'Twas the Night After Christmas
Gallery Books / October 30, 2012 / $11.75 print, $9.99 digital
. . . I feel I should inform you that your mother is very ill. If you wish to see her before it is too late, you should come at once.
Mrs. Camilla Stuart
Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has led an unabashed rogue’s life, letting no woman near his heart. Inexplicably abandoned as a child to be raised by distant relatives, he never forgave his parents, refusing to read any of his mother’s letters after his father’s death. Then came a letter that shook his resolve. A Christmas visit to Montcliff might prove his last chance to discover the truth of his past, and come to terms with the stranger he calls “Mother.”
But two surprises await him at Montcliff. His mother is perfectly healthy, nowhere near a deathbed, as her meddling lady’s companion led him to believe. The second is Camilla Stuart herself, a lively vicar’s widow, too bright and beautiful not to arouse the scoundrel in Pierce. Though she alone is reason enough to prolong his stay, he is soon faced with other tantalizing riddles: What secrets lie in his mother’s past to explain his childhood abandonment? Why is the captivating Mrs. Stuart so determined to mend the breach between mother and son? Meanwhile,
Camilla herself is caught up in love’s complications since the arrival of the irresistible earl. As his bold flirtation and suggestive whispers draw her dangerously close, can anything protect her vulnerable heart? If they are destined to share real happiness, there must be honesty between them—yet telling him the truth about her own life may shatter that chance.
None of them can predict the startling revelations to come. Or the secrets, both heartening and shocking, divulged between a mother and son, and between two lovers haunted by their respective pasts, that will make Christmas night at Montcliff one to remember—and the glorious night after, one to treasure for a lifetime.
'Twas the Night After Christmas is classic Sabrina Jeffries: rakes, good girls, family misunderstandings, and a heart-warming denouement. The perfect Christmas fare.
As it should be in any good romance novel, the highlight of this book is the relationship between our hero, Pierce Waverly, Earl of Devonmont (the aforementioned rake) and our heroine, Mrs. Camilla Stuart, his mother's companion and the aforementioned good girl. We get a little back story on both and then they are thrown together. Once that happens, Pierce doesn't seem able to tear himself away, although he has every intention of doing so.
What we get, as both Pierce and Camilla try to fight their growing attraction, is a wonderful portrait of the budding relationship, sharply portrayed in a series of conversations.
Pierce arrives at the dower house on his estate because Camilla has written to him, implying that his mother might be dying. She's not. Once he gets there, Camilla begins a campaign to reconcile Pierce and his mother. The reason for their estrangement carries throughout the book and is one of the things that must be uncovered before Pierce can accept his mother back in his life.
Pierce and Camilla's first conversation after his arrival sets the tone for the rest of the book.
“…I will forget how far you've overstepped your bounds, if you'll agree to keep your opinions to yourself and stay out of my relationship with her in the future.”
Though she swallowed hard, she continued to meet his gaze. “I don't know if I can do that, my lord.”
“Oh, for God's sake…” He dragged his hand over his face. He was tired and hungry and annoyed. The bloody woman was a plague! “What do you want from me, damn it, short of attaching my mother to my side with a tether?”
The image made her start, then give a little smile. It took him by surprise. Until that moment, she'd lived up to his impression of a self-righteous bluestocking, but a sense of humor lurked inside the in
Their duel of words continues as he agrees to dine with his mother if Camilla will “entertain” him after dinner. She asks what kind of entertainment he wants.
He gritted his teeth. “Oh, for the love of God, you know precisely what kind of entertainment a 'worldly man' like me wants.”
“On the contrary,” she said blithely. “I don’t know you well enough to know what you enjoy. Perhaps you would prefer me to sing for you or dance or read you a good play. I understand there is quite an extensive library at Montcliff Manor.”
When he finally makes himself explicit, Camilla is surprised to realize how tempted she is by the possibility.
My, my, no wonder London ladies were rumored to jump into his bed. When he looked that way at a woman and spoke in that decidedly seductive voice, the average female probably melted into a puddle at his feet.
Of course she doesn't succumb—not right away.
When Camilla arrives in Pierce's room for his first evening's entertainment, he does give her a book to read: Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.
She shocks him by opening the book and actually beginning to read aloud.. When she discovers it has pictures, Pierce is horrified, but Camilla continues to pretend she's actually read the book before until,
The jig was clearly up. “You know perfectly well I've never read that book.” She stared him down. “And if that's what the illustrations are like, I shudder to think what's in the text.”
“You have no idea.” He released an exasperated breath. “You, madam, are the most stubborn female I've ever met. If not for that picture I wonder how far you'd have read before throwing the book at my head.”
“I'd never throw it at your head, sir.” She tilted up her chin. “Just into the fire.”
“I would have your head if you did. It's damned difficult to obtain a copy of it. There are only a few hundred.”
“Yes, I can see why,” she said dryly. “The illustrations are very poorly rendered.”
She makes us laugh and she makes Pierce laugh and that's an excellent prelude to falling in love.
There is more: more story, more conversation, more flirtation and, finally, the resolution of Pierce's estrangement from his mother and the realization that Camilla is meant to be Lady Devonmont. 'Twas the Night After Christmas has just what you're looking for in a Christmas romance: humor, growing attraction, children (yeah, I didn't mention Camilla's son, but he's a great character), a poignant reunion, love, and a happily ever after.
Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.