A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong
It’s always fun when a series goes back in time and shares the story of someone with whom you’ve already read a good bit about. The eldest Blackshear brother, Andrew, has appeared in all three of the books in Ms. Grant’s series as a caring, staid, married father. His marriage to Lucy was mentioned in the first pages of the first book, A Lady Awakened.
Thus, this charming novella’s conclusion is one this reader knew when picking up the book. That foresight, however, didn’t spoil my experience of it. I enjoyed this novella and feel sure that Ms. Grant’s legion of fans will too. If you are new to Ms. Grant’s work, I suspect this book’s charms will win you over as well.
In the novella’s opening scene, Andrew Blackshear is driving, in sheeting rain, to Hatfield Hall. He is shocked when he sees a young woman with her hair down walking in the road. He has never before seen such a thing and is both attracted to the young woman and filled with disapproval at her immodesty. He awkwardly offers her a ride, which she refuses.
The young woman is Lucy Sharp, the daughter of the Lord Sharp, the baron Andrew plans to purchase the bird from. Andrew is buying a falcon for his younger sister Kitty as a wedding present. Andrew and Lucy meet again in her father’s home and it’s clear they come from very different backgrounds and perspectives. Andrew hews closely to convention and Lucy, who has been raised in near social isolation by her father, does not. And yet, from the moment they meet in the storm, they are drawn to each other.
Ms. Grant makes the attraction between these two build slowly but convincingly. Lucy is lovely and open and Andrew finds her alarmingly alluring. And though Andrew first seems a prig, Lucy sees there is more to him than a stuffed shirt. Scenes like this one where Lucy asks why he’s chosen a falcon as a gift make their affection for one another inevitable.
“Is it something in particular that’s precipitated her interest?” She leaned a few degrees forward. As if by proper application of will she could somehow compel him into giving an answer more to their liking.
His eyelids lowered; he frowned at his tea. He didn’t like the questioning, obviously. But he was too polite to say so. “She’s to be married soon, to a fellow of sporting tastes.” His left hand held the saucer and that thumb was fidgeting, edging back and forth along a half-inch of the rim. “He likes shooting and fox-hunting and so forth. A hawking bird will give her a way to…” His thumb stilled, all energy redirected to choosing the proper words. “Share in his amusements… without simply adopting all his preferences for her own.” His cheeks were flushing. He seemed a little amazed at himself for telling so much. “I thought she ought to have something that belonged only to her.” He ended with a long swallow of tea, eyes still lowered, thumb now clamped down hard on the saucer’s concave surface.
Lucy slanted another inch toward him, consciousness blooming like a spoonful of cream dropped into tea. This was why he’d come all this way in the rain, and why he sat here now submitting to impertinent questions, uncomfortable in his still-damp cravat. He cared for his sister. He wanted her to be happy in marriage, but to remember her separate self. It was admirable and elegant, from a philosophical perspective.”
A few white lies, a begged favor, and one broken wheel later, and Lucy and Andrew are stranded together, over Christmas, in a sweet, small village. There circumstances require them to pretend they are husband and wife.
Almost every thing that could go wrong does and written by a less sure writer, this story would seem a farce. In Ms. Grant’s deft hands, however, each calamity the young couple faces evinces the ways in which their differences make them perfect for one another. Though they only spend a few days in each other’s nearly constant company, I am in complete accord with Andrew when he tells Lucy, I find I’m satisfied to trust that two clever, resourceful, well-intentioned people can work out between them how to be happy.” That said, I do wish Ms. Grant had written Andrew’s and Lucy’s story as a novel rather than a novella. For all that I enjoyed this book, I felt it came to its conclusion too quickly and left me wondering about more than I would have liked. Despite its brevity, A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong is a holiday story worth reading.