Blackshear Family series, Prequel Novella
Heat Factor: Two virgins together is SO FUN
Character Chemistry: The tension was killing me
Plot: Two proper, single, genteel people wind up with only one bed while trying to go about their respective Christmas plans
Overall: Perfect Christmas romance is perfect
I can’t remember who in Romancelandia first posted about this book last Christmas, but it was enough to pique my interest. This, because the argument – eventually on multiple fronts – was that this is the best Christmas romance EVER.
I waited for it to go sideways. There was a moment when I was like, “OH NO!” But Grant misled me with that feint, and I was like, “Well that was awesome, there can be no more doubt.”
Friends. This is a grumpy/sunshine, the carriage wheel broke, stranded in a small village, only one bed, virgin hero historical romance. Its execution is flawless. The characterization of the protagonists is on point throughout.
I am in love.
Okay, okay – what’s the story anyway?
Andrew Blackshear, sanctimonious prig, is seeking a falcon as a gift for his sister who is about to be married. Lucy Sharp, unconventionally reared young lady, is the falconer’s daughter. Because Lucy several times seeks to get her own way, and Andrew is fundamentally incapable of doing the wrong thing, the two wind up journeying together, eventually alone (Lucy having stubbornly decided to let her maid spend Christmas with her own family after meeting them during a stop along the way). The forced proximity jogs the initial feelings of physical attraction each secretly has for the other into deeper feelings of emotional attraction. It’s all very satisfying.
So you might be thinking, “Sanctimonious prig? Really, Erin?” And I do not blame you! But this is where the excellent characterization comes into play. Andrew is the eldest child in a large family. His mother died in childbed after her 10th pregnancy, and his father is probably clinically depressed. Andrew’s the de facto head of the family and, as such, takes duty and responsible behavior to an extreme. This is understandable. The book is also set in 1807, and he’s a landed gentleman (or will be when he inherits). The fact that he has a rather puritanical worldview that centers on proper behavior becoming his station is also unsurprising. Meet Grumpy. He needs his hair mussed.
You might also be thinking, “Erin, unconventional heroines are a dime a dozen. What’s the big deal?” And I don’t blame you! But, again, this characterization is excellent. You see, Lucy’s father fancies himself a philosopher and lives a somewhat isolated life in the country. He loves his daughter, and when his wife died, he didn’t send her off to her aunt or to a school to be raised away from him. But his philosophizing means that he questions pretty much everything that Andrew holds dear. So it makes sense that Lucy would have an unconventional upbringing, alone in the country with a somewhat eccentric father and what involvement her aunt can provide from afar. But still, Lucy wants to have her own life. To meet a man and have her own family. So she understands all her father’s philosophizing, but also thinks to herself (to paraphrase), “I’ll remember, when I’m in company, to behave in a more conventional manner, or I’ll never get a husband.” And she’s also socially adept just by having good manners and being a nice person. So there’s none of that, “Hang society! I’m unconventional!” heroine characterization that so often falls flat. She’s been raised with respect and love in a slightly unconventional but logical household, so her attitude makes sense. Meet Sunshine.
Okay, so, the other thing that makes this book so awesome is that Andrew is totally hung up on propriety, but Grant plays with this from a responsibly modern viewpoint. For example, at one point, Andrew is going through a grumble and gripes to himself about how Lucy really ought to protect herself by not behaving in ways that might tempt men – not abnormal for a histrom – and then immediately pivots to recall that men are responsible for their own behaviors, so it oughtn’t to matter, but really a woman should protect herself is all!
It was so fresh! And all in character! Because of course a sanctimonious prig would get all bent out of shape about a woman behaving with propriety and expect men to behave with the same circumspection and propriety!
I think what sealed it for me was this scene early on when Lucy proposes a solution to her problem that Andrew is capable of providing, but it’s so improper his head threatens to explode, so he refuses to provide it:
“And why should a chaperone be needed?” The baron, his toast all arranged to suit him, now took hold of his egg-cup and began tapping round the shell of his egg. “I don’t mean to defy you, Mr. Blackshear; only to examine your assumptions, and perhaps encourage you to examine them yourself. Beyond the rote adherence to society’s generally agreed-upon rules, what would we hope to accomplish by having a chaperone in this scenario?”
Of all the damnable presumption. Rote adherence to society’s rules, indeed. Encourage you to examine your assumptions, indeed. … “To be blunter than I’d like, the presence of a chaperone greatly reduces the possibility of any indecency occurring between the lady and the gentleman.”
“In cases where there is a risk of such indecency, I’ll agree a chaperone serves a purpose.” Sharp lifted off the top of his eggshell and set it on a nearby dish. “But don’t we do a disservice to gentlemen with the assumption that every one of them would necessarily take advantage of a lady if he were left alone with her?”
It’s so great! And it’s short, fewer than 200 pages. Perfect for a cozy winter read. Also: Andrew has a wet dream and he’s so embarassed. Epic.
Buy Now: Amazon
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