Under the Mistletoe
Ms. Shalvis’s very brief novella Under the Mistletoe gives fans of her Lucky Harbor series Mia’s story. Mia, the birth daughter of Ford and Tara (the leads in The Sweetest Thing), is now twenty-two, living in New York and in love with a guy named Nick. (This may be a letdown for all those who hoped she and her first love Carlos would end up together.)
A few days before Christmas, Mia surprises Nick by buying him a ticket to her aunt Chloe’s wedding in Lucky Harbor (in the state of Washington) and he surprises her by saying he won’t go. The two have their first real fight and, first thing the next morning, Mia flies home to Lucky Harbor, broken-hearted and needing the love of her family. Nick, the next day, realizes he’s made a hash of things and hops a plane as well. He arrives in Lucky Harbor a day after Mia, determined to make her give him another chance.
I’ve enjoyed the Lucky Harbor books, some more than others. I didn’t enjoy this novella. It’s too short to do justice to its protagonists and it’s jammed packed with too many references to the other lovers in the series. Under the Mistletoe feels like an inside story — one has the sense Ms. Shalvis dashed it off as a gift to those who can’t get enough of the Lucky Harbor crowd.
Mia and Nick were both given up as babies and each has adapted to that context differently. Mia has a thing about being picked — she feels as though she’s always the picker rather than the pickee. This doesn’t ring true given she was adopted by a lovely couple who did indeed pick her. She has also been completely embraced by her birth parents, their families, and the town of Lucky Harbor. Nonetheless, when Nick doesn’t pick her — though they’ve only been dating six months — she’s devastated.
Nick was never adopted and bounced from home to home. He’s a loner and unaccustomed to thinking of himself as attached to anyone. However, the minute he realizes Mia’s skipped town, he’s all about true love and the fact she’s his.
I couldn’t make much sense of either of them. Adult Mia seems much less confident and centered than the seventeen year old Mia readers first met in The Sweetest Thing. Nick hasn’t any back-story so his instant transformation from lone wolf to the guy who wants forever lacked resonance. Ms. Shalvis writes the two are perfect for one another and deeply in love, but the novella is so short, there isn’t enough text to support their love story.
I was also baffled by the odd interactions between Carlos, Mia’s first love (he still lives in Lucky Harbor), Nick, and Mia. Apparently, a few months before this story, Carlos came to New York and proposed to Mia. This action isn’t given any context. When Mia and Nick arrive in Lucky Harbor, not only does Carlos now have his own true love, he’s all big brother-y with Mia. The lack of any information about Mia’s and Carlos’s relationship over the past five years makes it hard to understand Carlos’s behavior and choices.
Under the Mistletoe is simply too short for the story it tells. It left me unsatisfied. Nick and Mia are interesting characters, complex enough that their story can’t be told in a few short chapters, especially chapters so full of vignettes about other characters in the series. I can’t imagine anyone other than the most die-hard Lucky Harbor fan finding this novella a rewarding read.