At six-and-thirty, the very wealthy Edgar Downes had finally decided to take a bride. Although not to the manor born, Edgar had promised his aging father that he would wed a titled lady by Christmas. Edgar came to London to review a parade of eligible misses, all of them pretty, proper, and young enough to bear him a son. But it was the widow Lady Helena Stapleton, in a shocking red dress, who captured his undivided attention. He simply could not take his eyes from her. And as for Helena, she too felt a most disturbing frisson when she saw this seductive stranger.
An irresistible passion was soon sweeping them into a scandalous liaison. Marriage, of course, would never do. Helena was too old and altogether the wrong lady to marry; Helena thought Edgar simply not in her class. But in a season of unexpected miracles, something wondrous was about to happen... something that would change their minds and transform their hearts forever....
Is there anything better than to read one of Balogh's Christmas romances at Christmas time? I think not and this year the first one I read was A Christmas Bride
Lady Helena Stapleton was introduced in a previous book, A Precious Jewel, where she was the villain. Even if you haven't read that book Helena is not exactly a nice character when this story starts. She is cynical, bitter and doesn't trust anyone. She also doesn't seem to feel good about who she is.
Edgar Downes is the heir of a merchant family. His sister, Cora, married the younger son of a duke and he knows he is only received in polite society because of that connection. At thirty-six is father is urging him to marry and give him grandchildren and Edgar decides to spend a season in London looking for a bride.
When he and Helena see each other the attraction is there and Helena decides it's high time she takes a lover. That evening she manipulates Edgar to take her home and they do sleep together but her cold manner makes him leave without plans of seeing her again. In fact he starts to court another young lady but his natural kindness and moral values lead him to inquire about Helena's well being and when it is apparent that she is pregnant he feels that there is no alternative but to marry. Since the Christmas season is just starting and they were already planning a party at the Downes country home a Christmas wedding is decided.
It is not in every book that we see a heroine as tortured as Helena. She feels the need to punish herself for a past behaviour and she does that at every turn. Even wounding others so they don't get close to her. With Edgar however she is unable to that. Edgar is a wonderful hero, once he sets his course of action he is determined that he will do his best to have a good marriage. He tries to find a way to breach Helena's defenses and eventually he manages just that and learns what she did in the past.
I really enjoyed their interaction during those days after the wedding. With family and friends in attendance, Helena starts opening up a bit and Edgar feels he might have a chance to heal her if he manages to bring her together with those she hurt and especially if he gets her to forgive herself. Since this is the season for family, good will and forgiveness I thought this was the perfect theme for a Christmas story. Just lovely!