Title: A Regency Christmas Carol
Author: Christine Merrill
Copyright: 2011 (Harlequin); 280 pgs.
Series: Harlequin Historical #1065
Genre: Historical Romance
From the back/Goodreads: Born into poverty, Joseph Stratford’s clever mind has made him a rich mill owner, but he has earned himself a wicked reputation among the villagers of Fiddleton. Only firebrand Barbara Lampett can see beyond the cold heart of this gentleman in disguise.
When visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present and future Joseph is brought down to earth with three thumps! But as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, has Joseph left it too late to claim the beautiful Barbara and enjoy learning the most delicious Christmas lesson of all?
Comments:Christine Merrill is one of favorite Harlequin Historical authors and I enjoyed her previous Christmas book. Since many of the traditions we still follow weren’t around during the Regency era, writing a Christmas-themed story for that time is a challenge. In fact, she makes that distinction in her author’s note in the beginning of the book — Regency Christmas celebrations were house parties with bad weather. Considering the author had little to work with in regards to holiday traditions, I liked that she tried something different with this book. As the title implies, this is basically Dickens’s story, Regency-style.
(Side note: I always wonder why Harlequin doesn’t ask their historical writers for the Christmas stories set in later periods. With the popularity of Downton Abbey, I’m surprised there aren’t more books set in the early 1900s.)
Though I liked the story, in general, I still had a problem with it. I was sure, at first, my issue with the book was Joseph. As I sat trying to articulate that, I realized it wasn’t him. Joseph may have, initially, invented his loom with the intent to improve the lives of weavers (as the son of one, he knew the hardships), he was now more concerned about being accepted into polite society and making money. Because this was a take on the story of Scrooge, his behavior was consistent with that character and that worked for me.
It turns out, it was the romance that felt off to me. Barbara loved him as he was; a man that would take her has his mistress. And yet, I never thought there was enough evidence for her to even like him well enough to love him as much as she did. As the Ghost of Christmas Future shows us, Barbara eventually accepts being his mistress. I had a hard time reconciling myself to this decision. Usually, I’ll understand and accept the reasoning behind a character’s decision — even if it’s flawed. Not this time. Had the future shown that she died, left the village, or even married someone else, I think the impact on Joseph would have been just as powerful and would have served to make him change his ways. Barbara’s choice bothered me, probably because of my modern view point. Plus, even Scrooge’s love got fed up enough to walk away. Barbara’s staying felt like weakness to me.
There was one other nag: if Clairmont was, in fact, a lord, he would never have been addressed or referred to as “Mr. Clairmont”.
As a Scrooge story, I liked it and I liked Joseph. I loved the Christmas morning antics, as he goes about shocking people. I also liked his proposal to Barbara.
Start: 2 December 2012
Finished: 4 December 2012