Annie Burrows is one of those authors I like to read because I really feel like she gets the Regency “right.” Her stories aren’t always smashing successes for me, but I never walk away disappointed when it comes to the history and feel of the story. While I have some quibbles with this latest short story, it ends up being a nice holiday read with some sass thrown in on the side.
Lady Caroline’s sister is getting married. A joyous occasion, except everybody is upset over the fact that the groom’s brother has completely fallen off the rails. Lord Crispin Sinclair is a notorious womanizer, gambler, all-around rake, and, needless to say, has no plans to attend the nuptials. Well, not if Lady Caroline has anything to say about it! She’s going to hunt him down and make him see the error of his ways. The fly in the ointment? These two were once very much in love, until the day when Caroline married another, effectively crushing poor Crispin’s soul. Yeah, he’s still bitter and she’s pissed off that, once again, she’s tossing aside her pride in the name of ungrateful family.
I adore romance heroines who have their backs up against a wall but never let anyone see them sweat. That’s Caroline. Now widowed, her marriage was not a happy one. She was desperately in love with Crispin, but family “honor” and the fact that they desperately needed her to land a rich husband meant she was sold to the highest bidder. This being a romance story, her husband was naturally an odious, barely human being. Crispin, of course, has no idea of any of this. Why? I’m not sure, since the ton selling off their daughters to the highest bidders wouldn’t exactly be unheard of. But whatever, he had his wee heart broken and now that Caroline is in front of him, hat in hand, he’s going to make her suffer.
It all sounds fairly unpleasant, but works surprisingly well. Both characters haven’t gotten over each other, and they’re both prideful. The banter, the fireworks, each of them trying to gain the upper hand, makes for really stimulating reading. What doesn’t work as well? I wanted this to be a longer story. Mostly I wanted Caroline to get that chance to tell everyone to bugger off. Our girl more than earned it. I wanted her to box her sister’s ears and have a big, dramatic meltdown scene where she could tell everyone to go to the devil. Given the word count? Yeah, we don’t get that. But we do get a hero who actually has some brains in his head and is well on his way to uncovering Caroline’s secrets before he worms the whole story out of her.
A sassy and spicy Christmas-themed read.
The last person Lord Crispin Sinclair expects to see in a disreputable inn is the woman he’s there to forget: Lady Caroline Fallowfield. He hasn’t forgiven her for marrying another man–or forgotten their mutual passion. When she implores him to come home for his brother’s Christmas nuptials, he agrees–if the now-widowed Caroline is willing to share his bed and take another gamble on love…
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