Snowbound together, Lady Julia Chalcott and Captain Giles Markham try to fight temptation. But, as Christmas draws closer, their attraction proves too strong to resist!
Good story. Julia has returned to England from India, after the death of her husband. She has brought her half-Indian stepdaughter with her, hoping to give the girl a better future. She is also hoping to marry again. Instead, she discovers that men are far more interested in her bank account than her, and treatment of Miri has been less than honorable. So she and Miri leave London to go to the country house that she has inherited for the holidays. She is determined to make a plan for the future, and decides to play down her finances until she finds someone who wants her for herself. They get caught in a snowstorm and just a few miles from the house come across a stranded traveler.
Giles has sold out of the army and is on his way home to take over his inheritance. It's not something he expected or wanted, but he knows his duty. Unfortunately his horse went lame, so he left it in a cow byre and set off on foot. He also found a turkey stuck in a snowbank, and rather than leave it to die, picked it up and took it with him. He was grateful to be rescued by Julia.
When they arrive at Julia's house, it turns out no one expected her or prepared for them. All three turn to in order to make things livable for as long as they need to be there. Along the way, Julia and Giles discover an intense attraction to each other. They try hard to resist. Giles knows he can't get involved because he needs to find and marry a rich wife, and it wouldn't be fair to Julia to lead her on. Julia is wary of all men and their motivations. But as they spend the next few days together, the attraction becomes harder to resist.
I loved seeing their interactions. Giles is a charming man with a pretty wicked sense of humor. He also has a way of saying something that on the surface seems innocent but can have a deeper meaning. Julia is a woman who has had to become strong and self-reliant over the last several years, so she has no problem standing up for what she wants. I loved seeing them make the decision to make the most of their time together. Neither expected to actually develop feelings for each other. Julia realizes that she has what Giles needs, but doesn't get the reaction she hoped for when she offers it. Giles is stunned by what she tells him, but reacts badly thanks to an experience in his past. It isn't until he finishes his journey that he admits that he overreacted. I loved his reaction to his kinswoman at the house, and how it emphasized what he left behind. The ending was great, with Giles's big moment being both sweet and romantic.
MARRIAGE MADE AT CHRISTMAS by Sophia James
Series: Penniless Lords (Book 5)
Christine Howard's frozen heart melts as she gets to know her new bodyguard. How can a man so scarred and mysterious make her feel so safe??
Good story. Christina is the younger sister of Lucien, from Marriage Made in Rebellion. She was engaged to a man who died during the war and has now put the idea of marriage behind her. Instead, she has devoted her time and effort to a string of seamstress shops where she employs women who are in desperate need. She is doing quite well, but has recently started receiving threats telling her to stop what she is doing. She's out walking one day and sees a man following her, which makes her nervous. A man came to her rescue, offering to "take care" of her follower.
Will Miller is an American who has come to England following up on a letter he received. While scoping out the sender of that letter, he is working as a groom for a local nobleman. He comes to Christina's aid and later brings the man that was following her to her brother's house. From that, Lucien hires Will to be her bodyguard while she is out and about, while he sets out to discover who is behind the threats.
I loved the developing relationship. First, there is definite attraction between the two of them. Christina's heart has been pretty locked up since her fiancé's death, but something about Will is awakening her feelings. Will has his own issues with relationships after witnessing the bitterness of his parents. I liked seeing them get to know each other during their time in the country, as their feeling started to grow from attraction to something more.
But there is more to Will than Christina knows, and it turns out that there is a link between him and the person threatening her. I loved seeing how Will confronted him and made his requirements clear. There was a twist at the end of that confrontation that brought extra danger to Will, danger that manifested quickly. He was attacked, beaten badly and stabbed, though he still came out on top in the fight. I loved how Christina cared for him, and finally admitted to herself what she felt for him.
As Will's life dramatically changes, Christina is left wondering where she stands. I loved the scene at the ball, where Will appears in his new role, and takes his courage in hand to dance with Christina. I loved his big moment there, his hint of vulnerability as he goes after what he wants. I loved her reaction. I also enjoyed the brief appearance of the other "Penniless Lords" at the end.
CINDERELLA'S PERFECT CHRISTMAS by Annie Burrows
Shy Alice Waverly's kiss with Captain Jack Grayling makes her wonder if he - and his little children - could be the Christmas miracle she's always dreamed of?
Good story. Alice is the poor relation, living with her cousins. She is basically an unpaid servant, condemned to doing whatever they want her to do. Shortly before Christmas she comes down with a nasty cold and rather than being cared for, all they can think about is that she not infect them. They have been invited to a neighboring estate for a house party, to be attended by a widowed earl. The two young ladies are determined to do whatever necessary to snag the earl, and they want Alice there to fetch and carry for them. Though she feels a bit guilty about it, Alice makes out that she's sicker than she is, in hopes of being left behind. She succeeds, leaving just her, the scullery maid, and the boot boy in residence. A bad snowstorm hits, and a stranger comes knocking on their door, asking for shelter.
Jack has recently sold his commission in the army and come home to take over his inheritance. He had sent his pregnant wife and young son back to England to her parents to protect them from harsh army conditions during the war. His wife died, and her parents cared for the children. But when Jack arrived, he was horrified by how his children and been treated and took them away immediately rather than wait until he got settled. Now he and his sergeant and the two children are caught in the storm.
Alice and the others were logically frightened by their first sight of Jack and company, but the presence of the children rapidly changed that. Alice feels bad that she can't offer Jack and his group better accommodations, but she does the best she can. I loved Jack's willingness to do whatever necessary to make it all work. There is a connection between Alice and Jack from the beginning, not just attraction. I ached for Jack and his guilt over what had happened with his kids. Alice is quite sensitive to his feelings and goes to great lengths to help him connect with them and bolster his self-confidence. I loved seeing the simple fun they all had together.
Jack is quite drawn to Alice, but he knows who he is and what is ahead of him. As much as he'd like to, getting involved with an innocent servant, which is what he thinks she is, wouldn't be right. However, he does make an offer that he hopes she'll accept, and is quite upset when she turns him down flat. Alice, not knowing his truth, was expecting quite a different offer and is hurt by what he says. As the weather clears and Jack and company leave, he finally sees the light. I loved his big moment at the end, especially since he didn't know the truth about her. The ending was great, and I especially loved her family's reaction.