Mistletoe at Midnight

Title: Mistletoe at Midnight
Author: L.B. Gregg
Publisher: Carina Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: Novella
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review
Get into the holiday spirit with this superb second chance at love story.

THE BLURB

Owen McKenzie has traveled to Vermont to spend an old-fashioned Christmas with his family when he finds himself staying at the same inn as his first love. Owen is disconcerted to realize he’s still attracted to Caleb Black but refuses to pursue him. Caleb left him once, and Owen’s not going down that road again.

Caleb is ready for a second chance with Owen and gets it when fate and the matchmaking McKenzies conspire to strand the two men in a rustic cabin during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. Can Caleb convince Owen to rekindle their romance so they can stop spending their holidays apart?

THE REVIEW

Owen is on his way to spend a few days in a country hotel with his family. He’s just about to make some major changes to his life having taken on a new position as a vet in a small town and hopes to have a quiet Christmas with his family – or as quiet as Christmases ever are for the McKenzies – safe in the knowledge that his mother has promised to stop setting him up with blind dates. When he arrives at the hotel, Owen is stunned to find that one of the guests is his first love, Caleb. The attraction between them is still strong, but there’s a lot of hurt in Owen which proves to be a barrier.

There was much to like about this story which managed to be very different to the previous L.B. Gregg books that I’ve read, whilst also retaining the author’s quirky style. There were a couple of themes in the book which served as the main focus. Firstly, there is the theme of family. The McKenzies are a bright, rumbustious family, headed by the indomitable Patricia whose obvious love for her son often manifests itself in meddling, and an ability to say the most embarrassing (and yet also very astute) things about Owen. Owen is the youngest of the family and as a result is overshadowed by everyone else, especially his older brother, Ryan. I enjoyed the scenes with Owen and his family a great deal, as they said much about how Owen allows his family to dictate his life, how he is eager to please and yet how close and loving they all are as a family. I also liked how as the story progresses, we get to see the internal effect that having such a boisterous family has on Owen, leading to his sense of detachment, and how he begins to break away from that as his relationship with Caleb is rekindled.

The second theme of the story is that of a second chance of love – or rather love rekindled, as neither man seems to have ever stopped loving the other. As Owen is the first person narrator we, at first, only get his side of the story and as with many first person narratives my sympathy was with Owen. The back story of Owen and Caleb – how they met and important points in their past relationship – is skilfully interwoven through the story through a series of short flashbacks which I felt worked well within the narrative. It also allowed me to see the yearning and nostalgia that Owen feels about his time with Caleb which is then underwritten by hurt feelings, and a desire not to be hurt again. The hesitancy Owen feels about Caleb is therefore wholly understandable when placed in context with how badly he was hurt by Caleb in the past.

This story is completely character based. There’s no great mystery, no action sequences (unless you count snowmobiling), no scenes of high drama. Instead there are several beautifully written scenes where the characters interact with one another and we learn about their feelings and motivations mostly through dialogue. This means there’s quite a large cast to the story with the McKensies making up 6 characters, Caleb and his friend May, the two owners of the hotel and Keith, Owen’s ex-lover. Each character has an important role to play in the unfolding drama and so it never felt overcrowded. Even Keith, who for a long time made me wonder what exactly his purpose was in the story, was there to show us something of Owen’s behaviour in his past relationships. Actually, I felt very sorry for Keith by the end of the book, and part of me wishes for a happy ending for him too.

Overall, I was thoroughly engrossed in this story of family and love re-found. The pacing of the story is swift – but not as fast as some of the author’s other books, and there’s lots of the humour often seen in L.B. Gregg’s books, found mostly in the interaction between the family and Owen. In terms of emotional content, this has to be one of the best books I’ve read by this author. The conversations between Owen and Caleb made my heart ache, especially in the way that Owen holds back, fearful of getting too emotionally involved and in the intense yearning between the couple.

If you’re looking for a romantic story with a holiday theme which is strong on character and witty dialogue, but also has an underlying tender emotion, then I highly recommend Mistletoe at Midnight. I enjoyed it a great deal.

16 comments

  • Jen
    Thank you for such a wonderful and heartfelt review. I haven’t read this story as yet but this weekend I’m planning to do so because I love LB’s writing.

    Reply
  • LB’s stories always have her nutty sense of humor — she always makes me laugh out loud (not easy to do).

    I love that family — both the ones we’re born into and the one’s we find along the way — are always such a powerful theme in her books. They keep her work emotionally grounded in a way that I think is kind of rare in this genre.

    Reply
    • Well, I did learn from the best. Heh. But what a lovely thing to say. Thanks, Josh.

      And thank you Jen for this lovely review. MAM was a bit more serious and…tender…than my usual sort of romp, so I put myself out there in a way that I hadn’t before.

      LB

      Reply
    • Hi Josh

      I agree, all to often families are either absent or a cause of major conflict in an m/m romance. With this book LB has shown the benefits and the drawbacks of a close family without it becoming mawkish or unrealistic.

      And I’ve said on many occasions before how much I love her humour. It just clicks with me, which makes me wonder whether she isn’t a Brit in disguise ;).

      Reply
      • Hi LB

        Yes, this book is very different from some of your others but still uniquely you, if you see what I mean. The humour and excellent sense of timing and pace are present, along with a sweeter romance, which never tips into sickly. Well done you :).

        Reply
  • This is the only story I’ve read so far (I won it on Chris’s site only a few hours ago, thank you again ^^) and I enjoyed it immensely. Owen’s family was hilarious, especially his mother, and I could feel every second of his embarrassment. Owen and Caleb were very sweet. Perfect holiday story.

    Reply
    • Hi LadyM

      The scenes with Owen’s mother were very amusing and I liked how Owen cringed at what she said but also recognised her love for him. Great stuff :).

      Reply
    • LadyM~So glad you enjoyed it! And who hasn’t been embarrassed by a family member? But poor Owen, his mother is extreme isn’t she? *g* I happen to adore Patricia.

      Reply
    • Hi Chris

      I thought LB did a great job on Owen. He could have been a cold character and come across as unfeeling at times, but instead I really connected with him and sympathised with the reasons why he acted as he did.

      Reply
  • “…there are several beautifully written scenes where the characters interact with one another and we learn about their feelings and motivations mostly through dialogue.”

    Oh Jen – You had me with this line. I love good dialog. And second chance for love? One of my favorite themes in a romance. I’m going to enjoy this story! Thanks for the wonderful review.

    Reply

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