Book Review: Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman
This is being billed as a Falling In Love One Christmas story, but don’t be fooled. It’s actually a story which begins at Christmas with two people who are in no way ready for a relationship agreeing to Fake Date to help take the pressure off from their families. Over the course of a full year, they slowly get closer and it’s at the SECOND Christmas together the romance really comes to fruition.
There’s a lot to like about this story; the author doesn’t shy away from some difficult topics, including (trigger warnings apply) past partner violence and the emotional aftermath of a miscarriage and marriage breakdown. Both protagonists have loving families they don’t want to disappoint, but neither of them are in the right headspace for a relationship, as well as both being in business situations that demand all their time and energy.
However; Leesa, in my opinion, was a lot more justified in her caution than Cary, who frankly came across as a selfish swine a lot of the time. The heroine even THINKS this, when he pulls a petulant sulk and won’t respond to calls and messages for days after he can’t get through her assistant to talk to her ONE TIME. She even has to go rescue him from his own idiocy when his family call her in concern. Leesa’s way too nice to put up with a petulant manbaby, and I really wanted to tell her that there are plenty more fish in the sea, some of whom might even listen and think about other people’s feelings sometimes instead of their own.
There’s a good basic premise here but it was really thrown off by Cary being such a selfish swine, and the book is just way, way too long. There are a lot of scenes included that don’t advance the plot in any way, they’re just filler, and there’s line editing needed as well. Classic example is in conversation when characters keep using each others’ names in dialogue when talking to each other; real people don’t do that. You might use someone’s name once, to get their attention, but not in ways such as “I understand why you think that’s a good idea, Cary.” and a couple sentences later “Cary, I’ve seen the reaction you get from women…” If there are two people in a room, they KNOW who they’re talking to. Putting names in like this makes the dialogue sound weirdly stilted - as does the lack of contractions the author is also prone to, which makes every conversation seem incredibly formal.
I wanted this to be a charming, feel-good Christmas-themed rom-com, and it unfortunately misses on almost every count (there’s a reasonable amount of Christmas cheer). It needs a thorough content and line edit and Cary needs a character revision to make him worthy of being a romance hero instead of a jerk; he starts off a jerk at the start of the book and never really gets over himself. Literally until about the 25% mark I was still waiting for the REAL hero to turn up.
Two stars for an unfortunately disappointing read.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book via the publisher’s representative.