Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Charade - Karla Hocker

Elizabeth Gore-Langton was hardly in a position to refuse to accompany Lady Astley to the Christmas party at Stenton Castle. After all, a paid companion must follow her employer's wishes. It scarcely signified that Elizabeth would be forced to face the man who had unknowingly broken her heart years ago during her first season. Most likely, the Duke of Stenton wouldn't even recognize her. But once she looked up into his dark piercing eyes, she knew this was a man who forgot very little..and forgave even less. Well, she was no longer a blushing schoolgirl, and the dashing duke would soon find that a broken heart, once mended, could be formidable, indeed! Clive Rowland, Fifth Duke of Stenton, was in no mood for a holiday gathering. But the Christmas gala would provide the perfect cover as he investigated reports that French agents were doing a brisk trade in stolen documents along the Sussex coast. It would be devilishly difficult to play the host while tracking down traitors, but Clive was up to the task--provided he kept his wits about him and didn't get distracted by yule logs and Chirstmas folderol..or the delightful charms of the disturbingly familiar Elizabeth. The little minx was hiding something, to be sure, and she was about to learn that he liked nothing better than unveiling a lady's secrets!

Another Christmas story from a new author this A Christmas Charade is my final entry for the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge. I have been trying a lot of new authors for these Christmas challenges and if not all of them are winner they at least are entertaining for an afternoon of leisure.

I found that this story suffered from the same problem that many other Christmas reads where there are too many things going on. Here we have a house party, a search for lost family jewels, smugglers and French spies, a secondary romance and a ghost all in one book.

I was particularly interested in this story because, from the blurb, it seemed a "second chance" kind of story and I do love those (I blame it on Austen's Persuasion). However I found that particular side of the story ends up being one of the least important ones and the hero doesn't remember the heroine almost till the end so it was like they were getting to know each other for the first time.

What really made it entertaining for me was the presence of the ghost, I normally complain of paranormal elements in my traditional regency reading but I must confess that this time I found the ghost of Annie Tuck fun and a good addition to the story. Especially when she helps the secondary characters reunite.
I think the smugglers and the spies really weren't needed, although the search for a French spy was the reason for Stenton to reunite the family at his home I thought he could have searched for him better without them and so the story could have been just their reunion because of the Christmas festivities and their interaction with each other.

With so many things going on it is only natural that Clive and Elizabeth don't have that much time to interact and their relationship seemed to me a bit superficial. But it was still entertaning and pleasant.
Grade: 3.5/5

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