A Kiss, A Kid and a Mistletoe Bride
by Lindsay Longford
(Silh. Romance #1336, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-373-19336-X
A Kiss, A Kid and a Mistletoe Bride is Lindsay Longford's eighth Silhouette Romance, and she knows how to put appealing elements together. The book is tagged as part of Silhouette's Virgin Brides series. Consider the appeal of combining the town bad boy's returning home with his newly discovered six year-old-son in tow, then reconnecting with the returning good girl, with whom he shared a fleeting, but memorable, teenage kiss eleven years earlier. These ingredients are all wrapped up in a few weeks with a Christmas Eve wedding. This is a sweet book, which deserves a "G" rating for its "gentleness" as much any other quality.

Joe Carpenter lived in Bayou Bend, Florida, for just two years, moving there with his ne'er do well father when he was seventeen and leaving there precipitously at the age of nineteen with no explanations. This rootless, transient lifestyle had been a pattern throughout his youth as his father drank himself to death while staying just out of reach of a trail of arrest warrants.

Gabrielle O'Shea grew up in Bayou Bend, in a loving family, the daughter of a successful lawyer and a mother whose death more than a year earlier had so impacted the little family, they had neglected their Christmas traditions. Now, Gabby has decided to sell her business and condo in Arizona and return to Florida for good to watch over her father. A holiday-aholic, Gabby has a different pair of Christmas socks for each day of the season, and lots of other holiday traditions also.

Joe Carpenter discovers his son's existence when a stand-in parent contacts him following the death of the boy's mother. While Joe has some private doubts about the boy's parentage, he never hesitates to accept Oliver, then makes life-altering choices to accommodate this new element in his life. He moves back to the town which never accepted him as one of its own and hopes to create a stable life for the little boy. This instant dad always puts Oliver's needs first and never wavers in his determination to create a good home for his new son.

Gabby O'Shea meets Oliver in a stand-off, as they both eye the same pathetic little tree in a Christmas-tree lot. She intuitively understands his blustering and likes the boy but is overwhelmed when she realizes she has been going toe-to-toe with the son of the man of her dreams. Without much sidestepping, Gabby and Joe become reacquainted and begin to understand some of the underlying characteristics always attract them to each other.

Joe has his secrets and has to get past his idea of there being no future for a bad boy and a good girl. At times, Joe is so very good, it strains credulity, but generally he is an appealing man, doing his best to adjust to one of life's curve balls, wanting primarily to help his son avoid the sort of youth he experienced.

A Kiss, A Kid and a Mistletoe Bride is pleasant holiday reading. At just one hundred eighty-seven pages, this little book is a relatively quick read. It may be just the little distraction you need when taking a break from holiday stress, a sugarplum to accompany a cup of tea.

--Sue Klock

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