Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt
Book 13.5 of the Maiden Lane series
Publisher: Forever Yours
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
Adam Rutledge, Viscount d'Arque, really rather loathes Christmas. The banal cheerfulness. The asinine party games. And, worst of all, the obligatory trip to the countryside. His grandmother, however, loves the holiday—and Adam loves his grandmother, so he'll brave the fiercest snowstorm to please her. But when their carriage wheel snaps, they're forced to seek shelter at the home of the most maddening, infuriating, and utterly beguiling woman he's ever met.
Sarah St. John really rather loathes rakes. The self-satisfied smirks. The sly predatory gazes. Oh, and the constant witty banter rife with double meaning. But in the spirit of the season, she'll welcome this admittedly handsome viscount into her home. But as the snowstorm rages, the Yule log crackles, and the tension rises, Sarah and Adam find themselves locked in a fiery, passionate kiss. If love is the true meaning of Christmas, it's the one gift this mismatched pair can't wait to unwrap.
What I Liked:
This novella was so cute! I adore the Maiden Lane series, and I love the holidays, so this story fit my mood perfectly. I tried to leave this one until closer to the publication date, but I was just too excited about a holiday romance. This is also the last story of the Maiden Lane, which is equal parts exciting and heartbreaking. Mostly heartbreaking. But it's a great add-on to the end of the series and I'm left with a feeling of contentment.
This novella tells the short love story of Sarah St. John and Viscount d'Arque. Sarah is the younger stepsister of Godric St. John, the male protagonist of book five (Lord of Darkness). She is spending the holidays with her mother, younger sisters, stepbrother, sister-in-law, and several other guests. An unexpected guest arrives due to a broken-down carriage, and it's someone that Sarah despises. Adam Rutledge is handsome, charming, rich, titled, and seemingly perfect - and a notorious rake. Sarah wants nothing to do with rakes after an embarrassing happenstance nearly ruined her reputation. But for the few days that Adam stays with the St. John family (because of the broken carriage, the snowstorm, and Adam's grandmother's health), Sarah begins to realize that Adam is not the careless rake she thought he was. And Adam begins to realize that he wants Sarah, and not just because she is so good at acting like she hates him. The holidays are a perfect time for stolen kisses and warm embraces and blooming love stories. As our protagonists find out!
Adam was introduced early in the series, at least in book five for sure (possibly earlier but I can't remember). He flirted with Megs (Godric's wife) in book five, and Godric hasn't really liked him since. Sarah St. John has never liked him. But Adam is very much a misjudged man. He is definitely a rake, but he's actually a sweet guy underneath his playful, wicked facade. He is a good man despite his reputation.
Sarah seems innocent and sweet and boring, just how she wants it. Years ago, she experienced an untoward encounter with a gentleman that could have led to ruin. Years later, she has continued to shut down courtships and turn away gentlemen, because she doesn't want her reputation to be damaged. Something about Adam makes her blood heat, and not in a bad way. Sarah may act prim and proper, but she loves Adam's wickedness.
Hate-to-love romances are my favorite, and this romance was a wonderful example of the trope. The animosity is obvious, but there is more simmering beneath the surface. Adam and Sarah clash over and over, and there is plenty of banter and wit in this story. I loved seeing them fall for each other. It was sweet and passionate, with just enough chemistry.
I love holiday stories! This novella is very much centered around Christmas, with everyone having gathered at Hedge House for Christmas. There is something joyful and romantic about the Christmas season, and it shines in this book. I am loving this year's holiday romances - this novella included, of course!
This story was short (it's a novella) but it is very lovely. If you're looking for something short and sweet and swoony, try this novella. Usually I don't bother with them but this story was adorable. Plus, there are plenty of Godric/Megs cameos! And of course the novella ends beautifully. I love Adam and Sarah together and I'm so glad Hoyt wrote this novella.
What I Did Not Like:
Nothing to complain about! This novella was quite wonderful.
Would I Recommend It:
I definitely recommend this novella to anyone who has read any of the Maiden Lane books. Like I said, usually I don't bother with novellas because they're such a tease and way too short. But this novella was very complete, and didn't feel too short or rushed. The romance was written so well and I loved the characters. It was a refreshing, sweet, fun story to read - and perfect for the holidays.
And for those that have not read any of the Maiden Lane books - of course I highly recommend the series, and starting from the beginning, at that. But the novellas are also a great way to get into the series. Short and sweet and completely uniquely Elizabeth Hoyt. I personally think no one writes historical romance quite like Hoyt. She has her own style and level, and while I love many HR writers and their books, I think Hoyt is one of the best!
4 stars. I'm really sad about this series ending. Duke of Desire is the last full-length novel, and the novellas that have been published this year are among the last short additions. I am so hoping for a Maximus/Artemis novella or epilogue or something! Duke of Midnight was my favorite.
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