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Written by Brianne Martin
Kimberly Rossi, who goes by the name Kim, is thirty-two years old and despite a disastrous love life, with two failed engagements and a divorce behind her, wants more than anything to be a published author of romantic fiction. She discovers a pamphlet in her mailbox about a writers' workshop called the Mistletoe Retreat, taking place the week before Christmas, and feels somehow that this will be the shot in the arm her writing needs; unlike most of the writers in attendance she has only written one book so far and although this does not concern her at the start of the retreat it really begins to bother get by midway through. Kim is a talented writer with wonderful concepts for her plot but because she has stopped believing in romance herself this is coming through on the page too, and she does not know what to do about it; she doesn't like making herself emotionally vulnerable to one person, let alone a readership.
Kim is an empathetic person who prioritizes the feelings of others and notices them around her, for example, although the room is full during her first group session at the workshop, Kim is the only person who notices a fellow attendee who seems to be having some trouble hearing and needs to sit nearer the front of the room.
Kim's most successful relationship is with her father who has raised her since the age of eleven. She wants to please her father and earn his respect and admiration. She is very protective of him and understandably terrified of losing him. Kim blames her mother for leaving them and for twenty years she has believed that committing suicide was the ultimate in selfishness and that her mother abandoned her. It is only after her father makes her listen to his recollections of what happenned they Kim begins to see her mother differently and accepts that she lived her after all; this coincides with her writing improving in its openness as she has "unblocked" the emotions that have prevented her from giving her characters emotional depth and vulnerability.
Kim is a character whose happy ending gives the reader pleasure as she is essentially a giving, generous person who deserves some luck in love.
Zeke (H.T.) Cowell
H.T. Cowell is a world-famous and incredibly successful author of romantic fiction. His given name is Hezekiah Tobias Cowell so consequently he has gone by "Zeke" his whole life. He is a deeply thoughtful and romantic man who manages to express his emotions in a way that connects with women. He seems to concentrate on being a person of depth rather than getting caught up in the fripperies of celebrity which he became caught up in whilst he was married. By his own admission, fame changed Zeke, and definitely isolated him from his wife and their marriage. In attending the writers conference, Zeke is trying to recapture his love of writing and to try to reach that young, passionate writer that he used to be.
Zeke suffered from depression after his wife died and he blamed himself for her death as he was not by her side as she had asked him to be. He began abusing alcohol and attempted suicide. Having now come to terms with his wife's death he is aiming to put the lessons he learned as a result into his new relationship with Kim. Zeke is traditional and old-fashioned, asking Kim's father for permission to date her. He is already dedicating himself to making her happy which in turn seems to have a beneficial effect on his writing too as his new novel goes to the top of the New York Times best seller list.
Robert Dante Rossi
Kim's father is a Vietnam veteran who saw a great deal of combat as he was in the air cavalry. He does not like to talk about what he experienced in the war but seems to have found a way to move past those experiences and not be emotionally or spiritually damaged by them. He is a hard-working man who is frugal and financially independent. Robert was a single dad who got up early to make Kim's lunch and drive her to school, taking a late lunch break himself to make sure he was there to pick her up afterwards.
Robert has never liked any of Kim's boyfriends but generally kept his reservations to himself. He could not stay quiet when it came to her husband, whom he loathed, and felt he was unethical as he was a professor dating his student. He believes that Kim will find true love much more than Kim believes it.
Robert is a "glass half full" kind of man who believes there is always someone worse off than him. He tries to help his fellow veterans out hence his invitation to two fellow ex-servicemen to spend Thanksgiving dinner with them. He seems to always have an available ear for listening. Robert is still deeply in live with Kim's mother and it pains him that Kim has such anger towards her.
Kim's mother committed suicide when Kim was eleven after a number of failed attempts to do so. Having struggled for much of her adult life with depression, she understood that having a child might cause this to become even worse but loved Kim so much she was happy to have done it anyway. Kim's mother is not a living character in the book but is nonetheless extremely key to Kim's character and particularly her feelings of abandonment.
Samantha is a woman without a self-edit button and says exactly what is on her mind at any given time. She is nonetheless impossible to dislike and her outgoing friendliness, as well as her underlying first-conference nerves, make Kim like her right away. Samantha is just normal enough not to be completely crazy but just crazy enough to be fun. She has been engaged for six years but is frightened to actually get married in case someone better comes along after she has tied the knot. She is a good writer and instinctively knows to make her characters flawed in some way so that they will appeal to the average reader. Surprisingly the quickly-made friendship between Samantha and Kim lasts far beyond the conference and becomes a genuine and meaningful one.
Marcus is Kim's ex-husband who dragged his feet and prolonged divorce proceedings not because he was sad to lose Kim but because he was sad to lose any money she might be awarded in a settlement. He is an important character in the book by virtue of the fact he made Kim realize what she did not want her life to be. Marcus is a history professor who began offering the promise of better grades to his female students if they would perform sexual acts for him. The scandal reached national prominence and forces Kim to realize she needed to leave him. Marcus actually left Kim before she could act, for not one, but two of his students.
Chuck is a veteran Robert Rossi has befriended and invited for Thanksgiving dinner. He is far older than Kim's father and is very sick,as well as being blind. He has been waiting for a liver transplant for three months but at his age he is not considered a priority. He spends his last Thanksgiving with the Rossis and passes away shortly after, with Robert at his side.
Joel is a young veteran in his early thirties who lost an arm and a leg when his vehicle drove over an IED and he was the sole survivor. His wife left him as a result but he does not bear her any ill will as he believes it must be unbearable to watch your whole husband go to war and have only half of him return. He is a sweet and gentle man who takes a liking to Kim. He is self deprecating and laughs at his physical disabilities. Ultimately his wife asks him to take her back and they make another go of their marriage.
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