Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"The Mistletoe Inn" by Richard Paul Evans

As part of my fun endeavor to read most of the books that have been made into this season's Hallmark Christmas movies, I picked up the audiobook version of The Mistletoe Inn.

The movie premiered on Hallmark tonight (I'm writing this from a hotel room on Thanksgiving, though I probably won't get it posted until after I get home Monday), so I thought it was perfect timing, as I listened to the whole audiobook during my 7-hour drive to Denver yesterday ... but then my hotel, which is fantastic in every other way, doesn't get the Hallmark Channel. Seriously???

The second holiday love story in New York Times bestselling author Richard Paul Evans' Mistletoe Collection.

At thirty-two Kimberly Rossi, a finance officer at a Lexus car dealership, has had her heart broken more times than she wants to remember. With two failed engagements, a divorce and again alone with no prospects, she hardly seems the type to dream of being a published romance author. Dreading another holiday alone, she signs up for The Mistletoe Retreat, a nine-day writing retreat in Savannah, Georgia. Deep inside Kimberly knows she's at a junction in her life and it's time to either fulfill her dream or let it go. The other reason she decides to attend the conference is because famed romance writer, H.T. Cowell, once the best selling romance writer in America, and the author whose books instilled in her the desire to be a writer, will be speaking in public for the first time in more than a decade.

In one of her breakout sessions Kimberly meets another aspiring writer, and one of the few men at the conference, Zeke, an intelligent man with a wry wit who seems as interested in Kimberly as he is in the retreat. As Kimberly begins to open up to him about her stories and dreams, she inadvertently reveals her own troubled past. As Zeke helps her to discover why her books fail to live up to their potential, she begins to wonder if he's really talking more about her life than her literature. But as she grows closer to him, she realizes that Zeke has his own darkness, a past he's unwilling to talk about.

The theme of The Mistletoe Inn is that like literature, relationships must be lived with passion and vulnerability to succeed.

First of all, I have to say that listening to The Mistletoe Inn was a wonderful way to pass a long, boring drive across Nebraska. The book is read by Madeline Mady, and she was simply fantastic. She really brought out the humor in Evans' writing—I'm not sure I would've found the novel to be nearly as funny had I not heard her read it.

The Mistletoe Inn is the first of Richard Paul Evans' books that I've read, but I've seen several movies based on his books (The Christmas Box, The Locket, The Mistletoe Promise, A Perfect Day), so I knew that, at least in theory, I liked his writing. I finished The Mistletoe Inn really liking some aspects of the story while having a few reservations about others.

I found myself surprised that Kim and Zeke didn't even meet until nearly halfway through the book. Evans takes the time to really flesh out Kim's backstory, which allows readers to feel like they really know her. Her relationship with her dad is sweet, and, while I kept thinking when is she ever going to go to the inn?, I did enjoy the time spent at her job in Denver and with her dad in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving.

(Side note: I listened to this while driving to Denver. The Denver in the book is probably much more "typical Denver" in November/December—cold, snowy, indoor weather. However, it just seemed so unrealistic to me as we drove and the temperature kept increasing. It was 70 degrees today! And no, I'm not complaining 😉.)

While at the Mistletoe Inn, Kim meets a variety of characters, some of whom received a bit more attention than I thought necessary, like the creepy writer who always introduced himself as John Grisham and invited every female he encountered up to his hotel room. But there are also gems like Samantha, the first person Kim meets at the conference who ends up becoming a dear friend. Most of the humor in the book comes from Samantha, who is very sweet but perhaps isn't the brightest bulb.

And then there's Zeke. Though there's presumably some mystery surrounding Zeke, it's almost immediately obvious who he is. So then I spent the whole time wondering when Kim would figure it out ... and scratching my head when she didn't.

That said, Zeke's story is incredibly interesting, and I loved learning about him. It did feel like the romance progressed really quickly—like Hallmark movie quickly—and the writing surrounding the romance was ... odd. There wasn't much description of feelings—just "he kissed me," "we kissed the whole way to New York," etc. It's just different from what I'm used to reading in romance. (Believe me, I'm not saying I need lots of description of the physical things happening, but something more than "we kissed" would've been nice. There's just no emotion there.)

Overall, I did enjoy The Mistletoe Inn, and I loved that the book that Kim is writing is The Mistletoe Promise (another of Evans' books that was made into a Hallmark movie last year)—it's a meta touch that I really appreciated. I don't know that I'll seek out any of Evans' other books to read, but I would gladly listen to another on audiobook the next time I'm going on a long trip! 3-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.

When Richard Paul Evans wrote the #1 best-seller, The Christmas Box, he never intended on becoming an internationally known author. His quiet story of parental love and the true meaning of Christmas made history when it became simultaneously the #1 hardcover and paperback book in the nation. Since then, more than eight million copies of The Christmas Box have been printed. He has since written eleven consecutive New York Times bestsellers. He is one the few authors in history to have hit both the fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists. He has won several awards for his books including the 1998 American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards, and the 2005 Romantic Times Best Women Novel of the Year Award. His books have been translated into more than 22 languages and several have been international best sellers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed this book from my local library and chose to review it. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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