The Christmas Portrait

Sometimes the ones we love the most hurt us the worst.

At least, that’s how things have been for Kari Smith and John Worth when it comes to family. Both are at a crossroads in life when they discover they are neighbors in Maple Grove, a small town in Wisconsin. Will their choices pave the way to a bright new future together or thrust them back into a pattern of destructive relationships?

As a private duty nurse, Kari Smith has spent eight years traveling across the country from one assignment to the next. Following the sudden death of her mother, a well-known artist who cared more about her paintings than her children, Kari finds herself longing to return home. She must complete one final assignment before heading back to Maple Grove, Wisconsin, but Lester Worthington and his wife Bessie, who is in the final stages of heart failure, turn her life upside down in more ways than one.

Bessie, a watercolor painter, recognizes the raw talent in Kari’s simple pencil sketches. With her client’s patient encouragement and Lester’s fatherly wisdom, Kari agrees to have a renowned art teacher evaluate her drawings. When he seconds Bessie’s opinion that Kari has what it takes to become a real artist, she is both thrilled and conflicted, fearful that treading the same path her mother walked will lead to nothing but obsession and loneliness. Despite her reservations, Kari returns to her hometown and settles into the house she inherited, determined to make a place for herself in the tight-knit community while focusing on her artwork.

After a tumultuous divorce and fierce custody battle, John Worth has fled the big city in hopes of building a life for himself and his six-year-old son in a small Midwestern town. Maple Grove is everything he hoped for, but John is still struggling to find his footing as a single parent. Estranged from his own parents, he readily embraces the warmth extended by his new neighbors. While his son quickly finds friendship, his own attempts to open up and connect with Kari Smith, his attractive landlord, aren’t as successful.

As the seasons pass in Maple Grove, John and Kari develop a tenuous friendship. Something deeper simmers between them, but decades-old secrets and painful legacies keep them rooted in place. Unable to let go of the past and unwilling to repeat the mistakes that already haunt them, they face an uncertain future.

Until they are both willing to open themselves up to being hurt again, Kari and John—and those most precious to them—don’t stand a chance at finding love, family, and a happy ever after.

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