Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-92619-4
Historical Romance, 2017
Scandal at the Christmas Ball spans a period of time from Christmas eve to New Year’s Day, and the stories here revolve around two couples attending the house party at the Brockmore house party.
Marguerite Kaye’s A Governess for Christmas features Drummond MacIntosh, an ex-soldier who did something that he thought was right only to be charged for treason, and Joanna Forsythe, a former governess who had read too many romance novels and thought it was a great idea to let her charge run wild, only to have that charge lose a necklace and accuse her for being the thief. These two are here because they are led to believe that their sins will somehow be absolved by the end of the party. And, of course, they will fall in love, the usual.
This story covers the “dramatic, emotional” territory as the hero and the heroine are all so proper and carry with them some baggage. While Drummond remains a recognizable reliable, dependable romance hero, however, poor Joanna is all over the place. From the moment they meet, our heroine is pestering him to lay onto her all his inner demons – which he declines, of course, as sane people don’t blab all to strangers within minutes of meeting – and then she’s beating herself for saying things that she perceive to have slighted that man. Our heroine’s behavior often feels too melodramatic – she “stared at him in mute anguish, her throat working” – and makes her seem high strung and distraught as a result. And considering that the baggage he is carrying is far more heavier than hers, the fact that Joanna plays the anguished, trembling, tear-stricken damsel in distress 24/7 only makes her look even weaker than she normally would be. Oh, and of course, the moment she feels the hots for the hero, she can’t wait to get stuffed – which, considering her experiences with her naughty charge, makes her look like either someone with short term memory or someone who is so horny that she loses all common sense.
Some drama later in the story only makes Joanna dig in when it comes to needing Drummond to fix her all up. It’s a good thing that he’s good at fixing things for her, and she of course rewards him by marrying him. Good boy.
This is not a bad read, just an average one, but the heroine comes off too much like an unintentional parody of the prim and proper “I AM SO HORNY I WANT HIS PEEN NOW!” type at times. I’m amused, but I suspect that the source of my amusement is not intended to be comical.
While reading the previous story, I wish that Joanna will loosen up and relax a little. Well, you know what they say about wishing for something – Bronwyn Scott’s Dancing with the Duke’s Heir serves up a heroine who is 200% loosened up with the whole improper behavior thing.
Covering the “haw, haw – reckless heroines are so bae” territory, this story features Viola Hawthorne, who has no problems doing improper things even with an audience, and the heir in question, Vale Penrith acting all disapproving and horny at her direction. Wacky hijinks ensue, complete with the whole “She can’t marry him, but sleeping with him out of wedlock? OKAY!” oh-so-familiar package. Oh, and she never wants to get married, only to do improper things to force her parents to stop making her find a beau, she just wants to go have adventures on her own, et cetera. In other words, this is one heroine who is lucky that she bumbles her way into marrying the right guy, or else she’d be a pregnant, diseased, disowned pariah forced to pull a Fantine on the streets by the end of the story.
Again, this isn’t a bad read, just a familiar one if you don’t mind reading yet another hoydens-want-sex-but-no-marriage story. There is nothing particularly awful about this (unless you are absolutely allergic to the tropes associated with such story line), but at the same time, there is nothing particularly memorable about it.
Scandal at the Christmas Ball, therefore, is just a very average collection of two forgettable stories.