New Book Nook: “The Mistletoe Pact” – a cute rom-com wrapped in Christmas packaging

I am a sucker for the holiday season. The Christmas music goes on on November first and runs through December 26th. Each and every one of those cheesy Netflix holiday movies is watched and rewatched. I am all about the magic of the holidays. I am also a huge fan of romance as a genre. There are very few tropes I don’t enjoy. So naturally, I wanted to check out The Mistletoe Pact.

The book follows Evie – so named because she was born on Christmas Eve – and Dan, her best friend’s older brother, as they deal with the fallout of a deal they made on Evie’s 22nd birthday: if she’s not married by the time she turns 30, then the two of them will get hitched. They seal the pact with a kiss under the mistletoe. A kiss the two of them enjoy a lot more than expected.

The book opens with the two of them making good on that promise, waking up next to each other in a Vegas chapel’s honeymoon suite. After that, the book is split into two timelines – the past, which shows how Evie and Dan keep just missing each other, and the present day, showing them finding their way back to one another.

As protagonists, both Evie and Dan are great. They’re both kind, sincere people who suffer from always being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that really is their only issue is properly getting together. Even when they’re not actually a couple, the two of them actually communicate like adults, never drawing out a revelation, but instead being honest with one another. A both of them face unexpected hurdles in both the “past” and the “present” that act as obstacles to their inevitable happiness, the two of them always make sure to go through it with the others knowledge and implied support.

Evie and Dan are really good together. Almost too good together. With such natural chemistry, and such a frank dynamic otherwise, I found it really difficult to comprehend why the two of them didn’t actually get together sooner. The late-in-the-game revelation about their insecurities helped make sense of it, but it was still a struggle to make sense of. One of the biggest issues with a romance novel – or really, any romantic plot – is finding a reason for why the two leads can’t be together. The Mistletoe Pact didn’t really have much of a reason. They get along well, their families support it, and best (worst?) of all, Evie and Dan are usually so honest with each other, it was hard to believe they wouldn’t be honest about their feelings too. I do credit author Jo Lovett, because the premise of the book kept Evie and Dan apart for so long, for giving the two of them enough going on in their individual lives to keep me invested.

The holiday setting, while it does provide a narrative, chronological framework is purely incidental. If you’re expecting Hallmark movie in book form, this isn’t it. The text isn’t saturated with Christmas decor, hot cocoa and cozy sweaters – though Evie does have a thing for extremely long scarves. Instead, part of the story just happens to take place at Christmas time, which might actually be to the book’s benefit, since that makes it an evergreen (pardon the pun) read.

The only thing that does date this book is the confusing half-references to the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting lockdowns. Since the “present day” portion of the book takes place in the year between Christmas 2021 and Christmas 2022, there are some mentions in the “past” sections to time spent in lockdown. It is an interesting question that creatives are clearly already asking themselves: do you, or do you not address COVID in your contemporary stories? But The Mistletoe Pact‘s treatment of the pandemic and lockdown as a thing of the past when there’s no way for us to actually know that put the book both in our real world, and in an alternate timeline where COVID was controlled much quicker. I found myself wishing that it hadn’t been mentioned at all. Besides wanting a bit of escapism, it’s strange to see an ongoing event already being treated anachronistically. That, however, is a minor quibble with the book and is easily overlooked.

If I had to pick one thing to compare it to, I would say it’s probably Four Weddings and a Funeral where Charles ends up with Fiona instead of whoever Andie McDowell was playing. The companionship is easy, the surrounding holidays and events are a framework rather than the focus (and there are actually three weddings thrown in as well, no funerals though). The Mistletoe Pact is a cute, cozy read suitable for any time of year.

The Mistletoe Pact is available October 1, 2021

Special thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for the advance copy for review purposes.

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