A Christmas Waltz
This time of year, holiday romances are my drug of choice. One might assume when picking up a book entitled A Christmas Waltz, that it would have something to do with Christmas. In this case, one would be wrong. This is a 338 page book. They start talking about a Christmas ball in passing roughly on page 309, and that’s the first time Christmas even comes up. They take their titular Christmas waltz on the last pages of the book. I’d call that false advertising.
Lady Amelia Wellesley falls in love with a dashing performer in a Wild West show, and he proposes. But Carson Kitteridge seems hesitant to actually send for her so they can begin their life together on a Texas ranch. Amelia decides to take matters into her own hands. She tells her brother that Carson has sent for her, and takes off for America with only a maid in tow. When she gets there, she realizes almost immediately that she’s been a class-A idiot. Carson is a big liar; he has no ranch, and the quaint town he described is a hellhole. He also had no real intention of marrying Amelia anyway – he only proposed in the hopes that he could get her in bed. To make matter worse, Amelia discovers that her maid took all her money. She’s stuck in Texas until her brother can send her funds.
Thankfully, Amelia is not a whiner. She also realizes that she’s been dumb, which is pretty refreshing. She sets to work for Carson’s handsome brother Boone, who is the town doctor (and runs a store on the side). She learns how to cook and do laundry, and gets to know the people of the town. But when her brother arrives – interrupting his honeymoon to come to her rescue – he spells it out for her: If she returns to England she will be in disgrace. Boone gallantly volunteers to marry Amelia and, though she’s not in love with him, she accepts.
As they adjust to married life, most of their issues stem from Boone’s feelings of inadequacy. He overhears Amelia telling her sister in law that she doesn’t love him, and he takes it hard. He was raised by an abusive, drunk father who favored Carson, and he’s never been loved by anyone. He has some serious self-esteem issues to overcome. Amelia is willing to fall in love with Boone, but her feelings can’t be forced. Eventually it happens, and when it does it is rather sweet. After that point, they still have to deal with Boone’s feelings of inadequacy.
Though my grade for this book is average, I actually found lots to like here. Boone and Amanda are both interesting characters, and their relationship develops in a believable way once it gets going. I also liked the setting. This is the kind of homey frontier romance that used to be a lot easier to find a decade ago but has become an endangered species. The Texas town where they live (at least to start) is not sugar-coated; it’s a dumpy, one-horse town. I liked that they fell in love there, but that the town wasn’t glorified.
The problems I had with the book are two-fold. The first is the Christmas issue. I suppose it could sound petty, but I believe in calling a spade a spade. People pick up a romance with a holiday title for a certain reason. Publishers are not doing anyone a favor when they release a book with Christmas in the title – and it has almost nothing to do with Christmas. I honestly spent most of the book wondering just when the Christmas stuff was going to kick in. It was way later than I imagined.
I also had some problems believing the initial scenario. I just couldn’t credit that a) the heroine would fall in love with this dumb charlatan b) her (earl) brother would let the romance happen and c) people would be okay with her taking off for America by herself. I couldn’t buy into that at all. There is also an issue with Boone, who is a virgin. I had trouble believing that someone could go to medical school in Tulane for years, and emerge from New Orleans never having slept with a woman – particularly since he didn’t voice any religious objections. It sounded as if he’d never had the opportunity, and frankly, that just sounded impossible.
That said, A Christmas Waltz is not without promise. At its heart, it’s about two people who never expected to fall in love with other – who fall in love, with a gentle nudge or two. I’d read Goodger again, though I probably wouldn’t expect much holiday flair.