the worst one sided conversation I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t pause long enough to hear anything! David knew about all of this bridge but didn’t mention it to her. So she feels pretty huffy about that. I don’t know what difference it makes either way.

So in light of all this info, Elizabeth starts walking into town with an arm full of binders to do some wedding planning. Tyler meets her along the way and offers her a ride. She reluctantly agrees after some prodding. She does insist that he wait in the car. Because apparently he has nothing better to do.

Cakes are up first. YES. Elizabeth wants white and vanilla cake only. David wanders into the shop and offers unsolicited commentary on her choices. He gets in her head and Elizabeth wonders if vanilla is boring? HELLO. Obviously it is boring. It is the most boring flavor in the world. It is also quite good and I love it. But I do want the cake to be six different flavors if it’s going to be six tiers. That’s all. David gives her some insight about who she really is. She is Neapolitan he says. Eh. I am not stoked about Neapolitan.

On the way home, Elizabeth fears, for the first time, that she is very boring. David agrees so he takes her to that horrible oyster bar from earlier. She obviously hates oysters but she really wants pie so she agrees to choke down the rest of the oysters. No. There is just no reason for this. Get a GD key lime pie from somewhere else. Why didn’t David get one? Then David wipes off some of the meringue on her face with his thumb. Gross. Then David asks her to dance. Because apparently dancing is a thing at EVERY restaurant in Hallmark movies. She even ignores a call from George!

Later, Eugene stops by Louise’s painting studio. Oof these too. Eugene brings her a wooden duck because he noticed her painting mallards one time. So that’s sweet. She is so dismissive of him. Yikes. Obviously they would not make sense, right?

Meanwhile, Diana and Elizabeth quickly catch up in the kitchen. We learn that Louise has had two failed engagements. Then Elizabeth catches up with the grandma. They must all live on the same giant property. The grandma is so creepy with her. The grandma shares how she met and married her husband. It’s all designed to lead her to David. Apparently arguing about everything and being complete opposites is called “challenging” each other. HONESTLY SOUNDS SO FUN and DEFINITELY WOULDN’T GET OLD. Then the grandma slips up and says she and David are a good pair. TOTALLY ON ACCIDENT.

Oh good. Tyler is rocking his long cardigans again. Who is behind the Tyler Hynes cardigans in all these movies? Is it Tyler? Is it Hallmark? Is there a movie where he IS NOT wearing one of these drapey cardigans? Also Elizabeth and David are having a moment. But I’m too distracted by the sweater cape Tyler is wearing. OMG and his shirt is totally tucked in. Are we doing that now? Are we tucking all the way in? Are just men? Or is just Tyler?

Sorry, David gave her some random note of all the places she wanted to see that was somehow kept in this house for 20 years. David wonders why she hasn’t travelled more. Movie people always seem to forget there is one tiny hurdle that keeps people from travelling. IT’S MONEY. That’s the big hurdle. Oh, and paid time off.

Later, David checks in with Louise. Louise thinks he brings out a different side of Elizabeth. She’s more Lizzie with him.

Poor Eugene stops by again and Louise offers him some coffee. And pie. Elizabeth is a great wingman. Oh I just can’t get on board with these two. Elizabeth sees herself out. She takes a call from George but it keeps cutting out.

HOW BIG IS THIS HOUSE. We just keep seeing brand new rooms. Elizabeth finds David in some kind of rec room watching a western. She wants to watch a Bachelorette type show and this is apparently the only TV in the house. David obviously hates it. And poor Elizabeth is all in on this show. David tells Elizabeth what he would say if he was on the show and it seems like he’s reciting wedding vows or a poem or something. So she is obviously quite moved.

The next day, David goes with her to do their wedding registry. He reminds her of something whimsical she did as a kid. Elizabeth seems like she’s having a bit of a crisis. Elizabeth starts getting a little fast and loose with the scanning gun. She picks a rabbit toilet paper holder and a ceramic chicken with a crown. And then she scans DAVID. OOOOH. The scanner slipped. Sure, Jan.

Next, they meet with a DJ, who seems to be running this business out of his mom’s garage. A small dog keeps barking in the house. The DJ’s mom yells at him so the poor DJ is forced to let him out. Then David asks Elizabeth to dance. SHE FEELS FEELINGS. Honestly, I loved this whole scene. The DJ and his mom yelling at each other was just top notch.

After this, Elizabeth inexplicably goes back to that dumb restaurant and talks to herself. The server takes pity on her and lets her just have pie. But are there no other restaurants in town? What about that ice cream place?

Back at the house, Elizabeth attempts to go up to the tree house. But she is not strong enough to climb up the rope ladder. Or not coordinated? David arrives and tries to help. Elizabeth starts spiraling about traveling and is sure George will be on board. Then she starts climbing up the ladder again.

Back at the practice, Denise the helpful Dental Hygienist and George have a MOMENT. Hmmm. Oh and the bridge is going to be fixed tomorrow.

David and Elizabeth are just laying on the couch watching a movie when Louise tells them that George will be back in the morning. And then the power goes out for some reason. And they BOTH go to reset the breaker. Everyone always thinks resetting breakers is a two person job. It is not. They have another moment and then David gets the power on again.

The next morning, George finally arrives. He booked them for another seminar! Her counter proposal is to close their practice for a few months to travel! George is like, no but the seminars! And also, our regular patients. George wants to wait until they’re elderly. And now she wants George to just dance with her. George has had enough. It is silly. To be fair, IT IS SILLY. And Elizabeth is spiraling a little.

It is finally time for the engagement party. The grandma grumps about the frivolities of the engagement party and tells a quite heartbreaking story of her own wedding. Her dad gave her $5 and wished her good luck. Then David asks Elizabeth to dance. A slow song comes on and they keep dancing. Then they realize they are still holding hands.

George is telling a brutal story about being a dentist to a few guests. Elizabeth pulls George aside to talk while he stuffs his face with desserts. Elizabeth starts WAY too far back. She does finally bring it home-to where she breaks up with George AT THEIR ENGAGEMENT PARTY. Wow. Bold. David sees the wrong part. I think. Apparently doesn’t notice she’s not wearing her ring.

So then Elizabeth overhears Louise and Diana talking about how David is gone. So he couldn’t even stay until the end of the party. People always leave IMMEDIATELY in these movies, even if it’s not practical.

Whoa, so then we flash forward to a year later. Everyone is getting post cards from Elizabeth from all her world travels. Eugene and Louise are together it seems. Yes they are because they are getting married. Also, now that Elizabeth is a world traveler, she has to wear a beret.

Now it’s Louise’s wedding. George is with Denise the dental hygienist. They are having a great time being boring dental practitioners and just dancing the night away. Honestly Eugene and Louise. It’s just not happening for me.

David approaches Elizabeth at the wedding. Elizabeth says she wanted to write to him but she didn’t know where to send the post cards. And apparently they never exchanged numbers either! Right? He takes her hand and they walk to the edge of his parents’ property. He says he tried writing her too. He hands her a travel book with a list of places in Rome and at the end it says- I don’t know where any of these places are but I want to go with you. He wrote it when he was thirteen! And admits he’s always been in love with her. Okay so after that lovely speech, she just asks to dance with him. Okay, finally. They Kiss. Then they flash to them watching the Bachelor together again in the treehouse? Cute.

So yes, I did actually love this movie. I really hate movies where people have to break up with someone to immediately start dating the right person but I think it worked okay here. Hallmark usually has to let us know the other person is okay which I appreciate. And here, she actually did get some time to just find out who she really is before starting things up with David. So it did all work for me in the end. So I loved it and I loved these two together! A great end (right?) to the Love Ever After series! It will likely be my favorite of the series.

Mix Up In the Mediterranean

Hallmark Friends. This week we watched “Mix Up In the Mediterranean.” I believe it is still part of the “Love Ever After” series but it was NOT Valentine’s themed at all. Which means we really only get ONE Valentine’s movie this year and that is just NOT enough for me!! Unless this weekend’s movie is Valentine’s themed? I honestly don’t know much about the plot. Anyway, let’s get into it.

Our leading man Josh tries to stun the patrons of a small Alaskan diner with his mom’s famous Baked Alaska. His boss is not impressed. These small town Alaskan hillbillies just want DINER FOOD, Josh! Also, how would they even know to order Baked Alaska if it’s not on the menu? Anyway, Josh, just stick to food that poor, simple people like. And as we’ve learned from Hallmark, that is hot dogs or hamburgers. And dessert can either be chocolate or vanilla. There are NO OTHER OPTIONS.

Meanwhile, our leading lady Meg has lunch with her dad at “J. Northrup” which is a very fancy restaurant in New York City. Her dad wants her to work for him. He is obviously a real estate mogul. But Meg wants to build her own empire with…hosting cooking shows. No-event planning generally. She doesn’t want ANY help from her dad. This is going to be an event planning empire like no one has ever seen! Because no one has ever seen an event planning empire.

Julian arrives at Meg and her dad’s table. We can all assume that Julian is Josh’s TWIN brother. Julian is trying to earn Meg’s dad’s business-putting his restaurants in all his hotels- and is like, super patronizing to Meg in the process. Then, he talks to Josh on the phone and invites him to Malta for the cooking…ahem; culinary competition. They rehash a lot of their history in that conversation which is weird because Julian is right on the dining room floor for all that. Julian’s husband Henry stands by awkwardly.

Then everyone starts arriving in Malta. Josh runs in to Meg in the lobby. Classic “oh you must have met my twin” scenario. Guys, this has for real happened to me twice in my life. I have met a twin on one day and excitedly approach them the following day to say hello again, only to be met with confusion and dismay. And then they immediately say-oh, you must have met my twin. And I think they’re lying to avoid talking to me, but actually they were telling the truth. Anyway, Josh DOESN’T do that here for some reason and he just lets Meg keep talking to him like they’ve met before. Then Meg divulges that she stores her “extra chocolate” right at the top of her suitcase. QUIRKY. BUT SO IMPRACTICAL. That is the worst place to pack chocolate bars.

Meg comments to her coworker that “Julian” seems SO different from when she met him last week. I WONDER WHY.

Josh and Julian exchange an awkward hug. It’s awkward because they both have to hug a different actor and then it has to be filmed from two different angles. And then chitchat for a little bit.

Later, Meg gets in trouble with the stern hotel manager for decorating with too many flowers.

Josh comes back to Julian and Henry’s room wearing a wrinkly shirt which makes Julian furious. Julian goes to get a different shirt for Josh and like totally throws his back out. He is supposed to go register but he needs to lay down. Josh is like, hello! Duh. I’ll go register for you. Julian is worried. But Josh is like, we pretend to be each other all the time. What else is the point of being a twin? But downstairs, obviously Josh runs into people that know Julian, including a former culinary school classmate. Josh does a poor job of pretending to know him.

Then he runs in Meg again. She helps him get registered. Megan makes a joke about him being an evil twin. Then he gets a little wristband. So, uh oh. It is not a Disney magic band. It is a wrist band that cannot be taken off! And honestly, now after watching the whole movie, it makes zero sense why the wrist band couldn’t be taken off. You only need it to swipe into your cooking station to turn the power on. SO, like literally the only security reason for having this would be to PREVENT SOMEONE’S TWIN FROM COMPETING ON THEIR BEHALF. AND HOW WOULD THEY KNOW IF SOMEONE TOOK THE WRISTBAND OFF! Ugh he should have just said he’d put it on later or something. But here we are.

So anyway, the boys chat upstairs about this new wrinkle. Josh is like, I’ll just compete! Let me do it. And Julian is like, no you are not equipped for this. But obviously he relents after from prodding from Henry. And honestly, I have a lot of sympathy for Julian here because well, HE came here to compete! And now because of this ridiculous Disney magic band, he is stuck hiding in his hotel room.

So anyway, then Josh and Henry head down to the competition. Josh is having trouble pretending to be gay while standing next to his HUSBAND. So Josh has no chill. NO CHILL at all about Meg and her excruciatingly tight pony tail. It hurts my head to see it. Then Josh meets the other competitors. Uh oh. Julian’s former class mate wants to hear old stories from school. Henry steps up to help. Then Meg pulls Josh away to help with something. He didn’t tell Henry about her “secret chocolate stash” so he seems trustworthy. Oof. Honestly this makes no sense either. Why would she pull one of the competitors aside to help her with the event? Also, her hair and makeup are so…SEVERE. She tells him that she loves to plan events and wants to launch her own event planning company. Obviously. Then he realizes that her dad owns all those restaurants. But obviously he would know that since they met last week. OOPS.

They walk back to the rest of the gang and Josh runs into someone he DEFINITELY KNOWS. Chester is a party crasher. I am not sure why he’s there but the hotel manager is not happy about it. She makes Meg kick him out.

Later that night, Josh, Julian and Henry strategize and rehash. CHESTER shows up. And then he realizes that Julian and Josh are twins. They bring him in on the ruse. He is ALL IN to help.

They decide to practice at Chester’s restaurant since it’s basically in financial ruin. So now Julian is dressed like Josh. HILIARITY.

Later, Meg shows Josh how to use the wrist band on his work station. Literally its only purpose is to start the power. It would be impossible for anyone besides a twin to “cheat.” Like, obviously after the first day a different person couldn’t swipe into someone’s cooking station. This is pointless as a security measure.

OMG. Meg said this is the biggest event she’s planned since she WAS SIXTEEN. And it was her own grandparents’ anniversary. OMG. What has she been doing the last 15+ years? Anniversary party to…TELEVISED COOKING COMPETITION? And wouldn’t like, the Food Network or something be the one organizing this? Not some random event planner. Boy, this movie is unravelling more and more by the minute. They chat about Julian’s “brother.” So now he and Meg are really connecting. This makes me so uncomfortable because obviously if Julian was married to a woman, this would be getting weird.

So back at Chester’s we hear the rules of the contest and the stuff they plan to make. Later, Josh runs into Meg as she chases down a chocolate (?) cart? Apparently she’s plowed through all her “secret stash” and all the restaurants in town are closed. So he talks her into opening up the hotel restaurant or something? Anyway, that leads to them walking around town and chatting. Again, this dynamic would be weird for a married person. Is it not weird that he is spending his evening with Meg instead of his husband? Like I just feel like this relationship would be weird for actual Julian to have. But maybe it’s only weird because it’s actually Josh who is actually attracted to Meg. Oof. It’s difficult, honestly.

So Meg tells Josh how lucky he is to have Henry because he’s such a great guy. But has she ever even talked to Henry though? And then Meg shares that she used to have a boyfriend but he LIED to her and that is just her HILL. So, well, uh oh. Josh asks Meg what qualities she looks for in a guy. She loves “ambition.” Just blind ambition. That’s it. And then Henry and Julian walk down so Josh hugs her so she doesn’t notice.

The next day is finally competition time! Josh takes some light trash talk from Julian’s former classmate.

Henry notices that Josh likes Meg. Okay honestly the entire competition must notice at this point. GET IT TOGETHER JOSH. Then Meg’s dad calls her and wants her to drop everything and come help him with his stuff…IN GERMANY. And he has too many meetings to watch her broadcast. She wanders off so Josh runs after her to check on her. JOSH. He gives her some advice. But JOSH! YOUR WORKSTATION. Like honestly what are you doing right now?

So the competition is live. Not edited or anything. We are going to just watch them cook on television for as long as it takes. FUN. Julian and Chester watch from upstairs. So everyone is just cooking away and the cameras are filming. The judges are wandering around. It’s JUST like the Great British Baking Show. Except we don’t see all FIVE HOURS of baking time.

Later, Julian gives Josh some criticism about his performance that day. Josh DICED the vegetables instead of CHOPPING them. Josh is a little annoyed. But to be fair, he is supposed to be doing things the way JULIAN would do them because he’s supposed to be cooking like JULIAN. But Josh suddenly wants to prove himself and his way of doing things which is really not appropriate in this setting.

So later, Meg imposes by fixing his tie for him. She is wearing a great dress. He says he’s having family trouble with his brother. Josh, again, this is probably not something a married person would be sharing with the competition host. Oy. But it’s time to announce the next round of finalists. JULIAN makes it to the next round! Wow. What a surprise.

Ooof. Meg’s wearing those horrible pants again. Henry and Josh get coffee the next morning and run into Meg. Henry gives Josh a talking to about his relationship with Meg. YES. HENRY. EXACTLY. He is not acting like he’s married at all.

Oh no. The expensive truffles they are supposed to cook with haven’t even shipped! So Chester steps in to help. He’s got a guy.

Later, Josh and Meg walk and talk at a market? And Meg says her “favorite meal” is TAKEOUT. WHAT IN THE WORLD. Remember when they tried to pull that in a Christmas movie? One of the leads says New York has the best “takeout.” Do the good people at Hallmark know that’s not a type of food? Like literally any type of food can be “taken out” of the restaurant and eaten at home. Especially now. Thank goodness. Josh calls her out for this because that isn’t a meal or GENRE OF FOOD. And then she says she doesn’t care that much about food. Blegh. I don’t understand. But then she admits she likes cheeseburgers. Oof. OF COURSE. Because it would be so quirky for this fancy person to like something as basic as cheeseburgers. Look, I dare you to buy a $1 Hamburger at McDonalds and tell me it isn’t good. I don’t care how much money you make. Then they have a moment. I can’t imagine what Meg is thinking about all of this.

Later, poor Julian hobbles around town dressed like Josh. But why would that make any difference? His classmate runs into him. The classmate “knows” immediately that he’s not Julian based on how he’s dressed. Julian would NEVER.

Meanwhile, Josh says his favorite thing is baked Alaska. Meg helps him have a revelation about why he and his brother both like to cook. Then Chester finds them and gives them the mushrooms.

Later, Josh and Henry have a heart to heart. Henry is like, you can never tell Meg the truth. Even after the competition. Like FOR REAL. It would totally mess up everything for poor Julian! Then, Josh totally ignores Henry’s advice and asks Meg to get something to eat. Then helps her knead bread dough from behind her. WHY. No one would ever need to do that. If I was Meg I would be SO WEIRDED OUT at this point. So then Meg asks what his wedding was like. Then, well it must be at least three hours later if they’re starting from bread dough, they sit on a blanket outside and start eating the pizza (?) they made from scratch. Then Meg makes some suggestion about food and Josh absentmindedly suggests that she work with Julian at his restaurant. And immediately backtracks and feels bad. But Meg is all amped up about it.

So then the next morning, Meg comes by Julian’s hotel room to talk about their business strategy and obviously Julian has no idea what she’s talking about. Then like right away she runs into him down at the competition. Uh oh. The power is out at his station!! The classmate smirks. So okay. GUYS. If the work station could be sabotaged so easily, WHAT IS THE POINT OF THOSE WRISTBANDS!! It is not preventing cheating because they can’t even prove the classmate did anything.

So of course, MEG helps him find stuff in the hotel kitchen. Why would this be on her though? Wouldn’t the competition just set him up at a working station and provide all the same food? He wouldn’t be left to scramble. I mean, they gave Rahul 15 extra minutes after his glass bowl shattered in GBBO. Meg says she could eat bacon raw. MEG WHAT. No. That’s weird. You’re just going to eat raw bacon like a cave man? Is this supposed to make her more down to earth? Has anyone at Hallmark ever eaten or seen bacon?

Then of course, Josh takes WAGYU beef and makes a cheeseburger out of it. Oy. I mean, I’m sure it’s good. I would eat it. But I feel like that is maybe a waste of that kind of beef. No matter, Julian/Josh makes it to the next round.

Then Meg’s dad shows up. Maybe to support her. Meanwhile Julian is gesturing at Josh wildly from the bushes at the evening’s party. They have a heated discussion. Julian wants to take over. OBVIOUSLY. But No! The classmate seems to overhear THE WHOLE THING. IDIOT JULIAN. Why couldn’t that wait until they were up in their hotel room? So stupid.

So then the classmate approaches Meg to tattle. He tells her that Julian is not who he says he is. Meg is like, dude, you cut the power at Julian’s work station. So she doesn’t want to hear it. FAIR.

At Chester’s, Julian insists on doing the final competition traditionally. Josh wants to be a little bolder.

Meanwhile, Meg and her dad have a heated conversation. He has to go to Germany that night. No one understands how time works apparently. But regardless, he is going to miss the whole competition. They have more of a heated nonsense discussion. Who cares. Oh but she does learn Julian’s restaurant is going under.

The classmate is not giving up on tattling. Josh of course, runs into Meg. They share their troubles with each other. Then Meg says it’s really nice to trust someone. OH NO.

And then, well the jig is up with Julian. The hotel manager shows up at his hotel room. But honestly, why couldn’t he say he was Josh? Like how could they prove that one was the other at this point? Isn’t that the genius of the twin swap? Especially if they are identical, though I don’t think they are since one of them said he was taller. But regardless, like prove it Food Competition! That’s what I’d say. But they give up on the ruse basically immediately.

So then Meg gets a phone call and they all have to meet in the competition area. So the classmate agrees not to say anything if Josh and Julian are expelled from the competition. Oy. I don’t understand why Julian couldn’t just say, no I’m Josh. And then Meg is mad about the lies also. Understandably. But Josh should say-If you hadn’t been so eager to get the GD magic band on my wrist before I realized what was happening, we wouldn’t be in this mess!

Then Josh and Julian have a heart to heart while they pack up. It’s nice. Also, weird since it’s just Jeremy Jordan talking to himself. So then Julian tells Josh he needs to fix things with Meg. BUT HOW.

Meg is just sitting on a bench. So they chat and Meg is like, well you can still compete actually. You just signed the contract “J Northrup” so you can actually still compete. And now Julian gets to be the sous chef. But Meg says “there is no us” to Josh. So I guess that’s that.

So now they’re making their stuff. The Northrup boys present their little dessert. BAKED ALASKA obviously.

Okay now it’s time to announce the winner. Josh wins. Wow. I am just…so shocked. I did not see that coming at all. And the trophy actually has his name on it so that’s nice. But seriously, what a bummer just across the board for Julian. Josh catches up with Meg after the competition. So now he gives her a little speech. She doesn’t know if she can ever forgive him. He asks her for two months. Because of that thing you know-if you’re still mad in two months, you’ll probably always be mad? That adds up. And then Meg’s dad calls and says he’s proud of her.

Later, (TWO MONTHS LATER) Josh and Julian are at J Northrup’s getting ready for dinner. They are running the restaurant together. No word yet from ol Meg. Oh! What a surprise. Meg walks in. They must be opening a new restaurant I guess. She is also “building her own empire.” Whatever that means for event planning. Josh shows her a menu and he named the cheeseburger after her. That’s sweet. SPOILER ALERT. She forgives him. And they kiss. Henry and Julian creep from the kitchen. Julian is like, we need to open now. But they just keep making out. And that’s that.

This movie was silly and it didn’t have any Valentine feels. It did have Mediterranean feels which I liked. It also had pretty high stakes for a Hallmark movie. I was not sure how they would reconcile the deception at the end. I am not a huge fan of the lead actress but overall, I enjoyed watching the movie. I liked the concept and it had plenty of wild, silly Hallmark things.