This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Holiday Romance
Published by Harlequin, MIRA
Released on September 24, 2013
Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Bella Andre is a bittersweet story of how the Sullivan gang began. After reading all eight of the Sullivan sibling’s romances, it was time to find out how their parents fell in love. I say it is bittersweet because we know what happens to Jack, if you have read any of the series. Mary still lives on and this story comes from memories as she is putting up the family Christmas tree. She takes out each ornament lovingly and tells the story of it. Each kids has made an ornament that has so much meaning that I loved hearing about each one. Then Mary gets to the one her and Jack provided and the story goes back in time to see how Mary and Jack met, fell in love and started a family.
Based on the ages of the kids and everything, I am guessing this is a late 70s romance, but it felt more like it should have been in the late 80s. Any way, the story doesn’t conform to letting you know really since a green sweater and jeans just mean a green sweater and jeans.
Mary left her little village in Italy at 19 to pursue a modeling career in the US. Leaving without the approval of her mother, Mary forges a path in a world that isn’t for the weak willed. The last 13 years have been great, but her love life has suffered. Having fallen in love once, only to be betrayed with a younger model, Mary doesn’t mix business and pleasure. Her heart is still mending and trust does not come easily. Knowing what happens to models as they age, Mary has decided this will be her last project and plans to retire. During her last photo shoot, Jack sees her and is dazzled by her beauty but also by her heart as he sees her pick up a toddler and laugh with her. It showed Jack, just the type of person she is and he wants to get to know her better. He also knows she can help him save his dream.
Jack Sullivan has spent the last decade working on his Pocket Planner (think Palm Pilot). He has been granted 24 hours to come up with a plan that will wow retailers into carrying his product for the Christmas season. A break is needed and he knows Mary is the key. So he waits the entire day in the cold watching Mary and then asks her out for pie at a local diner. While Jack fumbles the actual news, Mary agrees to be the face of Pocket Planner, but pulls a halt to their budding attraction by not wanting to mix business with pleasure, but Jack has fallen hard.
The two skirt their attractions of each other, but Jack won’t betray her trust and cross the line without her telling he can. Little things endeared me to these two, like having dinner with his brother’s and sister-in-law, with Mary playing with Ian, her soon to be nephew, and making fresh pasta. Mary regrets her own relationship with her mother, who shunned her when she left.
Again the author has hit home with the hero that we all wish existed. They really can’t do anything wrong, have an abundance of patience, and love fiercely. I love getting to know Jack as he has passed away already in the series and we only get glimpses of him through their children’s memories. Jack knows what is important and while he wants his Pocket Planner to go, Mary is the most important person in his life.
The epilogue is updates from each month of the first year of their marriage to the point where Mary becomes pregnant with Marcus. I cried knowing the end was only a little over a decade away for Jack. It just seemed so wrong that the good guy dies young. But this story isn’t about his death. It is about how he found the love of his life in Mary and started a beautiful family that is the Sullivans.
What I also found fascinating is that I didn’t know Mary was Italian. I am pretty sure she did ok financially over the years, but I could swear in one of the books it was mentioned she had hard times. Of course raising 8 kids on your own could not have been a cake walk. We only see glimpses of Mary as well in the series, but you get to know this incredible woman who has such a wonderful heart find the love she deserves. And now each year she lives her memories through their first ornament on the Christmas tree.
Bittersweet, but I feel lucky to be involved in the love of Jack and Mary by seeing their story. Now I know where this deep love comes from, loyalty to family and hearts that grow exponentially. A great book for Christmas or any time of the year!