Emily's Christmas Wish
Somewhere in this book there was a story that I wanted to read. A young girl publicly and painfully jilted in her first season by a cad who targeted her and planned the stunt to get into an elite club. The cad’s brother, an honest and decent man, meets this girl six years later and falls in love with her. A story in which the reader wonders if the girl will ever be able to trust his love if she learns of his relationship to her tormentor.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to read very much of that story. Instead we have to plow through various subplots given way too much prominence, and which only serve to showcase the 21st century mindset of the characters.
First there’s the Manning family heirloom, an unusual mermaid-shaped pendant gambled away by the aforementioned cad that the responsible brother, Nigel Manning, Earl of Stratford, is sent to retrieve. Through an astounding coincidence, the pendant is now in the possession of one Emily Winterhaven, the girl jilted so callously six years earlier. The earl arranges an invitation to a house party Emily will be attending over the Christmas holiday (they have mutual close friends but have never met each other before in six years?) where he plans to try to convince her to sell the pendant back to his family.
All the focus on this silly charm detracts from the far more interesting obstacle to their love already discussed. And why the charm at all, since they could just as easily have independently decided to attend the party where they would met and fall in love as they do? The quest for the heirloom adds nothing and even seems silly since we are also inundated with all the legends surrounding the charm concerning happiness in marriage.
Behind subplot number two we have the shrewish Lady Susan Claredon, who is ham-handedly scheming to marry the Earl of Stratford. She and her mother have also managed to become a part of the same house party and her mother annoys everyone in attendance with proclamations of how they expect to have the banns read at any time. Lady Claredon’s increasingly desperate machinations become more and more grating as the book went on – especially since none are necessary to the romance plot.
Unfortunately, not only were the subplots distracting, but so was the gross mismatch of characters and setting. Not one of these people acted like they belonged in Regency England. Most egregiously, the hosts of the house party suggest on the first day that their guests should all call each other by their first names! These are all strangers to each other who are living in an era where married couples still use Mr. and Mrs. with each other. Further, this is a house party which was originally conceived to consist of two females and three males, an unbalanced number that makes pairing people off for activities awkward and was something avoided by Regency era hosts.
Perhaps in an attempt to make these misfits appear to fit into the times, the author throws in a great deal of Regency cant. But she lays it on way too thickly and, even worse, has the females use it as well as the males. At one point Susan actually calls Emily a “chit” and later refers to being “leg-shackled.” But it’s not just the villainess who acts improperly since Emily herself plays cards with the earl in his bedroom when he is sick one day. There are many more examples of behavior unsuited for the times, but for the sake of brevity, I will leave it at that.
Ironically, the author takes pains to describe every piece of furniture, dress, and decoration in annoying detail, which makes me think she may have researched the style of the period. Yet it’s a shame that so much research was wasted on painting an accurate backdrop for characters who don’t act as if they belonged there.
Emily’s Christmas Wish is the author’s debut. There is some promise here – despite it all, Emily and Nigel are very likable characters. I wanted them to get together, and I liked their growing attraction and hesitant steps towards love. I could clearly see the good book in here waiting to get written if we had been spared all the extraneous scheming and if these two had been placed in the contemporary setting where they belonged. Considering all the distracting subplots and historical errors, I just can’t in good conscience recommend this book, although I do hope that one day this author will decide to write the book this could have been.