Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6154-1
Historical Romance, 2011
Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish actually takes place after The Virtuoso, which isn’t published yet when this one comes out. Confused? Don’t be – the author’s acknowledgement suggests that the publisher asked the author to start working on this book, which was meant to be a continuation of the Windham sibling series after The Virtuoso, “one Thursday late in October” so that they can put it out in time for the holiday season. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that this story feels like a rushed effort, short on plot and high on maudlin sentiments.
Shortly before Christmas, Lady Sophie Windham is on her way to join her family in Kent for the festivities when she finds herself caring for a baby. The baby’s mother, a maid under Sophie’s care, fled the scene earlier, leaving Sophie the baby. Sophie may have cared for strays and the downtrodden all her life, but even she is at loss as to what to do with a baby. Luckily for her, our hero Wilheim Lucifer Charpentier may have one of the worst names to ever plague a character in a romance novel, but he is a wunderkind when it comes to the caring and feeding of brats. When they are stuck together due to a snowstorm, Vim reluctantly instructs Sophia on how to change dirty nappies and such. Fortunately for everyone, the baby is in the complementary feeding stage, so Sophie doesn’t have to worry about milk supply too much. Vim doesn’t like families much, so will he thaw enough to start something more permanent with Sophie and the brat?
Like the author’s previous books, don’t expect too much historical accuracy here. Nobody here pauses to consider the consequences of Sophie, a genteel lady, showing up in public with a baby in her arms – she wants to keep the baby, so okay, she’ll keep the baby. Sophie knows that the mother of the baby fled the scene because the mother’s family would most likely disown her for having a child out of wedlock, but somehow Sophie doesn’t give any serious thought about how the stigma of being a single mother at that time may apply to her as well. Of course, you can argue that maybe having an Earl for a brother may protect her in a way, but still, the tone of this story is more of an episode of Full House set in the 19th century than anything else. It doesn’t help that Sophie occasionally speaks in a manner that seems more at home in a contemporary romance. Let’s not even start with her willingness to have sex with Vim without giving much thought to the repercussions, despite currently caring for a baby whose mother abandoned him due to shame and fear. When Vim says that they can’t go to third base, she snaps back, “Can too.”
This story doesn’t have much plot, aside from the joys of motherhood. In fact, reading this book caused me to go to the author’s website to find out whether she’s a mother. (The website doesn’t say, in case you are wondering.) You know how sometimes you wonder whether the author is a virgin after reading her sex scenes? It’s the same here. When I see the heroine gushing that she understands now why her parents are still so lovey-dovey after 10 children, because apparently caring for a baby brings a husband and wife together like nothing else can, I can only wonder. The descriptions on the care and feeding of baby are very textbook-like, while the descriptions of the emotional joys of caring for a baby are so over the top unrealistic that I can’t help but to wonder whether the author is making things up while basing the facts on a baby care manual. These aspects of the story are akin to love scenes written by virgins whose descriptions of multiple orgasms and death-defying stamina are so unrealistic that I can’t help but wonder whether the author is being swept out to sea by her enthusiastic imagination because she has no experience with the real thing. I guess I’m just too much of a cynic to suspend my disbelief and accept the author’s saccharine-sweet portrayal of motherhood as nothing but bliss and rapture 24/7.
Anyway, back to the story. Aristocratic parents in the 19th century change dirty diapers and do night feeding all the time! The descriptions of care and feeding of a baby are didactic instructional passages that seem more at home in a baby care manual, and I can only wonder how Vim can know so much about this. Oh, I forget – aristocratic males take care of their infant siblings all the time, so of course Vim knows how to change dirty diapers and prepare yummy mushy meals for the baby. It goes without saying that if you are not enamored of stories that keep reminding you of how babies are the best thing to ever happen to a couple in love, how babies are simply so darling, and how having a baby magically erases any cracks in a marriage, you may not want to read this book without having a bucket at hand for all the heaving you will be experiencing.
If Sophie is a familiar and rather one-dimensional heroine who simply loves to play the mother to everyone and everything, Vim is a familiar lone wolf character. However, when I discover Vim’s reasons for wanting to avoid his family, that issue of his turns out to be much ado about nothing. There is just no significant conflict or plot in this story, just plenty of unrealistic baby propaganda. The only thing that makes this one more tolerable than the author’s previous books, in my opinion, is that, for once, the heroine doesn’t go through sadistic extremes to martyr herself. She’s just a sweetheart who will smile and exude a trail of shiny hearts even when she has to get up at 3am to feed the baby. In fact, she’d probably put all of us to shame by then going back to bed and humping the husband with gusto for at least three amazing orgasms before rising at 6am to feed the baby once again. “Oh, baby, you just knocked me up with our 34th baby! Thank you! Now our marriage will be even more perfect because babies are just the best! Darling, let’s make love again!” Motherhood, Windham-style, is really that awesome.