The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
Dutton, October 28, 2010 (Historical Mystery, Historical Romance)
The Mischief of the Mistletoe is book seven in Willig’s Pink Carnation series, and it just so happens to be my absolute favourite holiday read.
Arabella Dempsey is a young woman that has decided to take the post of teacher at a young ladies’ academy. She can no longer stay with her aunt and is needed to support her family. On her first day as an instructress she is forcefully reacquainted with Mr. Fitzhugh – also known as “Turnip.” I think you have to know right then that when your romantic lead’s name is “Turnip,” you’re going to have a pretty zany and fun read – and Mischief in the Mistletoe doesn’t disappoint in that arena.
Turnip is visiting his younger sister at the very girls’ school that Arabella will be teaching when he accidentally knocks Arabella to the ground. He’s not good with names, so he has no recollection of Arabella, but when a Christmas pudding carries a nefarious message, at least according to Turnip’s sister, Turnip decides that Arabella is just the person to assist in the mystery and keep his sister out of trouble.
While Turnip and Arabella join forces to prove Sally and her friends that there are no spies operating out of the ladies’ academy, it seems that they will be the one’s to be proven wrong. In fact there seems to be something “not quite the thing” at the ladies’ seminary, and it’s up to Turnip to save the day and convince Arabella that spies are indeed at work. He would also be happy if he vanquished the foe and wins the girl.
For me, the real highlight of this holiday read is Turnip. He’s just such an endearing character. He’s not your typical hero, he’s not particularly smart, he’s more brawn than brains, but his heart’s in the right place. The lengths he will go to protect Arabella are rather exuberant, but Arabella needs a little of this in her cautious life. And Turnip needs a little bit of Arabella’s steadiness in his. These two ultimately balance the other out and I found that to be most appealing in this short novel. You wouldn’t think Turnip, who readers have met in previous books in the series, could carry his own book, but I really was surprised at how much I liked this story. Like Arabella, you can’t help by love Turnip’s personality, it would be like kicking a puppy.
As for Arabella, she was a much quieter character. She’s had a harder time of things than Turnip. Her aunt married the man that Arabella thought to marry herself and she’s had to return home because of that. When she finds herself in cahoots with the handsome Turnip, she certainly expects nothing to come of it and worries that it may even tarnish her reputation at the girls’ school. Luckily for Arabella, these Christmas pudding carrying spies make it impossible for Arabella to make a clean break from Turnip.
While this is my favourite holiday read, I should mention that the Christmas theme is not overpowering in this book. The Christmas stuff that does happen is more historical in context, meaning that there are sleigh rides, yule logs, mistletoe and what sounds like an absolutely disgusting food: Christmas pudding. I loved these little details and I like the fact that Mischief in the Mistletoe was not overtly Christmas-ey – that way I can enjoy it all year round.
All in all, if you’re looking for a lighthearted holiday read, I highly recommend this book. It was funny, the mystery was light and the romance was very tame, and there were, of course, spies!. It’s the perfect read to read by the Christmas tree with your hot drink.
And finally, as a quick aside, Willig has also written a short sequel to Mischief in the Mistletoe, called, Away in a Manger. It’s free from the author’s website. And lastly, it seems that the next installment in the Pink Carnation series is to feature Turnip’s sister, Sally. Personally, I can’t wait to read that book, Sally is hilarious and I’m sure that she get herself into lot’s of trouble and I can only hope that her brother and Arabella will make a cameo appearance.
Happy Holiday Reading!!