Fran Bell is a music executive whose busiest time of year is Christmas. That’s just fine with her because the holiday holds no special attraction for her. She’d much rather boost record sales and find new talent than sing carols and drink eggnog. It’s not that she’s a Scrooge, she’s just got better things to do.
Ruby O’Connell’s family owns a Christmas tree farm in Mistletoe. She loves the small town and puts aside her career in music every December to help out around the farm. Sales have slowed down, and she worries about the future of the family’s business.
One thing Fran would like to do by Christmas is sign Ruby for a recording deal. Ruby’s a fantastically talented singer-songwriter, and Fran thinks she and her label would be a perfect match. After one of Ruby’s gigs, Fran approaches her with her card and a sincere pitch. Ruby’s been through the record label machine before, and it left her with a bad taste in her mouth. She firmly declines Fran’s offer.
With Fran’s fathers as the newest residents of Mistletoe, she sets out with a slightly open mind to embrace the little village. Imagine her surprise when she discovers her dads are the O’Connell’s next-door neighbors.
Fran and Ruby decide to put their earlier, awkward encounter behind them and try to become friends. It’s slow going at first, but Ruby introduces Fran to the wonders of small-town living, and Fran shows Ruby that not all record execs are sharks. The attraction growing between them is undeniable, and soon the word “girlfriend” seems appropriate.
To boost sales at the farm and Ruby’s career, Fran organizes a large benefit concert in Mistletoe. Ruby will be playing in front of her biggest audience to date. The concert is a huge success but old tensions between the two women resurface and threaten their budding relationship.
Will Fran and Ruby work out their differences or will their romance fizzle out like a defective Christmas cracker?
Fran and Ruby are a great couple. They’re unique characters – a little quirkier than your standard lesfic leading ladies.
I’m all for Fran and her no-nonsense approach to her career and Christmas. The former far outweighs the latter in her priorities. I like that she’s passionate about her work, and she’s not in it for the money. She cares about nurturing her talent, but she’s wary about dating them. A failed relationship with the latest pop star has Fran steering clear of singers. But Ruby isn’t like other singers. For one, Ruby has a very low opinion of record executives. Fran subtly pursues Ruby – professionally speaking, until Ruby’s delightful spirit breaks down her walls. She makes Fran’s heart melt, along with Fran’s detached attitude about Christmas.
Ruby’s wonderful. Think of a British Taylor Swift, but sexy. (Sorry, just my opinion.) She’s got a great work ethic, and she’s determined to be more than a generic pop singer. Her integrity is admirable, plus she’s got the talent to back it up. The joy Christmas inspires in her is charming. She’s devoted to her family and the family Christmas tree business. Her childlike awe over the holiday still lives deep in her heart and it’s completely disarming. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind she was going to get Fran to see Christmas through a different lens.
The Writing Style
Christmas in Mistletoe is a Hallmark Christmas movie just waiting to be shot. Per usual, Lydon’s snappy dialogue shines and had me cackling – out loud – in front of my mortified teenagers. The predicaments the characters find themselves in are unexpected and highlight the magic of the season.
Lydon artfully creates the world of Mistletoe. It’s charming without being overly twee. She uses an eccentric cast of supporting characters to create the small town. Of particular note is Ruby’s petite sister, Victoria. Nothing raises her ire like being called Vicky. (I see you Victoria. I see you.) Mistletoe’s a place I could see in my mind, and I’d love to visit.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again – nobody writes a first kiss like Clare Lydon! (Cue the applause.)
My Favourite Parts
On a more serious note, Ruby has to overcome her insecurities about performing in large venues. It’s a nice juxtaposition. She’s fierce about keeping her creative autonomy, yet she subconsciously has a fear of success. Fran picks up on this and nudges Ruby to confront her fears. Fran isn’t looking at this as a marketing ploy, she’s genuinely invested in Ruby’s success because, you know – love.
Christmas in Mistletoe is pure joy. Here’s a confession: I’m not a fan of the holiday. I roll my eyes at anyone who puts up their decorations before December 1st, I don’t own any Christmas themed clothing, and I most certainly don’t listen to Christmas carols – not even if they’re sung by Mariah Carey, Celine Dione, or Justin Bieber. Lydon melted my Grinchy little heart with her tale of love and family. All that’s missing is the partridge in a pear tree. This romance definitely belongs on Santa’s Nice List.
Excerpt from Christmas in Mistletoe by Clare Lydon
Fran picked up the baton. “I totally get that you’re an independent artist, one with a great platform. But what I’m offering is the chance to do so much more. Build on that. Really get your name out there. You’re on Spotify now, right? All the other streaming services?”
Ruby nodded. “Of course.”
“We could make sure your streams go up exponentially. Give you the exposure you richly deserve. We have press contacts, venue contacts, we could put you in touch with terrific songwriters to work with, too.” Fran paused. “I bet you don’t make a full-time living with your music yet. That you do other jobs on the side, just to make ends meet?”
Ruby tilted her head, her striking green eyes clouding over.
Fran didn’t want to see that.
“I do a little more than make ends meet. Yes, I do some voice coaching on the side, but I’ve built my music career and platform organically, and I’m still very much in the game seven years down the track.” Ruby drew back her shoulders. “Which is why I don’t need you to swoop in and save me with promises that may or may not come true.” She waved an arm around the venue. “I’m not a star, but I don’t want to be. Enough people know me and come to see me. I do just fine.” She put a finger to her chest. “I’m my own boss, and I like it that way.”
Fran gulped, no idea what to say.
A hint of contrition crossed Ruby’s face. “Sorry, you just pressed a button. I’ve been down this road before with a former label and I don’t intend to do it again. It’s not personal.”
Fran stood up straight, a blush crawling up her cheeks. It certainly felt personal. She knew Ruby had been with a label in her early years, but had no idea why the relationship had broken down. She’d certainly never had this sort of reaction before. A record label seeking out an artist after a show was normally a thing to be pleased about.
Ruby O’Connell was not most artists.
“How about just an hour of your time? Just to outline what I can offer. You may have been burned before, but I promise you, I’m a fan. I came here tonight to see you play live. I know you’re special and I want the rest of the world to know it, too. I’ve helped a lot of artists before including The Grab Band, Trisha Star and Delilah, so I know what I’m doing. I’m sure you’re well aware of how incredibly Delilah’s career is going in particular.” Delilah had also blown up Fran’s life, too. But that was on a need-to-know basis.
Tonight was about Ruby O’Connell.
Ruby assessed Fran, as if running a lie detector down her body, seeking the truth. “You did a great job with Delilah, I’ll give you that. But we’re hardly the same market. She’s pop. I’m not.”
She wasn’t going to budge, was she?
“I appreciate everyone who comes to see one of my shows. But my stance hasn’t changed. I’m an independent artist doing my own thing.” Ruby smiled to soften the blow. “But I’m glad you enjoyed the show. It’s always what I want to hear.”
Fran ground her teeth. “You were sensational. Is there anything I can do to change your mind? I can make you as famous as Delilah. Maybe even more so.”
Ruby shook her head. “Not everybody wants that, though. But, thank you. It’s nice to be asked.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 978 1912019755
Publisher: Custard Books
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Note: I received a free review copy of Christmas in Mistletoe by Clare Lydon. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site