Reviewed by May
“What a selfish arse I am,” he muttered.
He hadn’t realized he’d said it aloud until she said primly, “Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far.”
Glancing over, he noted that the tightness around her mouth had eased. “An oblivious clodpate?” he offered.
“Somewhere between arse and clodpate, I should think,” she said with less temper, though he still hadn’t managed to wipe the frown from her rbow.
“An arse-pate, then.”
That startled a laugh from her, which she instantly stifled. “More like a complication.”
Pierce Waverly, Earl of Devonmont has been estranged from his mother since the age of eight, when he was sent off to school and never allowed to return home. He was, however sent off to relatives at Waverly Farm to spend his school breaks, and he became very close to his great uncle and cousins. Now that his father has passed away though, his mother has been trying to rekindle a relationship with Pierce – and he has no interest. His heart and mind are hardened, his mind made up to remain estranged forever – and never give her the chance to tear his heart in two again. Now the Waverlys are his family, and that is good enough for him.
If you’re a Jeffries fan, you’ll remember Pierce from To Wed a Wild Lord (his cousin Virginia Waverly is the heroine of that book) – and I was really excited when I realized the cool and collected Pierce would be getting his story. If you’ve not read her previous series – don’t be alarmed. I actually didn’t put it all together until halfway through the book that I knew this leading man from a previous book. It stands alone beautifully.
Who could be a match for a gentleman that had his heart stomped on and his emotional growth stunted at such a tender age? Enter Mrs. Camilla Stuart, his mother’s new companion.
Even with her spectacles on, she had the look of a fresh-faced country girl – eyes of a fathomless blue, a borad, sensual mouth, and a smattering of freckles across ivory skin. The odd mix of bluestocking and dairymaid appealed to him.
She is a widow, a mother of a young son, and has quickly come to love Pierce’s mother – and believes that her jerk of a son really needs to come home and reconcile. What she doesn’t know is how deep this estrangement is, or why it isn’t Pierce’s fault at all. She tricks him into coming to the dower house – the house he was raised in until sent away in fact – and then with a determination few women would have, sets about making him face his past.
“Damn you!” He grabbed her by the shoulders as if he meant to shake her. “Damn you to hell!” She stared him down, daring him to do his worst.
Then he kissed her. Hard. Fiercely. On the lips. It startled her so much that she jerked back to gape at him. “What in creation was that for?”
“To shut you up,” he said, eyes ablaze. Then his gaze dropped to her mouth, and the blaze became smoldering coals. He removed her spectacles and tossed them onto the nearby bed. “But this one, my dear, is for me.”
His second kiss was a revelation.
Oh yes. They are very attracted to each other at once- when they aren’t arguing that is.
It invaded and persuaded, inflamed and invigorated. His brandied breath intoxicated her, made her want to drink him up even as he was fogging her good sense. She could hardly think, with his hands sliding into her hair and his mouth possessing hers.
I do love a good Sabrina Jeffries book, and while I wished for a little more happy ending time with this story, I still enjoyed it tremendously. She doesn’t shy away from emotion or letting her characters have fits or behave in ways that aren’t polished and rehearsed. She does such a great job of showing characters falling for each other and getting to know each other, and she really knows how to make a story a page-turner.
The majority of this story takes place at the Dower house where Pierce has exiled his mother and her staff. They live completely separately from Pierce who lives in the (new) manor on that same property when he is in the area. It is the house he has no desire to return to because it was his childhood home and the pain of visiting is intense – but when he hears his mother is gravely ill he can’t resist just one quick visit.
It is clearly his attraction to Camilla that keeps him staying, though as the days add up he can’t help but face his past demons, and try to get the truth out of his mother. How could she claim to love him, but then abandon him? What possible reasons could she have?
I liked that while Camilla pushes for him to face the past, accept it, and move on ultimately she stands back and lets him work things out for himself. Rather than act in a way that could jeopardize her son, she acts responsibly and logically and takes great risks in her happiness.
The holiday details are nicely done, with traditions, stories, and little things added in that accented and enhanced the story, but never took center stage or took the focus off of the characters and their tale. The book was fairly standard fare, extremely predictable, but still enjoyable and a nice cozy holiday read.