Reviewed by May
Favorite quote: Patchouli was not a fragrance Louisa cared for. She tried to imagine marital intimacies with a man who wore patchouli and concluded it was fortunate she would not be taking a husband.
Lady Louisa is smarter than most men, can do any math problems in her head faster than on paper, and is wonderfully educated in all kinds of languages and subjects. All of this, combined with the scandalous book she published (which hasn’t been connected to her… yet) adds up to a woman without prospects. She has decided to remove herself from the marriage mart when the holiday season and several chance encounters with a knight have her considering a much different route.
He was not a classically handsome man – his features were saturnine, his brows a trifle heavy, his nose not quite straight, though bold and a bit hooked. He yet managed to be attractive to Louisa for she had seen him smile.
Just the once, he’d smiled at his small daughters one day in the church yard, but Louisa had never forgotten the sight. His smile, full of warmth, humor and affection, made him very attractive indeed.
Sir Joseph Carrington knows that he is below Louisa’s station, but he can’t help falling for the direct, honest, and incredibly intelligent woman. He needs a wife, needs to produce an heir, and he needs a mother for his daughters – but could it be possible that he land the one woman he has a real interest in?
This novel takes place over several weeks through the holiday season, and while the Christmas season and traditions are shown, it is not an overwhelmingly festive book there is still a lot of emphasis on the character development and plot as well. I really enjoyed this author’s writing style and appreciated how she blended the hope and joy of a holiday themed book with a lovely (Regency period) love story.
While I wish we had seen Louisa do more, and really get inside her brilliant mind a bit more; Sir Joseph has plenty of opportunity to play the rescuing knight:
“You’re shaking.” Sir Joseph handed her a handkerchief. “Next come the chills. Sometimes I’d cast up my accounts too. Once, to my unending horror, I cried. Fortunately only my horse witnessed that indignity.”
“Grattingly has been trying to kiss you too?”
“Good girl.” How could a man put such approval and warmth into two stupid words?
My favorite part of this book was the conversations between Sir Joseph and Lady Louisa.
“I have no notion what topics are acceptable, which are beyond the pale, which are tolerable among men but not women… nobody writes these things down so a fellow can comprehend them when he needs to.”
Louisa saw the butler in the corner of the room trying to catch the duchess’s eye. “I rather like that you don’t know, Sir Joseph.”
“You like that I’m ignorant. Are you courting a career as an eccentric, Lady Louisa? I would sooner ride unarmed across all of central Spain with old Hookey’s own orders in my shirt than have to navigate one more ballroom, one more musicale.”
“I know.” The words slipped out, making Louisa wish she had a drink in her hand.
I loved how well they understood each other, how the author had them conversing in a way that would offend, baffle, or confuse most other people but that flowed perfectly for them. I really enjoyed seeing them find one another, and how much sense they made to themselves – even if the rest of the world didn’t quite get them.
There were two things I did not enjoy about this book. First of all, I did not like the overplayed drama. I did not think it was in character for these two to hide their ‘dirty secrets’ from each other especially given how these secrets weren’t truly bad things at all. Potentially scandalous? Yes. But based on the amount of hand wringing and gut churning thought the characters put into keeping these secrets I found them ridiculous.
My second complaint is that I was often made to feel like I was missing out on some big secret that I’d only really appreciate this book had I read the previous installments. I understand that this book is a part of a series, and that the author has written about most of Louisa’s siblings in the past, but this book suffered in ways it didn’t need to. I like related historical romance novels, but I like them to be fully readable and understandable without having read past installments. There are so many siblings and spouses running around, and so much going on with the family that in the beginning I got a headache trying to keep up with names and titles and relationships – I nearly made myself a chart. I don’t think there was any compelling reason for this, and it significantly decreased my enjoyment in the first part of the book.
I did enjoy the references to Christmas traditions and how well done this novel was, balancing holiday spirit and magic with a great story. Had I read other books by this author, I suspect I’d have enjoyed it even more. I suspect fans of this series will really enjoy this book, as all of Louisa’s siblings get moments in this story. As for me, I am looking forward to checking out more books by this author in the future.