Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait
Sourcebooks Casablanca / September 24, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital
What Lady Jenny wants for Christmas...
For Christmas, soft-spoken Lady Jenny Windham craves the freedom to pursue her artistic ambitions, though it will mean scandalizing her ducal parents and abandoning all hope of a family of her own. She confides her plans to successful artist Elijah Harrison when he's commissioned to paint a portrait of her small nephews, because assisting Elijah will bring Jenny that much closer to her heart's desire—won't it?
...Will break both their hearts
Elijah Harrison finds in his unlikely assistant not only an inspiring muse and unappreciated talent, but also a lovely and passionate woman. If Elijah supports Jenny's career, his own professional interests will suffer, but more significantly, he will lose Jenny forever. Both Jenny and Elijah must choose between true love and a lifelong dream.
If you’ve been following the adventures of the five daughters of Percival, Duke of Moreland in Grace Burrowes’ popular Windham series, you already know that each daughter has a Talent. Maggie is a financial genius. Sophie is a domestic goddess who makes the world’s flakiest, most buttery stollen. Louisa is a scholar and a poet. Eve is an accomplished equestrienne.
And then, of course, there’s Jenny.
Genevieve “Jenny” Windham, Their Graces’ youngest child, is an artist of rare talent. She paints; she draws; and she designs delicately beautiful embroidered undergarments for her sisters. She is passionate about her art, even to the point of disguising herself as a man in order to take drawing classes at which the male form – the entire male form – is on display. Her one dream is to live in Paris and study at the feet of the masters.
But her family doesn’t take Jenny’s goals desires at all seriously. For one thing, in Jenny’s world, aristocratic women simply don’t become serious portraitists. Then, too, Jenny is the baby of her large family. As a result, the Duke and his Duchess treat her art as a charming hobby and refuse to entertain the notion that she might want to make it her life’s work.
Jenny is determined, however, and is secretly making plans to decamp for Paris as soon as the Christmas holiday is over when Elijah Harrison comes back into her life. – “Back?” – oh, yes. Remember those illicit art classes Jenny used to take? Elijah was the model. Meaning that Jenny has already seen the goods, so to speak – and she really, really liked what she saw.
But in addition to the powerful physical attraction that springs up between them – suffice it to say that Elijah likes what he sees, too – the two turn out to have quite a bit in common. Like Jenny, Elijah comes from a large, aristocratic family in which his talent was downplayed in favor of his family’s expectations, although in his case that’s because he’s the oldest son and heir to the title. He knows exactly what she’s going through, having fallen out with his father and refused to return to the ancestral estate until he has achieved something remarkable. The two bond over their love of painting, their shared ambitions, and their shared pain of being misunderstood by their respective families. Over the Christmas season, mutual respect and friendship turn into passion:
He lashed his arms around her and covered her mouth with his own. She tasted of whisky and sin, of curiosity and all that was irresistible in a beautiful female late at night behind a locked door. He’d checked that lock twice, and as Jenny’s fingers tangled in his hair, Elijah was glad he had. Dangerous, stupid thought. A bacon-brained enough scheme that Elijah broke off the kiss and rested his forehead on Jenny’s heaving chest. “We have to stop, Genevieve. Did your brothers tell you to apply perfume to your breasts?”
He didn’t realize the extent of his non sequitur until he beheld the confusion in her eyes. “They did not.”
“Your scent is stronger here.” He nuzzled her throat. “Jasmine and insanity.”
However, Jenny’s reasons for wanting to leave for Paris are complex, and not entirely related to her love of color and form. Elijah grasps this, and when she makes her decision, he makes a sacrifice that proves to her that not only does he love her, he gets her. For the first time in her life, Jenny is taken seriously as a woman and as an artist. But it’s only after a surprising interview with someone entirely unexpected that she dares to believe that she can have both a supportive family and a vibrant artistic career.
One of the things I love about this series, and the “Duke’s Daughters” subseries in particular, is the fact that the heroes not only accept but celebrate the fact that the heroines have ambitions that go beyond the confines of home and hearth. Recall that in previous installments, it was Lucas who got Eve back on a horse after her catastrophic accident, and that Joseph encouraged Louisa to re-publish her “scandalous” poetry under her own name – and dedicate the volume to him. But at the same time, the heroes recognize the importance of a loving partner’s support. Here, the Windham men (and their various brothers-by-marriage) put their heads together over a glass or three during a spirited Christmas gathering:
…Westhaven said what they’d all been avoiding.
“My countess tells me Genevieve has taken it into her head to remove to Paris. I suspect she wants to avoid being aunt-at-large, while her own situation admits of no change. We are Jenny’s family, and Christmas is upon us. Harrison paints, he argues with her, and he has all his teeth. What say you, gentlemen?”
“Paris reeks,” Lord Kesmore said. “Harrison’s scent is rather pleasant by comparison.”
“He smells of linseed oil,” St. Just observed.
“A point in his favor,” Hazelton murmured, “from Lady Jenny’s perspective.”
Watching the family maneuver Elijah and Jenny into place is a delight unto itself. Overall, Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait is a charming conclusion to a truly wonderful series that’s full of spirited, talented women and the strong, handsome, and supportive men who love them. All I want for Christmas is six or eight more Windhams whose stories I can enjoy.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait by Grace Burrowes before its release (September 24, 2013):
Kate Nagy is Editor At Large of Geek Speak Magazine.