Published: October 2010
Audio copy: Overdrive
Arabella Dempsey’s dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls’ school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies…
Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh—often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation—has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, “Meet me at Farley Castle”, the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens’ modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate 12-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? And is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella and Turnip’s hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?
Ladies, and gentlemen too, you are in for a treat. This wonderfully comedic historical, romantic mystery will surprise and delight you. Mischief of the Mistletoe is one of those books that takes you on a jolly ride and you just don't want to get off. Admittedly, the premise is a little foolish - using Xmas puddings to relay sensitive, spy-type information - but Ms Willig makes it work all the way.
Turnip Fitzhugh is definitely not the sharpest crayon in the box, but it is precisely his open honesty that endears him to the reader. There is no guile in Turnip, what you see is what you get - tall, handsome, rich, caring, loyal, silly and remarkably steadfast. He is everthing we don't realise we want in a man. The sort of person who always ends up in the right place, but he gets there by accident. I just adored every aspect of his character.
Arabella is the eldest child of a widowed and sickly vicar, who has spent her formative years as a companion to a rich, and remarkably silly, aunt. When her services as a companion are no longer required she is forced to find work in Bath as a teacher, in order to help support her family. That, my friends is when the fun begins. When Arabella first meets Turnip he knocks her off her feet, literally. Not an auspicious beginning for sure. Arabella is pretty but not beautiful, sensible and protective of her family. She has no illusions about her future and is very pragmatic. The slow realisation of her love for Turnip is masterfully done and the dialogues between the two of them had me whooping with laughter. The two of them together try to solve a rather strange mystery and while I thought I knew the answer, I was never quite sure.
This time around I listened to Mischief of the Mistletoe and Kate Reading does an excellent job of conveying Turnip's slightly slow and self-deprecating manner. I'm sure there were several people who saw me in my car were wondering what on earth I was laughing at. MotM was not written as a YA novel but it is perfectly suitable for any teen readers who want to lose themselves in a light historical romance. I don't hesitate to recommend it and I'm sure you'll find it just as wonderful as I did.