December Read-a-Thon: Mistletoe Not Required by Anne Oliver Brings a Fresh Down-Under Voice to Romance

8 Dec

Mistletoe Not Required by Anne Oliver (Harlequin KISS, November 1, 2013)

There’s always something fun about immersing yourself in a book written by an author from an English-speaking country who incorporates enough national colloquialisms that you feel like you’re on a vacation. For the Christmas holiday, a book set in Australia is even more special as their location below the equator means that December occurs in the summer, making this particular holiday startlingly outdoorsy.

But all the setting in the world wouldn’t mean much without a compelling story to keep the pages turning, and Anne Oliver, in her latest book, Mistletoe Not Required, has managed that in spades.

Olivia Wishart is her usual focused self this Christmas. She’s incredibly dedicated to her Pink Snowflake charity which is attempting to raise money to fund a retreat for women battling breast cancer and Olivia is 100% invested. Her mother (and many, many female relatives) died of breast cancer, so many that Olivia has even undergone the genetic testing to determine if she carries the marker which would necessitate her having a preventative double mastectomy. While she waits on tenterhooks for the answer, she’s determined to live life full-throttle while hopefully raising awareness for her charity.

To that end, Olivia and her best friend Breanna have headed up the all-female crew of a yacht and will be drawing great attention to Olivia’s cause while engaging in a Christmas race. But Brie needs support as well, since she is trying to reunite with the older, illegitimate brother she didn’t know she had until her father’s death – none other than wealthy playboy celebrity chef, Jett Davies. While Olivia finds a minute to herself at a gala she’s hosting, Jett spies the succulent redhead and succumbs to a moment of extreme temptation on a balcony. When they are interrupted by Olivia’s phone going off and he realizes that his mystery woman is his sister’s best friend, he backs off without filling her in.

Revenge is sweet. After Olivia relives the humiliation at facing the man who brought her to ecstasy the night before (and discovering he’s Breanna’s brother), she realizes that it would help her BFF to have a certain amount of proximity to her brother who seems less than on board with the reuniting campaign. The two women tag team him into coming on their yacht filled with bikini-clad sailors to raise the media profile of the ship and the cause. Did I mention Jett gets horribly seasick? Nevertheless, he’s a trooper and the trip convinces him that his attraction to Olivia isn’t going away.

While Olivia’s mind might be telling her ignore Jett because 1) he’s a serious player with a woman in every port, 2) he visits said ports often because he’s a “traveling” chef, and 3) he’s her best friend’s brother, so no escaping him in the future, her body isn’t on board. She decides to ring in New Year’s Day with an Eve that doesn’t quit. They agree to go their separate ways after some phenomenal sex, but when at breakfast Olivia gets the message that her childhood home has been burgled and vandalized, she’s shaken and devastated.

Jett doesn’t even think before offering to go with her and he decides to stick around and help, delaying his departure to his writing retreat. One day stretches into many, and he even takes Olivia on a Pretty Woman inspired trip of shopping and relaxation, with his growing restlessness supplanted by the rejuvenation he feels in Olivia’s presence and his work assisting her raise money for Pink Snowflake. Before too long, they both have strong feelings for each other, but Jett has to struggle with his childhood filled with rejection, while Olivia refuses to have a relationship that would come with a looming death sentence since she believes that statistically she’s likely to die from breast cancer.

Okay. This premise was fascinating – I’ve never before read a romance novel with a young heroine (with spectacular D-size breasts, no less) contemplating a double mastectomy. When combined with the yachting and celebrity chef piece, this novel had overtones of a Harlequin Presents since everyone was super wealthy, yet the tone of the story was very fresh and the characters well-fleshed out.

There were a few inconsistencies but it was the Harlequin kind which ramp up the emotional ante even while being far-fetched, so I swallowed them without a problem. While I would normally believe the plethora of sub-plots would result in a tangled mess, Anne Oliver deftly weaves them into a tale worthy of both the holiday spirit and of purchase. Did I mention the book is only $1.99? It’s a phenomenal deal.

I enjoyed this holiday romance tremendously and recommend that anyone shivering under the recent cold snap take a mini-vacation and experience Christmas, hot Australian style, with Mistletoe Not Required.

Happy reading!

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