The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill ShalvisThe Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay, #2) by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #2
Published by Avon on September 27th 2016
Pages: 384
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If she has her way . . .
Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her . . .
He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.
Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him . . .
Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice . . .
Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work . . .

It’s odd to read a Christmas story in the scorching heat of summer (which probably contributes to the disconnect I’m having) but that’s not quite the reason I felt ‘The Trouble with Mistletoe’ was a decent but an average read – not abysmal as I’d feared, but not stellar either. In fact, it’s a classic scripted romantic comedy for the starry-eyed, breezy and light-hearted, complete with a huge group of gossiping friends providing the side entertainment but ultimately crafted with a formula that is well-known and well-loved, which makes me think that I’ve read or seen this somewhere before. Or perhaps this is merely a rant detailing my discontent with a genre that still aims to profit off conceits that have grown stale and mouldy past the early 21st century.

I’d say straight out that Shalvis’s stories are predictable: there is a kind of banter that’s part ripped off slogans or T-shirts and anthropomorphic animals intended to pull at the heart-strings of animal lovers. These do work – to an extent at least, up until the point where I’d love to see more of the two-legged kind taking charge of their own lives rather than the four-legged ones running them.

From their first meeting, it was obvious that Keane and Willa were headed down a path of conflict – one that is more typical of these feel-good romances where the guy doesn’t commit and the girl is also afraid to – but it isn’t one that is full of extreme ups and downs…but rather, meanders off-course (when someone panics or starts mouthing off something that can be misinterpreted) until the path finally straightens enough to display a shiny piece of jewellery at the end of the tunnel.

Deprived of love while growing up, one has learned to live without it; the other has learned to give as much of it to those who are around her. After a series of interventions by friends and those of the furry kind, Keane suddenly learns to care and decides that Willa is his one-night stand to end all of his one-night stands, while Willa manages to shrug off her teenage rejection angst enough to let him be who she needs. And in the centre of the drama is the unwitting catalyst: a Siamese by the name of Petunia, whom I got the feeling I should champion instead of the lead characters. Keane was a character easy to read and tag, even if his suddenly all-round carefully-styled, decent persona all seemed a little smug and smarmy when he flipped rather unbelievably from no-commitment to commitment in the blink of an eye. But I sort of did like Willa – one of those few Shalvis Heroines who passes muster – for the tremendous care she shows for her animals as well as the employees for whom she has an affinity.

As always, the wrap-up is neat and fluffy, with a good set-up for Elle and Archer as the couple in the next book. Yet long after Keane/Willa curled up under their their Christmas tree, I still found myself under the day’s lingering heat, wishing for something more provocative that would heat my engines past boiling point.