Mr. Winterbourne's Christmas
Note: There are spoilers for Introducing Mr. Winterbourne in this review.
In Introducing Mr. Winterbourne we met Lysander Winterbourne, third son of the Earl of Winterbourne, and Adam Freeman, a wealthy mill owner whose younger brother married Lysander’s sister, Althea. The pair fell for each other after Lysander was tasked with introducing Adam to London society. The novella ends with an HEA, and an invitation for Lysander to accompany Adam to his newly purchased estate at Edgeley Park.
Mr. Winterbourne’s Christmas picks up eighteen months later and finds Lysander happily ensconced at Edgeley Park. By day he is Adam Freeman’s estate manager, by night, his lover… although neither man dares to confess the depth of his feelings, hiding their worries about the future from each other. The well intentioned meddling by close mutual friend, Jonny Mainwaring (who stars in The Labours of Lord Perry Cavendish), only intensifies their doubts about a long-term future together.
When Adam receives an invitation from the Winterbourne family to spend Christmas at the Abbey he’s thrilled. He hoped to spend Christmas with his Lysander; now he can. He’s dismayed when Lysander doesn’t seem to share his enthusiasm. Lysander knows a visit to the Abbey will require the two of them to disguise their feelings, and it upsets him. But instead of sharing his feelings with Adam, he distracts him with kisses.
Arrived at the Abbey, it’s obvious to Adam how happy Lysander is to return home; he’s at ease with the other guests and clearly in his element, which makes Adam wonder how he can possibly be happy alone with him at Edgeley Park. Then, when Lysander’s closest childhood friend, Perry Cavendish, claims his attention, Adam can’t help but feel jealous of their closeness. Meanwhile, Lysander isn’t sure if Adam is keeping him as a lover only for the duration of works he’s undertaking to improve Edgeley after years of neglect. He knows Adam had lovers in the past, and wonders if he spends time with these men when he’s away for business. Worries about their future, a crowded house, a conniving and manipulative earl, and a jealous friend conspire to force the pair apart, until…
While I loved revisiting this romantic pair, I was frustrated by the house party! People and events sow the seeds of doubt between Lysander and Adam, and after a lovely – steamy – start to the story, it’s one frustration after another as these two slowly realize they need to be honest with each other. The guests at the house party introduce several different plot threads, and they’re mostly just distracting. I hated Lysander’s father – again, I wasn’t interested in the Cavendish melodrama, and simply wanted more of Adam and Lysander together. The conclusion firmly sets these two on a path to happily ever after, but I wish it had happened sooner.