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