Wednesday, December 16, 2015

#TBRChallenge 2015: A Christmas Waltz
The Book: A Christmas Waltz by Jane Goodger

The Particulars: Historical romance, Kensington Zebra, 2010, Third book in trilogy, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  I'm a sucker for Christmas books and westerns.  I also liked the sound of the blurb. 

The Review: This is a perfect example of the right book finding me at the right time.  Oh there are faults. Plenty of them.  I see and acknowledge the faults.  But at the moment I was reading this book on a lazy Saturday afternoon/evening?  I didn't really give a good gosh darn about any of those faults.  I was swept up into the story.

Lady Amelia Wellesley fell in love with Carson Kitteridge when his Wild West Show toured England.  He told her wonderful stories about his hometown in Texas, his rambling ranch, how he loved her and wanted to marry her.  He even asked her brother, an earl, for her hand in marriage.  He tells her he will send for her once he's back home in Texas and Amelia waits for a letter that, you guessed it, never comes.  Desperately in love, and correspondence delivery not always being reliable, she decides to come to Texas anyway.  Surely Carson will be ever so happy to see her!  However the reality of the situation is that Carson lied about everything.  Small Forks, Texas is nothing like he described, he has no ranch, seemingly no source of income and his older brother is certainly no moronic simpleton that Carson has to protect and take care of.

Dr. Boone Kitteridge has spent his whole life cleaning up after Carson and marveling at how seemingly intelligent women fall for his brother's smooth talking brand of malarkey.  But when Lady Amelia shows up, so pretty she makes his eyes hurt, he vows to not bail out Carson this time.  What he can't seem to do though is keep himself from falling for Amelia - a development that has Boone totally flummoxed as he's - well, he's terrible with women.  No experience, lacking all the charm his brother has, and carrying a mountain of "I'm unworthy" baggage thanks to a father who beat the crap out of him while doting on Carson.  Boone was essentially raised by the man who ran the general store, and while that man was good to him - let's just say affection was in short supply.  So falling for Amelia is something that Boone is not only ill-prepared for, but it also scares him spitless.

What we have here is a romance heroine who reminds us all that women, for as awesome as we are, can be completely and totally stupid when it comes to men.  Carson lied about everything to Amelia because, you guessed it, he wanted to get under her skirts.  To that end he simply told her everything that she wanted to hear.  She realizes fairly quickly just what a liar Carson is, but it takes a little bit longer for her heart to catch up to that fact.  She fancied herself in love, and that's not something a naïve young women gets over in a hurry.  However as Carson digs himself deeper into his hole, Amelia begins to see Boone in a new light - especially when circumstances arise that keep her from immediately returning to England.

This book can be read as a stand-alone, although past characters (namely Amelia's brother and sister-in-law from A Christmas Scandal) do play a healthy role in the latter half.  As much as I liked this story, and in fact inhaled it, it's not without problems.  Namely Amelia who fluctuates from too-stupid-to-live (making the trip to Texas and not realizing before then that Carson was a smooth-talking lothario), naïve and frankly self-absorbed (she says some things to Boone that damn near broke my heart).  Boone is classic wounded, Beta hero (virgin hero alert!) but by the end I wanted to shake him senseless and scream, "Talk to her damn you! Talk to her!!!!"  Yeah, yeah, his incredibly crappy childhood - but by the end all of the conflict stems from both characters being unwilling to just admit to the other how they truly feel. 

There's also a moment in the story were something Very, Very Bad happens to a secondary character - and while I understood why that choice was made from a plot standpoint - it's going to bother some readers.  It just....will.  And while I'm at it - this has got to be the most Un-Christmasy romance ever written.  Basically?  There is no Christmas until the final chapters when the couple finds themselves attending a Christmas Ball.  Good for those readers who dislike holiday romances - maybe not-so-grand for those of us who love holiday romances.

So mileage is going to vary on this one.  I can see all the issues with it, but for whatever nebulous reason of the moment - none of those issues bothered me all that much.  I think it's because that during a year when my reading mojo has been MIA, reading a book in a day is the equivalent to stumbling across a unicorn in my backyard.  I got sucked in.  I fell for Boone.  I liked Amelia (warts and all) and I wanted them to get together in the end.  Which, of course, they do.

Final Grade = B


azteclady said...

Regarding Amelia "not realizing that Carson was a smooth talking Lothario" before haring off to Texas: I think this is more annoying because we want out heroes/heroines to be smarter, more mature, more self aware, than the people around us--to that we can root for them unreservedly.

Wendy said...

AL: It's hard to say since I didn't read the previous book in the series - but I got the impression that secondary characters suspected Carson was "no good" but didn't even bother to give a cursory warning-off to the heroine. Now, granted, she likely wouldn't have listened and dug in her heels - but it still felt bothersome to me.

I did like that Boone doesn't try to make excuses for Carson or clean up his mess in regards to Amelia. He doesn't bad-mouth him - just sort of let's nature take it's course. And I'll give Amelia credit - she did have unresolved feelings for Carson for a decent chunk of the story - but she also stopped mooning over him pretty quickly once she realized that he'd been lying to her from the moment they clamped eyes on each other.

Keira Soleore said...

I forgive Amelia for being taken in by Carson. Smooth-talking liars abound in this world IRL as well. However, her family allowing a gently-bred miss to leave their shores for an unknown, wild place ON HER OWN beggars belief. However, many times in romance, I find that I have to accept some implausible details in service of the rest of the story. Sometimes this really annoys me, and sometimes I'm resigned to it. Those stories where this doesn't happen? Gold!

Wendy said...

Keira: Sorry, this didn't make it in the review :) Amelia travels with a maid - who makes the journey as far as NYC (and then stays behind because she falls madly in love aboard ship and Amelia is all like "Of course, true love! You must stay in NYC with your beloved!"). does strain. Granted her brother, the earl, is distracted with his own getting married and wedding trip - but given that he's supposedly protective of Amelia it does Especially since he's suspect of Carson's character!

Like I said, there was a lot here that niggled at the back of my brain - but for whatever reason I just gobbled this story up anyway and enjoyed the ride while it lasted. It's funny how that sometimes happens with books. Some days you buy into some slightly-off elements - and other days they annoy the heck out of you.

Wendy said...

Oh! And I forgot - when no letter from Carson arrives, Amelia forges one to show her brother, letting him know "See! Carson has sent for me!" Oh man, what a gal won't do for love ;)

Lynn Spencer said...

Oh, I've loved Jane Goodger's books in the past! How do I not own this one? I know that defeats the purpose of TBR Challenge, but I gave up on diminishing the book closet a long time ago.

I agree with Azteclady's point that we often want our heroes and heroines to be something more than what we see around us. Yet, I can understand the ones who have feet of clay and sometimes the way they handle their faults makes them very sympathetic.

Jennifer said...

I understand the flaws, but I still want to read this! I have a serious weakness for quiet, beta heroes and Boone sounds like my type of hero. I'm off to add this to my wishlist.

S. said...

I haven't read this one but I did read another one by the author recently. I recognize the frustration over some decisions characters make and the need to shake them up sometimes. Maybe it's an author's device? lol
But my premiere with the author, If I Wait For You, years ago, convinced me quite well... so maybe some books are truly just way better than others!

Jill Sorenson said...

I just read this! I liked the story, the writing and Boone. I had a hard time with Amelia's feelings for Carson after she learned he was a lying scoundrel, even after she kissed Boone. She seemed susceptible to going back to him. If he'd cleaned up his act and decided to marry her, would she have chosen him or Boone? I think I needed to see her reject Carson in order to be 100% convinced she was committed to Boone.

Wendy said...

Jennifer: I think you'll like Boone. I liked the story overall, but he was probably my favorite element.

S.: Towards the end most of the conflict seemed to revolve around "lack of communication" - so yeah, by that point I was ready to shake both of them senseless :)

Jill: That's a good point. WHAT IF Carson saw the error of his ways? What would Amelia have done? This didn't bother me too much at the time of my reading because I felt like there wasn't a credible threat of Carson getting his act together ;) - but yeah, I can see the point. I went scouring through other reviews after I read this and others felt the same way. Like Amelia hung on to the "hope" of Carson for a bit too long...