Member Reviews

Maybe I expected too much from this book; it was so bad I had to force myself to finish this. Not enough backstory (even though it was central to the plot) and way too many characters makes this book a hard pass.

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From the title and description Meet Me Under the Mistletoe sounds like it is going to be a joyful and cute holiday romance, but instead it deals with serious topics like suicide and adultery and isn’t as much lighthearted fun as I expected.

Elinor ‘Nory’ Noel and seven of her close friends from school meet up at a castle to spend a week together before two of the group get married. Elinor is reluctant to go to the week long holiday after a bad incident with one of the friends years earlier, and when she storms away from the group one evening she runs into Isaac, who she also knew many years ago. Sparks fly as they get to know each other as adults.

I enjoyed the idea for the plot and the relationships between the friends, but didn’t enjoy how heavy the book was at times. Some of the conversations made me laugh out loud, particularly ones between Nory and Andrew or anything involving Pippa. I would have loved more of those characters! I love love loved Nory’s quirky parents and their undying support of her. The relationship between Nory and Isaac was sweet and well written, but also maybe a touch predictable. The writing could also be a bit dry for me at times, especially all the description of flowers and gardens.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for the ARC of this book in exchange for my unbiased review!

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I ended up having to DNF this book.

The writing style just wasn’t for me. I hated it because I was actually super excited about this book. The cover is beautiful!

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Nory was hesitant to RSVP for a week-long wedding celebration with her old boarding school friends. Not only would she be forced to return to a place she longed to escape, but she would also have to face the mistakes of her past.

Maybe it’s because I had the benefit of early reviews, or maybe it’s because I have read other books but the author, but I rather enjoyed Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. This book does have a romance that gets a lot of attention and there were a few holiday events, however, the larger focus was on Nory.

Nory had a lot of complicated feelings about her past, and this was like returning to the scene of the crime. Though she ran with the rich and beautiful, she wasn’t really one of them. As a small town girl and a scholarship student, she was always a bit on the outside, and here she was forced to dance with the ghosts of her past, and it was no easy task.

I found Nory’s personal journey interesting and mixing it with a sweet romance and castle antics made it even better for me. This circle of friends was made up of some interesting characters. Some I loved, and some I loved less, but I found myself fully engrossed in their group dynamic. Nory’s family was quite wonderful too. Her parents were so warm and charming, her sister-in-law was a star, and even her brother grew on me. And Isaac, dear sweet Isaac really won me over.

I also must mention Nory’s life in London. She was a bookshop owner whose love for each and every tome was unmatched. She had a wonderful relationship with her sole employee and his husband, and I relished each and every one of their sparkling conversations. Declaring Nory the worst bookseller when she lamented book sales delighted me, and her adoration for her books warmed my heart.

And that ending! With a conclusion like that, I can forgive any misstep in this story. At times, it felt as though Bayliss was trying to tackle too much, but then I would revel in the fun at the castle or delight when Nory declared her love for the books in her shop, and all was forgiven. Overall, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe was a great story of family, friendship, and love, and the ending left me with happy tears in my eyes.

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Nory runs a second-hand bookstore called Serendipitous Seconds located in London. She loves all the books she sells so much that she has a hard time parting with them.

It’s the holiday season and Nory has been invited to a reunion with her old group of friends. They wanted to spend some time together before her friend Jenna’s wedding which is at the same place as the reunion, the school castle.

Nory bumps into the head gardener Issac at the castle. Issac, who happens to be her brother's friend for many years. Nory and Issac start a relationship and I did get very invested in their story. It was really cute to watch them grow and fall for one another.

The group of friends were very dynamic and are all really well developed. It was nice to see them grow in a positive way, it felt like really nice progress.

I loved the epilogue so much. I loved that it tied up all loose ends with every character.

The only downfall is that it isn’t very Christmas-y. Aside from the bookshop's window display, finding some mistletoe in the garden and snowing a few times, that is really all the Christmas vibes you will get.

Overall, it was a nice love story with a group of friends that will always look out for one another.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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I started this book with high expectations after loving 12 dates last Christmas, but this book read very differently. A plus for if you're reading it in September, but maybe not so much if you read in December, is that it really isn't a Christmas story, but more of a winter backdrop to a wedding story. I enjoyed the plot and the cast of characters, but I felt the book was at least 100 pages too long (450 pages is a LONG rom com novel). It did start really picking up after the 50% mark but this took me longer to get through than I anticipated.

Thank you to Penguin for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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A feel-good British holiday romance that revolves around the reunion of a group of college friends as they come together for a week of wedding festivities right around Christmas. Elinor (Nory) is a London secondhand bookseller who hasn't had much luck in love and falls hard for Isaac, the local estate gardener who used to drive Nory crazy as a child. Together they bond while the events of the wedding week keep bringing them together. I really enjoyed the friend dynamics of this story and the depth of the characters' growth. One of the friends commits suicide, one couple struggles with fidelity and being parents. I didn't love the third act break up based around a misunderstanding that could have so easily been resolved if only the characters had talked to one another. Other than that though this was a heartwarming story perfect for the holiday season and great on audio. Much thanks to NetGalley and @PRHAudio for a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review!

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Elinor Noel (Nory), is a secondhand bookshop owner in London, and reluctantly travels home to spend a week with old classmates before two of them get married at the end of the week. As Nory dodges a former fling, she runs into an old “enemy” that becomes her love interest of the novel. The book has mention of suicide, adultery, and classism, and was a bit heavier at times than I expected, thinking I was heading into a lighthearted and fun Christmas novel. Admittedly I struggled in the beginning with the first several chapters, and didn’t think it was going to be one I wanted to finish, but I was so glad I did! I really enjoyed Nory’s loud and loving family, her relationships with her friends, and I especially loved Isaac. They were the redeeming parts of this novel for me, and I loved following the journey where it all eventually took me.

Thank you penguin group Putnam and NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for my honest feedback!

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I was excited to read this one since I loved one of the author's other books - The Twelve Dates of Christmas. However, this book did not live up to my expectations. I really struggled to connect with and feel invested in the story which lead me to DNF halfway through the book.

I couldn’t get into the plot and I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. This book was also just not giving me the warm holiday vibes that I expected for a Christmas book.

Not to say I wouldn't suggest this book to others, it just wasn't for me.

*Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an e-ARC of this book.

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I struggled to get into this book. bit unfortunately. I felt that the romance was a bit lacking and there was more of a focus on the friend groups than anticipated - which isn't a bad thing! It just wasn't what I expected this book to be. It was still a fun read and can see it help getting me in the mood for the holiday season.

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This is my first Jenny Bayliss book, and I was really excited to get the opportunity to read the ARC. A group of friends reuniting for a wedding in a snowy castle? Sprinkled in a little a romance? Yes! Sign me up.

I was excited to read my first holiday book of the season, but this story was anything but a fun, light-hearted, romanic winter novel. Very early in the story, the idea of the elite vs the commoners became a central theme. And, to be honest, it was so overwhelming that I was eye-rolling and first thought of DNF-ing the book about 10 chapters in. It was all just so aggressive, and the openly attacking the other was just unnecessary and immature.

As a child, Nory was on scholarship to a fancy school with a bunch of rich people, while her family made an "honest living" running their own shop. It felt like other page in the first few chapters was some kind of dig at the opposite group (mostly poor vs rich), while Nory is stuck in the middle of these two worlds. She's friends with all of these wealthy people who she genuinely loves, but she comes from a family that essentially hates her friends and everything they stand for because they "works hard" and her friends don't. Nory and her brother don't even talk to each other because it leads to arguments about this. The small "romance" plot involves the rich (married) guy and the lowly groundskeeper she used to pick on while she was a student.

I really did not care for our main character or the plot at all. There were too many characters and random stories that didn't feel finished/meaningful.

I will try other books from this author, but this story was just not for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC of Meet Me Under The Mistletoe!

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Elinor Noel (Nory) owns a second hand book shop in London. Most of the book covers her attending a house party for a week at the country manor of Lord Abercrombie. The week will be a mini reunion for school mates and end with two getting married. Everyone else comes from wealth and privilege but Nory was a neighborhood scholarship student. She is accepted by them but also saw how poorly (especially the boys/men) treated the locals. There is catching up with old friends and dealing with old secrets. A marriage is on the rocks and a new relationship is becoming more. Nory seeks a break and runs into Isaac who is the head gardener for the estate. Isaac is her brother’s best friend and a few years older than her. They enjoy getting reacquainted but he is mindful that he is the help not a guest.

The cute cover makes the book look lighter than it is. Many serious topics are covered; class distinctions, racism, suicide, infidelity, jealousy, drinking etc. The book is appropriately label as general fiction. The romance is a small part of the story as a whole. I also wouldn’t say there is anything Christmasy other than it takes place at that time of year. I love the Britishness expressions like swanning off and tit about.

I enjoyed the story and it was more complex that I expected. But don’t pick this up thinking it is a light Christmas romance. Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Bayliss’s new novel focuses on a boarding school set meeting on holiday just before the Christmas holiday in advance of the wedding of two schoolmates to one another. Single, curvy, bookstore owner Elinor (Nory) is dreading the get together because at the last reunion, she slept with Guy only learning he was married after the sex marathon that their friends heard.

A scholarship student whose parents worked for a living, Nory’s experience was a little different that her classmates, and the novel provides examples of British class distinctions. As soon as the caretaker's son is mentioned, between her father's desire for her to wed a working class hero and Nory’s secret crush on Isaac and EVEN THOUGH HE THREW A PIECE OF MANURE AT HER HEAD AND LAUNCHED A RIVALRY OF STUDENTS VS WORKING CLASS AND RESULTED IN THE UNFORTUNATE NICKNAME “SHITHEAD”... I knew he would be the one to become the love interest.

Lots of characters (and their significant others, parents and children) that are difficult to keep straight. More showing that telling, some evocative descriptive writing and a rich vocabulary. American readers should be aware that British turns of phrase (eg. "out of the boat) are not explained, but usually discernible from the context. The pacing feels a little slow; a few days is covered in a huge amount of detail.

I received an advance reader’s review copy of #MeetMeUndertheMistletoe from #NetGalley

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Meet Me Under the Mistletoe
Genre: Romance
Format: Kindle eBook
Date Published: 9/27/22
Author: Jenny Bayliss
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Pages: 448
GR: 3.42

I requested a digital advanced readers copy from NetGalley and Penguin Publishing Group and providing my opinion voluntarily and unbiased.

Synopsis: Elinor Noel – Nory for short – is quite content running her second-hand bookshop in London. So, when her oldest friends invite their school gang to spend the days leading up to their wedding together at the school castle, Nory must prepare herself for an emotionally complicated few days. Nory falls quite literally into the arms of Isaac, the head gardener with nothing but contempt for the ‘snobby prep school kids’, the attraction between them is undeniable. As Nory and Isaac explore their common ground, pressures mount on all sides and Nory must decide what kind of life she wants to live and what sort of love is worth the risk.

My Thoughts: The romance felt as an afterthought. This felt more of a contemporary fiction, if anything. I would liked to have seen more Christmas in the book as well, especially being marketed as a Christmas novel. It was a little on the long side and more of a slow burn. Don’t get me wrong, this was still a wonderful book. There are a lot of characters but as the story progresses, you get the sense of who is who. The relationships that develop are sincere and authentic. And Snowball Croquet? Who knew. Fabulous. The characters were well developed with passion, depth, and creatively done. The author’s writing style was complex, endearing, and intriguing. This book could be read anytime of the year and was a good read.

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Consider me a fan! Bayliss's covers are as cute and charming as her stories.

This was less a Christmas story but rather a winter wedding that brought together a group of posh classmates that attended private school together on scholarship. Elinor, aka Nory, is content running a second-hand bookshop in London (swoon!) when she gets the invite to spend the week leading up to her friends' lavish wedding in the school's castle. Nory must prepare herself for an emotional and complicated few days as the reunion brings back fond memories and an ill-advised former fling. When Nory falls into the arms of Isaac, the head gardener, she finds herself spending more time with him than the wedding festivities. Pressure mounts as Nory must decide what kind of life she wants to live and what sort of love is worth the risk.

This was such a sweet story of friendship, love and happily ever afters. Bayliss has a way of developing characters so that you are connected to each one. I adored Nory and her group of school friends. Their support for each other through ups and downs and in between was super real and special. It wasn't cookie cutter and yet it felt cozy and warm. The love story between Nory and Isaac was the icing on the cake. Not so much centered around Christmas but rather the holiday wedding, playing in the snow and meeting under the mistletoe!

This was my first holiday read of the season, and while I'm not at all ready for winter (fall, yes) I'm really excited about all the Christmas books on my TBR!

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I went into this book expecting a sweet, cute Christmas romance and I was wrong. I really liked Isaac. I thought he was sweet and kind and was a good love interest. However, Nory was frustrating and needed to decide how she wanted to love her life. She needed to make a decision about what was best for her life and live that way, but instead she waffled between her family life and friend life. I also felt like there were way too many characters and side stories going on. I spent about 60% of the book going back and forth to remind myself who was who.

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I read The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss and really enjoyed it. I then picked up A Season For Second Chances and did not finish it.

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is another book I, unfortunately, did not finish.

Much like A Season For Second Chances, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe read very weird to me. At times, it felt more like I was reading an essay and less like I was reading a book that was supposed to keep me enthralled and wanting to turn the page again and again. I didn't feel connected to the characters the way I crave when I dive into a book, and they all felt the same for the most part.

I also didn't understand the cheating storyline, as Guy isn't even the man that Nory is supposed to have a romance with. I feel like we got way too much of that back story (for, what I can only assume is little pay off if it does come to a head later in the book) and less of the connection between Nory and Issac.

I also found it a bit strange that the author switches back and forth from Elinor to Nory. There are already quite a few characters for you to keep track of, and because they read the same, it's even harder to tell them apart. I would've preferred the author to stick to either Elinor or Nory for continuity purposes.

It also didn't feel like a 'Christmas' story to me like The Twelve Dates of Christmas did. While set in the holiday season, it offers little in the way of Christmas spirit, especially as it deals with heavy topics I wasn't expecting in a book marketed to be a Christmas romance novel.

Overall, I felt like the story had promise and there were some cute and heartwarming moments within the part of the story that I did read, but it wasn't enough to keep me interested.

While I may not have enjoyed this title, I do look forward to giving Jenny's future novels a try as I did really enjoy her first book.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

This review originally appeared on Goodreads.

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Although I love Jenny Bayliss most of the time, this one sadly was not for me. It moved a bit slow and I was bored most of the time which made me sad. I could not wait for the book to be over.

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Jenny Baylis is back with what is sure to be another Christmas hit! Nory Noel is heading to her hometown for a friends wedding. While surrounded by her closest friends, she ends up stumbling into someone else from her past! Nory and Isaac quickly find they can’t stay away from each other. After one magical night, Nory decides she must do something special for Isaac. What she thought would be a pleasant surprise turns out to make Isaac turn away from her. Will Nory get her Christmas miracle and win Isaac back?

“Meet me under the mistletoe” was filled with everything we love about Christmas. Family, friends, used book shops, and of course, a hot guy! I truly loved this Christmas book and am so excited to share with more!

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I really love Jenny Bayliss books and was very excited to read Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. I really enjoyed many aspects of the book including the heartfelt depiction of a friend lost too soon, the main character’s quirky family, Nory’s second hand bookshop and the relationship with Ameerah, her best friend. I did feel at times there were too many detailed stories happening and sometimes Nory’s choices seemed out of character. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

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