Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees by Susannah Woods

Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees

By Susannah Woods
Review by Morgan Wyatt


London, 1895. Delaney Stirling does not feel like celebrating Christmas this year. Since her fiance died, she hasn't felt like doing much at all. When her father insists they go to London to visit her aunt, she reluctantly agrees.

Cade Garrow loves Christmas, especially Christmas in London. The ice skating, the caroling, the decorating; he enjoys it all.

Melting Delaney's frozen heart will be one Christmas activity Cade never counted on. It just could be the best Christmas present of all.


I feel obligated to like a free historical romance that centers on Christmas and love. What would there be not to like? Sadly, plenty including a mopey heroine named Delaney who spends the majority of the book feeling sorry for herself because her soldier fiancé died. Everyone has to bend over backwards to cheer the poor dear up.

He's been dead over a year, and she still is going through the motions of living. Early on, we are told her dead fiancé Roger was no prize to prepare for the bigger prize Cade, who is waiting in the wings.

Now Cade is a likable hero. He's friendly, upbeat, wealthy and kind to his younger sister. All the ladies have their hat set for him. He falls for the brooding heroine who wants nothing to do with him, and even refuses to talk to him, she goes on to call him by the wrong name, ignores his flirtations and forces herself through the motions of living. I was at 60% finished with the book when I decided to stop reading.

If there is no chemistry by this point, there is never going to be any. I wanted to yell at Cade to run fast, get away while he could.

The story is also riddled with inconsistencies. A big deal is made of how poor the family is and how they saved for years so she could have a season. Yet Delaney rolls through town spending money like a drunken sailor. Where did the money come from? Young ladies do not normally possess great sums of money. Her family certainly had none.

I figure in my lifetime I've read over 5000 romances, so I may have a sharper eye for detail and higher expectations. The writing itself was acceptable, but the story could benefit from some research and energy.

At that time, a woman expected her betrothed who served as a soldier to possibly die. It happened all the time. People died from disease, explosions, fires, etc. Delaney was not the ony gel to lose a man by misadventure, but she certainly acts as if she were.

Delaney gave off an air of self-absorption, which would not be in line with her prospects. The fact she told Roger not to go to South Africa to fight and expected him to obey shows lack of sensibility of the times. He would be a man without honor, unable to hold his head up. No woman would ask that of her beloved even thought that is what she wished. It is more of a case of putting modern values on a regency heroine. They don't wear well. (IMHO)

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