Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Christmas Read 5: Marian's Christmas Wish

Marian's Christmas Wish

By Carla Kelly

Publisher: Cedar Fort

Release Date: September 8, 2011

(Reissue of 1989 Signet Regency Romance)

4.5 Stars

The Wynswich family’s official year of mourning for Sir Bertram is drawing to a close as Christmas approaches, and Marian Wynswich knows that it may be her family’s last Christmas at Covenden Hall. She’s determined to make it the most joyous Christmas possible. But her older brother Percy is filled with despair over the debts his father has left, her younger brother Alistair has been expelled from Eton, and Ariadne, her beautiful older sister, is about to be betrothed to the toad of a suitor Percy has brought home, breaking Ari’s heart and the heart of the young vicar with whom she is in love.

Percy has brought another guest as well, Gilbert Collinwood, Earl of Ingraham, a seasoned diplomat. Ingraham is charmed by the artless Marian who reads Greek, plays chess, and cares for injured animals with a salve she has made, the same salve she is soon applying to the vicious burn on his cheek. Gil finds himself involved in madcap schemes, singing Christmas carols with a tuneless choir, and resolving Wynswich problems to keep Marian happy. Christmas wishes come true in unexpected ways before Marian realizes that her happiness rests with a certain earl.

Like all of Carla Kelly’s romances, this one is filled with characters who come alive for the reader. Marian is young, not yet seventeen, with a candor that makes her seem even younger at times. But she has intelligence, a loving heart, and an irrepressible sense of humor. Gil is a wonderful hero—understanding, great-hearted, and surprisingly unlordly for so high ranking an aristocrat—and with all the appeal of a man who combines tenderness with an understated charm. Despite the differences in age and fortune, I can imagine these two growing old together, celebrating Christmas through the years.

The Wynswich family is a delight as well. Each member emerges as vividly distinct, and their love for one another burns as brightly as a Christmas star. Even minor characters such as the pompous suitor and the mail coachman who befriends Marian are memorable. Only the villains are one-dimensional, and their appearance in the closing chapters comes as something of a shock. It changes the tone of the book, and I found the change disconcerting. But that’s a single flaw in a book that made me laugh, warmed my heart, and left me humming Christmas carols.  

Marian’s Christmas Wish is not a new Christmas book strictly speaking. It was first published in 1989, but it has been reissued as both in print and as an ebook for the 2011 Christmas season. Some of Kelly’s Christmas stories are also available. When I recommend Christmas reads, Carla Kelly is always high on my list. If you’ve never read a Carla Kelly book, Christmas is a great time to give yourself the gift of some of the best Regency romance ever. As for me, I’m counting the days--19-- until her collection of new Christmas stories is released.

What is your favorite traditional Regency Christmas romance?


irisheyes said...

I know I must have read a Xmas story by Carla Kelly but I can't for the life of me remember one. I'll have to go back and search my list.

I found this one in a UBS recently and can't wait to dive in. I'm also anxiously awaiting the release of her new ones next month.

Mary Balogh is still my "go to" girl for my Christmas reads. Although, I'm starting to really get into a few of the contemporaries I've been reading lately.

Janga said...

If you've read many of the Signet Regency Christmas anthologies, Irish, you've probably read one or more of her Christmas stories.

I reread an old Harlequin Christmas story by Anne Stuart today, Falling Angel. I had forgotten how good it is. If you can find a copy of it, I highly recommend it.