The Trouble with Mistletoe
The Trouble With Mistletoe is the second instalment in Shalvis’ Heartbreaker Bay series set in a San Francisco apartment/business complex. This tale is about Willa, the owner of the pet store, and Keane, a local property developer who needs Willa’s help with a demon cat. What Keane doesn’t know is that he and Willa actually crossed paths before, or rather he doesn’t remember. This is a second chance romance of sorts, as both Keane and Willa learn that while your past may be definite, it is not defining.
When Willa Davis was in high school, life was not easy for her. It look a lot of courage to ask her crush to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, so imagine her surprise and delight when he agreed! And imagine her despair when the night of the dance rolled around and he never came to pick her up. Being stood up for a dance is not an experience anyone forgets, and so Willa has always harbored a little bit of hatred for Keane Winters in her heart.
So when he shows up at the door of her pet store some years later, looking all grown up and holding a pink bedazzled cat carrier, Willa is not quite sure what to do. When she opens the door, offers help, and realizes he doesn’t remember her, any optimism she had for the encounter goes straight down the drain.
Keane feels an immediate attraction to the pet shop owner, but cannot, for the life of him, figure out why she keeps scowling at him. Despite the scowl, he finds himself intensely drawn to this woman, but he doesn’t initially think he has any time to pursue the connection. His life is insane enough without having to manage this inconvenient attraction. Renovating several houses, as well as caring for an elderly aunt in a family dynamic which is less than hospitable has taken up all of Keane’s emotional bandwidth. He just needs Willa to deal with his aunt’s demon cat and all will be fine. If she could stop clearly hating him in the process, it would be a bonus, but Keane isn’t really in a position to be picky.
Keane thinks he only needs her help for a day, but as the need for cat care continues, he finds himself more and more drawn to Willa and her network of friends. Keane’s always been a bit of a loner and the possibility of joining a tribe of sorts becomes attractive. He slowly begins to become involved and before either one of them realizes it, they’re connected for more than just the great sex they end up having, and they’re rocketing towards permanency before some complications threaten to derail them.
In a lot of romances, there’s one character who is pretty okay and one character who is an emotional mess. The bulk of the character growth is done by one, while the other only makes incremental growth that helps the relationship work. In this story, this means that we spend a lot more time on Keane’s emotional journey than we do Willa’s. And this didn’t work for me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I didn’t feel any resolution to Keane’s emotional journey outside of the fact that he is now with Willa; and second I didn’t feel like Willa was given due attention. A lot of her backstory is mentioned or referenced, but it’s not unpacked. Keane’s is given tons of attention, especially when it comes to his family, but the only part that is dealt with is the part that’s enough to convince him to be with Willa, nothing deeper. That’s all well and good, but we meet key people from his past and I would have liked a little more about how reconciling with them or understanding them was going to help Keane as his own person, not just Keane as Willa’s boyfriend. Thus, the whole book left me feeling a little unsatisfied, mostly because I never really understood why Keane and Willa were together and Willa often seemed like a bag of quirks instead of a human being. Keane’s employees popped up too much to be casual, but were never described enough to make me feel as if I knew them. It all felt a little undercooked.
With that said, there’s a lot to love about this book, I promise. The chemistry between the Willa and Keane is great, plus we have the added bonus of spending more time with this circle of friends. I really loved the first in this series, Sweet Little Lies, and was looking forward to Willa’s story. While it let me down just a little bit, I still enjoyed it and plan on keeping up with the series.