Author: Marina Adair
Release Date: Oct. 16, 2012
Publisher: Montlake Romance
St. Helena Vineyard #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format(s): Paperback (310 pages), e-book
Book Source: Author
About the book:
Regan Martin stopped believing in Christmas miracles six years ago when she lost everything—her house, her job, and her impeccable reputation in the wine industry—after she fell in love with a man she had no idea was married. Then Regan gets a chance for a fresh start in the Napa Valley. With her dream job, dream home, and her daughter enrolled in a wonderful new school, she starts wondering if holiday wishes really do come true.
But she soon tumbles back down to earth when she learns that her new boss is none other than Gabe DeLuca, the scorned wife’s brother. Gabe wants nothing more than home-wrecking Regan Martin out of his life, his sister’s world, and his family’s business. Mostly, he wants the lush beauty out of his head. Yet his attempts to run her out of town have him thinking twice, especially when he sees that Regan may hold the key to tracking down his sister’s stolen start-up capital. Even worse for Gabe, Regan might just be his Christmas wish and hold the key to his heart.
What Nima’s talking about:
Set in California’s wine country, Kissing Under the Mistletoe was a great snowy day read. Having grown up in northern California, even riding horses through the vineyards, I know this part of the country well. I loved turning my mind’s eye back to stucco, wood, and Spanish tile buildings, endless rows of vines, and the wonderful, earthy smell of the fields. I could understand main character Regan Martin’s love for her new home in St. Helena and how it would inspire dreams of a good life for her and her daughter. I cuddled deeper into my favorite, over-stuffed chair, pulled the blanket tight—and was wonderfully surprised by the brawl that is chapter one.
Kissing Under the Mistletoe is a feisty book. All the characters certainly are and when they clash, sparks fly. The book opens with a brilliant fight that takes place in the parking lot adjacent to the small town’s Christmas display. When the dust settles, there’s a broken car window, damaged property, and a beloved vintage reindeer is missing. You know right away this is going to be a good book.
The chemistry between Regan and Gabe DeLuca is genuine, and I didn’t doubt their attraction to each other. Their intimate moments felt legitimate, not forced or contrived. I loved Gabe’s grandmother and her friends and the power-play that ensues between them and the younger, PTA Moms or “Yoga Pants Posse.” I loved the brotherly bonds that existed between Gabe and his younger siblings.
My single criticism of the book is what keeps it from being a five-star read for me: Gabe’s sister, Abigail. Poor Regan and her daughter have been suffering very specifically at the hands of Gabe for six years while Gabe made it his life’s mission to protect his sister from even so much as running into Regan, the woman everyone in the DeLuca family blames for the break-up of Abigail’s marriage to Richard. I found it extremely difficult to believe that Regan’s protagonist, who knew her by sight and well enough to make her life miserable for those six long years, didn’t know the true extent of her circumstances. His single goal has been to keep her from his sister and make her pay for being a home-wrecker, a goal he had achieved long ago by repeatedly getting her fired from jobs in the wine industry or preventing her from even getting hired in the first place. And yet he kept up with the very personal vendetta even as she unknowingly moved into St. Helena, DeLuca family central.
This is a battle for not just lifestyle, but survival. Gabe and his sister have been living quite comfortably while systematically ruining Regan’s prospects, the only player in the break-up they could reach. Abigail’s ex has disappeared with a big chunk of DeLuca money. The DeLuca brothers hatch a plan for Gabe to get close to Regan in the hope of discovering Richard’s whereabouts and possibly the missing money. In reality, Gabe has found a new way to hurt and use Regan. Regan is clearly tired of the battle, clearly ready for peace, but as the reader, it was still new to me. I was not so ready to forgive. I wanted to hang Gabe up by his grapes and press him into juice no matter how good he looked or how good he smelled. Which brings me to Abigail. This is the sister that Gabe was so desperate to protect and the one character that is almost non-existent in the entire book! We see her a very little at the very end. I wanted to see her interact with Gabe. I wanted to know their relationship and why it was so special that the eldest DeLuca would put so much energy into protecting it at the expense of a single mother trying only to provide for her daughter.
I suppose it is a compliment to author Marina Adair that I got that so worked up over her characters. I cared. I was angry. I laughed. I swooned when Gabe finally understands how very wrong he’s been about many things in his life and most especially about Regan. I was a little sad when I finished the book. I’m very anxiously awaiting book two in this new series. I want to go back to the little town of St. Helena and check in on the DeLuca clan, the grandmothers, and see what the Yoga Pants Posse is up to now.
Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)
For a chance to win a SIGNED ARC of Kissing Under the Mistletoe, please see the author’s guest post HERE.