by Jane Goodger, historical (2010)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1150-7
A Christmas Waltz is related to A Christmas Scandal, in that a subplot in that previous book is developed into a story of its own here. This one can be read on its own, but do be warned that various characters from previous books in this series show up later in this story, so it's probably a good idea to read the previous books first.
Lady Amelia Wellesley, sister to one of the loftiest members of the aristocracy, is impulsive and naïve. She thinks herself madly in love with Carson Kitteridge, a cowboy performer in a Wild West Show. He told her he had a grand ranch and a dashing career as a Texas Ranger, and really, he would send for her once he gets back to America. You know where this is heading, right? When no word comes after his departure, Amelia decides to lie to his brother, claims that Carson has sent for her, and takes off with her maid to America, to seek her beloved and get him to marry her.
Arriving alone and without funds (long story), she finds out that Carson is pulling a fast one on her. There is no grand ranch, he is never a Texas Ranger, and worst of all, he has no intention of marrying her. Fortunately, Carson's brother, Boone, takes pity on her and lets her stay at his place. She learns how to do the laundry and helps around his place as payment for lodging and all. This also means that she is completely ruined, and, realizing this, Boone steps in to marry her. This is... going to work, right?
There is plenty to like here. Amelia's transformation from spoiled and silly girl to a more caring and mature lady is well done and believable. She may be impulsive and silly, but she is smarter than she seems to be at first. In fact, she turns out to be the smarter one between her and Boone, and she practically hauls the man to their happy ending.
Boone, oh Boone. You know, at first, his feelings of self-inadequacy and lack of confidence are actually quite adorable, as this makes him a refreshing change from the usual oversexed alpha males that populate the genre. I'm willing to overlook the fact that he, a hot doctor, manages to stay celibate all this while without professing any beliefs to stay that way (his brother certainly has no problems spreading the love around), because, hello there, sweetheart. Unfortunately, he is also one of the worst heroes I've come across when it comes to communication.
Okay, he grunts and mumbles most of the time, and it's sweet at first as his lack of eloquence goes with his surly shy hero personality. However, this mumbling soon spills over to become a stubborn refusal to say anything. This causes Amelia to reasonably believe that he doesn't love her and even dislike her for being an anchor around his neck, prolonging the story by a few painful dozens of pages. Boone's reaction in any conflict is to just drop everything and abandon Amelia, and often, Amelia becomes far more hurt by this than anything else he could have done. By the last page, yes, he ends up with her, but if he doesn't open his mouth anytime soon, I don't think this couple is meant to last, and he's going to hurt her very, very badly.
There are some hard-hitting emotions here, a realistic portrayal of a small town with both good and bad highlighted, and a likable heroine whose character growth is believable and enjoyable to follow. The hero, however, can be too clueless and stubborn for my liking, and some of the hard-hitting emotions I experience include a burning desire to wrap my hands around this throat and squeeze very, very hard.
A Christmas Waltz is a pretty good read, at the end of the day. Just watch out for Boone's more frustrating antics, especially in the later parts of this story.
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