Mistletoe Between Friends/The Snowflake Inn
Just in time for the holidays Sourcebooks has re-released two digital novellas from Samantha Chase in a single paperback volume.
In Mistletoe Between Friends, Lily Cavanaugh and Cameron Greene have been best friends since before they could walk, even though Lily’s a social butterfly and Cam’s an awkward near-genius. Cam once saved Lily from a rebellious mistake that resulted in a month-long grounding, and she’s been harboring feelings for him ever since, but keeps them to herself because Cam is focused on his burgeoning career in science. Cam, too, harbors feelings for open-hearted and terminally directionless Lily, but is reluctant to ruin their friendship.
Cam and Lily’s parents – particularly his mother – keeps hounding them to settle down, get married and have kids. They vent to each other about that as they embark on lousy date after lousy date, and during one such session Cam suggests that he and Lily attend their families’ Christmas gatherings as a couple. They’ll need to continue the charade from then ‘til past New Year’s Eve to avoid their parents’ awful matchmaking attempts. It’s a brilliant idea – until Cam and Lily do a dry run of their routine in New York for Cam’s business colleagues and their hidden feelings start to surface. By the time Christmas rolls around they’re busy battling both their interfering parents and their feelings.
Mistletoe Between Friends wobbles under the weight of its character choices and plot devices. The biggest problem is definitely the way the author chooses to portray Lily. Now, I, like Lily, adore cartoons and Christmas. But unlike Lily I don’t bounce like a toddler who needs to go potty when I see newly-fallen snow. She often reads as oddly childlike, to the point where it feels uncomfortable to read.
Cam comes off more like a realistic adult, although perhaps a ridiculous one. He’s got a one-night rule and avoids romance out of the absolute fear of becoming more with someone. Because…reasons that the book skims over, but mostly to stretch the plot. Cam and Lily’s mothers are pushy, micromanaging nightmares, constantly waving mistletoe over Cam and Lily and demanding they kiss to recreate their first one. This is not cute. Obsessive, creepy and weird, but not cute, to the point where Cam reads like an utter fool for not putting his foot down with his mother sooner. Later, a post-HEA reveal about both moms will make you hope that Cam and Lily are both sterile, and wonder at the author’s approval of their creepy smugness. Some hash is made of Lily’s feelings about her job and her relationship with her sister, but these incidents barely exist in the narrative and are easily solved.
Which brings me to the novella’s other big problem: its tendency to handwave important story elements. Developments like the couple’s first sexual experience together, their attendance at a dinner party where they dance together for the first time and feel mutual romantic tension, and an important talk between Lily and her mom all warrant brief mentions and descriptions after the fact. Yet we get pages of fluffy New York at Christmas tourism porn.
What saves the novella is Cam and Lily’s romance. They generally have an easy, fun chemistry that works. They’re believable as long-time best friends letting their romantic feelings for each other show for the first time. But my deep desire to get them away from their families made this one a non-starter for me.
Grade: D Sensuality: Kisses
In The Snowflake Inn, Grace Brodie, recently transplanted to the wilds of North Carolina from New York, is in the middle of recovering after a frustrating injury while working for Corrine Walsh at the Snowflake Inn. The two met when Corrine was doing some convalescence of her own, and Grace has quickly become quite like a daughter to Corrine and her boyfriend.
Riley Walsh, freshly discharged from the marines, is headed home to see his mother for the first time in years. Riley has avoided home and hearth because he’s expected to run his family’s business which – no points for guessing – is the titular inn housing Grace. Riley has no intention of sitting around in the mountains and starts trying to pressure his mother into selling it. Grace – who knows how much Corrine loves the inn and hopes to co-run it with her – tries to dissuade him, and is pissed about his neglect of his mother to boot. The two immediately begin sparring over the situation, which quickly turns into mutual lust. With Corrine approaching retirement and remarriage, will the magic of the inn work itself on Grace and Riley or will Corrine sell to an obnoxious out-of-towner?
There’s one big problem with this novel, and that’s Riley. There’s a good word for that man, and that word is ‘jackass’. What can you say about someone who’s so self-absorbed that he never manages to call his convalescing mother during her long illness? Sure, he was just severely wounded in combat, but months pass between his injury and discharge. Who avoids visiting one’s mother because he doesn’t want to take over the family business? Seriously, dude – wait til your mom dies and sell the stupid inn if you hate it so much. When he ultimately reveals his real reason for so disliking the inn he ends up seeming even more selfish. And Corrine is willing to SELL THE PLACE JUST TO MAKE HIM HAPPY. Thankfully, she grows a backbone before the story ends.
I enjoyed Grace as a heroine; she’s the right mixture of vulnerable, talented, and intelligent. Unfortunately she was stuck with Riley. I liked everything else in the novel but the hero was a real downer.
Yet The Snowflake Inn is the better of the two novellas; I suggest buying that one if you can stomach Riley’s behavior.
Grade: C+ Sensuality: Subtle