Home for the Holidays
A Retro Review
originally published on November 26, 2000
Are you looking for some cozy, feel-good holiday reading? Johanna Lindsey’s latest book, Home for the Holidays is a pocket-size hard cover with a Currier and Ives-esque cover that just might tempt you to give yourself an early Christmas present. But beware: the hero is worse than Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch put together, and the heroine needs to spend a week reading Codependent No More.
The “hero” (really, I hesitate to call him that) is Vincent Everett, Baron of Windsmoor. His brother leaves him a letter telling him that a man named George Ascot has ruined his shipping business, and that he is planning to kill himself. Although Vincent has never been close to his brother, he can’t let this insult to the family name pass by unnoticed, so he sets out to ruin George and his family. Conveniently, George is out of the country, and his son and daughter are living on their own in London. First he purchases the mortgage on the home that Ascot has very nearly paid off, and buys up all other debts besides. He starts rumors that George has left the country for good, which makes all the local tradesmen demand immediate payment of all debts. As the coup de grace, he sends his secretary to throw Ascot’s children out of their home shortly before Christmas. After the secretary does the foul deed, he resigns. Vincent is completely puzzled! Why would anyone balk at throwing people from their home? He goes to the door and immediately sees why – Larissa Ascot is heart-stoppingly lovely.
At this point, Vincent gets a great idea for furthering his revenge; he decides to seduce Ascot’s beautiful daughter. That will be even better than throwing her out into the snow. Since she now has nowhere else to stay, he “kindly” offers his home. Larissa doesn’t really want to be indebted to this man who is responsible for evicting her, but he explains to her that it is a simple “business decision.” After he has her installed in his home, he seizes her jewelry and furniture, just in case she might want to sell them (and thus obtain funds which would enable her to move out). He tells her he will keep them safe, but if she asks for them he is fully prepared to lie and tell her they were stolen.
His plans for seduction go off without a hitch. Larissa quickly hops into bed with Vincent, figuring that since he knows she is a respectable woman, he must have marriage in mind. He doesn’t, and eventually Larissa figures this out. Does she get mad? No – she just makes excuses for him and forgives him. Then Larissa’s father comes home, so she discovers the truth and the predictable separation occurs. But nagging questions remain, both for Vincent and Larissa. Things eventually are wrapped up – far too neatly and tidily, if you ask me. Those looking for it will not find any “good grovel” here, just an unbelievable happily ever after.
Mostly, I think the hero’s behavior speaks for itself. He acted as the villain throughout most of the story, setting out for revenge upon an entire family without even bothering to check his facts. He lied to the heroine and seduced her with no intention of marrying her. What made his behavior so odious, however, was that the only reason Larissa and her sick brother weren’t immediately tossed out and forgotten was her beauty – Vincent wanted to debauch her first. Had she been unattractive, doubtless all revenge would have continued as planned. I like dark heroes as much as the next reader, but this went beyond the pale.
I felt sorry for Larissa at first; who wouldn’t? But when she repeatedly made excuses for Vincent’s horrible behavior, I lost all respect for her. At first I really did hope that she would just leave Vincent and find a decent hero (anyone would have been better) somewhere else. No such luck. The worst part came at the end when Larissa and her father read the original letter that set Vincent off on his path of revenge. They not only forgave him, they both decided that they would have done the same thing in his situation. The very idea of the too-forgiving Larissa evicting someone in an act of revenge was just laughable.
I have enjoyed several of Johanna Lindsey’s books in the past, most notably Gentle Rogue, which made my top 100 list. I have also read books with revenge plots that worked. But the hero of Home for the Holidays would be more appropriately called a villain. When I spend an entire book hoping against hope that the hero and heroine won’t get together, I know that that book has failed for me on the most basic, fundamental level.