Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Christmas in Mustang Creek - Linda Lael Miller (HQN - Oct 2015)

Series: Brides of Bliss County (Book 4)

Charlotte Morgan grew up in Mustang Creek, Wyoming, and couldn't wait to escape to the big city. But life in New York isn't as fabulous as she'd like to admit -- she's lonely, doing a job she doesn't love and dating too many frogs she meets online.

There was one potential prince, though -- Jaxon Locke, a veterinarian with definite possibilities -- but his move to Idaho to fill in at his dad's vet practice ended things just as they were getting interesting. What Charlotte doesn't know is that he misses her, more than he expected…

Meanwhile, Charlotte's great-aunt Geneva -- the woman who raised her -- needs to enter an assisted-living facility. So, just before Christmas, Charlotte moves back home. When Jax catches wind of her move back West, he's determined to get to Wyoming and do whatever it takes to win her back.

Christmas in Mustang Creek is a magical time in a magical place, not least because of a mysterious visitor named Mrs. Klozz. She knows that love is the greatest gift of all, and she's ready to help out Santa by giving these two a push in the right direction!

This was a heartwarming holiday story with just the right amount of sizzle. Charlie grew up in Mustang Creek, raised by her aunt after her parents were killed. But she wanted more than the small town life, so she headed for New York City as soon as she could. She's spent seven years living the life in the big city, but lately she hasn't been as happy as she was. The job isn't as great as it used to be, she doesn't really have any friends, and the dating scene stinks. There was one man that had promise, a veterinarian, but when he had to go back to Idaho to help his sick dad, she wasn't ready to give it all up and go with him. Now she's headed back to Wyoming to take care of Aunt Geneva, never expecting what is there for her.

Jax had really fallen hard for Charlie, and has missed her since their breakup. Now that his dad is doing better, Jax is no longer needed in Idaho. When he finds out that his college roommate, Nate Cameron, lives in Mustang Creek and is looking for a partner in his vet practice, Jax jumps at the chance. Now all he needs to do is convince Charlie that they belong together.

Fate being what it is, Charlie and Jax end up arriving in Mustang Creek at the same time and in the middle of a blizzard. Jax has the last available hotel room because finding Nate's house in that weather would be impossible. Charlie doesn't want to disturb her aunt's mysterious housemate that late at night, but find no room at the inn - thanks to the last person she ever expected to see in Mustang Creek. Jax is, of course, sweet and chivalrous and offers to share the room with her. The sparks are still there between them, but Jax is determined not to rush things and maintains his distance. Charlie isn't sure what to think, other than the need to keep herself under control.

The next day, Charlie meets the mysterious Mrs. Klozz, who knows far more about Charlie than Charlie knows about her. Mrs. Klozz also seems to have a knack for knowing just what Charlie is thinking or needs. While Charlie is off to the assisted living center to see her aunt, Mrs. Klozz manages to get Jax to the house and invites him to stay there while looking for a place to live. Of course, he knows that Charlie isn't going to be thrilled with the idea, but he's willing to see how it plays out. He was right, but Charlie finds herself succumbing to Mrs. Klozz's gentle bulldozer tactics.

Mrs. Klozz is quite the matchmaker and finds any number of ways to throw Charlie and Jax together. Add in her happily married friends, Hadleigh, Bex and Mel, and Charlie quickly gives up resisting the sparks. I loved their ski weekend together, as they started the process of getting to know each other again. Jax tries to be patient and not push too hard, but he wants Charlie in his life.

I liked Jax a lot. He's really a sweet guy with a big heart. It was fun watching him work his way into the hearts of all the ladies, from Charlie to Mrs. Klozz, just by being his charming self. I liked how he was up front with Charlie about his feelings for her. I enjoyed seeing how easily he slipped into life in Mustang Creek.

I liked Charlie, but there were also times that she frustrated the heck out of me. I really liked that she had no problem dropping everything to take care of Aunt Geneva. There is a lot of love and respect between the two of them. Charlie is also quite stubborn, and when she sets herself on a path, it takes a lot to change her direction. She had a hard time admitting, even to herself, that city life wasn't everything she had expected it to be. Even back home, she was still focused on trying to find another job in the same field. Even though multiple people told her the same thing about what she could do, she didn't want to listen.

I really enjoyed the rekindling of their relationship. Jax is steady in his resolve to win her, and finds little ways to win her over. Charlie has a hard time resisting the sparks, but can't see a way past the obstacles she sees in their conflicting dreams. She spends a bit too much time overthinking everything rather than listening to her heart. I loved the various ways that Jax and others showed her that she belonged there rather than in the city. Once she finally saw the light, there was no stopping them. I loved the epilogue and the peek into their future.

Secondary characters are always good in these stories, and this was no exception. I loved Mrs. Klozz and subtle and not-so-subtle ways of getting them to do what she wanted. There was a hint of holiday magic about her that added an extra something to the story. I also loved Aunt Geneva. She loved Charlie so much, and wanted t make sure she didn't make the same mistakes. I also loved her practical viewpoint of the challenges of her life. I also enjoyed seeing the couples from the other books in the series again.

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