Abby reviewed this book for the RITA® Reader Challenge, and she had nearly the same reaction as Emily.
Plot Summary: Arabella Dempsey’s dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls’ school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies…
Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh-often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation- has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, “Meet me at Farley Castle,” the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens’modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate twelve-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? Is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella’s and Turnip’s hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?
And now, Abby’s review:
So, I read The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig. I am really glad I signed up, because basically I’ve spent the last two and a half weeks reading the entire series, even though it turns out that wasn’t really necessary to follow that particular book. It has not been conducive to finishing my coursework. Anyway, on to the review!
I really, really, really enjoyed this book, and it definitely deserves all three of those reallys, but I struggled to grade it on account of its One Major Flaw, which merits a confession on my part, and an explanation of what I love about romance novels. I love characters who get unexpected chances at romance, and Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh’s Senior Superlative would definitely be “Least Likely To Play a Romantic Lead.” He’s not dark, moody, or even clever, but he is refreshingly open and honest. Although I sometimes grew impatient with the heroine, Arabella Dempsey, Turnip kept me coming back for more. One of my other favorite qualities in a romance novel is an absurd and ridiculous plot, and this is where Willig truly delivers. Spies! Secret messages in Christmas puddings! A girls’ school! A nativity play to rival The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! The most bumbling hero ever! (Seriously, only the ubiquitous Francis Henning could be more unexpected).
So… about that One Major Flaw? Fellow bitches, I confess, I read romance novels for the sex. I love that moment when my beloved protagonists finally get to consummate their feelings, and in this novel, I was absolutely dying for it. I wanted it to be awkward and sweet and real, and then it just… wasn’t. So that’s it. That’s why it gets a B+ from me instead of an A. Judge me all you want, but I think the Turnip Fitzhughs of the world deserve their moment in the sexytimes sun just as much as those brooding mysterious types!