Some novels are five-course meals – some are boxes of petit fours. Royal Holiday is a petit four incarnate – sweet, light on disagreeable ingredients, simple, quick, fluffy and uncomplicated. But while Royal Holiday is a fun treat of a book, it’s not quite up to the high watermark of the rest of the Wedding Date series.
Royal Holiday is a direct sequel to the previous book in the series, The Wedding Party, and features Vivian Forest, mother of Maddie, heroine of that book. As covered in TWP, Maddie has gone from aspiring stylist to top dresser of the stars thanks to a slot on a reality show, and now another windfall has come her way. Maddie’s mentor is pregnant with twins and confined to bed rest, so Maddie will be going to England to style the Duchess (it’s not stated which one in the book) for Christmas. Vivian is coming along – she’s never been out of America for long before, and to spend time in England is one of her dreams. Though she does have her doubts that they make proper sweet potato pie at Sycamore Cottage in Sandringham.
In spite of the drafty nature of the cottage, Vivian is having a wonderful time. While Maddie’s busy she enjoys a luxurious breakfast – which leads to the Queen’s private secretary, Malcolm Hudson, offering to take Vivian on a private tour of the grounds. She immediately pounces upon the opportunity.
The extremely orderly and reserved Malcolm is not the kind of guy to simply spontaneously offer his services up the way he does to Vivian, but there’s something special about her. Soon the two of them are spending an awful lot of time together. Sparks fly, riding lessons are given, snowballs sail and kisses under the mistletoe are exchanged. But Vivian just received a major promotion at her job as a social worker back home, and by New Year’s Day she’ll have to return to the reality of life on the other side of the pond – won’t she?
Royal Holiday’s heroine provides its biggest and best draw. Vivian has a wonderfully sweet and lively sparkle to her personality that’s super appealing and makes her an entertaining heroine. I liked mild-mannered, duty-bound Malcolm as well, though his personality is a bit more muted, and it was nice to spend a little more time with fun-loving Maddie, though Theo (the hero in the previous book) is disappointingly and entirely absent aside from some quick references. And yes, we spend a few moments with the Queen herself.
The general tone of the book is one of wish fulfillment and gentle escapism. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, and it’s a relief to mentally transport yourself to England and imagine clomping about on the back of one of the palace horses, or having a delicious meal right beside Vivian.
It’s lovely to have a book about an older hero and heroine who’ve both raised their families and lived their lives, but aren’t dead yet and have a lot of room left to play with, to fall into heedless and giddy love like a teenager.
But because the book’s low on conflict, there has to be some imported – in this case via Malcolm’s relationship with his teenage nephew, who has chosen to reject Oxford for art school, disappointing mentor Malcolm with his lack of practicality. This causes Malcolm to turn surly when around Vivian and leads to – you guessed it – a Big Misunderstanding Plot because she thinks he’s rejecting her. The lack of originality in this part of the plot is disappointing, especially when its basic underpinnings are another version of Guillory’s stock two-people-fall-in-love-during-a-limited-time-frame story.
But warm and fluffy will likely overcome the sense of ‘been there, done that’ that sometimes colors the prose. Royal Holiday is a very nice, Christmasy romance that comes highly recommended, but stands just a notch below its series-mates, and thus just a step below DIK status.
Note: At time of writing, Amazon gives the page count as 303; the copy I read had 180 pages.