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REVIEW: The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

Dear Ms. Willig,

I admit I haven’t read the latest in the “Pink Carnation” series “Blood Lily” so when Jane sent me the arc for “The Mischief of the Mistletoe” I inwardly cringed. Oh dear, I thought, there’s no way I can get “Lily” read in time so I’ll just have to plunge in and hope there are no spoilers. To my relief, “Mischief” takes place before “Lily” does and features a hero I’ve wanted to see find his true love: Turnip Fitzhugh.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren WilligMiss Arabella Dempsey has almost managed to convince herself that becoming a junior instructress at Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies is a good thing. Since her hopes of being adopted as her wealthy aunt’s heiress have been dashed by that lady’s precipitous marriage to a much younger man, a man for whom Arabella entertained hopes of her own, she’s returned home to her ailing former vicar father’s household to join her three younger sisters. With little money and the family bursting at the household seams, leaving home and earning some money will help everyone.

She doesn’t expect to meet Mr. Reginald Fitzhugh – known to the ton and his friends as “Turnip” – while he’s delivering a Christmas hamper to his younger sister – and student at the school – Sally. He doesn’t remember her name but then she made a career of being a wallflower while in London with her aunt.

What brings them together is the mysterious note – in French – found wrapped around a Christmas pudding. Turnip might not actually be in the league of the Pink Carnation but he’s had enough exposure to it and to French spies that even he thinks something is fishy in the state of Denmark. Will Arabella and Turnip uncover the truth behind the pudding – and the missing list of government agents – before they discover love during the Ducal celebrations at Dovedale – or after?

There’s something deeply satisfying to me about the overlooked finding their perfect mate – in this case the wallflower who decides to stop being so agreeable, since it got her nowhere, and the genial class clown who will never be mistaken for the brains of the operation. Honestly it’s such a relief to have a hero like Turnip. He is what he is and as Arabella fondly thinks, she’ll always know what’s on his mind because she – and everybody else – can read him so well.

Turnip isn’t a rake, a rogue or a fop – though he is something of a dandy with his carnation embroidered waistcoats and excessive cravats. Instead he’s a gentleman to the core who might take a bit longer to catch on to things but once it’s gotten into his noggin, it doesn’t come out. Arabella is the one who notices the kind things he does for people, the happy soul he is and she treasures him for it. He’s so earnest and wants to do right, including being Arabella’s knight in shining armor. Gotta love a hero like that.

Meanwhile, Turnip sees the real Arabella. The one who’s enjoying being out on her own and being of worth. The one who has such a zest for dancing and who doesn’t lose her head when spies enter her world. He’s the one who is amazed that no man up til now – and that includes him – has seen her light and fallen in love with her. But he certainly knows how to make up for lost time with the grand gesture in front of everyone who overlooked her and a keen aim with a Christmas pudding.

The spy stuff is woven through the love story and all comes together in the end. The clues are there should readers want to figure out who-plans-to-do-it but the bulk of the book is devoted to Turnip and Arabella finding each other with the solving of the traitor bit as a backdrop. I also liked the break from the modern element of the Pink Carnation series though there is anachronistic modern sounding dialogue. But I was having such fun reading the book that I really don’t care about that. Oh and I’m glad to hear that you have future plans for Sally and her band of intrepid fellow students. They are a force of nature.

Righto, now that I’ve finished this one, I need to get cracking with “Blood Lily.” Perhaps the release for “Mistletoe” is a bit early for Christmas, but one can never get started on one’s Christmas events too soon I say. B+

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

19 Comments

  1. Bella F.
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 06:06:13

    dude, the cover alone made me want this book,lol
    i love how festive and pretty it is; yay holiday shopping time :)

  2. Jayne
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 06:10:39

    @Bella F.: Willig must know where the bodies are buried because she always gets decent if not great covers. I totally agree about this one.

  3. ka
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 06:21:32

    Lovely review! Indeed, it a beautiful cover (Jayne’s comment cracked me up).

    And it’s never to early for Christmas books … Halloween costumes have been sent to the sale aisle as the holiday decorations are being unpacked in the Honolulu Walmart.

  4. Jayne
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 06:35:31

    @ka: I’m surprised that retailers don’t just leave the Christmas stuff up all year now. Imagine Rudolph hawking suntan lotion or Santa selling 4th of July fireworks. Sigh…

  5. Carolyn
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 07:51:55

    I’ve never read any of Lauren Willig’s books, but I was all set to buy this one after your review. Until I saw the price, that is. Plus Penquin is the publisher, and they add sales tax. Somehow they’ve acquired ‘a presence’ in Alabama!!

    I suppose I’ll wait until I can get a used one from the Amazon marketplace – if I haven’t forgotten all about it by then. I just can’t see spending that much on a new-to-me author for an ebook.

  6. Jayne
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 08:06:35

    @Carolyn: Holy Crap. That sticker price does just step right up and slap you in the face, doesn’t it? In your situation, I’d hesitate too.

  7. Pat
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 10:38:51

    Hardcover price = public library

  8. Estara
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 14:07:54

    Awww, that sounds like a lovely homage to Georgette Heyer’s Freddy. Worth looking into.

  9. MB
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 16:54:42

    Estara said exactly what I was thinking.

  10. Laura Florand
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 19:14:30

    Yay, Turnip gets his own story! I’ve been waiting for that. Although I was so sure he was going to turn out to be a Scarlet Pimpernel kind of “clown”; I love the Scarlet Pimpernel, but the fact that he is what he is instead sounds refreshingly different, too.

  11. silvia
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 00:01:53

    ha, I was thinking of Heyer’s Freddy too! And since he’s one of my favorite heroes this review really intrigued me. Do I need to have read any previous books in the series? Or could I just read this one?

  12. cate
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 03:36:56

    I’ve loved all of Lauren Willigs Carnation books – Crimson Rose being my personal favourite – & also the one that I find closest to Heyer.
    I’m delighted to see a positive review for my beloved Turnip ! He’s just one of those characters that you love. He’s a Chap ! – I always think of Top Gears’ James May(Captain Slow),when I think of Turnip, with -Occasionally – The voice of Leslie Phillips . Oh well, I’ll have to twitch for another few weeks for this as Amazon.UK seem to be on a go-slow at the moment !

  13. Jayne
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 03:48:24

    @Laura Florand: Well, Turnip and Arabella do most of the sleuthing and it’s Turnip’s insistance that something’s wrong which gets official Pink Carnation people to pay attention. But he and Arabella do save the day in the end. Though, no, he doesn’t turn into a full fledged agent who’s hidden his razor keenness under his dandy disguise.

  14. Jayne
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 03:52:15

    @silvia: I’ve only read 3 of the previous books and – being honest here – didn’t know who some of the secondary returning characters were and I did fine with it. Willig gives little thumbnail reminders of these people and – in the case of a few – how other characters view them which helps. But don’t worry, those characters don’t elbow in and take over this story.

  15. Jayne
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 03:53:19

    @cate: Yeah! Another Crimson Rose fan. Love that book!

  16. Holly
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 10:27:13

    Just finished this book and loved it! I hope you get around to reviewing Blood Lily soon. While it’s not one of my top favorites it is better than Night Jasmine, which almost put me off the series. I’m now looking forward to Orchid.

  17. Jayne
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 18:27:49

    @Holly: Thanks for the word on Blood Lily. I will admit that I haven’t read it yet just because Jasmine didn’t really thrill me.

  18. The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas, by Lauren Willig – A Review « Austenprose
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 03:39:35

    […] Dear Author […]

  19. If You Like Holiday Stories…Recommended by the Dear Author crew
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 04:54:13

    […] The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig – Overlooked heroine and genial but “not the brightest bear in the woods” hero find their HEA during the holiday season while Spying for England.  Reviewed here. […]

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