Note: This was originally a freelance blog post written for Heroes & Heartbreakers. When MacMillan shut down the community in 2018, they also removed all of the content that had been on the website.
Hard-edged fireman Dean Mulligan has never been a big fan of Christmas. Twinkly lights and sparkly tinsel can’t brighten the memories of too many years spent in ramshackle foster homes. Although he’s established himself as one of the top firefighters at San Gabriel Station 1, he doesn’t think he’s good enough for someone like gorgeous Lizzie.
Lizzie Breen is used to fighting—from her alpha male brothers, who try to smother her in the name of safety, to the life-threatening childhood illness she overcame. She knows what she and Mulligan feel for each other is a lot more than a fling, but she can’t get him to see that. The only gift Lizzie wants to give him this season is her love, but he’s not willing to accept it.
When Mulligan is trapped in the burning wreckage of a holiday store, a Christmas angel arrives to open his eyes. But is it too late? This Christmas, it’ll take an angel, a determined woman in love, and the entire Bachelor Firemen crew to make him believe … it is indeed a wonderful life.
I’ve always been a sucker for a good Christmas romance. I’ve also always been a sucker for an alpha hero with issues. Lucky me—Jennifer Bernard’s final installment (*sniffle*) in The Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel series, It’s a Wonderful Fireman—offers both of those things.
Dean Mulligan had it pretty rough growing up, what with a druggie mom, an abusive stepfather, and less-than-stellar foster homes. To say that Christmas is not his favorite holiday would be an understatement.
He ground his teeth. Effing Christmas. He went through this every single year. Christmas gutted him like a fish. He’d take a hundred Valentine’s Days over Christmas.
A hero who’d rather deal with Valentine’s Day over Christmas? Oh, yeah, Mulligan’s got “issues” written all over himself.
Mulligan’s dislike of Christmas, though, is not the central issue, instead it’s a manifestation of his deeper issues regarding love. Often in romance we read about the heroine who believes she’s not worthy of love, and the hero who shows her that she is. Sometimes we’ll come across the reverse. Mulligan’s story is most definitely the reverse.
Enter Lizzie Breen, aka Fred’s younger sister. We were introduced to Lizzie in Fred’s story, and while reading the entire series (especially The Night Belongs to Fireman) certainly helps the reader orient themselves and be familiar with all of the characters, this novella can be read as a standalone (that being said, I loved how Bernard managed to bring back all of the previous Bachelor Fireman heroes so that we could see how they’re doing since we last read their stories).
Lizzie’s tough, independent and smart with a wise-cracking sense of humor that’s been heavily influenced by her very alpha older brothers. She usually knows how to handle guys like Mulligan, but has been hitting her head against the virtual brick wall when it comes to moving their relationship forward and convincing Mulligan that he does deserve her.
On Christmas Eve Eve Mulligan gets trapped in a fire—in a Christmas store, of all places—and ends up having a very George Bailey-esque experience, courtesy of a sexy elf who looks exactly like Lizzie. Through flashbacks we see how Lizzie and Mulligan’s relationship began and blossomed, along with the incidents that helped make Mulligan the man he is today. Dream Lizzie, as Mulligan calls her, helps him to see how many lives he’s helped save and change for the better—from a little girl in the foster care system to a promising minor league pitcher—and how he does belong and deserve friends and love.
The pacing is fast and in reality takes place in only a few hours, but Bernard does a wonderful job weaving in flashbacks to flesh out Lizzie and Mulligan’s story and to make the ending believable. She also manages to make a hero with self-esteem issues likeable and loveable, which is no small feat. Fans of The Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel should be pleased with this final novella in the series, and it’s a great ending to what’s been one of my favorite series over the past couple of years.