Regency Christmas Liaisons
Regency Christmas Liaisons is an anthology featuring novellas from Christine Merrill, Sophia James, and Marguerite Kaye. Each is a new-to-me author, and I enjoyed all three stories, although Merrill’s was my favorite of the three.
Unwrapped Under the Mistletoe by Christine Merrill
Grade: B+ Sensuality: Warm
Daphne Bingham is a poor orphan living with relatives who happen to be a Duke and Duchess. Daffy (as the family calls her, despite the fact she hates it), is little more than a servant in the household, expected to plan and direct the duke’s elaborate Christmas parties while taking none of the credit. Charles Pallister is a thief-taker hired by the duke to keep an eye on Daphne during the party because jewelry is constantly going missing in the household and it is always found in Daphne’s room, even thought she can’t remember taking it. Together, Charles and Daphne uncover the real culprit, as well as the growing love between them.
This is by far my favorite of the three short tales in this anthology. A fair amount of this is because it’s the most lighthearted of the three and angst isn’t really my thing – not all the time anyway. The premise is pretty unique and executed well, and it’s easy to believe that Daphne and Charles are able to fall in love as quickly as they do because they spend so much time together. I loved both characters, especially Daphne, as she had to work through some doubts to get her HEA. I also enjoyed the mystery subplot, and although I guessed the real culprit early on, I find it amusing that I was correct!
One Night with the Earl by Sophia James
Grade: B Sensuality: Warm
Elizabeth Martin, a widow with two children, is returning to her husband’s old home following his disgraceful death in a duel. Lord Alexander Grey happens upon Elizabeth as she is screaming out her frustration with life and is immediately intrigued. He finds an excuse to visit her after he stops some local boys from beating her son, Luis, and finds a note written by her daughter, Jenny, asking for her mother to have a good Christmas. Alex offers to give Luis and his own nephew boxing lessons, giving him a reason to spend more time with Elizabeth. She is grateful and finds herself attracted to Alex but doesn’t want another relationship after her disastrous marriage. Alex is also hesitant because his family expects him to marry well and he needs an heir, which Elizabeth tells him she is incapable of giving him. Both soon learn that perhaps compromise will bring them happiness.
One Night with the Earl is much more angsty than the Merrill story, but I still enjoyed it. James does a fantastic job of packing a lot of story into a short format, and I feel like I really got to know both characters. Elizabeth definitely has more of a past to work through, and her journey to do so is the highlight here. This isn’t very plot focused, but there is an incident that may cause the reader to worry for a few pages. Fortunately, it does not feel contrived, and helps move the characters forward.
A Most Scandalous Christmas by Marguerite Kaye
Grade: B- Sensuality: Warm
The most unique offering in this anthology is certainly A Most Scandalous Christmas because the heroine is a divorcée. Sylvia Armitage went through hell to gain a divorce from her philandering husband, including taking the false blame of infidelity herself. Having met and been attracted to Mr. Ellis Wyn-Jones four years before, their acquaintance is renewed one day shortly before Christmas. Both admit to the attraction while Sylvia was still married and agree to a Christmas dalliance. As Sylvia is not permitted by law to marry again due to her divorce, and because of her ex-husband’s behavior, she is afraid to grow close to anyone again. Ellis, however, might be just the person to convince her to give love another chance.
I love characters who aren’t the usual titled lord hero and upper-class heroine, so the appearance of two of them is a refreshing break. And a break is what we get here as the heroine is a divorcee and the hero is a plain mister. The fact Sylvia is not allowed to remarry even though her ex-husband has already done so is unfair and heartbreaking, and it makes her and Ellis’ version of a happily ever after different than other romances. My main issue with this one is that there is al lot of telling and not enough showing. Sylvia and Ellis are in their own heads most of the time and there is not as much dialogue as I prefer.
Regency Christmas Liaisons is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon during the holiday season. With some mystery, strife, and unique heroes and heroines, it has a little something for everyone.
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