Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight by Grace Burrowes (4.5 stars, historical)

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Thoughts After Reading:
The reviews for Grace Burrowes' Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight promised a sweet romance between two deserving characters, and the actual novel did not disappoint. The storyline is what I would consider a marriage-of-convenience hybrid, where the protagonists agree to marry each other about halfway through the story under the guise of of necessity... but, in reality, are secretly in love with each other. The major conflict was rather absurd - with both characters being afraid to sharing personal "scandals" that are hardly scandalous - yet I admired the author's ability to create tension without significant angst or anger ever occurring between the couple. In fact, almost every part of the writing was extremely well done. The relationship development was both charming and authentic. The comedy was gently witty from start to finish. And - best of all - the characters were endearing to the point that I very much wanted their happy ending to finally come about.

Each protagonist is a bit of an outsider when it comes to Regency society. The hero is uncomfortable with performing polite niceties, and the fact that he has a war wound in the form of a weak leg does not help his cause. He was given a knighthood as a result of his service to the crown, and spends the majority of his time as a pig farmer. The hero was married once, a youthful decision that resulted in an unfaithful wife and two young daughters to care for. Now that his spouse has passed away, he is considering finding a wife to help him raise the children. It quickly becomes clear through his actions that the hero is an honorable man, someone who is no stranger to courage, kindness, or chivalry. So - when it implied throughout the book that the hero has twelve illegitimate children hidden away on another property - the reader tends to be rightfully skeptical. Things are explained at the end, with the "big reveal." The heroine, meanwhile seems like she should have have her pick of gentleman callers. She's the daughter of a duke, well-dowered, attractive, and a kindhearted woman. It is, therefore, unfortunate that she has a hard time making small talk and a propensity to blurt things out at the inopportune moment. She is also terrified of creating a public scandal, since she wrote a racy book of poems when she was younger and had a small number of copies created. It is never very clear why, but apparently this combination results in her having no real suitors over the years. As the story begins to unfold, the characters quickly become friends with each other and this eventually turns into a gentle intimacy. The hero comes to enjoy the heroine's blunt personality, analytic intelligence, and attractive features. He would offer marriage to her in a heartbeat, except that he feels she is above his touch. The heroine, in turn, is attracted to the hero's kindness and courage. When someone tries to assault the heroine, the hero steps in and challenges the man to a duel. He also tries to help fix the scandal that was created. He hesitates to suggest a marriage to himself, since he feels there are better men the heroine could marry, but she is quick to set her man straight. Things continue to unfold as the couple settle into their new marriage, and "shockingly scandalous" secrets are unearthed. The final HEA was both fun and sweet. A little dramatic, but happily triumphant nonetheless.

Grace Burrowes' Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight contained some minor details that were bothersome, such as the heroine's inexplicably poor marriage prospects or the slightly raunchy dialogue that seemed incongruous for a book set in this historical period. As a whole, however, the novel was excellent. The heroine was wonderfully upbeat, the hero stood out as a man that was both honorable and more than willing to fight for those who matter to him, and the conflict was written in such a way that I didn't feel the need to yell at any of the characters. With features such as these, I eagerly recommend Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight as an excellent romance story.

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