REVIEW: A Mistletoe Vow to Lord Lovell by Joanna Johnson
Will their vows last a lifetime…not just for Christmas?
Abandoned by her husband, and society because her father was a slave, Honora Blake will never rely on anyone again. Until dashing Lord Lovell breaks the news that she is a widow—and penniless—and insists she spend Christmas with him and his pregnant ward. Beneath the mistletoe, passion flares between Honora and Isaac. Then childbirth places his ward’s life in jeopardy, and these strangers suddenly face marriage to protect the baby!
Dear Ms. Johnson,
When I saw the cover for “A Mistletoe Vow to Lord Lovell” I was thrilled that we would have a biracial heroine in a Harlequin Historical. Once I started reading it I realized, huzzah! the heroine is American and tough as nails. The hero needs a lot of warming up to but I thought that this would give him a chance to grow and change as a character. Alas, though, the melodrama and angst overwhelmed me. Plus there were historical issues that pulled me out of the story several times and made me say, “What? Huh?” However, for readers who don’t want to quibble about those, then this could be a fine book. It’s all in your historical details tolerance level.
Honora Blake truly is a heroine who won’t bend or break. She’s tough because she’s had to be. Her mother angered her plantation owning family by marrying a black freedman. Her father taught Honora to hunt and her mother soothed her when Honora came to her bewildered by the attitudes of those who felt her parent’s marriage was shocking and Honora herself was a bridge, between races, who shouldn’t exist. After traveling to England with her (fortune seeking) husband – who her parents immediately saw through – Honora is abandoned by him when she refuses her blood soaked inheritance from her mother’s family. Now she ekes out an existence in a tumbled down manor house, too ashamed to write her parents and admit they were right.
Honora’s first meeting with Isaac, Lord Lovell is not a good one and her opinion of him doesn’t improve for a long time. I’m glad about that because Lovell was a carouser until someone caroused with a person he cares about. He is there to break the news that her husband is dead but he keeps one important secret from Honora. The secret and Lovell’s initial opinion of Honora are repeated in each chapter lest we forget them. As it is revealed early on, I’ll go ahead and spill the beans that Honora’s no good husband seduced Lovell’s god-daughter and got her pregnant. In anger, Lovell chased the man until Blake’s heart gave out.
Though he wants nothing more to do with her, Lovell brings Honora back with him (on a public coach rather than in his own coach or a hired one and with no valet in sight) so that she can hear the reading of her husband’s will (though why the solicitor didn’t travel to Honora puzzled me). A snowstorm traps her at Lovell’s estate (the door was opened to her by a maid who just let Honora right into the room where Lovell is. They don’t appear to have a butler) where Honora has the tact and ability to reach his god-daughter who has hidden in shame (apparently thinking that if she doesn’t go down to the kitchen to talk with Cook about the Christmas pudding spices, no one in the house will notice her swelling belly).
The relationship between Honora and Charlotte is lovely. Honora knows what it’s like to be stared at and thought less of so she can talk to Charlotte and put the young woman at ease. As Lovell watches this, he quickly reverses his opinion of Honora. She even has the strength to help him move a Yule log that he hauled in by himself (servants? Servants anywhere??) Events happen (yay, the medicine is not magically modern but crappily period) which dictate that Honora and Lovell marry and before long, hey presto they appear to be in love. Way too fast for me. Then Lovell showers Honora and Charlotte with dresses that appear from nowhere seemingly ready-made.
At this point I’m waiting on two potential final act conflicts. One happened but one, which was set up during the travel to Lovell’s estate, just fizzled out and was no more. The melodrama is poured on, angst rears its head, and true love almost doesn’t conquer all. For a man who wanted to keep his business hush, hush, Lovell has no problems letting the whole world – or just the onlookers during the scene – know almost everything. He gets his beloved back but won’t that be some juicy gossip for people to spread.
I enjoyed the relationship Honora and Charlotte have. Lovell does change for the better (though I don’t think Charlotte’s illegitimate baby could have become his heir as he appears to think could happen). Honora finds someone to love and adore her. I want to see more people of color in Harlequin Historicals but man, the historical issues I had drove me batty. C
Jayne — I had a similar reaction to this book, down to wondering how they ended up traveling by mail coach when as *everyone* knows any lord has at least two carriages at his disposal (of course it may very well be that in fact lords traveled the equivalent of economy class just like us, but in any case it bothered me.) In the end, the excessive melodrama killed any possibility of enjoyment. I also felt the hero was too wishy washy for me taste. Too bad because it started really well.
@Claudia: And later at his estate it’s mentioned that he does indeed have a coach! The sad thing is that so many of these errors could have been caught and dealt with easily as all but one of them weren’t needed for any part of the plot. Lovell could have traveled via coach or post chaise with some quick note that his valet had left for some reason. The man who tried to pick up Honora at the inn could have just had one nasty scene that showed Lovell how society views her. A butler was an easy character to add to the book. I could overlook Honora needing to come to the solicitor in order to get her to Lovell’s house but the rest of it was needless.