Claiming His Christmas Consequence
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Harlequin Presents line has long been something of a guilty pleasure for me. Yes, the heroes often go beyond alpha into overbearing jerk territory, and the melodrama is often off the charts. However, there’s an escapist quality to reading about life among the rich, powerful and occasionally whackadoodle set that appeals to me. And so it was with Claiming His Christmas Consequence. At its best moments, it’s a story with a retro, fairytale feel. However, at times the antics of the characters wore thin.
As with many HP novels, this one is set in an imaginary European kingdom – Monte Cleure in this case. Situated somewhere between France and Spain, this kingdom appears to be a small one ruled by what must be the only absolute monarch left on the continent. Throughout the story, it becomes readily obvious that the king hasn’t caught up with the twentieth century yet, let alone the twenty-first. Heck, even the nineteenth would be up for debate.
The king’s daughter, Princess Catalina, is twenty-five and as required by her family, is remaining a virgin until marriage. This changes when she attends the wedding of her ex-fiance and decides to throw caution to the wind and enjoy a night of passion with the handsome Nathaniel Giroud. After their night together, the two will part and no one will be the wiser.
If you’ve read any Presents novels, you’ll know what happens next. Catalina gets pregnant. And of course, the news is all over the palace right away since Catalina’s overbearing bully of a brother has spies in every corner. Catalina can’t go out on her own, so when one of her companions buys a pregnancy test, the bully prince gets the tipoff and Catalina gets an ultimatum: marry her lover long enough to have the baby and subdue gossip, then divorce him and marry the elderly Swedish duke her father has picked out or be cut off from the family without a penny.
Ever the dutiful princess, Catalina agrees. And this is where the book got a bit uncomfortable for me. While arranging her marriage, Catalina’s family sets out to demean and humiliate her at every opportunity. Given the situation she was in, I could see why Catalina initially didn’t have many options aside from putting up with their garbage. However, she and Nathaniel don’t even try to be honest with each other and talk about the situation. They just make their own erroneous assumptions about each other and keep plugging away. This leads to Nathaniel treating Christina in a frankly cold and distant manner for way too long. They do eventually work things out, but I was irritated with everyone for most of the middle portion of this book.
I was happy to see Catalina eventually find her footing and start to push back against her overbearing, abusive family. It took a while, but given that she’d lived under their rule for twenty-five years, I wouldn’t expect her to snap out of it overnight. However, I really had trouble with Nathaniel as a hero. Yes, the book centers on Big Misunderstandings, but even when one takes that into account, he is still ridiculously nasty to Catalina for quite a while. Instead of being swept away by romance and the glamorous settings, I wondered if he was going to be as horrible for Catalina as her family had been.The author does try to paint Nathaniel as a tortured hero by giving him a doozy of a sad secret of his own, but it just didn’t work for me.
Things right themselves once more by the end of the book, and there are points where the drama between the characters drew me in rather than annoyed me. However, the good points just aren’t enough to carry the story on their own.