Book: To Wed His Christmas Lady by Christi Caldwell
Age/Genre: Period Romance
Preferred Reading Environment: In a hot bath or curled up next to a fire.
Reading Accoutrements: Hot tea (as a nod to the setting of this book) with a shot of whiskey for a little extra heat 😉
Content Notes: Parental abandonment is prevalent in this book.
I found To Wed His Christmas Lady on Kindle over the summer when I was going through what I call a “fluff book phase.” In other words, my life was full of stressors and I wanted books that I could escape into without any thriller- or suspense-induced tension. My fallback here is period romance novels (as long as they don’t go into any espionage or war settings) because most of the “tension” in these books revolves around emotional understanding, miscommunications, and whether the heroine loses her virginity before or after the wedding – no physical tension. No one is at risk of dying and there is always a Happily Ever After (HEA) in it for me.
Anyway, I recently reread this book because the title was appropriate for the season and I realized: I seem to be in a “stranded in an ice storm” phase because I posted a review of Ice by Linda Howard recently, and now I’m writing about To Wed His Christmas Lady, and both stories strand their main characters together in the middle of an ice storm!
Seriously y’all, when I picked these two books to review I didn’t think they had much in common – except for having seasonally appropriate titles. I mean, I read a paperback of Ice, which takes place in modern, small town Maine and is romantic suspense while To Wed His Christmas Lady takes place somewhere in Victorian England and is a period romance and I read it on Kindle. But I digress…
I’ve pretty much given away the major plot point of To Wed His Christmas Lady already, but let me give you the full rundown really quickly: William Hargrove, the Marquess of Grafton, has been summoned back to his parents’ estate after travelling the world for eight years. His parents want him to finally marry the woman they chose for him – and he thinks she’s spoiled and cold because the last time he saw her she was bossy to the servants and a brat. Lady Clarisse Falcot, daughter of the Duke of Ravenscourt, is heading home for the holidays in a carriage borrowed from a classmate because her dickhead duke dad forgot to send her one. They find themselves stranded together by an ice storm at an inn that has seen better days – I’m talking leaky roof, lumpy mattresses, and a terrible cook – and they are immediately at odds. William hates the cold and aloof women of high society, especially because he is about to be forced to marry one, and Clarisse has spent her entire life learning to present a cold and aloof front to the world in order to please her dickhead dad. Over the course of a few days, and with the well-meaning meddling of the innkeepers, they begin to fall in love. But they are both promised to marry other people *Gasp!*
Alright, so now you’ve got the basic plot. I said in my review of Ice that I very much dislike the arch-nemeses-turned-lovers trope and yet here I am, clearly reading another version of that story. The thing about stories where you trap two people together is that the tension can only come from one of two places: 1) external tension – as with the crazed addicts in Ice trying to kill the main characters, or 2) internal tension – the characters hate each other, so the tension comes from them being trapped together. Ice has both types of tension. To Wed His Christmas Lady only has the latter. I dislike this trope specifically because two characters who hate each other cannot just turn around in one or two days and be in love without some follow-up issues. It’s unrealistic. And this book definitely falls prey to that dilemma in one or two areas.
However, Caldwell also does some things that I think mitigate the overall HEA-block this trope causes me. First of all, Caldwell built a couple of misunderstandings about the personalities of each character into the plot in such a way that resolving those misunderstandings resolves some of the hatred between the characters. In other words, the characters didn’t hate each other so much as they hated the idea of each other. Secondly, Caldwell openly acknowledges that the characters will have to work through their differences continuously, and the willingness to work it out basically gives me my HEA. That means I’m once again a happy escapist reader.
The characters of this book aren’t exactly likeable at the beginning. I mentioned before that Clarisse is cold and aloof because she’s been trying to please the Dickhead Duke. In fact, she is so good at pretending to be heartless that she has convinced herself she doesn’t care what people think of her – as long as it’s that she’s cold and aloof. It makes her a bit of a harpy and very unlikeable, especially considering how she treats other people, until William finally convinces her that this behavior isn’t acceptable.
William, on the other hand, has made a bargain with his father in order to delay having to marry the horrible society miss his parents have chosen for him. He was given eight years to travel the world, so long as he returned home to marry the woman when those eight years concluded. During those eight years, he built up an image of the woman he would marry, based on a scene he witnessed completely out of context when he was eleven years old. He literally has not seen this woman in over a decade and he hates her because he made a bunch of assumptions. And that drives him to treat anyone who he thinks is like her as a spoiled brat before he even gets to know them. He’s not exactly likeable either.
As the two worked through their issues, my attitude about the characters improved. By the end, the two are relatively likeable human beings with issues they are working through, and I appreciate the realism in that. Especially because it helps me suspend reality and escape into the book world a little easier.
This book is a light and fun read for a cold winter when you want to escape into something and unwind next to a warm fire or while taking a hot bath. If you, like me, enjoy some “fluff” every now and again, To Wed His Christmas Lady is good for shaking off the stress of reality and escaping into the holidays.
What is your favorite fluff novel? Let us know in the comments!