Mistletoe Inn: ‘Sparkly warm and Christmasy’

The issue you wrestle with is a thorny one.

It’s been literally hanging over your head for days: does mistletoe require you to kiss someone, or is nose-rubbing permissible? Will a firm handshake be sufficient, or does protocol demand something more lipstick-laden? And, as in the new novel “The Mistletoe Inn” by Richard Paul Evans, can the rules be re-written?

Ever since she was 11 years old, Kimberly Rossi hated Christmas. She hated it all: snow, the lights, the carols. They only reminded her of Christmas Day, 1995, the day her mother committed suicide.

Despite being abandoned (which is just how she perceived her mother’s death), Kimberly had a good childhood. Her father made sure of it; he was her biggest fan and her best friend. He supported her when her first fiancé left her for another woman, and when her second fiancé broke up with her via text, en route to an out-of-state job. Even after she’d left her childhood home in Las Vegas and moved to Denver, her father helped her, long-distance, to get through a messy, scandalous divorce.

He was also the one who knew her deepest dream of becoming a romance writer, which is why he gave Kimberly the gift of a lifetime: an all-expenses-paid trip to Vermont, and a writer’s conference. She hadn’t wanted to attend; her father had just given her some bad news and the conference was scheduled right before the dreaded Christmas week but she didn’t want to disappoint him. Besides, H.T. Caldwell, her favorite author ever, was scheduled to speak.

And so, with manuscript in hand, Kimberly checked into The Mistletoe Inn, a postcard-perfect hotel. There were workshops to attend, although they were generally of no help.

There were friends to be made, although most of the potential author-attendees were awfully cliquish. There were critiques to collect, although Kimberly learned the hard way that criticism was like a knife to her heart when her “writing buddy,” Zeke, a handsome fellow attendee, promised to give her manuscript a truthful assessment.

Too truthful was more like it, and Kimberly was hurt. Her novel-in-the-making deserved better judgment.

And, as it turned out, so did Zeke…

I was quite amused at “The Mistletoe Inn,” but not for the reasons you’d think.

There’s a nice, very sweet but juicy romance inside the covers of this book; in that respect, author Richard Paul Evans, who’s known for such things, keeps his fans very happy. This story of girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-gets-boy-anyhow with a twist of “dirt,” as Evans says, might even jerk a few tears. It’s sparkly-warm and “Christmasy,” just as you like.

What I found so fascinating, though, was Evans’ behind-the-scenes asides about the publishing industry! Romance fans who dream of writing within the genre, in fact, may miss parts of the story because those little extras are so absorbing.

And that’s OK. You won’t mind a second plunge into this book because it’s perfect escapism fun. And if that’s what you want, then “The Mistletoe Inn” will give you a very Merry Kiss-mas.

At a glance

Title: “The Mistletoe Inn”

Author: Richard Paul Evans

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: 301 pages

Cost: $19.99/$25.99 Canada