Kimberly Rossi is a sales associate at a Lexus dealership in Denver. She is looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with her father, Robert, in Las Vegas and has actually been thinking about moving back to Nevada to be nearer him as life in Denver after her divorce is not what she had hoped it would be.
Arriving home, Kim and her father head directly to Cucina Salvatore, their favorite restaurant, and order heartily. Kim tells her father more about the romance writing conference he is paying for as her Christmas gift. Then he breaks the news to her that he has colon cancer. There is a seventy percent survival rate which cheers Kim momentarily until he tells her he is being treated at the VA hospital which she knows is not where he would receive the most timely care.
The following day they manage to avoid talking about the situation by throwing themselves into Thanksgiving cooking. Kim's father has invited a couple of men he met at the hospital to join them for dinner. Before they arrive Kim attempts to persuade Robert to get his treatment at the Henderson Center in Las Vegas, one of the leading cancer centers in the world, but he will not. That she is learning all of this on Thanksgiving seems especially cruel to Kim as she already hates Christmas, since when Kim was just eleven years old, her mother committed suicide on Christmas Day. Their guests arrive just as Robert is carving the turkey; Chuck is a man much older than Kim's father, and Joel is in his early thirties, missing his right leg and left forearm. He lost both limbs in Afghanistan when his Humvee drove over an IED and he was the only survivor. After dinner the men watch football and Kim cleans up, grateful for some alone time.
Two days after Thanksgiving Kim returns to Denver where she works on developing her unpublished novel after work, but she seems to be hitting somewhat of a writers block. To add to her general discomfort with her life, her co-worker Rachelle has reached the engagement stage in her relationship and does not seem to be able to talk about anything else. At the forefront of Kim's mind, of course, is her father's cancer. He has discovered that as he is otherwise healthy he is able to have surgery to remove the tumor, but to Kim's dismay the surgery will not be for another few months due to the hospital's backlog. Kim wishes she had never told him about the waiter's retreat so that the money he spent on it could go towards cancer treatment at an alternative facility.
On December 10th Kim flies to Vermont for the writers' retreat, finally arriving after a three hour layover as darkness is falling. The Mistletoe Inn looks beautiful and cozy, lit up with Christmas lights that make the snow look magical. The entire hotel is like a Christmas card and Kim loves it immediately as it is so welcoming. She registers and learns that the opening reception for the conference will take place that evening at 7:00pm. She also discovers that there is a ratio of seven men to one hundred women.She meets a fellow attendee, Samantha McDonald, and likes her immediately although she is unsure why since Samantha gives off an air of craziness and does not seem to have the ability to edit herself. They agree to attend the opening reception together, arranging to meet just beforehand. In her hotel room, Kim looks through the timetable for the conference, making a note of the classes of interest. She circles the last event a half dozen times - a keynote speech by bestselling author H.T. Cowell, her favorite author and the inspiration for her first forays into writing.
Samantha is late to their meet-up spot so Kim goes into the welcome reception by herself, almost immediately getting hit on by a balding man claiming to be John Grisham but in actuality a published author called David who seems to attend writing conferences to meet women. She also meets two other women attendees, LuAnne and Heather, who are seasoned veterans of the writers workshop although they have not yet hit on a big book deal. Their negativity about the probability of meeting a literary agent who would give them a deal at this convention crushes Kim's hope for getting published herself. She and Samantha head to dinner where they exchange life histories. Although she enjoys Sam's company Kim is feeling even more regretful that she came and wishes the money had been spent on her father's surgery instead.
Early the next morning Kin goes to the hotel's fitness center to work out, noticing a handsome, blue-eyes man on the elliptical machine. As Kin runs on the treadmill her towel slips off her neck and she bends to pick it up, momentarily forgetting that she is on a moving conveyor belt and falling off the back of the machine. The handsome man quickly rushes to her aid; she admits only her pride is injured, and, too embarrassed to resume her exercise, goes back up to her room to get ready for the day. Samantha is already tucking in to a huge breakfast when Kim meets her in the dining room, and they make their way to the grand ballroom for the official introduction to the conference. They learn they have been divided into groups for workshops and since no re-assignment is permitted they will be in different workshops from each other for the entire convention. Kim's group meet in a small conference room near the ballroom and is moderated by Karen Mitchell, an editor at a small division of publishing giant Harper Collins. As Karen is talking the handsome man from the fitness center joins the group, to Kim's embarrassment. Karen is interrupted further when Kin realizes a woman seated behind her cannot hear well and asks if she would like to swap seats. As they do so her thoughtful action seems to irk Karen, who dislikes being interrupted, but garners an approving nod from the handsome man. They go round the room introducing themselves and Kim learns the man's name is Zeke. As they are instructed to pair up with a writing partner Zeke asks Kim to be his writing buddy. They arrange to meet for lunch after their next workshops.
Zeke joins Kim and Samantha for lunch and they exchange small-talk, Kim admitting she picked this particular conference because of her desire to hear H.T. Cowell speak. The three discuss their theories on why Cowell stopped writing, and why he is a recluse. As Samantha and Kim go to the next presentation, Zeke returns to his room to catch up on telephone calls, arranging to meet Kim at seven o'clock for dinner.
He is waiting for her in the lobby just before seven; Zeke has reserved a table in the dining room which enables them to avoid waiting in the long line of people waiting. He is mannerly and behaves like a gentleman which surprises Kim as her husband never behaved this way. She tells Zeke the entire sorry tale of her marriage; Marcus, a history professor, was controlling and emotionally abusive with a habit of exchanging good grades for sex with his female students. This scandal actually made the national news, and Marcus left Kim for two of these students, although he dragged the divorce out as long as possible in an attempt to avoid paying Kim any money in the settlement. She also shares that her father has cancer. Zeke lightens the mood by confessing his desire to write romance novels stemmed from a desire to meet women. They have a wonderful evening and seem well-matched. Kim gives him her manuscript to read and assumes this is what he is doing when he does not show up at their workshop in the morning. She is dreading his critique. He calls after the workshop to arrange to see her and agrees to accompany Kim and Samantha to a speech given by fiction writer Catherine McCullin. Her speech is less about writing and more about the obscene amount of money she spends on filling a hot tub with Perrier water because she likes the bubbles on her skin; Kim cannot help thinking that all of the money spent on fizzy water would pay for her father's cancer care. Zeke feels much the same way and seems pleased they share the same view. At lunch he admits to feeling a certain chemistry with her when he helped her to her feet in the gym and that he changed to her workshop in order to spend time with her, fabricating his claim that the conference director had sent him to the workshop.
When they meet the next morning at the workshop Zeke suggests they go into town for dinner. She readily agrees so they head into Burlington where Zeke has made reservations at an Italian restaurant recommended by their concierge. It reminds Kim of Cucina Salvatore in Las Vegas. As so as they have ordered Kim wants to know what Zeke thinks of her book. He has lots of good news and a tint piece of bad - the latter being the book is not publishable. She has great dialogue and pacing and she can definitely write, but her characters are not credible because they have no flaws and neither does their relationship. Zeke realizes this is because Kim is trying to protect herself from the flaws in a relationship and consequently does not share the vulnerable part of herself with the characters on the page, making them wooden and unrealistic. Zeke's critique wounds her and she tells him to take her back to the hotel, but later feels bad for how she reacted when all Zeke was trying to do was help. She sleeps late the next day and when she finds Zeke waiting for her in the lobby is still too upset to let him apologize.
That afternoon Kim has meetings with two agents both of whom like her book in principle but have basically the same observations to make as Zeke did. She realizes she has totally sabotaged what might have been a relationship with Zeke and leaves him an apologetic voicemail as an olive branch. Eventually he calls and they meet to go for a walk. After talking he pulls her close and they kiss, and Kim feels more loved than she ever has before.
The next day as neither has any writing sessions to attend Zeke wants to take Kim away from the inn for the day. He plans something Christmassy because he knows she hates Christmas, and he feels that in order to portray it in her novel she needs to see it in a different light. He confesses he is taking her to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where one of the most famous Christmas markets in America is in full swing. The town is beautiful and stimulates all of the senses with the rich decorations of Christmas and the smell of corn, melting chocolate and wassail. They eat at a German shop and drink Gluhwein, and for the first time she can remember Kim feels festive. Zeke then reveals he is taking her to New York City so that she can experience first hand what she wrote about in her book. They arrive at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan around midnight. Ever the gentleman, Zeke has booked a room each. Early next morning Zeke takes her to Saks Fifth Avenue where he buys her an outfit,then to Tiffany where he buys Hera necklace. Then he manages to obtain tickets to see Wicked on Broadway, admitting he is friends with the author of the novel the show was adapted from. At dinner, Zeke admits he has fallen in love with Kim.
Back in Vermont he elaborates and tells that whilst he finds her physically attractive it is her depth of character that really enticed him. He then tells her the real reason his wife left him; at five months pregnant she suffered a hemorrhage whilst he was away on business, and died. He still feels terrible guilt for being absent when she needed him. This honesty enables Kim to tell him that contrary to what she had originally told him her mother had not died of cancer but had committed suicide.He is the first person she has ever confided this to. Zeke tells her that her mother was not running from her but from feeling like she had no choice. He can relate because he contemplated suicide himself after his wife died. This admission sends Kim into a panic, terrified of ever having to deal with the prospect of someone she loves killing themselves. She leaves Zeke and stays in her hotel room for the day until Samantha finds her and drags her to the session she came for in the first place - the speech by H.T. Cowell. In the auditorium a hush falls as a little old man appears at the podium. He begins to speak and it is not until a few minutes later that everyone realizes he is not H.T. Cowell, but the person introducing him. The curtains part to reveal the author. Zeke walks onto the stage. Zeke is H.T. Cowell and proceeds to speak about the death of his wife as the reason for his reclusiveness and his struggle in trying to write a new book. He misses being an English teacher in his home town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, because he feels his life was more authentic and less complicated then. He is not around for Kim to speak to after the conference and after promising to keep in touch with Samantha, she heads to the airport and flies back to Denver. Surprisingly being at work on Monday is a welcome return to the mundane but now that the re-emergence of H.T. Cowell is all over the media it is not as easy to stop thinking about him as she had hoped. She is also rather insulted that her co-workers do not believe her when she tells them she has been to dinner with the author and talked to him about very personal issues like his wife's suicide. Her father calls that night to remind her about coming home for Christmas and she tells him she is thinking of coming back home.
He meets her at Las Vegas airport with the marvelous news that he has a new oncologist at the Henderson Clinic who will perform his surgery the following Friday. Despite her anguish over Zeke, Kim is incredibly happy and relieved. She wants to call Zeke and tell him, and is filled with sadness because she cannot.
Christmas Eve is filled with baking, and Kim's father insists on telling her about her mother, and how much she adored Kim, jeopardizing her own mental health to have her knowing that she would suffer debilitating post partum depression. Kim sees her mother in a different light and finally manages to mourn her and feel her love, something she has not managed since her suicide.
On Christmas morning Kim and her father read the second chapter of Luke and then open gifts around the tree. A third place is set at the dining table - Kim asks if Chuck will be joining them again but sadly Chuck has passed; Joel's wife surprisingly asked him to give her another chance and they are back together again. Kim's father tells her a new business associate will be joining them and when Kim opens the front door to welcome him she finds Zeke outside. He has been the person organizing his father's new cancer treatment as he has made significant donations to the Henderson Center in the past. He also asked her father's permission to date Kim, making him the first of her boyfriends Robert has actually liked. She apologizes for not giving him the opportunity to explain and he gives her an amazing Christmas gift - a publishing contract for her book.
Kim's life is all new, having forgiven her mother and feeling close to her again. She and Zeke get engaged on New Year's Day and marry just over a year later in Italy. Their books hit the New York Times' Bestseller List at the same time, Kim at number eight, and Zeke, as H.T. Cowell, at number one.