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Once Upon A Christmas Paperback – Large Print, 1 Dec 2011
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[LARGER FONT VERSION] After a tragic loss, Celia Delacourt faces a life of loneliness and poverty - until her distant cousin, the Duchess of Arnsford, unexpectedly takes her under her wing. Celia suspects an ulterior motive, but is grateful to spend Christmas with family, however remote the relationship - and despite the daunting grandeur of the ducal palace. Celia has braced herself to face the worst Christmas of her life. But when Jack Delacourt comes home - determined to thwart the schemes of his mother, the duchess - Celia finds a friend and ally. And she begins to wonder ... will this be the worst Christmas of her life? Or the best? *Finalist for the RITA award for Best Regency Romance "Perfect reading on a cold day during the holiday season while sipping hot chocolate in front of the fireplace!" - Huntress Book Reviews
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She soon learns that the matriarch of the family - the Duchess of Arnsford - has an ultierior motive for taking her in. The duchess wants Celia to marry her son John (Jack), the Marquess of Lynden, believing her lack of sophistication and freshness will attract him more than the beauties of the ton she keeps throwing in his path and, moreover, that Celia will prove eminently biddable and will be easily moulded into the perfect duchess.
Getting wind of his mother's intentions, when he goes home for Christmas, Jack intends to thwart his mother’s schemes by giving Celia a disgust of him. He arrives at the house wearing the most garish clothes imaginable, and acts like a complete ass, complete with an irritating, braying laugh. A chance remark by one of his sisters causes Celia to think Jack is mentally deranged, and it’s this misconception upon which most of the story is based.
It's rather a flimsy premise, but the author invests the whole thing with a lot of good-natured humour as well as showing a slightly darker side to the Delacourts when she shows the damage the duchess' "training" has done to her daughters, turning them into cold sticklers for propriety with no warmth or charm.
Jack is a funny, charming hero, albeit not an especially deep one. He is, however, quite perceptive towards Celia, and there are some lovely moments between the two of them which help the reader to buy into the idea that the pair really have fallen in love in the space of a couple of days.
Once Upon a Christmas is a light-hearted read that delivers the required quota of good cheer and gentle humour. It’s not deep or angsty, but ably fulfils the need for a well-written, feel-good seasonal story.
Jack, the Marquess of Lynden, went home to Delacourt for Christmas every year. Knowing his scheming mother planned to push another fortune hunter at him, he made his appearance as mismatched, rude, and LOUD as possible! Just as he convinced Celia he was mad, he also fell under her spell. The problem was Her Grace, as always.
**** Sweet irony! That does describe it well. No adventure or danger here. But I found it to be one of the sweetest and romantic stories I have read. Perfect reading on a cold day during the holiday season while sipping hot chocolate in front of the fireplace!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This story evokes every emotion from me: joy, sorrow, hopefulness and the satisfaction of a great love story. You can see by the synopsis what it's all about. Besides seeing love blossom between the H/h, there is another interesting liaison between the H's sibling and a former suitor that is so poignantly and realistically told. All of this in a novella!!!
I do agree with another reviewer who said there was not enough time between the h's devastating loss and her falling in love with the H, but try not to get bogged down in reality and just savor the romance and the story. For me, it is nearly perfect in every way.
ETA: I did not realize this - Once Upon A Christmas is the sequel to The Nobody: Signet Regency Romance (InterMix)
The heroine is a great mix of conflicting emotions. At one moment she's tough and standing up for herself and the next, she's vulnerable and emotional. She's a character that rounded and is inconsistent at times. I love that at one point she even makes a characterization about herself to the hero and in his mind he disagrees with it--just like a lot of people, she doesn't see herself accurately.
The hero is a little more flat as a character. I don't think he's a well-rounded as the heroine, but he does provide most of the comic relief in the story. Before he and the heroine meet, he is aware that his mother is trying to set them up and he decides to push the heroine away by making himself idiotic that he would be unattractive to her. However, while he means to come across as a fop and a fool, she believes him to be truly mentally unstable and treats him as such. There are a lot of great laugh out loud conversations and misunderstandings that are obvious to the reader, but not to the oblivious characters. He's funny and likable, and a great pairing for the heroine.
His mother is fantastic. She is certainly meant to be the villain of the piece, but she's really more of a flawed human who is doing what she really feels is best for everyone, but in reality is so tainted by her "good breeding" and arrogance to really do much good. She's not loving, but she does care about her legacy and making sure that all her hard work lives on after she's gone. And that desire drives her to do things that are not nice. I hate classifying her as a villain, because she's not evil, but she is hardhearted and not a likable person.
There is a subplot surrounding the hero's eldest sister, who is the villain of the first book in the duology, "The Nobody". I really recommend reading that book first. They are in essence stand-alone novels, but the character development of this character stretches between these two books and this book is even better if read after the first. In the first book, the sister is a copy of the mother in this book, but in this story as she's dealing with the idea of being a spinster, she begins to change. It's not a sudden night-and-day shift of character, but she starts to change and become someone better. While she's a sympathetic villain in the first book, in this book she becomes someone you like and I found myself rooting for her. I still wouldn't necessarily want to hang out with her, but she has a wonderful character arc through the two novels.
I just could go on and on about how much I liked this book. Plot wise, it is a light book, but character wise, I found it to be really well written. It took what was great in "The Nobody" and expanded on it (while chopping out the melodrama). A definite 5-stars!