Formats available: hardcover, ebook, large print, audiobook
Series: Brides of Bliss County #4
Published by HQN Books on September 29th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
No one does the holidays like Linda Lael Miller, whose Christmas novels have warmed the hearts of millions of readers the world over!
Charlotte Morgan grew up in Mustang Creek, Wyoming, and couldn't wait to escape to the big city. But life in New York isn't as fabulous as she'd like to admit—she's lonely, doing a job she doesn't love and dating too many frogs she meets online.
There was one potential prince, though—Jaxon Locke, a veterinarian with definite possibilities—but his move to Idaho to fill in at his dad's vet practice ended things just as they were getting interesting. What Charlotte doesn't know is that he misses her, more than he expected…
Meanwhile, Charlotte's great-aunt Geneva—the woman who raised her—needs to enter an assisted-living facility. So, just before Christmas, Charlotte moves back home. When Jax catches wind of her move back West, he's determined to get to Wyoming and do whatever it takes to win her back.
Christmas in Mustang Creek is a magical time in a magical place, not least because of a mysterious visitor named Mrs. Klozz. She knows that love is the greatest gift of all, and she's ready to help out Santa by giving these two a push in the right direction!
On the one hand, it’s barely October and I’m reviewing a Christmas book. I feel like there should be someone throwing a flag on this play – “Ten yard penalty for rushing the season”.
On the other hand, Christmas in Mustang Creek is a lovely story with a heaping helping of holiday magic, so if you can sit back and check your willing suspension of disbelief at the door, it’s a sweet little holiday treat. And it was cool enough this weekend to make reading a holiday book into a reminder that the season is just around the corner. Or maybe two corners.
Winter is coming, but this little story makes that seem like a good thing.
Christmas in Mustang Creek is a follow-up novella to Miller’s Brides of Bliss County series. While that series was lovely (start with The Marriage Pact (reviewed here) to find out how Charlotte’s friends found their happily ever afters) it is definitely not necessary to read Brides in order to enjoy Mustang Creek. There’s enough recap to place the other women in their context, but this Christmas belongs entirely to Charlotte, Jaxon, Charlotte’s great-aunt Geneva and especially Mrs. Millicent Klozz.
Charlotte comes back home to Mustang Creek after seven years as a marketing executive in New York City. She loved New York and her life there, but her great-aunt Geneva, the woman who raised her, has moved into an assisted-living complex after a few incidents with her memory. Geneva feels more comfortable in a place where she can’t forget that the stove is on, or forget whether she’s fed her beloved dog and cat 10 times or none that day. Not that Mutley didn’t enjoy the extra meals.
Charlotte feels the need to go home to take care of Geneva, the dog Mutley, the cat Can-can, and figure out what to do with Geneva’s marvelous Victorian house, which is gorgeous but in serious need of a new roof, and that’s just for starters. And since Charlotte has just been laid off, returning home will give her a chance to recoup and regroup, and figure out what she wants to do next.
She also has a hard time admitting that Mustang Creek, a place she couldn’t wait to get away from, is calling her heart back home.
Meanwhile, the only man that Charlotte was ever serious about in New York, veterinarian Jaxon Locke, is moving to Mustang Creek to join his college roommate’s veterinary practice. And Jaxon is definitely chasing Charlotte. When they met in New York, he was just there on a temporary assignment – he’s from Idaho and knew he would be returning to the Big Sky Country. At the time, Charlotte seemed determined to stay in New York, and Jaxon eventually returned home.
But now that Charlotte is coming home to Mustang Creek, Jaxon has decided that her hometown in Wyoming will fit his dreams just fine, as long as she’s there to share them with.
They all get a little help from the holiday magic of Aunt Geneva’s friend Mrs. Klozz, who seems to know everything before it happens and spreads more than a bit of holiday magic to make sure that everyone gets the present their heart desires this Christmas.
Escape Rating B+: I think that how people are going to feel about this story may depend a lot of what people think of Mrs. Klozz, her extremely successful “manipulation” of people and events (all to the greater good and the course of true love) and even who they think she really is.
I have my own opinion on that last, but it’s a spoiler. Maybe. If I’m right.
Back to the story – Mrs. Klozz aside, it’s easy to see where Charlotte is coming from. Possibly easier for us than Charlotte. Her parents were killed when she was very young, and she has some serious and understandable issues about being dependent on anyone else, which definitely affects her relationship with Jaxon.
Mustang Creek is a very small town, where everyone knows everybody else’s business the moment it happens, or possibly before. It’s easy to understand why Charlotte might want out, and might feel conflicted about coming back.
Also there are way more single men in New York City, but she keeps finding frogs. The only handsome prince she dated in NYC turns out to be Jaxon, a man from a small town in Idaho just like Mustang Creek. The difference is that Jaxon is upfront about wanting to go back home and settle down. He just wants to do that settling down with Charlotte, and she’s having none of it.
Charlotte has a lot of fears that just because Jaxon wants to return to his small town roots, he also wants Charlotte to be a “traditional” wife who stays home and takes care of lots of (their) children. While they have definitely had the painful discussion of where they each see themselves living, they never seem to have had the discussion about how they see themselves living. Which makes this a fabrication of Charlotte’s fears rather than a real problem.
Jaxon sees Charlotte as a woman who will always want a career, and that’s part of what he loves about her. But this is a question that never comes up. Also, Charlotte fears that she will need to find another big city job to pay for her aunt’s care, which she wants to do. While this turns out not to be necessary, again, this is a fear that she does not share with Jaxon. High-paying jobs for marketing managers are non-existent in Mustang Creek, but Mrs. Klozz’ idea to turn Aunt Geneva’s beautiful house into a much needed bed and breakfast is a challenge that will engage Charlotte, require the use of her brand marketing skills, help the town and make enough money for Charlotte to take care of the house, herself and Aunt Geneva if necessary.
It’s a win-win-win (admittedly one with a LOT of work attached) if Charlotte can let go of some of her fears and listen to her hopes and dreams.
The author does a good job of setting up Jaxon’s move to Mustang Creek so that it doesn’t feel like creepy stalkerish behavior. Yes, he is moving there in the hope that it will give him a chance with Charlotte. But his best friend really does need another vet, Jaxon is good at his job, and he tries very hard not to put any pressure on Charlotte.
Of course, he has Mrs. Klozz in his corner, moving obstacles out of the way and setting him up for success. It turns out that having Mrs. Klozz in his corner was all the help that Jaxon really needed, because this is a love story where the heroine just needs a chance to listen to her heart instead of wrestling with every manufactured worry in her head.
And a little holiday magic always helps!
~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
Linda is giving away a copy of Christmas in Mustang Creek to one lucky U.S. commenter: