A Christmas Novella from the bestselling Hearthfire Romance series by Michele Paige Holmes:
Five months isn’t enough time to grieve the death of her husband and marry again, but when the unexpected opportunity to take her sister’s place as the bride of wealthy New York businessman, William Vancer, presents itself, twenty-four year-old Charlotte Holbrook agrees. Their marriage of convenience will provide a secure future for her son, while William will be able to claim the inheritance he needs to expand his company westward.
To begin their perfect and perfectly safe arrangement, William allots the last twelve days in December to become acquainted with his new family—a task more easily accomplished than he had imagined. For in Charlotte he finds a tender heart and companion, while stepping into the role of father to her son, brings William a great measure of joy as well. Before the twelve days have passed, he finds himself wishing their marriage of convenience could be something much more.
For Charlotte, every day with William is one of overwhelming gratitude, as he anticipates and provides for her needs, as well as the fondest desires of her heart. More than material comforts, William offers friendship as well, and a loving concern that Charlotte has gone too long without. Guilt ridden, she struggles with her growing attraction and wonders how she can ever remain loyal to her first husband, while allowing herself to love William as he deserves.
Once you get through the info-dumpy first chapter, this is a nice read that goes by very fast. I wanted to hug the poor hero, who’d been abandoned by four fiancées! Even with info-dumping I was clearly missing a lot of backstory, but this is a quick novella, so I can’t hold that against the author.
I’m not sure why I owned this book and had it on my “To Be Read” list. I’m not sure how it came on my radar, as I’ve not read the rest of the series, and this is a “filler” novella of sorts between two full-length books. I suppose I read somewhere that is was a proper “romance” – it is. It’s “sweet” (I refuse to use the word “clean”), possibly Christian, and even though it only covers twelve days (duh!), it’s a lovely little book, with a couple of issues.
The first issue was: I was pretty confused. They grew up in England… AND in France, before coming to America? They know what Christmas trees are even though they weren’t a thing in Britain (except for royalty) in the 1820s? The heroine had been working backbreaking, menial jobs – AND grew up in a nice house and attended balls?
Clearly this is information we get in the longer instalments in the series, but it would have helped me here.
Secondly: I was disappointed that in the last few pages the author introduced a cartoon-villain-nasty ex-fiancée of the hero’s. There was no need for her to be there.
However, ignoring my confusion and the last-minute misogyny, there was plenty else to like.
The child, for example. Well-written children are hard to come by in some genres, so it was nice to find one here.
The time taken for a romance to develop after the marriage was good. Twelve days isn’t all that long, but I still believed it.
I would recommend this one if you’re looking for a quick Christmas read.