New Hallmark Channel Christmas romance movie is based on Nantucket author's book

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  • Nancy Thayer
    American novelist

NANTUCKET — Fans of Nantucket author Nancy Thayer’s nearly three-dozen novels can find one of her Christmas romances in movie form playing through the holiday season on TV’s Hallmark Channel.

Thayer’s 2019 book “Let It Snow” has become “Nantucket Noel” for the TV film version, and the island is the setting for her story of a woman facing the potential loss of her wharfside toy store at Christmastime because of a cantankerous landlord.

In both book and movie, Christina finds love while sorting out the challenges, though some details of Thayer’s book were changed for the screenplay.

“Nantucket Noel” debuted Nov. 19 as one of the first new entries in Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” season for 2021. There was a live-stream screening at the island’s Dreamland Theater that night that drew 250 patrons, many of whom reacted loudly to the film, according to Thayer.

From left, Sarah Powell, Payton Lepinski and Trevor Donovan star in "Nantucket Noel," a new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie based on Nantucket author Nancy Thayer's "Let It Snow" novel.
From left, Sarah Powell, Payton Lepinski and Trevor Donovan star in "Nantucket Noel," a new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie based on Nantucket author Nancy Thayer's "Let It Snow" novel.

Hallmark Channel will next show the film at 8 a.m. Dec. 8, and it’s due to play again at various times through the month.

While the island remains the story’s setting, the movie was actually filmed in Canada — including on the Sunshine Coast of Gibsons, British Columbia, according to online and social media reports. Some of Thayer’s Facebook fans clearly didn’t agree with that decision-making, with many over the past couple of weeks protesting “The movie should have been filmed on Nantucket!”

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But Thayer was not part of that choice. The author did not respond to an interview request from the Times, but said in a Facebook Live talk with fans just before Thanksgiving that a film company had twice taken a yearlong "option" to turn “Let It Snow” into a movie, and the next thing she heard was when “Nantucket Noel” was in production.

“I had no say after I signed the contract of what was in the movie and I had no communication with anyone at all,” she said.

Thayer noted during the chat that there is a shot of Brant Point in the movie, but joked about the non-Nantucket-like pine trees that can be seen across the water in some beach scenes. The lighthouse that figures prominently in the film does have the distinctive red and white striping of Sankaty Head Light.

What Nancy Thayer likes about the movie

The author said she particularly liked two plot additions in the movie — the viewing of a holiday boat parade and a Snow Ball event — that she wished she’d thought of for the book. She also approved of the movie’s casting, particularly Payton Lepinski as enthusiastic young Wink. Thayer called it “a little iffy,” though, that in “Nantucket Noel,” Wink is the daughter of the son of the mean landlord rather than the son's niece, as in the “Let It Snow” book.

“Wink was right on,” though, Thayer said about being excited by the movie depiction. “Wink was my favorite character. When I saw just a picture of her, I was thrilled. … Wink just came into my mind and started the book and suddenly there she was (in the movie) and she was real.”

Payton Lepinski, left, and Trevor Donovan play father and daughter in Hallmark Channel's "Nantucket Noel," though the characters have a different relationship in Nancy Thayer's novel "Let It Snow."
Payton Lepinski, left, and Trevor Donovan play father and daughter in Hallmark Channel's "Nantucket Noel," though the characters have a different relationship in Nancy Thayer's novel "Let It Snow."

Thayer also singled out Bruce Dawson for praise in playing rich landlord Oscar, who is Wink’s grandfather who moves to Nantucket and starts making changes. “I thought he was excellent, he was so much the character,” Thayer said on Facebook Live about Dawson.

When writing the book, she said, she had based that character on wealthy people who move to Nantucket and tear things down and don’t become involved with the community. While some invest in local nonprofits and are part of the island, others are hardly seen, she said.

A staffer at Mitchell's Book Corner on Nantucket, whom Thayer says has beautiful hair, inspired lead Christina. In "Nantucket Noel,” Christina is played by Sarah Powell, a Canadian actress who portrays Abigail Pershing on Hallmark Channel’s “The Good Witch” series, and has appeared on other TV shows, including “Schitt’s Creek.”

Christina's love interest of Andy is played by Trevor Donovan, best known as Teddy Montgomery in the CW’s “90210.” Donovan is a veteran of Hallmark movies, including “Marry Me at Christmas” and “SnowComing,” as well as “USS Christmas” for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.

Longtime author and Nantucket resident

Thayer has lived on Nantucket year-round for more than three decades, and is active in the literary scene, including leading a discussion this week at the Nantucket Atheneum with Lynne Reeves, author of “The Dangers of an Ordinary Night.” Thayer is due to be signing her own books this weekend as part of the Nantucket Stroll holiday festivities.

She has written about three dozen novels in 40 years, including “Girl of Summer,” “Summer House,” “Surfside Sisters,” “The Hot Flash Club,” “Beachcombers,” “Island Girls” and “The Guest Cottage.” In 2015, Thayer was awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Mainstream Fiction.

In the "Nantucket Noel" movie, Sarah Powell, center, plays a toy store owner whose livelihood, and those of her friends, are threatened by a landlord who wants to tear down the wharf location of their businesses.
In the "Nantucket Noel" movie, Sarah Powell, center, plays a toy store owner whose livelihood, and those of her friends, are threatened by a landlord who wants to tear down the wharf location of their businesses.

Her “Family Reunion” novel was published in May, and “Summer Love” is due next spring. Previous holiday releases include “A Very Nantucket Christmas: Two Holiday Novels,” featuring “A Nantucket Christmas” and “An Island Christmas.”

“All my novels are about family and friendships, which I believe are the foundation of a happy, if complicated, life,” she says on her Amazon.com author page. Her website describes her books — translated into multiple languages — as focusing on “the mysteries and romance of families and relationships: marriage and friendships, divorce and love, custody and step parenting, family secrets and private self-affirmation, the quest for independence and the normal human hunger for personal connections.”

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During her Facebook Live chat, Thayer noted that her Christmas books are specifically about the importance of community.

“Nantucket really does have a strong community. We’re so small in the winter … especially at a place like the grocery store, it’s wonderful because we run into people we know,” she said. Noting how the population more than doubles in the summer, she said the island is “much more of a community in the winter when we’re all frozen here and a gale is blowing and we can’t get off-island on a plane or a boat.”

One fan asked during the Facebook Live session why Hallmark Channel changed the name of Thayer’s book. The author said she was happy that “Nantucket Noel” specifies the island location, but the main reason was repetition. Hallmark, the behemoth of the wildly popular feel-good Christmas TV-movie craze, had already used the title “Let It Snow” for another film in 2013.

Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at kdriscoll@capecodonline.com. Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Hallmark Channel's 'Nantucket Noel' movie based on a Nancy Thayer book

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