In a competition of which place I most wanted to live in a contemporary romance series, Lucky Harbor would undoubtedly make the top three. Remember, this was the series I read backwards, first reading books four through six then reading books one through three. Truth be told, I like the most recent three books the best, but I love Shalvis‘ writing and the town of Lucky Harbor, like the series, cannot be beat.
If there was a contemporary romance author who was secretly a Christmas elf, Jill Shalvis would probably also have that spot. I can’t count the number of holiday anthologies she has warm and fuzzy novellas in (some of which involve sexy chemists and their high school crushes) and even her Lucky Harbor series has had a few holiday tie-ins (see below). I’m thrilled her Christmas spirit overflows to the point where she has to publish new stories for her readers, so you won’t catch me complaining!
The subject of this novella is Mia, the wonderful, forthright, brainy but vulnerable seventeen-year-old we meet in The Sweetest Thing, when she goes to the town to find her birth parents, Tara Daniels and Ford Walker, who are rapidly realizing that the heat that brought them together as teenagers has not gone away. The three of them figure out a new dynamic of love and acceptance and it’s great to see Tara and Ford’s horror as Mia gets together with the gardener of the Daniels sisters’ Bed & Breakfast, the wonderful and sexy Carlos.
In Under the Mistletoe, Tara lives in New York City and is enrolled in a graduate program to become a high school counselor. For six months she has been dating Nick, a sexy, handsome guy she met in one of her classes. They bonded when they discovered they’d both been put up for adoption as infants – the difference being that Mia got adopted by a wonderful family and then rediscovered loving birth parents on top of her original good fortune. Nick, on the other hand, stayed in the system but was determined to break out and help others. He’s recently graduated law school and just passed the bar, so Mia is hoping that he might someday say the “L” word to her soon, particularly since she knows she’s fallen for him.
A romantic candlelit dinner and plenty of sexy flirting later and she’s hoping that this will be the night Nick says it. She decides to up the ante by giving him his holiday present early – she’s gotten him a ticket to go home with her to Lucky Harbor for the holiday to watch her Aunt Chloe get married on Christmas Eve. But Nick’s reaction is far from what she imagined. She knows that he’s commitment phobic from his past, but she wasn’t asking him to get married, she just wanted to spend the holiday with him. His abrupt “no” and closed off body language sends a clear enough message to her and she ends their night by shutting the door in his face.
Nick knows he’s screwed this up in a big way. Mia makes him feel things he never has before. He even meant to tell her at dinner that he got the big legal job with the nonprofit which serves underprivileged kids – the one that will enable him to do all the traveling he’s always wanted – but being with her made him believe he didn’t want to go anywhere. He tries to tell himself it’s for the best as he tosses and turns but he gives up when the morning comes. He might not know anything about families or relationships but he does know that Mia is too important to him to give up so easily. Their shared experience of being given up for adoption gives him an insight others don’t have. Listen to Nick explain it.
And he also knew something else, something she’d never verbalized to him: for as well adjusted as she was, she needed her people to make a stand for her.
Nick had failed her in that, big-time, and both his heart and gut were churning over it. She’d never asked for a thing from him, but he’d known that need of hers was there and he hadn’t fulfilled it.
He could fix that. He would fix that, and then she’d never doubt him again.
Shalvis, Jill (2012-12-04). Under the Mistletoe (Kindle Locations 206-209). Kindle Edition.
After discovering she’s already left the city, Nick flies to Lucky Harbor and walks in on Mia talking to her ex-boyfriend Carlos, getting a pretty cozy hug from him. This is not good, considering the fact that not six months ago when Nick’s relationship with Mia was starting up, Carlos showed up with a ring wanting to renew their relationship.
Nick doesn’t know that Mia has been moping for a day and that Carlos is with the love of his life now. Mostly, Mia is surprised and astonished to see Nick. In typical Lucky Harbor fashion, his request to talk with her is made in front of her birth parents, all her aunts and uncles, her young cousin (Maddie and Jax’s daughter), a dog and Carlos, with no one looking to move away to give them any privacy. It’s a pretty priceless moment (and it’s great to see all those previous couples so happy).
But they do go somewhere private, on a houseboat on the lake, actually, which leads to a super sexy love scene between Nick and Mia. Nick realizes that he’s undergone a massive paradigm shift of never wanting to get too close to anyone, to knowing that Mia is it for him. After their amazing physical reunion, he tells Mia he loves her to which she replies that she never asked him to love her, just to be with her “for now.” While most guys would love to hear that, Nick sticks to his guns, insisting on staying for the wedding and figuring out how to show Mia and her family that he is in this relationship for the long haul.
He does figure it out, in a very eloquent way, that convinces Mia and everyone else that Nick knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s a heartwarming happily-ever-after that will put a Christmas smile on anyone’s face. A big Santa hat for Jill Shalvis for combining her great Lucky Harbor series with the holiday to give us yet another super love story for this wonderful town!