Mistletoe, Mischief and the Marquis
‘Tis the season for sugary-sweet holiday stories on my e-reader. Author Amelia Grey brings that Christmas spirit into her novella Mistletoe, Mischief and the Marquis with cute kids, a snowy setting and a yuletide gathering of friends. I would have to be a Grinch not to enjoy this kind of story; however a few missteps keep it from being a holiday classic.
The Marquis of Wythebury has brought his two nephews along with him to celebrate Christmastime at the country home of the Duke of Hurst along with the other members of the Heirs’ Club and their families. A two-week long house party will hopefully be a chance for Seth to find some amusement with the other men while distracting the boys from thinking about their first Christmas without both parents. Unfortunately the rough roads and cold weather they encounter as they travel to Hurst’s estate make the children’s governess ill and she must stay behind at a coaching inn. This leaves Seth in the lurch as to how to take care of the boys until she recovers and can rejoin them. On the first morning of the house party Seth makes the mistake of expecting two rambunctious boys to sit quietly while he steps away for a moment. When he hears them excitedly playing outside in the snow he is ready to chastise them both for leaving the warm house until a snowball to the face stops him in his tracks.
Lillian Prim didn’t believe there would be any problem with inviting the two boys she found sulking in her brother-in-law’s library outside for a bit of fun in the snow. In fact their play had been quite amusing until the boys’ guardian got in the way of her snowball. Hoping to quickly diffuse the situation Lillian admits that it was her idea to take care of the boys since she had inadvertently upset them by asking questions about their parents. The Marquis doesn’t seem very happy with her faux-pas or with her opinion that the boys shouldn’t be cooped up inside all day when the fresh air and exercise could do them some good. Once Lillian learns that their governess is sick she offers her time during the house party to help care for the children if Lord Wythebury will let her take them outside to play. When he seems reluctant Lillian makes it a condition of a playful wager between them that she wins handedly.
Lillian’s lighter approach while watching the children runs opposite of Seth’s more cautious and structured attitudes about what benefits the boys. Their personalities also run very different from each other, with Seth being more reserved while Lillian is free with her thoughts and feelings. Under normal circumstances they might never have interacted, yet with the boys at the center of the relationship it makes them consider all of the ways they do suit besides a mutual attraction they felt almost instantly. As the festivities continue Seth and Lillian find that Yuletide is the perfect time to appreciate old acquaintances while opening their hearts to someone new.
Mistletoe, Mischief and the Marquis has a very upbeat and light tone throughout. The meet-cute moment with the snowball fight and the subsequent wager between Lillian and Seth shows how well they play off of each other despite fears that they’re too different to suit. I enjoyed watching Seth soften his cold attitude in order to win Lillian’s heart when she had made it clear he was too reserved for a woman liker her. The house party setting is a perfect way to conveniently keep them together to work through their miscommunications and embrace the love they found so quickly in each other.
Where the novella begins to fall apart is that the main conflict of the story actually has Lillian in the wrong and she then spends the rest of the book trying to justify why she is right. She is a stranger to Seth and his nephews in the beginning but immediately tells a Marquis to his face that his ideas about raising his wards are detrimental to their wellbeing. I couldn’t wrap my head around the presumption of this young woman to insert herself into a situation she didn’t understand fully. That Seth doesn’t immediately call Lillian on her behavior and then take the boys in hand just screams Plot Device rather than the push/pull dynamic I’m certain the author intended.
In the end, Mistletoe, Mischief and the Marquis lets a reader escape for a few hours into a sweet holiday story that catches up with previous couples of The Heirs’ Club series and closes with warm feelings for the Marquis’ and his new family beginning.