THE MISTLETOE KISS by Janet Lee Barton. Harlequin Books (http://www.harlequin.com), 2015, 277 pp., $5.99. ISBN 13:978-0-373-28337-8.
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Romance books based on bodice ripping, bare-chested men and their damsels in distress have never been my cup of tea. But there are some bright spots in the Harlequin line. For example, RayAnne Thayne’ s books get a definite thumbs up.
On a recent trip to my Hershey library I came across a not-so-new copy of Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical book, THE MISTLETOE KISS. It’s apparently part of their Boardinghouse Betrothals line of books. Published in 2015, the book is not only a good, solid story but has that winning combination of a compelling storyline, an historical setting and Christmas holiday. What could be better? Only cocoa and cookies.
THE MISTLETOE KISS centers on Heaton House, an 1897 New York City boardinghouse for single young men and ladies. While the story features several boardinghouse characters, the two central ones are Millicent Faircloud, an aspiring and ambitious photographer, and Matt Sterling, a construction foreman.
There’s a genteel environment at Heaton House that seems all too nonexistent today. The boarders are all friends, so much so that when they marry and move on, they become extended family. Even Heaton House’s proprietor, Mrs. Heaton, is like a mother to them all. The overall warmth and friendship, coupled with mouth-watering descriptions of Mrs. Heaton’s daily meals, and it would not take much for me to pack my bags and move in. Does anything like it exist today? I doubt it.
The storyline revolves around Millicent and Matt. The two have a bit of a love-hate relationship at the beginning. Millicent believes Matt will never understand her ambitions. And Matt was hurt once by a now-gone fiancée and is in no rush to go there again. It’s a romantic tug of war of sorts: will he, won’t he, will she or won’t she? I won’t spoil the ending.
We tend to glamorize the “good old days.” The truth is, there were many things that were not as good as we have it today. Still, if the best we can do is escape to a happy place like Heaton House, if only for a few hours, why not?
Author Janet Lee Barton has done a great job creating a warm, respectful and compelling romance storyline. Apparently this is not the first “Matt and Millicent” book, and I look forward to going backward to discover the beginning of their acquaintance. I continue to pine for this type of Christmas story on the TV or big screen. Somebody is not paying attention. Just look at the incredible success of PBS and “Downton Abbey,” “Victoria” and “Poldark”: A market just waiting to be served.
THE MISTLETOE KISS is an enchanting read!