Today’s book review of a novella is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
A sparkling, entertaining story that will leave you laughing and in the holiday mood.
It’s December 21st, 1981 in New York City, and the holidays are approaching fast. But up-and-coming book editor Julia Nash isn’t too busy to notice that her boyfriend has only put one small gift under the tree. At least Jack has an excuse: as the lead guitarist of a famous British rock band, he is deep into rehearsals for their upcoming tour. But Julia was hoping for something a little more meaningful than the pair of mittens she can’t resist taking a peek at.
Julia tries to ignore her friends egging her on about what Jack might have planned. But even with the distractions of a demanding boss, a steamy snowball fight, a baking flop involving rum balls, and a blizzard that shuts down the entire city, the question still torments her: Is a pair of gloves—the kind of thing you’d give to a friend—the only gift Jack is giving her? And if so, what does that say about their relationship?
Brimming with laughter and an enticing dash of romantic spice, with vivid characters that reviewers have called “engaging” and “irresistible”, Dancing with Mistletoe puts you in the mood to kiss someone you love under a sprig of green. Also included is a sneak peek at Keep Dancing, the hilarious and captivating new novel about Jack and Julia, to be published in Spring 2015.
Review (via Mrs Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
After an annoying list of 13 pieces of praise for her previous book (why is this relevant to this book? I’d rather see the praise on the Amazon page than in the book, although to be fair, Mrs Kindle opened at the beginning of the (seven chapter) story and I backtracked to the cover to see what lead up to the story), the story starts with friends meeting in a New York cafe. They’re discussing what Julia’s boyfriend is going to buy her for Christmas.
Despite an apparent disappointment, Julia decides to make a handmade gift in addition to the other gifts she’s bought for Jack, which is amusing as neither of them cook.
I hadn’t realised until I read the synopsis (part-way through listening to the book) that it was set in 1981 so thought an error when senior editor Kate said that comedian Steve Martin should write a book. He has. And I have it. Shopgirl (the one made into the film with him and Claire Danes). It’s very good. Kate said she was going to see Steve’s film ‘Pennies from Heaven’ which came out in 1981 whereas he didn’t write Shopgirl, his first book, until 2000. This book, Dancing with Mistletoe, was written (or at least is copyrighted) in 2014 so it left me confused as to when the story was set because Kate, being in publishing, would know that Steve’s an author (he’s also written plays and another novel in 2003). I hadn’t noticed anything else in the story (other than the film) to indicate when it was set. I wouldn’t have read the synopsis if I hadn’t have copied into this review introduction, hence my initial confusion.
From a writing point of view, there were quite a few clichés (could eat like a horse, dripping in jewellery, cocking of at least three eyebrows, rolling of eyes, totally off his trolley, dark eyes sparkling), occasional irritating adverbs (Patrick said languidly, I thought sleepily, I asked indignantly, she said wistfully) that could have done with chopping or replacing, regular reminders at how gorgeously famous Jack is, a typo (laid on it the table), eleven ‘Well’s at the beginning of dialogue sentences (it’s a particular bugbear of mine), and some parts a little too gushy for me but romance readers would probably love them. Although I was listening rather than reading, I did notice on one page (and because Mrs Kindle mentions the dots) with no space after ellipses and speech marks used for speech and a quote within speech (which should be different from each other). I also wondered how Jack could have struck Julia on the ‘butt’ with a snowball when she’s facing him, and I guessed that there was more to the package than Julia expected.
Finally, I’d recommend writers not use names starting with the same first letter, especially the two main characters, although they look different on the page and they’re different genders, but too late in this instance as there’s already been a novel out featuring them, with another to come next year.
Although it’s set in America, the main male character is English so familiarity for those of us on this side of the pond. Apart from some improvement on the writing itself, it was an entertaining story, albeit less ‘sparkling’ than the synopsis promised. For this reason, I didn’t keep going to the ‘sneak peek’ at Keep Dancing which may have been better.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.