Under The Mistletoe By Michelle Mathews

Why had she ever thought that only kids enjoyed Christmas?

Under The Mistletoe

First Love From Silhouette (“America’s Publisher of Contemporary Romance”) can always be counted on to provide a holiday-themed title! And hey! This one doesn’t even deal with the incredibly meddling neighbors of Blossom Valley OR a talking dog!

The Plot: Instead we have a boys’ Catholic school gone bad, the inherent drama of Debating Team tryouts, a forbidden romance, and non-stop winter sports.

High school junior Megan Simmons is devastated when her glamorous older sister Natalie marries law student Adam, whom Megan had fallen for at first sight:

His slightly arrogant air melted the minute he smiled. The second Adam flashed Megan his faultless grin, she had known she was falling in love. He seemed so distinguished and mature. The fact that he was an Ivy League law student was evident in the way he walked, talked and smiled. He was just so much more adult than any of the boys that Megan had dated.

We are forever reminded how plain, studious and “nice” Megan is, so of course she has no chance with Adam, and soon finds herself the maid of honor at her sister’s Christmastime wedding, where she spends the entire time staring at her new brother-in-law, until the reader becomes concerned that she might pine away to nothing.

Escaping into a dark corner of the country club during the reception, a handsome stranger from the groom’s side suddenly appears:

“Were you waiting for me?” he asked a crooked smile playing on his lips.

“No… why do you ask?”

“I don’t suppose that you know you’re standing under the mistletoe?”

“I… didn’t realize,” she began. Her eyes met his.

“Sure you did.” His blue eyes had become liquid, and her heart beat faster. She knew in an instant that he intended to kiss her. She began to pull away, but before she could, he leaned down and gently kisses her.

So, gross. I already hate this guy, who turns out to be Chris Johnson, Adam’s cousin from Massachusetts, who has recently relocated to Hartford. Megan has never met him because he attends LaSalle, an exclusive all-boys Catholic school.

Later that evening he helps Megan clean up a spilled plate of deviled eggs, so clearly he is not a date-rapist.

He also asks Megan on a date to the LaSalle sleigh ride, which is apparently the hottest ticket in town for girls from Hartford’s lowly Central High. Megan’s friend Leslie is eager to double date with Chris’s friend Ken (even though she usually only dates basketball players and Chris and ken are on the DEBATING TEAM); Megan is less enthused, because of her secret love for Adam… which actually isn’t even a secret because she has told everyone about it including Chris. Awkward.

The sleigh ride isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, when some of the students from LaSalle and girls from Upland-Gable, a private girls’ school, sneak wine onto the sleighs and Leslie gets drunk [Boone’s Farm or Annie Greensprings? –Ed.] Megan also clashes with Chris’s ex-girlfriend, snooty Claire Wakefield, which makes me wonder if Sweet Valley High and First Love From Silhouette were sharing ghostwriters.

Megan’s parents are not pleased when she and Leslie return home, and her father especially thinks that LaSalle boys are up to no good, and urges her to stop dating Chris so that she can better prepare to become the first girl to make Central High’s all-male debate team.

I guess Megan is supposed to be some kind of strong, opinionated, feminist role model (her debate team try-out speech is in favor of the ERA!) but she mostly comes off as a whiner, constantly complaining about how she’s not as pretty as her sister, and the prep school girls are snobs, and drinking is wrong and that she’s probably not even going to make the team anyway, so why even try…

Unfortunately, the only character less likeable than Megan is Chris, who is constantly making passive-aggressive comments about how Megan is in love with his cousin, especially when Natalie and Adam surprise everyone by returning from their honeymoon on an earlier flight:

“Later,” Chris replied curtly, as he opened the car door for Megan, never casting so much as a glance in her direction.

“I didn’t know they were coming back early,” Megan apologized, sensing his anger.

“But you were more than pleased they did!”

Suave. Chris won’t let the subject drop and demands ANSWERS:

“Do you love Adam? I hate to sound redundant, and I know that I asked you this before, but it is something we have to clear up.”

She hesitated.

“It’s a simple question, and either a yes or a no will do,” Chris said quietly.

“It is not simple!” she blurted, trying to keep the tears that were welling in her eyes from streaming down her cheeks.

Ugh, Chris is the worst.

Despite the fact that Chris is a creep who looks like a teenage Pete Campbell in that cover photo, Megan keeps dating him (why?), including a sledding trip to Mohawk Mountain, where Megan can’t figure out how to stay on the innertubes they use as sleds, embarrassing herself in front of Claire Wakefield again. Claire also pushes her, fully-clothed, into the resort’s pool (so SVH!), which lowers her father’s opinion on Catholic schools still further.

Chris passive-aggressively doesn’t call Megan for like three weeks (“I don’t want to add bringing you home late to my list of sins. It’s long enough as it is”) so she throws herself into practicing for debate try-outs, but since she is a girl she only makes the team as an alternate, losing a full-time position to the school basketball star, who promptly does her a solid and breaks his leg.

Male Chauvinist Coach has assigned Megan the girl-job of making name tags for the team, but will she rise to the occasion when her team needs her? The topic is the ratification of the ERA, her specialty!

Megan is still whining (“I think I’d rather not be a part of the team at all rather than being an alternate…”) but takes the podium anyway. Central High narrowly loses to Upland-Gable (arguing ERA-con, natch). Chris has that nice Father Anthony talk to Megan’s father about how Catholic school students aren’t all hoodlums. I guess Megan gets over Adam and she and Chris find love together as only two terrible people can. The end!

Sign It Was Written In 1983 Department:

Thank goodness she didn’t have to present the negative standpoint! After all the problems she had overcome just to make the debating team it would have been a cruel blow to have to argue against women’s liberation.

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