Fans of the Pink Carnation series will recognize Turnip Fitzhugh, the well-meaning but very dim – and very rich – member of society. Miss Arabella Dempsey, however, is a wallflower, so much so that I barely remembered her appearances in earlier books. In this installment, she’s taken up a job as a schoolteacher, intent on making life a little easier for her sisters. But her plans go awry when the elder brother of one of her charges, Turnip, gets involved in her life, with the very clever intervention of a Christmas pudding. Arabella never imagined she’d earn the attentions of such a man, much less that she’d get involved in a spy plot like something out of a novel, but she’s about to find that her teaching career will not be the plain sailing she’d planned on.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that the Pink Carnation series is one of my shameless pleasures. I can’t at all resist a great historical cross between romance and mystery, mixed in with an ongoing contemporary story, topped off with Willig’s witty and light style. They’re just perfect for winter evenings, which is when I read this particular book. It’s actually missing the contemporary story, but this one by itself was so enchanting that I genuinely didn’t notice. Turnip has been a recurring character throughout the books. I never managed him as a romantic hero, but his bumbling sweetness just made the entire book that much more delightful. He’s so well-meaning and well-intentioned that his lack of intelligence doesn’t make a difference. In fact, he reminded me most of Bertie Wooster here, and I did wonder if Willig used that character as inspiration.
The book itself is something of a flip flop from The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, which I reviewed back when it came out two years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long). As such, a lot of the events are somewhat repeated, but in reverse, when it comes to a Christmas party Arabella and Turnip, along with some other Pink Carnation veterans, attend. We know what’s going on with Charlotte and Henrietta, but the focus is solely on Arabella and Turnip. It’s very light-hearted, like much of the series, but the Christmas theme has really been taken to heart here. The mystery takes very, very little priority and the focus is solely on the romance. Without the frame story, it’s clear that a romance is exactly what this book is; while some of the previous ones have felt heavier on the historical fiction, this is certainly not one of them. So if you’re going in with that frame of mind, you may not enjoy this quite as much as I did. It feels like a treat for me, because I do enjoy the series very much, but I would recommend reading the others before getting to this one.
If you’re looking for a light, frothy fun read, especially in the winter, The Mischief of the Mistletoe is definitely it. Highly recommended – especially to other fans of the series!
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