Review: The Mistletoe Motive – Chloe Liese
by Chloe Liese
Publisher: Kobo Originals
Publication Date: December 1, 2021
Source: Valentine PR
I received an advance review copy of this book from Valentine PR. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
From the author of THE BERGMAN BROTHERS series comes a slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers holiday romance, perfect for fans of THE HATING GAME and YOU'VE GOT MAIL.
He loathes the holidays. She loves them. She’s full of festive cheer. He’s brimming with Bah, Humbugs. Besides unreasonably seasonable names, the only thing Jonathan Frost and Gabriella Di Natale have in common is a healthy dose of mutual contempt. Well, that and the same place of employment at the city’s most beloved independent bookstore, Bailey’s Bookshop. But when the store’s owners confess its dire financial state, Jonathan and Gabby discover another unfortunate commonality: the imminent threat of unemployment.
With the Baileys’ requests to minimize expenses, win new customers, and make record sales dancing in their heads, Jonathan and Gabby conclude—barring a financial Christmas miracle—one of them will soon be cut from the payroll. Neither are willing to step down from their position, so they strike a bargain: whoever has more sales in December gets to stay on in the new year; the loser will resign. With a lifetime's worth of festive tricks up her sleeve, Gabby should easily outsell her nemesis, except the unreadable Mr. Frost’s every move seems purely designed to throw her off her game.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Gabby's deceptive ex won't quit pursuing her, and her anonymous online friend suggests they take a break. Worst of all, as the pressure mounts to save the bookshop and her job, Gabby meets a new, tender side of Jonathan. Is this the same man she's called her cold-hearted enemy?
Maybe he’s got a motive she just can’t figure out—or maybe Jonathan Frost isn’t as chilly as she once thought. Maybe Jonathan and Gabby already know—and love—each other in ways they never thought possible.
This is an #OwnVoices story for its portrayal of autism by an autistic author.
It’s beginning to look a lot like the time of year to be reading holiday novellas, and this was the perfect one to start off the season with a whole boatload of tropes. Coworkers, enemies-to-lovers, opposites attract, plus lots of references to Pride & Prejudice. It’s adorable and festive, and exactly what I’d recommend if you’re looking for something to put a smile on your face.
Ever since Jonathan was hired as a co-manager of Bailey’s Bookshop, he and Gabby have been at odds. With a new chain bookstore in town and dwindling revenue, Gabby’s worried it’s only a matter of time before she’s fired, and when the owners admit that, even with Jonathan’s financial fixes, things aren’t looking good unless they have a stellar holiday season, Gabby has a plan: whoever sells the most books this season gets to stay. But as the competition heats up, so does an entirely unexpected attraction to Jonathan, and she’s forced to confront the possibility that she may have drastically misjudged him. Can Gabby find an HEA for both the bookstore and herself?
“That ends up really working for them. It’s the heartbeat of their connection, being drawn to each other’s differences, stretching themselves to narrow that distance between each other without losing themselves. They…grow. Together. And more deeply into their true selves.”
I loved Gabby! She’s generally sunny and optimistic, and she absolutely adores the holiday season. She loves historical romances and happily-ever-afters. Jonathan, on the other hand, prefers thrillers and hates the holidays – Gabby refers to him more than once as a penny-pinching Scrooge who doesn’t care about the soul of the bookstore. Gabby loves its warmth and charm, frankly, everything that the ice-cold Jonathan isn’t. They’ve been at odds since he was hired a year ago and she’s convinced he’s out to take her position at the store. From the beginning, though, there’s little clues to the reader that Gabby may have the wrong idea about Jonathan’s feelings for her, and a good part of the fun is watching Gabby continue to be oblivious.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this good.”
“It wasn’t, huh?” he says softly against my lips. “Of course you’re roasting me. Even while we kiss.”
Gabby is both on the spectrum and demisexual, which, as you can imagine, has caused relationship issues for her in the past. It’s hard for her to pick up on subtext in a conversation and has led to her trusting people she shouldn’t in the past. And the demisexuality means that Gabby’s baffled and a bit overset by her (seemingly) sudden attraction to Jonathan, courtesy of several delightfully filthy dreams. Their chemistry was just *chef’s kiss* perfection, and had me fanning myself well before they even kissed. Oh, and Jonathan’s a hockey player (those thighs!) and there’s a post-locker room scene that’s absolutely flaming hot. It’s not just lust, though, as they both realize that their first impressions of the other may have been off-base. There’s lots of sweet conversations as they fumble their way towards friendship and slowly open up to each other.
One of my favorite things is that there’s several overt references to P&P in the book, not the least of which is that Gabby chides Jonathan that Austen wasn’t really a romance writer in the modern sense of the word. They’re both initially blinded by their prejudices towards each other, a la Elizabeth and Darcy, though the revelation of that is handled much more smoothly here. There’s also some delightful nudges, including a nod to the famous hand-flex scene from the movie where Darcy hands Elizabeth into a carriage. The least successful part for me, honestly, was the You’ve Got Mail bit, where Gabby has been talking online to someone about books and slowly falling in love with them. I mean, you know where this is going, right? I think it was fine without it, but I’m probably in the minority here.
“He turned the color of slushy street snow after a long day of traffic and gaped like a broken nutcracker. It was delightful.”
Overall, if you’re looking for something sweet and festive (much like Gabby’s peppermint hot cocoa), this fits the bill!
Content notes: View Spoiler »ableism, pushy ex, several near car accidents « Hide Spoiler