Must Love Mistletoe
Grade : B+

Christie Ridgway has many good AAR grades to her name. She scores again with Must Love Mistletoe, a wonderfully amusing and poignant story of two reunited lovers.

Bailey Sullivan (named after George Bailey in the holiday movie It’s a Wonderful Life) doesn’t like Christmas, despite her name, and hasn’t celebrated it for the last ten years. Her parents own and operate a store dedicated to Christmas and growing up with the behind-the-scenes merchandising of the holiday killed her enthusiasm for it. This year, however, she won’t be able to ignore it. Her mother and stepfather, who separated three months ago, haven’t stepped one foot into the store because they don’t want to chance seeing the other. That’s bad news since it is December, the store’s busiest and most profitable month. The longtime employees make a desperate call to Bailey, who grudgingly agrees to take time from her job to go run the store.

While staying at her parents’ house, she sees an SUV parked at the house next door and dreads that it may mean that Finn Jacobson, her teenage sweetheart, is visiting his grandmother. It turns out she’s right. Although he’s older, she recognizes him, and Finn shows that he recognizes her by mentioning that she left him ten years ago without even saying goodbye.

What follows is a wonderful reunion romance between two people who loved each other very much when they were teenagers and who never got over that love even after one seemed to have cruelly abandoned the other. Bailey and Finn are appealing characters and Finn in particular is quite appealing - totally sexy, totally manly, and vulnerable enough to make any woman sigh deeply. Their love scenes show the love deepening between them and are hot and yummy, too. There’s also a great secondary romance between Bailey’s separated mother and stepfather, and the older couple has a hot love scene, too!

Both Bailey and Finn have to deal with emotional baggage before they find their HEA with each other. Bailey abandoned Finn even though it was the hardest thing she had ever done because she feared he would leave her like her father left her mother. She has a good job managing a law firm, but is lonely in her personal life, keeping her relationships at bay and never letting any man get close enough to hurt her. When she meets Finn again, it doesn’t take long before she has feelings for him, but she’s just not sure about the lasting power of love.

Finn was the classic teenage delinquent who was thisclose to some serious trouble with the law. Only love for his grandmother and then for Bailey kept him from going over the edge. Bailey’s inexplicable abandonment hurt and angered Finn tremendously, and he has never forgotten the pain. He went on to live an exemplary life until a tragic event about a year ago ripped it up. Seeing Bailey only worsens his wounds, yet he cannot deny how much he once loved her and is distressed to find himself falling in love with her all over again.

An amusing little subplot about a mystery person who sends Finn outrageous gifts of Christmas décor disappointed me because it fizzles out, but my main quibble has to do with, interestingly enough, the secondary romance. Bailey’s stepfather walks out on his marriage one day, an action that seemed too abrupt and too drastic for a man who has been [mostly] happily married for twenty years. It also seemed too hurtful to his wife when he knew that her first husband had also walked out on her. However, Ridgway more than makes up for it in a later terrifically empowering scene.

Even though the holidays are over, I recommend picking up Must Love Mistletoe. It’s a terrific romance, with or without the holiday theme.

Reviewed by Jeanne W
Grade : B+

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : January 3, 2007

Publication Date: 2006

Review Tags: Holiday romance

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