A Merry Little Christmas
by Martha Schroeder, historical (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7345-3

This is the first romance novel I've read from this author. While the heroine of A Merry Little Christmas is the Other Woman from a previous novel of this author (I don't know which - maybe one of Ms Schroeder's Zebra Ballad books?), I can't effectively say how effective the redemption is. I didn't know just how bad Priscilla Harrowby was in the previous book. In this book, she's portrayed as a misguided, adorable miss who loves her distant daddy and it's her mommy's fault she's so bad. What else is new?

I have a feeling that if I have read the previous book where Priscilla played the spiteful debutante, I won't be enjoying A Merry Little Christmas as I did. So please don't tell me what the previous book is. I'd like to keep my good reading experiences untainted as much as possible.

Maybe it's the way Priscilla can be so adoringly girlish and sweet while remaining conscious of her beauty and attractiveness that has me won over. The hero Nick Cannon, an American in England, is refreshingly baggage-free. Nick is in England to settle some personal affairs when he met the charming young woman his friend Jeffrey tells him is a nasty spoiled bitch from hell. He is taken by her charms. Lucky him, he meets Priscilla when she is undergoing some sort of self-discovery after losing her intended suitor (Jeffrey) to the boring bluestocking cousin Lucinda. Our heroine is learning fast that you have to be a dull brown cow to get married in Regency romances. These two tend indulge in a leisurely courtship that is just so sweet. These two people are very nice people that bring out the best in each other.

For example, in this book people - especially Jeffrey - treat Priscilla far worse than her antics in this book deserve. Jeffrey is such a shrill, tell-tale bitch, by the way, I really don't want to read his story. Nick defends her against her detractors, and she finds confidence to stand up and face the world for that. Likewise, Priscilla's unintentionally wise words often cause Nick to reconsider his tumultuous relationship with his estranged grandfather.

The plot and characters aren't new. Nick's the American, and in romances like this sort, British men could whore, rake, and drink all they want and they would still be ex-War hero male sluts that can do no wrong... until an American like Nick arrives to preach American Democratic Supremacy, that is. Anglophilia is no match for 19th Century American Idealism. Then the British rakes are scums (meet Nick's British cousin) while Nick's the hero. Lest we forget, there's also Priscilla's misunderstood daddy and the shrewish mother.

But really, Priscilla is a great heroine. Later, her family will crash and burn financially, and she has to work. To her delight, she loves making money, and she loves money, the more the better. See, she's a smart gal alright. No matter how much she tries to emulate her dull cow-lidded cousin Lucinda, she's still a vivacious mellowed diva who charms me with her spirited way of living and thinking. I like that Nick sees right away that these are her best traits and stick by her thick and thin.

There's a small miscommunication conflict late in the story, but it's resolved quickly and to my relief, the resolution only makes me like these two people more than ever. Resolving the conflict leads to some typically stereotypical behavior from both the hero and the heroine, but soon they are back to their normal way of behaving. She's telling him to marry her, and he, the ever loving henpecked-hubby-to-be, cheerfully agrees. The fact that in the end she admits how bad their communication skills were makes the whole thing more palatable and even funny. They'll get it right in the future, I'm sure.

A Merry Little Christmas have its share of rough patches, but in the end, there's a good feeling I have after finishing this book. Maybe I'm biased in that I have a weakness for spirited, lively heroines who love life, party, and pretty things without making apologies for it, and when you cross her path, she'll let you know loud and clear she's not to be taken advantage of. Maybe it's just that I love reading a story about two adorable people obviously in love. Whatever it is, A Merry Little Christmas finds me feeling that, why yes, Pris and Nick, it's really been a pleasure. And of course, a Merry Little Christmas to you too!

Rating: 91

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