No Mistletoe Required

Jeanette Murray
November 2012, Contemporary Romance
Carina Press, $2.99, 71 pages

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

This is one of those books where my life experiences and expectations juxtaposed against the heroine and hero’s actions to the book’s detriment. But once past the rocky beginning, I found the book enjoyable.

Even though it has been years since she spent time in a hospital as a patient, Anna Smith has never forgotten how magical the holidays were for her. It gave her hope to believe in miracles, and took her mind away from her dreary hospital stay. Now, every year she volunteers during the holiday, working feverishly to create that same enchantment for the current patients. Anna notices Dan right away and since it has been a while since her last sexual relationship, she thinks he will do nicely. Surprisingly, when she makes her move, he is not all that interested.

Dan Beckins doesn’t do Christmas. Traveling to his grandparents’ house one Christmas Day, his family was involved in a motor vehicle accident which killed both his parents. However, his best friend Geoff misleads him and he finds himself doing carpentry work for Santa’s workshop and wonderland at the local children’s hospital. He notices the leader of the sorority group - the one that everyone calls Sergeant, since she’s difficult to miss, but her age is not far from his mind. At thirty-one he can’t see himself with someone that; she just misses being jailbait. After making a fool of himself, he discovers that Anna is twenty-eight.

Once the misunderstandings are taken care of and both realize that their interest is reciprocated, there is no reason not to act on their sexual attraction. Neither plans on it being more than a weekend fling. But Dan can’t resist calling again. And after Anna falls asleep in his arms, she knows that he is too appealing. She is not ready for a serious relationship. She feels like she is a walking health disaster. With her history of leukemia as a teenager, and then the breast cancer scare a year ago, she is not a good bet for anyone. She wants a clean bill of health from her doctors before falling in love.

On a conscious level, the beginning of this book bothered me. One, because I do work in a children’s hospital and two, the heroine and hero’s attitude reminded me of years ago, when it was a sad truism that many members attended a certain Sunday school class just to pick out his/her partner for their rendition of a Sunday filled with "afternoon delight." It is not that I expect people to be dead to sexual attraction but in certain scenarios I am more conscious of the maxim “the right time and right place.” Plus the message of helping others, especially children, is lost in the beginning to the heroine and hero’s mental “oh, I could do her/him" mindset, although later the author makes a good recovery.

The reasons for Dan and Anna’s viewpoints are valid. It is difficult to celebrate a certain day when you are only reminded of your lost loved ones. And who wouldn’t worry about falling in love, and either dying or having the person leave you because of an inability to cope with your illness. Plus the character growth is believable as Anna and Dan realize the gift they have been given.

Given that the book is only 77 pages, the second half of the book isn’t quite long enough to overcome the rocky beginning. Still I am open to reading another book by this author since the pacing is good and the characterization believable.

If my reservations seem old-fashioned, then it is very possible that you will enjoy this book, more than I did.

-- Leigh Davis

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