10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents' house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That's when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she's started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever... or is it?
Looking at this cover you might expect a simply cute love story. Reading the summary you might expect a Hallmark level Christmas story. What you might not expect is this to be much more than just a cheesy Christmas-y romance book. This is a story centered around Sophie, who's just overheard her boyfriend being less than excited to have her around during winter break. Devastated, she breaks up with him and heads out to her holiday destination - Nonna's house. Her Nonna or grandmother, is the matriarch of the family. She constantly has her children and grandchildren over. It's the central station of family visits. Sophie used to be one of those grandchildren who would play with her cousins and the boy next door. But then things changed. She didn't live so close to her family anymore. She went to a different school then her family. They had inside jokes she didn't get. She felt like she was fading into the background of her once tight-knit friend group so she moved on.

The author deciding to tackle friendships lost was a brilliant idea. I remember having this happen to me too and there is nothing more painful than realizing friends moving on without you for the first time. She captured this excellently. There was also her sister's pregnancy. From the get go you know that family (a big family) is an integral part of this story. When you add in a difficult pregnancy there was more of a real life sense to this book. Not all pregnancies are easy. This was highlighted with the back and forth texts Sophie had with her sister. First lighthearted because her mom and her husband's mom were driving her crazy. Later on there is a sense of urgency that adds to the realness of everyday life.

I absolutely love books that center around big families. Large families are so comforting to read about. The decision to have family members come up with blind dates leading up to Christmas was another great idea. Lots of lighthearted fun came out of that decision. And then there is the boy. You know when you read the first paragraph of this review who would be the lead love interest - the boy next door. The thing is that the boy next door is in a relationship. No, there is no cheating involved. The boy next door, Wes, isn't happy with the person he is with because they don't seem to be happy with him. He isn't terrible but his girlfriend is described to be. I liked Wes but the romance with him wasn't as interesting as one particular blind date. I wasn't in love with their relationship but it was respectful and could be sweet.

10 Blind Dates has many good elements added into the story to create more than just a Christmas-y story. It's a YA book with layers that doesn't just center around romance. The concept of the blind dates is brilliant. The big family, lost friendship, and realness of a difficult pregnancy made this much more interesting than first expected. However, the romance towards the end was kind of bland. I didn't love it as much as I expected to. As a romance centered story, that's where 10 Blind Dates fell short with me. I will say that I think if you like the concept of this story to give it a try because it's truly worth a try.


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