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Written by Jody Perry
True Love Conquers All
Above all, The Mistletoe Promise is a love story and as such, shows love in a positive, rose-tinted light. The major theme of the novel is that real love does not hurt, harm or abuse, and is a life-enhancing thing that conquers all. Elise has believed herself to be in love before and also believed that her then-husband loved her in return. To someone like Elise, who had been abused by men in various ways all her life, love involved verbal and emotional abuse that was so intense that it actually made her believe that she herself was unlovable, and in this way made her accept whatever was offered on an emotional level, believing this to be love. When confronted with actual, genuine love, she is almost too scared to accept it as it is such an alien concept to her.
Nick and Elise have many obstacles to overcome with their love. Although it does not concern Nick that he is far more financially successful than his beloved, Elise is clearly troubled by it and constantly aware of the enormous discrepancy in their earnings. However, Nick's frequent lavish gifts are a sign of his love and affection for her, not a sign that he is pointing out how much more financially secure he is than she, and in this way the depth of their love overcomes what could be a difficult situation. Similarly the standard of the companies that they work for could be very awkward, as highlighted by the difference in style of the two Christmas parties that the couple attend, but because Nick loves Elise he is as charming and enthusiastic about attending her office celebration as he is about attending the law firm partner's celebration the following evening.
Elise believes that once someone finds out that her carelessness caused the death of her daughter they will not be able to love her, but this is actually the opposite of what Nick feels. Remembering her from the interview he conducted with her after the tragedy as a junior member of the Prosecutor's Office, Nick feels only sadness for her and believes one hundred percent that she was overwhelmed and absorbed in a crisis of a marriage, rather than a neglectful mother, and as a result loves her even more deeply because she has endured not only the hatred of others, but from herself as well.
In the end, Nick and Elise are truly in love, and this love is able to overcome the differences in their lives, the tragedies of their past, and likely anything that they have to contend with in their future.
Elise is abused by all of the men in her life until she meets Nick. One of the themes of the novel is that once conditioned to accept abuse as the norm, a person then seems to attract further abusers, believing that to be all that they are worth. The daughter of an obviously deranged father who abused her mentally and physically, Elise has the bar set so low when it comes to men that her ex-husband, an emotionally abusive, distant cheat seems like a distinct upgrade to her father, and almost a relief to Elise. It is almost as though Elise accepts the abuse because it is what she is used to, and does not stop to consider whether this is actually the norm within society, or whether she deserves better. She is also abusive to herself by staying with her increasingly abusive husband, partly because she does not see another option for herself, and partly because she wants to be treated badly after the death of her daughter, believing that she actually deserves it. Elise stops believing in her own right to happiness which is also why she stays in an abusive relationship.
Even Elise's best friend abuses their relationship by having an affair with her husband.
Mark, Elise's ex-husband, is shown as a classic abuser, as he is controlling and demanding and always wants his own way. Even after Elise makes it clear that she has moved on and is not interested in rekindling their old relationship, he refuses to take no for an answer, and attempts to sabotage her relationship with Nick. Part of his abuse is wanting her to be unhappy, whether with him or without him. The fact that Elise has graduated from accepting this kind of treatment is also part of the theme that abuse is a cycle that has to be broken by the person who is being abused, not by a force from outside of the relationship.
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