Emma Tremayne arrives in Bannerdale, a quaint town in the English countryside, after a disastrous break-up — and has plenty of her own baggage from the exchange. But ever the consummate PR professional, Emma accepts a new job and finds a daunting task ahead of her: helping the Bannerdale Mountain Rescue team raise much-needed funds.
The answer is something that has worked before, Emma claims: a calendar featuring the hunky men of the squad — in the buff. But not all members are ready to drop trou for the “greater good,” and especially not Will Tennant, a local entrepreneur and businessman. Citing that the exercise is degrading and will surely make the team a laughingstock, Will does his best to unhinge Emma’s plans.
Until he begins to realize how completely dedicated to her work Emma is, which impresses him. And how lovely she is when she’s begging to be taken seriously. And how attractive her figure is when she’s wearing a skirt, or muddy boots, or jeans . . .
You see where I’m headed, friends. Phillipa Ashley’s Dating Mr. December is a classic nice-girl-meets-supposedly-bad-boy storyline, sprinkling in a few new details for flavor. Will is broody and difficult, but also devastatingly handsome and charismatic; Emma is serious and hurt — a bit timid from her recent heartbreak — but also wildly attracted to Will. It’s a recipe for . . . well, not disaster. But entertaining foibles, sure.
Going into the novel, I’ll admit I was expecting something a little more holiday themed. Will is “Mr. December,” the featured man for the calendar’s December, but the book doesn’t take place at Christmastime. Also? What Will and Emma are doing, for the vast majority of the book, couldn’t be called “dating.” It could be called fantasizing, building sexual tension, bantering and throwing longing looks, yes, but definitely not “dating.”
That nit-picky stuff aside, I enjoyed this story — a light romp through the British countryside with two people who met as strangers — or even adversaries — but found a way to work together . . . and even fall in love. Emma and Will’s conversations were fluid and fun, and Will’s unexpected romantic side was definitely swoon-worthy. Unlike some of the romance novels I’ve read recently, author Ashley wasn’t eager to just throw these two into bed; the plot built slowly but realistically, and I didn’t feel as though their feelings had been forced or manipulated.
There were times I was a little annoyed at some of the obvious tropes — like Emma constantly needing Will, a member of a rescue team, to rescue her — but I still enjoyed her character. Smarting from that betrayal, Emma was delicate and in need of some TLC. And fortunately for her, Will wasn’t the woman-using scoundrel the folks of Bannerdale made him out to be. I liked him, too.
Fans of romance will find this story charming and quick — and not lacking on the sexy scale. But don’t let the Santa hat on the cover fool you (and that’s not supposed to be Emma, is it? She’s a brunette) — it’s less about the holly-jolly and more about the misunderstandings between would-be romantic partners. But, you know — that’s fun, too.
3 out of 5!