The Trouble With Mistletoe
I’m a big fan of Katy Perry’s song “Hot and Cold” which contains the line “You don’t really want to stay, no, but you don’t really want to go.” At the start of this novel the heroine is certain of what she wants – to leave her hometown of Brookhollow as fast as possible. But after spending some time with her old high school crush she realizes that the tune her heart is singing sounds a lot like the line above.
Twelve years ago, after years of marriage talk and months of planning the wedding Victoria Mason waltzed away from her nuptials two weeks before the big day. She had a job offer in New York and knew it was a now or never opportunity to see what she could accomplish in life. She’s mostly pleased with how things turned out. She’s a sophisticated city girl with salon nails, fancy clothes and holiday ski trips. Sure she works 24/7 but that “can do” attitude has helped her turn her once in a lifetime opportunity into a truly terrific career. She rarely comes home, preferring to have her parents visit her. In her more honest moments she admits that it is partly due to guilt. The whole town knows she treated fiancé Luke Dawson a bit shabbily and his family is not likely to forget it – or let her forget it. Better for her to just avoid the situation of small town gossip and nosey butinskys altogether.
When her company needs to acquire the town’s sporting goods store and sends Victoria to do the job she knows she has a tough row to hoe. Going home would be hard enough but Luke is now the owner of the store! He’s not going to like having to deal with Victoria about the sale and is likely to drive a hard bargain. Their initial meeting contains small town courtesy and charm but is also showcases Luke’s unwillingness to sell. Victoria schedules a meeting with him for the next day, assuring him she won’t be giving up.
When she drops in on her parents that night she receives a surprise. Luke has been invited to dinner. Everyone reminisces about Victoria’s cute childhood escapades (her plan to save a park in the tree would totally have worked if she and her friends had just chained themselves to the right tree!) and talk about other small town joys. For Victoria, the trip down memory lane comes with some discomfort. The joys of her life in New York look somehow shallow and empty when she compares them to the joy of the life she lived at home. It doesn’t help that the evening ends with a kiss with Luke under the mistletoe, a kiss which unexpectedly rocks her world.
Luke feels more than a little surprised by the kiss as well. He hoped he had put Victoria behind him but now realizes that the punch she packs to his system hasn’t faded a bit. And the hits just keep on coming. After Victoria shows the townspeople what the company is willing to provide them with (new sporting equipment for several of the town’s teams and help with refurbishing the arena) most of the citizens throw out the nostalgia and encourage Luke to sell. It looks like Victoria is about to waltz out of his life once more, taking both his heart and his store with her. Last time he had barely put up a fight. Will anything change if he puts up a battle this time?
This story is the quintessential hometown Christmas tale. Luke and Victoria cavort all over town, all under the guise of doing business while secretly longing to renew their courtship. There are snow storms that conveniently strand them together in romantic spots and moments with friends playing pool or enjoying drinks which showcase just how sweet life in Brookhollow can be. The sweetness even extends to the pain of the past – it’s agreed they were too young and Victoria made the right choice. Recriminations are saved till the end where the question of trust between the two is the final obstacle they face before reaching their HEA.
The nicest fact about this book is that it is that rarest of all things, a straightforward contemporary romance. No villains. No shape shifting, time travel or super heroes. Luke and Victoria are two typical American thirty somethings, concerned with careers and busy determining just what role love, commitment and children should play in their futures. While Victoria is a bit flaky, unsure of what she wants and seeing fairly typical moments as epiphanies, Luke is a nice, solid, handsome guy. He’s the real life hero we all hope to wind up with. Their HEA was completely predictable but that didn’t detract from the sweetness of it.
Speaking of sweetness, I need to mention that while the cover of this book emphasizes that the story is “wholesome” this does not mean it is an Inspirational love story. There is no faith of any kind mentioned in the tale and some of the behaviors depicted in the book would be a surprise to the more conservative Inspy crowd. What I believe the publishers are trying to emphasize with the use of the phrase “wholesome” is the fact that the story is saccharine sweet and sex is alluded to but the bedroom door stays firmly shut. In fact, we never even get to the hallway that leads to that bedroom.
If you are one of those people who can’t get enough of sugary Christmas romance or small town tales I think you will find this a nice read for the season. There is nothing new here to convert a cynic but for those who still feel the charm of those stories there is plenty here to enjoy.