Prepare the squee mop y’all: this review is going to be soaked. Also I just realized how pervvy that sounds and I don’t care.
First of all, it’s no shock that I loved, LOVED The Trouble with Mistletoe. Jill Shalvis is one of those authors that I turn to for comfort reads; her books are always sexy, funny and emotionally satisfying. She writes pure Elyse-nip. That said, The Trouble with Mistletoe might be my favorite book of hers ever. It made me horny and it made me cry. I hope the publisher puts, “It made me horny and it made me cry”–Elyse, Smart Bitches Trashy Books on the back of her next book. In related news, I’m classy as shit.
The book opens with Keane Winters desperate to find someone to help with his aunt’s cat, Petunia aka Pita (Pain in the Ass). Keane barely knows his great aunt Sally, but when she showed up at his place with a cat carrier asking him to watch Petunia while she recovers from an illness, he’s unable to say no. Problem is, Keane doesn’t speak Petunia and Petunia is not happy with the new arrangement. She’s already knocked his laptop and phone on the floor, breaking both, and crapped in his shoes. He needs a cat sitter while he works.
So he stops at South Bark, the boutique pet store owned by Willa Davis. Willa is pretty surprised to see Keane–she asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance in high school and was mortified when he stood her up. Even more embarrassing, Keane doesn’t recognize her. Willa agrees to take Petunia for the kitty’s sake, but she’s pretty irritated at Keane.
The conflict of this book isn’t “Keane stood Willa up in high school” – which is a good thing, as that would be pretty weak. It’s about two people who struggle with trust and commitment coming together.
Willa was a foster kid with little stability in her life. She hires other former foster kids and tries to help them find some consistency of their own. One thing I loved was that Willa goes nuts with Christmas decorations because she never had them as a kid. Her employee, Rory, was also a foster kid and shuns all Christmas trappings for the same reason Willa embraces them. This is a book set around Christmas but it’s not a “Christmas book.” No one resolved their emotional issues because the spirit of Christmas hit them like a bad flu. I don’t mind books set during the holidays but I hate when some nebulous idea of “holiday cheer” fixes all the problems the characters have.
Anyway, Willa is all set up to hate Keane, but finds herself liking him and being attracted to him despite their past. Keane really likes Willa but he can’t figure out why she’s so salty around him. Shenanigans ensue.
The thing I love about Shalvis’s novels is all the great details she infuses into her writing. Willa has a group of girlfriends who are wonderful and supportive. She has male friends who are just friends and don’t get jealous or weird. She has regular customers who feel like real, fully developed characters even though they only appear for a few pages.
Then there’s Petunia. I love kitties. I’m unreasonably attached to Dewey, my snuggly, sex-toy-stealing cat. Shalvis writes really good cat:
The pressure on [Keane’s] chest shifted, getting even heavier now. He opened his eyes and nearly had a stroke instead of a heart attack.
Pita was sitting on his ribcage, her head bent to his, nose to nose, staring at him.
“Meow,” she said in a tone suggesting not only that she was starving, but he was in danger of having his face eaten off if he didn’t get up and feed her.
Remembering Willa’s admonishment that he hadn’t tried to connect with the damn thing, he lifted a hand and patted her on the head.
Pita’s eyes narrowed.
“Right, you’re a cat not a dog.” He stroked a hand down her back instead and she lifted into his touch, eyes half closed in what he hoped was pleasure.
“You like that?” he murmured, thinking middle ground! So he did again, stroked her along her spindley spine for a second time.
A rumble came from Pita’s throat, rough and uneven, like a motor starting up for the first time in a decade.
“Wow,” he said. “Is that an actual purr? Better be careful, you might start to almost like me.”
On this third stroke down her back, she bit him. Hard.
Not only is Keane trying to bond with Petunia for his aunt’s sake, he’s also a reader:
“Mischief managed?” he asked.
She blinked like he’d surprised her. “You know Harry Potter?”
“Well, not personally,” he said and smiled. “But I read the books.”
“You mean you saw the movies?”
“No, I mean I read the books.”
She didn’t look happy about this. Color him completely lost. “And this makes me…?”
She moaned and closed her eyes. “Bad for me. Oh, so bad for me!”
So yeah, the hero reads Harry Potter (he reads a lot in general) and takes in cats in need. I fell completely in love with him.
I did mention that this book made me cry but in a good way, yes?
So I loved the hero, I loved the heroine, and I loved the sassy cat. More than that this book just made me really, really happy. The Trouble with Mistletoe is sweet but never saccharine, sexy, funny, and wonderfully written. It’s about kind people with good friends who love animals. It’s the literary equivalent of taking off your heels at the end of the day.
I’m probably going to reread The Trouble with Mistletoe again and I’m not a re-reader. I’ve already bought it for two friends. If you need a pick me up, do yourself a favor and schedule some time with with this book.