Awwwwww... Sweet and clean and Christmas! What a nice diversion during a hectic season. While the situations were a little far fetched and hurdling an amazingly grown-up sixteen year old heroine was a stretch, one couldn't help but love the indomitable spirit of Marian, nor the long-suffering sweetness of Gil. This is a story that teenage girls will gobble up and women can relax, escape and giggle at.
Carla Kelly has a way with words. This book is fun, thoughtful, poignant, mysterious, and suspenseful. There were a couple of scenes in this play that were not really believable. However, overlooking those scenes, I smiled or laughed through most of the book and got 'teary-eyed' when it was appropriate. You can't beat Carla Kelly for more traditional dialog of the period, not quite Austin or Heyer, but more believable than the dialog used in modern day 'historical' romance novels. (less)
Miss Marian Wynswich had not been raised to be a proper young lady. Instead she had been educated to be as good as any man in everything from reading Greek to playing chess.
Thus it was with dismay that she saw what falling in love could do to the most sensible of females, as she watched her sister Ariadne turn giddy when a gentleman captured her heart. Never, Marian vowed, would she ever commit that feminine folly.
Then the dashing Lord Gilbert Ingraham came to pay a Christmas visit. And the question was not only if this worldly lord would make Marian break her vow... it was also if this man who could have any woman he wanted would also break her heart...
This lovely novel was a sleeper; looking at the covers, I didn't expect a Christmas story of such depth. As with many of Carla Kelly's books, these are fairly common folk involved in the joy of Christmas while dealing with deeper issues.
Marian Wynswich is determined to have the best holiday ever, after the reversal in fortunes of the Wynswich family. They are about to lose their home (after the death of Father Wynswich the Christmas Eve before). The two comedians of the clan are the two younger children: Marian and Alistair. Marian is devoted to her family, even if they don't think they need her help, while Alistair seems to be able to teach each school he attends that they can do better without him.
Older brother, the serious Percy, has returned from Vienna peace talks with two associates in tow. He hopes that the older diplomat will be interested enough in the elder daughter (and Percy's sister), Ariadne, to make her an offer of marriage (thus saving the family home). Unfortunately, she is already devoted to a local man. After the youngest child Alistair takes the fat diplomat's measure, he creates a comical situation that quickly dispatches the potential groom from the Wynswich home.
The story is lovely because it recreates the traditions of the English at Yuletide. It is filled with nostalgia and amusing characters. One of the most lovable was Lord Ingraham/Gil. An older man of 28, Gil is charmed by 16 year-old Marian and her family. The story is madcap and fun until Alistair decides to drug Gil and abduct him to see his family in Bath (he hasn't seen them in 2 or 3 years). Marian shows her immaturity by going along with her younger brother's plan. Not long after Gil joins his family, he is called to London on a mysterious mission. There seems to be a line of demarcation here; the first part is light-hearted while the second turns serious. However, Marian and Alistair are accidentally caught up in Gil's mission with devastating consequences.
I would have rated this book a 5 except for the drastic change in tone during the second part. Most of Ms. Kelly's books make effortless transitions; this one does not. 4.5 stars