Season for TemptationBy Theresa Romain
Release Date: October 1, 2011
James, Viscount Matheson, arrives at Stonemeadows Hall in Kent to meet the family of his fiancée. He proposed to Louisa Oliver not because he was overcome by passion but because it is imperative that James marry quickly in order to counteract the scandal created by late brother-in-law. Louisa meets his criteria for a bride:
First, Louisa was intelligent and poised. Second, she came from an old and established family. Third, he liked and respected her. And fourth and perhaps most important of all, she’d agreed to marry him after a courtship that even he would have to describe as perfunctory.
The first family member James meets is Louisa’s step-sister Julia Herington. At first, he is charmed by her lack of reserve, but very soon, a disturbing awareness of her is added to his amusement at her chatter and her appetite for biscuits:
James was again transfixed by the play of her eager expression as she talked, the curve of her mouth, her animated hands. Her hands. As if time slowed to a crawl, James watched as one of her hands reached for his. He stared at her hand on his, feeling burned by her cool fingers. It was a whisper of a touch, but his skin prickled under it anyway.
The attraction is not one way. Julia’s feelings for James are decidedly warmer than appropriate for her sister’s betrothed:
From what Julia had seen of James so far, he was . . . well, wonderful. She couldn’t seem to stop thinking about him. His clever face, his warm smile, his low laugh, his long body. She only wished she’d been able to see more of it. Of him.
Both Julia and James are honorable people, however, and loyal to Louisa. Each determines to ignore her/his feelings. Julia and Louisa think of themselves as true sisters, and they are best friends as well. Julia hopes that in London she will find “one nice man to fall in love with her.” James hopes that Louisa will find him as interesting as she finds his library, and the two of them can share a life of contentment. But all their plans go agley. Despite scandal, heartbreak, and betrayal, an HEA is still within reach.
Much of the story plays out against the backdrop of Christmas, and nothing reveals the contrast between James’s family and Julia and Louisa’s more clearly than the difference in the way they celebrate the holiday. James thinks of Christmas gifts as strictly for children while Julia and Louisa miss their family and enjoy Aunt Estella’s generosity. Julia is conscious of the difference and pities James’s young nieces.
All the trappings of the holiday surrounded them, and for that, Julia was deeply grateful to her aunt. But she was divided all the same. Though her body stood in Grosvenor Square, her heart went out to the girls caught in the chill of Matheson House, and to the hopes and plans of their uncle.
I’m not usually a fan of triangles, especially those involving siblings, but this one is different. James, Julia, and Louisa are all good people deserving of happiness. All of them struggle to do the right thing, right not as defined by society’s rules but according to their personal codes. Julia is irresistible. The reader finds her as adorable as does James. (I must say how refreshing it was to read about a heroine who likes to eat.) Louisa and James lack Julia’s effervescence, but they too are engaging characters. And Julia and Louisa’s blended family add to the fun. Aunt Estella is delightful. Just typing her name makes me smile.
Season for Temptation is just the kind of Christmas romance I like best—one with family, laughter, love, and unqualified happy endings. This is Romain’s debut, and its warmth and wit make her a welcome addition to the ranks of historical romance. I’m hoping for Louisa’s story next. I’m sure there’s a perfect hero for her in this author’s fertile imagination.
What do you look for in a Christmas romance? What’s your favorite historical romance with a Christmas setting?