REVIEW: The Winter Wife: A Christmas Novella by Anna Campbell
Will a chance meeting on Christmas Eve…
Alicia Sinclair, Countess of Kinvarra, cannot believe that fate has been so cruel as to strand her on the snowy Yorkshire moors with her estranged husband as her only hope of rescue. During their rare encounters, the arrogant earl and his countess act like hostile strangers. Now that Alicia has fallen into Kinvarra’s power, will he seek revenge for her desertion? Or does the dark, passionate man she once adored have entirely different plans for his headstrong wife?
…deliver a second chance at love?
Sebastian Sinclair, Earl of Kinvarra, has spent ten wretched years regretting the mistakes he made with his young bride, but after long separation, the barriers between them are insurmountable. Until an unexpected encounter one stormy night makes him wonder if the barriers of mistrust and thwarted desire are so insurmountable after all. When winter weather traps Sebastian and his proud, lovely wife in an isolated inn, could the earl and his headstrong countess have a Christmas miracle in store?
The Winter Wife was originally published in shorter form in 2010 as “Upon a Midnight Clear” in The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance.
Dear Ms. Campbell,
I read the excerpts for all the novellas of yours I bought and wow, do these main characters hate each other. Even if they weren’t thrown together in the middle of a Yorkshire blizzard, icy disdain would drip from their words and their looks could knife each other to the heart. But is this concealing something else? Do they indeed loathe each other as much as it appears they do?
Sebastian Sinclair and his estranged wife Alicia were married young in an arranged marriage. They were physically attracted to each other but beyond that had little to begin a life together with. Then somehow things went terribly wrong and after a year together, Alicia fled the relationship. Since then they’ve had little actual contact and during those times they’ve been cuttingly correct.
Now Sebastian discovers his wife on her way to an assignation – with a milksop no less who won’t even fight for her or look after her. Is this who she’s finally taking to her bed in place of him? A place where she made it quite clear he wasn’t welcome. Sebastian would be insulted if Henry, no wait it’s Horace, oh hell – Horatio weren’t such a complete waste of breath. Harold, Alicia coldly informs Sebastian, is everything he is not and that’s why she chose him to begin her reintroduction to physical desire. Well, that’s cutting Sebastian tells her but at least he never left her stranded by the side of the road in the dead of winter.
With no where else to go or way to get there, Alicia is stuck with Sebastian and eventually has the grace to admit to him that he’s treating her rather well considering their past. But then Sebastian freely admits that she’s the only woman who has ever matched him in strength or resolve. If only her resolve hadn’t taken her away from him all those years ago.
As the evening advances, they begin to see how much they’ve both changed and matured. With a little more age, has come the wisdom and life experience they lacked. Tentatively and, in some cases, unwittingly they begin to reveal their emotions which opens the way to understanding how things went wrong. But is that enough? Can each trust the other when such deep pain marked the end of their time together?
If they hadn’t been apart for ten years and if their break hadn’t occurred when he was twenty two and she eighteen, I would be tempted to say this is an estrangement that a conversation – okay probably longer than the proverbial five minutes – could have helped. But back then neither had the insight or knowledge to even begin talking much less figure out that they were headed towards the cliffs.
“One night of love” might get the physical aspect of marriage in gear, fairly quickly given Alicia’s feelings about sex for the past ten years, but hooray that Sebastian and Alicia aren’t going to just dive right back into marriage thinking things are fixed. Instead they take time to ask questions and lay their hearts out. It’s all or nothing and they’re brave enough to try while also being vulnerable enough to not be quite sure. Ten years and a lot of heartache have separated them but they finally seem on their way to what they always wanted and dreamed of. I have to admit that this one is better for me as a “working on our HEA” rather than “we got this now.” B
Right so why the B grade? One thing bugged the crap out of me. Alicia and her cicisbeo are on the road in a curricle in Yorkshire in December in a snow storm. Two horses are pulling the carriage. Eventually one is taken off stage – so to speak – and then when Sebastian and Alicia head for the inn, riding on his horse, the other one is apparently just left there, in the icy, blowing storm. So I had to mentally rewrite this bit to add “Sebastian gathered up the reins of the second carriage horse then mounted his horse before pulling Alicia up behind him and heading for the inn.”
Any mistreatment or neglect of an animal (even if it’s just an editing oversight on the part of the author) will cause my mind to go off-track. There’s a novel by Georges Simenon called (iirc) THE WHITE HORSE INN where a large dog is chained up in the yard. At one point, there’s been a big commotion at the inn and Simenon casually notes that, as a result, no one had remembered to give the dog food or water all day. Although Simenon apparently threw in the comment as a means of showing just how disorganized things at the inn were, I couldn’t stop thinking about that poor dog—chained up without food or water.
@DiscoDollyDeb: I’d have had that poor dog on my mind too.
@DiscoDollyDeb: So with you on that. It’s one of the reasons cowboy heroes turn me off. Ditto heroes who are into rooster fights, dog fights, or bull fights.
I have never heard the word “cicisbeo” before. That was new.
@Jennifer: It’s another “I learned it from a romance novel” word. Heyer, maybe? I think definitely a Georgian novel.
One member of my critique group makes sure we don’t forget or neglect our literary animals. She’s always tracking what’s happening to the dog/cat/horse. Her other special skill is catching anything that could possibly be read as naughty when it’s not meant to be. Very helpful!
@Kris Bock: Yay! I’m glad to hear this. Authors – don’t leave your animals tied up in the inn yard with no food or water.