REVIEW: A Christmas Dance by Alissa Johnson
William Renwick, Earl of Casslebury, has begun his hunt for a wife as he begins all things in life, with careful planning and strict discipline. But his well-honed strategy to acquire the perfect countess goes awry when he finds himself captivated, not by the suitable young lady he intended to court, but by her unusual companion—the quiet, charming, and alarmingly unpredictable Miss Patience Byerly.
Dear Ms. Johnson,
Claudia’s mention of the Haverston series in our recent Open Thread got me scrolling through what Amazon had to offer in digital format and this holiday novella looked like fun. Christmas in May? Why not. As I searched to see if there was a book about Patience’s friend Caroline, I discovered that this story was originally released in a 2009 anthology and was called “Traditions” which fits more with some of what Patience and her William decide for their future.
William is a former military man who plans everything. What he has in mind now is finding a wife and he thinks he has the perfect one in mind. Only when faced with her seemingly quiet companion, he changes those plans. At first I was nonplussed by Patience’s demonstration of her unusual skill in cake eating – though to her credit she didn’t know William was watching – but there is a reason for why she did this at a dance and I’m glad I kept reading past it.
Patience is sure that William is only spending time with her in order to discover more about her friend Miss Caroline Meldrin and at first this was true. After all, Patience is not from an especially good family nor do she and her father have any money. In fact that is why they live with the Meldrins who kindly took them in based on Mr. Meldrin’s long standing friendship with her father. This generous relationship is one of the other joys of the book.
But now that William has spent some time with Patience, he’s enthralled by her enthusiasm and delight in what should be everyday things – enjoying receiving a bouquet of flowers, walking in Hyde Park, bobbing for apples. Patience finds and takes pleasure these little delights and promises herself she’ll be grateful for the memories when her Little Season is over. In her, William feels he’s discovered a wonderful secret that the rest of the ton is in ignorance of; her very unpredictability charms him.
Clearly, he was the only gentleman to discover the secret Miss Byerly. He found himself both pleased and irritated by the idea. He rather liked the notion of being the only man to recognize her charm. He cared less for the idea she’d never before received flowers. A woman like Patience shouldn’t want for flowers.
She took the bouquet and buried her nose in the blooms. “Oh, they’re lovely,” she sighed. “They’re exquisite. Thank you.”
William decided a man couldn’t hope for a more gratifying reaction. She made him feel positively heroic, which went a very long way in settling the nerves he’d battled outside the house.
William continues on in his quiet courtship and slowly begins to make progress. Patience dares to acknowledge the bit of hope she has even if she tries not to fan the flames any higher.
Oh, the things that smile and those simple words did to her. She hadn’t a name for most of them, but thought perhaps bliss summed up the whole rather nicely.
For of course there is something which Patience is sure dooms any intentions William might have. But in that certainty perhaps she underestimates the man who loves her and who already knows her secret before he engineers an opportunity to propose and then cements his feelings by willingly taking on those holiday traditions she’s longed for. For her, he’ll undo his plans and willingly make new ones. B+