Well friends, this is it—my last review of 2020! I wasn’t sure that I would finish it before the New Year but I finished it just in time and with one day to spare. I was really looking forward to this one, I had it up for a special feature and excerpt when it first came out back in October. I also loved the dress on the cover (I know I am easily distracted) so I was eager to check out this holiday read!
I haven’t read anything by this author before and I noticed that this was the third in a series but I didn’t think that would be a big deal. The excerpt was interesting and more often than not, the focus is on the romance with little connecting the main character to the larger story other than a few reoccurring secondary characters from previous books.
I read so many holiday reads this year. More than I have in any of the previous years. I had high hopes for this one and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite pack the holiday punch that I was expecting this year.
She’s discovered his secret.
Now the trouble really begins…
After three years of mourning—and turning her dear deceased husband’s gazette into the ton‘s sauciest source of fashion and gossip—Hollis Honeycutt feels her life has been strangely bereft of late… Her sister is living abroad, and her best friend moved to the country. What must a young widow of rank and reputation do? Why, transform her society gossip sheets into serious investigative news, starting with a rumored coup…and the rather dashing, mysterious gentleman whom Hollis suspects might be the villain of her first real story, and she is the only one who can write it.
Marek Brendan is investigating terrible rumors of treachery and treason that threaten his home country of Wesloria, but he must proceed with caution. No one can discover the truth. After all, who would ever believe he is Wesloria’s lost crown prince? Only Hollis Honeycutt’s cerulean-blue eyes seem to know more than she’s letting on—and worse, Marek can’t seem to resist her curious charms. But even as betrayal threatens a nation and a throne, nothing is quite so dangerous as the lovely young widow who’s determined to find the truth…and a prince of her own. (summary from Goodreads)
I hoped that this one would have a lot more Christmas in it especially with a title with the word ‘Christmas’ in it. Christmas in this story was minimal at best. With a few references to Christmas trees, wreaths, and holly, Christmas was not really a big part of the story and for that I was disappointed. I expected more but on the holiday front this one just didn’t deliver. It could have been set in any seasonal period and the Christmas Tree Ball could have been any ball.
While it might have fallen short on the holiday cheer, it did have a sweet love story that felt surprisingly realistic and developed. When it came to steam this one wasn’t terribly steamy. There was only one or two sex scenes that were tastefully done and minimal in detail. I enjoyed the attention on the feelings aspect between Hollis and Marek. Hollis was a complex character with some baggage, as was Marek and their relationship felt genuine and real which is something not often seen in some romances. I wasn’t expecting the detailed plot and the charming romance in this one. To be honest I was expecting 350 pages of lust and steam based on the inside cover (the outside cover was more of a sweet looking cover while the inside was more bodice ripper) but instead I was treated to a developed backstory with interesting characters and a lovely romance.
But there were some things that I just didn’t love about this one. First it felt a little on the slow side. It took me a little bit to get into it. I would say after the 30% mark, I was well and truly invested and it did get better but the first part felt a little on the boring side and I am not sure why really. First I didn’t love the name Hollis. I can’t say why exactly but it just grated on my nerves. And it took me a little to realize that in this series, there was a lot going on from previous books I think. The feud between Westloria and Alucia seemed like it had been better explained in previous books. I wasn’t really sure what was going on with the feud and I wasn’t really sure how some of the other characters fit into the larger story.
I would say read the other books before this one, though I didn’t read the other books first, I think it would help readers feel more comfortable with the characters and some of the larger elements of the plot between the two countries. It wasn’t a necessary to enjoy the book but I also think readers would get more out of it having read the other books first.
In the end I went with a three star rating for this one. It was good and a nice way to spend a lazy holiday break but I would have liked to have the holidays play a larger role in a Christmas book, but no doubt readers will enjoy Hollis and Marek’s romance as it was sweet and believable.
Book Info and Rating
ebook, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2020 by HQN Books (first published September 29th 2020)
ISBN1488056056 (ISBN13: 9781488056055)
Review copy provided by personal collection. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: holiday, romance, historical romance