A Christmas baby…
Grant Rivers, Earl of Allundale, is desperate to get home in time for Christmas. But when he stumbles upon a woman all alone in a tumbledown shack, having a baby out of wedlock, it's his duty to stay and help her.
…leads to wedding vows!
Grant knows all too well the risks of childbirth, and he's seen enough tragedy to last a lifetime. So once he's saved her life, Grant is determined to save Kate's reputation too…if she will consent to marrying a stranger on Christmas Day!
Very good book. Grant was introduced in His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish, as one of four friends known as the Lords of Disgrace. He's a widower who is headed home from Belgium to spend Christmas with his son and grandfather. At the beginning of this book, he's been delayed on his journey by an injury, has received word that his grandfather is ill, and is desperate to get home before he passes. He doesn't expect to come across a woman in labor, with no one to help her except him.
Kate fell for a rake who refused to marry her when she got pregnant. Her brother decided to use her pregnancy to blackmail the man in question, and threatened to take Kate's baby if she didn't cooperate. When she manages to escape from her brother, her troubles continue when she is robbed and ends up alone and in labor. Help comes in the form of a man who claims to be a doctor.
Grant has been plagued by the memory of his grandfather's wish for him to marry again. He feels guilty because he's been putting it off, not really wanting to go through all that again. Kate's predicament as an unmarried gentlewoman gives him the idea of marrying her. It will fulfill his grandfather's wishes, give his son a mother, and himself the wife he knows he needs. When he makes his proposal to Kate, she is surprised, but the practical side of her knows that marrying him would be a good thing. He's willing to accept her daughter, she would have a safe place to live, and wouldn't have to face her brother or ex-lover again. So she accepts thinking that Grant is a country doctor. As they are still in Scotland at this point, a statement of their intentions in front of witnesses sees them married.
The next day, as they make their way to Grant's home, both are a bit stunned at what they have done and unsure if it was a good thing or not. Discovering that Grant is the heir to an earl that has just passed away is an even bigger shock to Kate, but what is done is done. Grant gets Kate settled in his home, but heads for London a few days later because of the things that must be done about his inheritance. He tells Kate that he'll be gone for several months, but it's her home now and to do as she wishes.
Over the next several months they correspond, but the letters are pretty superficial. Grant starts to feel guilty about abandoning Kate and finally goes home, only to discover a far different woman than the one he remembered, one that he finds extremely attractive. Kate also realizes that the rescuer she remembers pales before the handsome man she has married.
I liked both Kate and Grant. From the time they are reunited they are determined to make their marriage work. I loved the fact that they talked about their expectations calmly and honestly. Their chemistry is there from the start, and their compatibility in the bedroom is a great foundation for the rest of their relationship. Though both have been honest in their expectations for their marriage, each of them has secrets that have influenced their behavior. I also liked the way that even when angry words are exchanged, after things calm down they are able to talk about what caused their anger and deal with it.
Grant's first marriage was an arranged one and was not happy. His wife's death is something that he tries to keep buried in his past, though it still gives him nightmares. He refuses to talk about it with Kate, though she can see that it haunts him. She is determined to get him to see that only by facing those memories will they stop controlling his future. At the same time, Kate has flat out lied to Grant about her own past and her baby's father. She feels that, as long as they stay away from London, she will be safe from any repercussions. Of course, Grant is an earl and they have to spend time in London because of it.
Over the months they spend together at home, they slowly get to know each other. I loved seeing their relationship grow, as Kate gets more confident in her role as countess, and Grant realizes that she is nothing like his first wife. I really enjoyed the visit from Grant's three friends, including Alex and his wife from the first book. It was great to see how well Kate fit in with them, and I loved how much alike she and Tess were. I also loved the way that Tess and Alex could both see the love that Grant and Kate had for each other, even if they refused to admit it.
When Grant and Kate go to London, she is very nervous about what could happen. She knows she has to confess the truth to him, but she worries about what it will do to their relationship. Instead of just trusting him and telling him straight out, she takes some rather risky actions that could put her in danger. Meanwhile, Grant has realized that something is really bothering her, and because of his past with his first wife has some trust issues going on. His actions end up on a collision course with hers, and there was a real worry about what it was going to do to their marriage. But once again, the maturity of the characters shines through, and they work things out in a most satisfactory manner. There are actually some rather amusing results from the whole thing that made the ending even more enjoyable. The book ends one year from the beginning with a very romantic Christmas gift from Grant to Kate.