Even though he is not on the guest list for the Blakelys' elegant Christmas Ball, notorious rogue and gamester Lionel St. James attends the party just to see the stunning Miss Mary Ann Whittaker, a woman he had encountered years ago who changed his life forever.
I picked up this book because I had previously loved the book I read by Kate Huntington about Christmas. That one really struck a chord and I had high expectations for this one but I'm afraid they were left unfulfilled.
When the book starts Mary Ann is a fourteen year old girl who is going to pawn her only jewel so her family can have Christmas dinner. On the way to the pawn shop she is attacked by a thief and saved by Lionel St James who ends up accompanying her to the pawn shop and later to buy her family a nice Christmas dinner. Fast forward 5 or 6 years and not only Mary Ann hasn't forgotten Lionel, but she is convinced she will find him again and they will marry.
They do meet again and while Mary Ann's family is much better with one of her sisters having married and wealthy viscount Lionel is much worse living his life as a gambler and having had no luck in the recent months. Mary Ann and her sisters ask him to spend Christmas with them in the country after having seen how alone he was, not only that but they manage to invite his estranged family to go too without him knowing to try and help them make peace. But her brother in law is less than thrilled, he knows Lionel for a gamester and a rake and doesn't want him around the young ladies of his family. To add to the awkward situation Lionel's stepmother brings along her sister with whom Lionel was involved in the past and who actually made up the situation that estranged him from his family.
I felt the story had two problems, one that Mary Ann is just too open for a regency Miss, and her behaviour was a bit too modern and liberated. And the second that there was too much going on at the same time, Lionel and Mary Ann, the story with his parents, the problems with the woman from his past that lead him to believe she was going after Mary Ann's sister in law this time... There were so many secondary characters that I ended up thinking this book must be a part of a series and it is.
It's not that I disliked it, it was a pleasant Christmas story and I had an enjoyable afternoon reading it. But it was not memorable has the previous book I had read by her.