Book: Christmas Kiss by L.L. Muir
Age/Genre: Holiday Time-Travel Romance
Preferred Reading Environment: On a holiday vacation, so you can step away from the book when you need to and have something else to do.
Reading Accoutrements: This one takes place in the highlands in winter, so I’m thinking hot toddies – made with Scotch! – are in order.
I came across Christmas Kiss (A Scottish Holiday Romance) (Kisses and Carriages Book 1), by L.L. Muir, because it was a free romance novel around the holidays and I was in the mood for a little Christmas cheer. I know that the holiday season is over and done with – I work in retail, so trust me, I know – but I decided to review this particular book because: 1) It’s February – the month of romance – and “kiss” is in the title, and 2) This book makes references to classic works of romance, so it’s kind of a double-whammy of perfection for the month of February.
The premise of this book is a little complicated. While on a Christmas vacation to Scotland, Bree realizes that the tour company she paid for her circuit of castles in the Heart of Scotland is a complete fraud. Determined not to let this ruin her vacation, she rents an incredibly unsafe car (it’s the only one available, apparently) and begins her journey – in the middle of a blizzard. Not surprisingly, she is then involved in a tremendous wreck that totals her rental car and finds herself stranded and freezing. Then, a carriage appears, and the carriage driver claims to be from her tour company. He takes her to a castle, where he says she’ll be staying the night, and essentially leaves her on the doorstep with a moody highland laird named Heathcliff.
The two don’t exactly get along. Heathcliff is, as I said, a moody man, and he is stressed because he has had two strangers abandoned at his door today – the day after he sent his staff home for the holidays. The first stranger is, apparently, Heathcliff’s daughter, who does not speak – and he has no real way to communicate with her. The second stranger is Bree, an American Sign Language (ASL) instructor whose vacation has already been a roller coaster. Thankfully, Heathcliff’s daughter can also speak ASL, so Bree offers to translate until a more permanent solution is available – aka after the storm ends.
Then the two realize that something strange is afoot. When Bree learns Heathcliff’s name, she jokes that her middle name is Catherine – referencing Wuthering Heights – and Heathcliff doesn’t understand the joke. He asks what year the book was published and she tells him 1847, which he doesn’t find amusing. Heathcliff claims it’s the early 1800s and, while Bree can tell that the castle and clothing adhere to that time frame, she is positive that it’s 2015. Shenanigans ensue as the two argue over who is lying, until they realize that the Man in the Moon is up to his tricks and he’s trapped them in Heathcliff’s castle – completely outside of either time and in a perpetual winter storm.
Basically, Muir took the characters of Wuthering Heights (with some slightly more redeeming traits) and trapped them in the Beauty and the Beast castle for Christmas. Listen, I’m all for literary references in my book – I enjoy nerding out when I find one as much as the next bookworm – but I don’t need to be hit over the head with them. Repeatedly.
I’m not going to lie, I never made it all the way through Wuthering Heights. I hated the premise – it’s depressing – and the characters are not the kind of people I like spending time with. Feel free to argue with me all you want, but I’m a lost cause when it comes to that book. While Muir certainly made the characters a bit more bearable, they are still not my favorites. Heathcliff is stubborn, suspicious of people for little-to-no reason, and jumps to illogical conclusions (which Muir uses to push the plot forward, because who needs a logical plot?) while Bree is alternately unconfident in herself, her career, and her future and completely sure that she is right about the year and the best way to communicate with Heathcliff’s daughter.
Most of the time I read this book, I found myself wondering which storyline it would follow the most – Wuthering Heights or Beauty and the Beast. The two characters seem destined for a tragedy where neither ends up with the person they love, so I would lean toward Wuthering Heights only to be yanked in the other direction by a scene pulled directly from Beauty and the Beast. Yet, Muir actually ends the story in a unique way, turning the plot around in the end to give the reader something different than either story.
I was disappointed because the use of sign language was sporadic and not as integral to the story as I expected it to be in the beginning. I have a couple of family members who speak ASL and I was excited to see that present in a romance novel – any novel, really – but Muir really only uses ASL as a plot device to give Bree and Heathcliff’s daughter a way to communicate.
Overall, Christmas Kiss is a light, romantic read for people who enjoy literary references – and aren’t absolutely in hate with Wuthering Heights. This was written as a quick holiday short, so it could use a few edits, but the errors aren’t super distracting.
Are there any “great works of literature” that you didn’t like but see in modern novels all the time? Let us know in the comments!