REVIEW: Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil by Caroline Warfield
Lady Charlotte clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.
As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.
Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a handsome physician.
Dear Ms. Warfield,
Since I enjoyed “A Dangerous Nativity” so much, I decided to try another of your holiday novellas. The late Regency setting of Venice in 1818 plus the aristocratic heroine + commoner hero pairing sounded interesting so I picked it.
When an aristocratic woman comes to Dr. Salvatore Caresini’s clinic, his mother is worried the woman wants to dally with her widowed son while he prepares himself to sooth her no-doubt frivolous complaint before sending her on her way so he can see his truly needy clients. Only once Lady Charlotte has explained exactly what her silly younger brother has done, he realizes the man is in grave danger of dying while, for her own health, Lady Charlotte needs to be kept away from nursing him.
For various reasons, Charlotte is on a limited budget to get herself and her chaperon brother through his Grand Tour with Rome being the endpoint. Charlotte has dreamed of seeing Rome since childhood and after she’s done that and stored away her memories, she’ll resign herself to becoming the spinster aunt of the family. After accepting that she can’t be the one to nurse her brother, she’s not going to spend money to rent other rooms. Salvatore makes the decision to have her stay with his family.
His reasons are not altogether altruistic. His much needed assistant will be staying with Charlotte’s brother while his elderly mother is already overworked trying to see to the house while also minding Toro’s three children – sulky older Juliana and the twin demon terrors Carlo and Toro. If the Englishwoman doesn’t want to spend her money, she’ll earn her keep at his house.
Charlotte is initially outraged at this doctor’s high-handed manner of arranging things but once she realizes the truth behind what he’s been trying to tell her, she freely pitches in. There’s no instant bonding with these children – it’s more “The Sound of Music” testing of the governess – but she eventually manages to connect with them. She also sees how dedicated Salvatore is to his patients. Slowly they begin to see behind the initial impressions they made. But can there be a future between them?
I loved the setting – slightly crumbly palazzos and a down-at-the-heels family. Salvatore grumbles about the change in public health procedures since the hated Austrians took over the city while his mother and elderly great-uncle reminisce about Carnevale and the family’s past glory. Lord Byron comes in for a verbal bashing by Charlotte about the way his example has led her brother into idiotic behavior while we also get a peek at the world of Venetian Jewish doctors – which seems to have improved even if only slightly.
Charlotte and Salvatore are both well aware of the barriers between them which lurk in the world outside the cozy bubble of the past 2-3 weeks. They might yearn and daydream but reality is waiting. And this is where I deduct some points from my grade. What Charlotte initially tells Salvatore about her home life and future situation doesn’t match what he and her brother discuss. It’s almost polar opposite. And after setting up the final conflict between their HEA, it is seemingly resolved fairly easily and by a means we don’t even see. Suddenly it’s full steam ahead, everything’s a go. “Huh?” I thought. How did that happen? Until that point, it was great but I needed a bit of resolution to buy that their issues had been resolved. B-