Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander


Veronica, Lady Smithson, has been the respectable widow society expects her to be but, now she's realized how much she misses having a man around.

Veronica values her independence and isn't ready to give it up. And her late husband has provided for her generously so she doesn't need any financial support. And the idea of being married again isn't really all that appealing to her --

And so has decided to become a man's mistress. (Effectively shocking her dear friend, Phoebe.)

And she has also decided which man she wants: Sir Sebastian Hadley-Atwater. Explorer, adventurer, writer, etc. (He also happens to be Phoebe's cousin.)

From their first meeting, sparks fly. Sebastian and Veronica are pleasantly surprised at how well they understand each other and have declared the other to be perfect for them --

But while Veronica is expecting an affair with an expiration date, Sebastian is planning for something a bit more permanent. And when they reveal their intentions to one another, more than sparks fly.

But being equal-minded individuals, our hero and heroine have found a compromise: spend a quiet Christmas together in Sebastian's new home in the country and see where it takes their relationship.

Everything is working out nicely for Sebastian and Veronica -- but when Sebastian's sisters arrive (followed by their mother and some other surprise guests), expecting to meet Sebastian's new wife, our hero and heroine have to improvise and must now pretend to be married for the sake of a happy Christmas.

As days pass, both Veronica and Sebastian realize that what they are doing doesn't feel like "pretend" anymore -- but like the real thing. But is Veronica ready to give up everything she has to be with Sebastian? And what's the real story behind Sebastian's sudden desire for respectability and worthiness?

I'm a long-time reader of Victoria Alexander and I think she's excellent at writing dialogue and presenting family dynamics. Her Effington series still have a large place in my heart and now she has given us the Hadley-Atwaters.

The conversation between her characters is fast-paced and intelligent -- but it is very natural, as well. I think it's because she knows her characters very well.

He stared down into her brown eyes. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying there's no need to tell them we aren't married until after Christmas. Your family is delighted to have you again in their midst. Perhaps the best gift you can give them is a practically perfect Christmas. In your new house. With your" -- she rolled her gaze at the ceiling -- "new wife."

Surprise widened his eyes. "You?"

"Unless you have another fraudulent new wife on the premises."

He tried and failed to hide a smile, "No, just the one."

...

"This is not what I expected."

"Good." She smiled up at him. "I do so hate to be expected."
- p. 211

I love Veronica and her family. They are a very unique and opinionated bunch. (I would love to read more about her Aunt Charlotte.) And Sebastian's family is just as much fun to get to know (Very curious about Bianca) --

I mentioned in my review of Alexander's My Wicked Little Lies how she has a wonderful talent for writing humor -- and she does not disappoint in this story. There are laugh out loud moments -- but also the quiet sort of funny moments.

As it is the Christmas season (I am writing this the day before Christmas eve) -- it made me reflect on what kind of books I like to read during the holidays and I seem to gravitate towards light, warm-hearted reads like this one -- (I haven't yet tried reading a more angst-y book this month.)

I do have one small niggle: when I read the love scene was that it felt a bit off -- the whole novel has a very light, humorous tone -- but when the door closed behind them and Veronica finally said yes, the tone changed quickly and became quite ... intense. Am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing --

When I picked up this book, my first thought was that Victoria Alexander really loves Christmas-themed stories -- to my knowledge, this is the third novel she has written that is set at Christmas (A Visit From Sir Nicholas, What Happens at Christmas and, this book, His Mistress by Christmas) and she has also contributed to two Christmas anthologies.

As she has written other Christmas stories, a reader can't help but make comparisons and, for me, her best one (and one of my favorite books) is still A Visit from Sir Nicholas. (This one is a close second.)

His Mistress by Christmas is the first book in Victoria Alexander's Hadley-Atwater family series and was previously released in hardcover version.

Adrian and Evelyn's story is told in My Wicked Little Lies (Book 1 of Sinful Family Secrets).

To find out more about Victoria Alexander and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

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