Some Winter’s Evening by Erin Langston
Historical Romance Novella
November 1, 2023
Review by Melanie
Here I am, once again ready to wax poetic about an Erin Langston book much the same way Cora Travers is likely to wax poetic about Nate Travers’ dimples while under the influence of too much ratafia. You might recognize Cora and Nate as the two main characters in Langston’s debut full length novel, Forever Your Rogue, a book I read and adored some months ago, to the point that I made my love of this book my entire personality for several weeks on the app formerly known as Twitter. (If you don’t recognize Cora and Nate from Forever Your Rogue, please go and rectify immediately, it’s a gorgeous novel and well worth your time).
This novella focuses on Gavin Sinclair, brother to Cora, and Emilia Davis, the new governess hired by Nate and Cora for their eldest son Leo. When they first meet at an inn on their way to Aldworth Park, neither knows of the other’s connection to the Travers family and they spend a magical evening dancing and kissing, hiding their true identities from each other all the while “seeing who you are when you aren’t being yourself.”
When he is being himself, Gavin, a barrister, is buried in work and at a professional and moral crossroad when it comes to his career. He is very serious and diligent and a bit of a workaholic. He is wracked by guilt over what he sees as a failure to help his sister especially in light of her traumatic first marriage and wants to fix the societal wrongs that so frequently dismiss and devalue women entirely. Since he’s so fixated on his work, he has no social life to speak of, no dalliances or even mild flirtations.
As he tells his brother-in-law Nate, “I don’t have time for regaling.”
Governess Emilia is accustomed to moving about. Her parents having died when she was quite young, she has no real close family to speak of, no close ties or connections.
“Her existence was marked by thresholds: always coming…always, always going.”
As she herself puts it, a governess “will have many families” but not one will belong to her. All she dreams of is having her own home, a place she can call her own, where she fits in instead of being made to feel ostracized and isolated.
And so these two lonely souls cross paths on a seemingly ordinary winter’s evening at an inn before Gavin’s sense of logic and pragmatism rears its ill-timed head and he pulls back. And the two go their separate ways, Gavin filled with self-doubt and quick to realize he made a mistake and Emilia once again discarded and rejected and believing herself to be unworthy.
The writing here is so good and for lack of a better term, efficient because in the space of just a handful of chapters, Erin Langston has managed to convey exactly who these two characters are when they dare to let their guards down and also who they are when they are busy protecting themselves from hurt and rejection.
When the two cross paths soon after at Aldworth Park, Emilia is convinced there is no future for them. She, after all, is but a mere governess while Gavin is a barrister and the son of a baron.
It is Nate Travers, that scoundrel turned devoted family man who decides to take matters into his own hand. Nate is firmly in his interfering matchmaker era and having noticed the sparks flying between his brother-in-law and his son’s governess, pushes them together and what follows is the coziest and sexiest and most romantic of holiday novellas. There are sleigh rides in the snow and a very scintillating bathtub scene and all the trappings of holiday festivities at a great country estate.
I obviously love Erin Langston’s writing so it is no surprise that I loved this novella. The way she manages to convey the tenderness and hopefulness and fear of wanting more and reaching for it is so incredibly poignant.
I always find myself highlighting a lot of passages in her books and in looking through my highlighted passages,a few things stood out:
First, Erin Langston can write a declaration of love like no other. I think authors probably have certain things that are distinctly their own, certain styles or hallmarks of prose. Erin Langston’s declarations of love, specifically from her MMCs, are pretty much the greatest I’ve ever read. I’m intentionally not including the passage here as it’s worth reading the whole book to get to it.
Second, the use of letters. Once again, if you’ve read Forever Your Rogue, you’ll know the importance that letters play in that book. It is epistolary in nature and Nate’s love letters to Cora are a huge part of that story. In this book, Emilia gives Gavin a quill for Christmas and then desperately wants it back because she can’t bear for him to write to her. In her mind, if he can’t write to her, he can’t leave her. And in response, Gavin, who knows his beloved so well, knows what she needs to be feel happy and safe says this:
“I promise you, sweetheart, I will never write you a letter.”
The dichotomy of how Langston uses letters to drive home the idea of love in each of these books is fascinating and frankly brilliant.
Third, the way family and the making of one is woven into each of these stories. Both stories revolve around the female characters desperately trying to cling to family, whether it be Cora and her children or Emilia and the families she works for. In both of these instances, the FMC feels isolated and untethered at times and falling in love and being daring enough to reach for that happiness is what finally allows each of them to become their most authentic selves.
And finally, social issues. I really love how each of these stories is centered around women and their legal rights (or lack thereof). In FYR, it’s about Cora and her legal rights to her own children and in this one, the legal issues concern a governess (not the FMC) being abandoned by her fiance, who also happened to be the son of her now former employer. I always like reading an author’s note and this one is very thorough on the research that influences the fictional case in the story.
I am apparently incapable of brevity when it comes to reviewing Erin Langston’s books. In short, I loved this one and highly recommend it. It’s soft and sweet and tender – the perfect book to curl up with in front of a cozy fire.
Content Notes: parental death, orphaned at a young age