Richard Paul Evans is perhaps best known for his holiday book THE CHRISTMAS BOX which has been followed with the movie version and several other Christmas books. Most recently I read his five book series THE WALK. As I told an acquaintance at the library today, he is a master at creating stories that tug at that old heart string. He is also a wonder at telling his stories in a few words.The narration always seems to flow bringing each short chapter to a quick conclusion.
For the past five or six years, I've always worked in some dedicated reading time for special Christmas books. It's a relaxing contrast to the otherwise hectic schedules of the season, and it is less fattening that sampling the cookies. Unfortunately this year, I had almost no time for reading, and my to-read stack of books was growing daily. But I finally eeked out sometime last evening and settled in to read Evan's latest story THE MISTLETOE PROMISE. Like each book in THE WALK series, each chapter is preceded by a quotation, supposedly taken from the main character's diary. These pithy statements either reveal what is going to happen in the next chapter or uncover more about Elise herself.
When Elise Dutton is approached by a stranger in the food court of the large office building where she works, she is apprehensive but interested. She is quite sure he is a lawyer who works on the top floor, but beyond that she knows nothing. When he suggests that they accompany each other to a series of holiday events, appearing as a couple, she wonders about his motives. He assures her that everything will remain platonic, that he simply needs someone to accompany him to the endless holiday commitments that come with being a partner in a prestigious law firm. When he promises she can end the relationship at any time, Elise agrees to the contract which they call The Mistletoe Promise. Of course as readers will expect, Elise finds the stranger (Nicholas) fascinating -- handsome, kind, and extremely attentive. She never wants the fairytale contract to end and even begins to believe that he may feel the same, but she also knows that if Nick knew the real Elise and her hidden past, he would abandon her.
I must say that when Elise's "dark past" is revealed, I was taken aback. Evans has picked something that will make it hard to just accept Elise as Miss Wonderful who has been wronged. But that is the point of his story, the whole point of Nick's Mistletoe Promise. Wounded people, people who have messed up frequently deny themselves any chance to start again, instead staying trapped in a limited life devoid of joy. Elise's past is one twist to the story, but there is also another -- one I figured out quite early, but that didn't detract from its impact later on.
If you like Nicholas Sparks or if you've read other Richard Paul Evans' titles, then I can recommend this one. It is a fast read; grab a hot chocolate or a favorite tea and curl up. And yes, you can have a cookie or two while you read!