c.2016, Simon & Schuster
$19.99 ($26.99 Canada)
309 pages

You’ve got big plans this holiday season.

If everything comes together, it’ll be the perfect Christmas with a little traveling, a package or two arriving on time, colorful wrap, big silky bows and food. Lots of food. And in the new book “The Mistletoe Secret” by Richard Paul Evans, you’re going to work those plans — or else.

Christmas was supposed to be happy and jolly and merry, and whatever.

It had been almost a year since Alex Bartlett’s wife, Jill, left him for another man — a man who couldn’t spell, no less — and Alex was still smarting from it. He knew his job travels were causing problems in his marriage, but he hadn’t known Jill was cheating on him. She left him around the holidays and Merry stupid Christmas.

He was so lonely. If it weren’t for his work pals, Nate and Dale, Alex was pretty sure he wouldn’t have survived. Then again, if it wasn’t for his work pals, he wouldn’t be filling out a very long online form in search of love that he wasn’t sure he wanted.

But there, on his computer screen in the wee small hours of several mornings, was a blog from someone who understood loneliness. Alex was stunned at what the anonymous woman said, and how much her words resonated in his life. Suddenly, a relationship didn’t sound so bad, if it could be with her. She gave few clues for her location, but he eventually figured out where she was, and booked a plane to Utah.

LBH. Those were the initials the blogger used to identify herself, which was really no identity at all. Even so, Alex found twenty possibilities in tiny Midway, Utah, where everybody knew everybody else. Was LBH an older woman or a teenager? Would Alex recognize her soul, or would he run up against a heart as cold as the snow that covered Midway?

Or, better question: after meeting a beautiful waitress at a local diner — a woman who seemed to be a perfect match for him, who was gorgeous and funny — did he even want to finish his quest?

As holiday romances go, I’d have to say that “The Mistletoe Secret” is a notch above. I think it’s better because there really is a secret inside this book.

Really, author Richard Paul Evans could have taken readers in any one of several different directions, but the enjoyment would be the same. Evans’ Alex is your basic nice guy — one who’s still a bit befuddled at his sudden singlehood, but who’s willing to try something new to meet women. The characters that surround Alex, both at home in Florida and while searching in Utah, are also very likable people; even the nasty ex is given the soft glove. What’s not to love?

Be aware that there’s a surprising (for this series) but mostly chaste love scene here, though it shouldn’t stop you from sharing this book with Grandma or a teen. If either of them needs something merry, “The Mistletoe Secret” is a book to plan for.

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