All she wants is peace and anonymity...
Lady Sophie Windham has maneuvered a few days to herself at the ducal mansion in London before she must join her family for Christmas in Kent. Suddenly trapped by a London snowstorm, she finds herself with an abandoned baby, and only the assistance of a kind, handsome stranger standing between her and complete disaster...
But Sophie's holiday is about to heat up...
With his estate in ruins, Vim Charpentier sees little to feel festive about this Christmas. His growing attraction for Sophie Windham is the only thing that warms his - but when Sophie's brothers whisk her away, Vim's most painful holiday memories are reawakened.
It seems Sophie's been keeping secrets, and now it will take much more than a mistletoe kiss to make her deepest wishes come true.
There are a couple of things that you need to know if you are even thinking about reading this book.
The first is that if you don't like reading about babies in your romances, then this is not the book for you. The young boy, Kit, gets a lot of air time in the pages of this book - a LOT of page time. There were also times when I wasn't sure that his age was consistent with the developmental milestones that were talked about.
The second thing to be aware of is that even though this book is being released before the third book in the Duke's Obsession series which is Valentine's story, chronologically it is set after that book. Goodness only knows what the thinking was there, especially seeing as this book and The Virtuoso are now being released so closely together.
So with those two big provisos out of the way, let's talk about the actual book.
Lady Sophie Windham is one of eight children - five of them daughters. She is the sensible one, the one that her parents don't really need to worry about, the one who has been left on the shelf and is likely to stay there.
When all of her family retire to their country estate for the Christmas holidays, Sophie manufactures an excuse that will enable her to get some much needed alone time in the ducal mansion in London. She just has one small task to perform first. One of the servant girls has got herself into trouble and so Sophie is packing the girl and her baby off to their family, or at least that is what she thinks is going to do. Instead, the girl does a runner, literally leaving Sophie holding the baby.
Being the well bred, aristocratic lady that she is, Sophie has absolutely no clue what to do with a baby. Whilst at the coach station waiting in vain for the mother of the baby to return (she had just left Sophie with the baby for a "few minutes") she catches the attention of Vim Charpentier who offers to assist her. He not only does have some experience with babies (because of his younger siblings, not because he has children of his own), but with the onset of a blizzard he knows that he cannot leave Sophie to deal with both the child and the elements. And that suits him just fine, because he is in no hurry to return to his family home where his elderly uncle is waiting for his heir to show up and actually show some interest in the title and property that he is going to eventually inherit.
For reasons known only to themselves, both Sophie and Vim neglect to tell the other exactly who they are and what their social standing is. Housebound due to the blizzard, the attraction between them grows and Vim instructs Sophie in the skills required to care for a small child. Every night Vim tells Sophie that he is leaving the next day but always ends up back with her again.
In the meantime Sophie's three brothers, who have featured in the other three books in the linked series, have been instructed by their parents to head to London to find out exactly what is stopping Sophie from heading to the country as was expected. I loved reading the scenes featuring the brothers - the jokes, the camaraderie, the glimpses into their lives after their own book has been finalised.
I also really enjoyed reading about Vim. For most of the book he seems like a decent bloke - no alpha male here - who sees his attraction to Sophie and tries to do the right thing by her all the way through. I did find the big embarrassment that kept him from wanting to claim his inheritance a little too flimsy really, but I could totally imagine the duke mortifying Vim each time they crossed path. That duke is imperious and demanding, but he does seem to have quite a cheeky sense of humour at times.
It probably should be noted that if you are a stickler for historical accuracy or for ensuring that the characters behave exactly as per the social rules of the day, if you expect a Duke to react quite differently when he finds out exactly what has been going on, then, again, Grace Burrowes is probably not the author for you. Her characters are quite modern, the behaviour is somewhat fluid, the family a little too laid back about morals for this to stand up to that kind of expectation.
What Burrowes does have is a style of writing that is compelling in its gracefulness, in the tempo of the book and in the absolutely readability of the text. There is no one else that I am reading in historical romance at the moment that has that kind of mellow tempo and fluidity that Grace Burrowes has in her books whilst still having sizzling chemistry between the characters. Despite the flaws that I have touched on here I thoroughly enjoyed both this book and the other three books that I have read about the Windham siblings. Bring on the next one!