The Viscount's Christmas Temptation
The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation Is an entertaining novella/short story which is the prequel to Ms Ridley’s forthcoming Dukes of War series.
Lady Amelia Pembroke , sister of the Duke of Ravenwood, has run her family’s grand household since her teens and is now, at the grand old age of twenty-nine, quite happy organising her younger brother’s ducal existence. Until it occurs to her suddenly that while her brother is three years her junior, he’s not a boy any more and will soon be thinking about taking a wife, who will of course take over the running of his household.
With her usual fast efficiency, Amelia comes up with the solution to her problem – she’ll find herself a husband. Money isn’t a consideration as she has plenty of her own, but she wants an earl, marquess or duke, so that her children will have the natural advantages in life afforded by a courtesy title; and it would be nice if the prospective groom had a large home and a number of properties for her to manage to stop her growing bored. Fortunately for her, there will very soon be an opportunity to scope out all the prime candidates, as anybody who is anybody will be in attendance at the annual Sheffield Christmas Ball.
But there’s a snag. A freak bolt of lightning and the subsequent fire have burned down the Sheffield’s ballroom and the event has been cancelled. But that’s no impediment – Amelia will simply lend a hand to Viscount Sheffield and help him to make alternative arrangements. Even by this early stage of the story, it’s clear that Amelia “lending a hand” basically means her taking over all the arrangements, making contingency plans for her contingency plans and generally organising the hell out of everything with the sort of military precision a general would envy.
Benedict, Viscount Sheffield, hadn’t expected to inherit a title and estates, but he nonetheless takes his responsibilities seriously, works hard during office hours and plays hard out of them. The last thing he wants landing on his doorstep fifteen minutes before the end of his working day is a managing female. And worse – an intriguing managing female. Amelia spouts forth her plans for the solution to his problem – he thinks he’ll humour her and she’ll go away.
Little does he know.
Of course, Amelia finds her husband while learning that not everything has to be organised to within an inch of its life, and also that while planning is important, sometimes a deviation from that plan is not a bad thing. Like marrying a viscount instead of an earl, marquess or duke.
All in all, this is a charming story that rattles along without much pause for breath (rather like Amelia!), with the romance between the central couple happening at an eye-watering speed. Because of the story’s length (or lack of it) the characters aren’t very well developed either, but there’s a lot of humour in the writing and I have to give Ms Ridley credit for the way in which she managed to make an endearing character of Amelia, when she could so easily have been too superior and quite unbearable! And while Benedict is little more than a foil to her, he’s still quite charming, and I rather like the way he gets into Amelia’s head and works out what she’s up to without indulging in a fit of the man-sulks, while realising that she needs to learn how to let her hair down and have fun for a change.
But. And here I’m on my soapbox again. The Americanisms and modernisms are intrusive and caused me to knock off at least a half grade from my final rating. For instance – in England 2014, we don’t refer to Christmas as “the holidays”. The Christmas period is just “Christmas” – and while I haven’t looked it up, I suspect it’s even less likely to have been referred to as anything else back in 1815. So the “holiday party” referred to in the first chapter should have been called a “Christmas party”. (Actually, a “holiday party” is more likely to have meant a group of people going on holiday somewhere!)
Then there’s the fact that at the end, the hero kisses the heroine passionately on the lips a couple of times in public. It may have taken place beneath a Kissing Ball, but such a thing would still have been quite scandalous, as would the fact that after it, they’re walking along and she has her head on his shoulder. They’re not married, but even if they had been at that point, such things were just not done in public at that time. Neither would an unmarried woman be permitted to ride alone in a closed carriage with a man to whom she was not related, regardless of the fact that she regards herself as being past the first blush of youth.
I realise in the latter case, that the unchaperoned carriage journeys were needed in order to advance the plot, but it’s rather a big error, and I’m sure the author could have found a way around it.
As a result, the jury’s currently out on whether I’ll be picking up another in this series. There’s a lengthy excerpt of The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower at the end of this, which does look intriguing, although there is a similar modernity of tone which is making me hesitate.
*puts soapbox away*
All that said, The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation is a decent read, and certainly not a bad way to spend an hour or so on a winter’s afternoon.