What I've Read This Week . . .
Genevieve Munroe, her mother and sister have returned to their country estate for Christmas, their first since Mr. Munroe was tragically killed in a carriage accident. Gen hopes they will find peace and happiness at Munroe Abbey. Allison finds it difficult to enjoy the season, however; her mind is occupied by a dreadful secret - her father died heavily in debt. It's been up to Gen to see to the comfort of her family. She thinks that befriending their longtime foes and neighbors, the Pentercasts, might go a long way towards enjoying life in the country. Gen had a childhood crush on Alan Pentercast, now the Squire and she is anxious to see if he's grown into the man she always believed he'd be. When the Pentercasts come to dinner on Christmas Eve the meeting gets off to a rocky start. Mrs. Munroe thinks she's above Mrs. Pentercast and beautiful, headstrong Allison clashes with Alan's mannerless brother Geoffrey. Then, Alan ruins all of Gen's dreams when he bets her that he can bring her all the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas poem and when he wins, she will agree to marry him. Her pride is hurt and she angrily demands that he not spend a penny on her. Then she bets that when he loses, he'll provide her family with a tenth of the harvest. With the young curate, William Wellfordhouse, as judge, Gen thinks she can't lose but she underestimates Alan's determination to win her hand. By the second day of Christmas, the two families are getting along beautifully, but Gen continues to believe Alan is an arrogant cad. When some acts of vandalism threaten their homes and Geoffrey is the chief suspect, Gen must revealuate her feelings towards the Pentercasts and especially for one handsome, charming Squire. This is a nice, pleasant Regency romance. The story is clever and well-developed and the relationships between the characters are realistic. The plot moves along quickly and doesn't end up overly sweet. There's no driving home the spirit of the holidays in this full-length novel as there is in holiday short stories. The only problem I had with the story is that I suspected the vandal almost from the beginning and was surprised that the characters didn't catch on. . Regina Scott uses the 19th century poem version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which is slightly different from our modern song version which shows her dedication to research. As always, she is able to craft a well-written and historically accurate story without resorting to cheap, cliched plots or smuttyness.
Jeanette Dundas and her father Hugh, rightfully the Marquis of Luxton, travel to England from New Orleans to reconcile with Hugh's estranged family. Jeanette's father informs her that she must go by Lady Caroline in England and that he once made a promise that he'd bring Jeanette to England when she turned 18 and marry her to an Englishman. Jeanette is horrified. She wants nothing to do with marriage. She learned early on that while gentlemen may put ladies on a pedestal, their own behavior is less than noble. She even started a dress ship for girls of color who wish to avoid the kind of life that is common for girls who aren't Creole. In England, Jeanette learns that her grandfather, the 5th Duke has died and her distant cousin Frederick is now the Duke of Granby. Frederick is young and unsure of himself and his cousin, Simon Renshaw, the family solicitor, has taken it upon himself to watch out for his younger cousin. Simon is firmly convinced that "Lady Caroline" and her father are impostors and he's determined to prove it. First, he argues with Lady Caroline and then he decides to charm her into a confession, after all, she is a beautiful woman. Jeanette is firmly convinced her father is who he says he is but he isn't making any moves to prove his identity, so Jeanette feels she must convince Simon of the truth all by herself. Jeanette's friend Annie, who happens to be a ghost, suggests using feminine wiles on Simon and if all else fails, a love potion. While Jeanette is preoccupied with proving her identity and helping Annie learn what happened to her family, she continually runs afoul of Simon. However, Simon proves to be truly an honorable gentleman. He represents the downtrodden in court and even helps Jeanette rescue a young woman who was tricked into entering a "bawdy house." Jeanette discovers that she may not need feminine wiles after all, for Simon is truly attractive, as a man. It's too bad he's her sworn enemy! The rest of the Dundas clan has mixed opinions on the identity of the long-lost family members but Hugh is determined his daughter will take her rightful place in society, even if it means losing her forever. This story is much longer than a typical Regency and has many twists and turns. Halfway through the book I began to doubt what I was sure I knew. By the conclusion, I was confused because the plot just didn't make much sense. Even so, it kept me guessing and reading late into the night. I wasn't crazy about the romance plot. The hero comes across as such a jerk that I had a hard time believing the romance.I also didn't like the introduction of a ghost friend. That stretched credibility far too much. The romance is kisses only. There is some frank discussion of intimate relations between men and women of lower classes and some advice on marital relations but nothing smutty. Overall, the book isn't bad but it isn't great either. I'd recommend it for someone who likes alpha male heroes and mysteries.