A Princess by Christmas by Julia London

A Princess by Christmas by Julia London

Mrs. Hollis Honeycutt, a young widow, has watched her beloved sister and her best friend carried off by Alucian princes, leaving her in London with only her popular gazette to entertain her. She’s feeling out of sorts and lonely.

Marek Brendan is the advisor to the Weslorian Minister of Trade, if his superior would ever listen to him. He’s kept to the edges of events as Britain hosts his country and Alucia to facilitate trade negotiations, but something seems off. Neither the king’s appearance nor what Marek sees in the negotiations make sense.

Despite growing discontent with her life, Hollis still loves to write and to track down a good story. Is she to ignore the rumors she overhears about threats and plots then? Of course not. Even if her family doesn’t believe her, Hollis is on the case.

This is the third book in the series A Royal Wedding, which could easily have fallen into a pattern. Instead, Hollis and her true love meet under vastly different circumstances than found in the first two books. They’re both outside looking in. Marek’s upbringing and background set him apart while Hollis knows her presence is only tolerated because her sister married the Alucian crown prince.

She doesn’t wallow in this understanding, though. Hollis takes the opportunity to meet some real Weslorians. And who better to start with than the handsome, but aloof, fellow who saved her from an undignified spill onto the street as they were going in?

Marek’s not quite what he seems, and in the loud chatter of Queen Victoria’s tea party, his appearance of being standoffish is heightened because he can barely understand a word she’s saying. He’s deaf in one ear and partially in the other, a fact he does not share with every foreign lady who accosts him.

Hollis is nothing but persistent, however, and quickly declares him both a friend and a fellow investigator trying to uncover the truth of these rumors. After she accuses him of planning a coup, that is.

The characters are once again delightful and different in spirit as well as circumstances compared to the couples from the previous books. The story is true to the Victorian period, with Hollis taking advantage of the increased freedom offered a widow to make her gazette a success while causing her family, birth and chosen, no end of alarm. She may balk at the restrictions, but her behavior does not pass without notice any more than other events escape the dangerous consequences of the time. Despite the deviation from history to produce a slew of princes to marry, the book successfully brings to mind the period in which it is set.

I’ve mentioned for the previous two books how the description, especially of clothing, seemed a bit much for me. Oddly enough, when the story focuses on the very producer of iHoneycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies and every chapter begins with a clip from same, I didn’t feel as though fashion distracted from the intrigue at all. It may be Hollis is less interested in fashion than it would seem.

Beyond the rumors of a coup, there’s more going on than anyone knows… That is until Hollis turns a sharp gaze to following the clues her groundwork lays before her, and the careful reader. This is one of the fun parts about this book because Hollis is not tripping over the intrigue but rather diving in against all recommendations, even those of her best friend Donovan.

I appreciated how Marek recognizes what makes Hollis tick. He sees her as she is rather than how he’d want her to be. Even more, he’s entranced by her nature. The development of their relationship from initial draw to love is well written both for the story and the period. There is open door intimacy before their happy ever after, but the physical is only one aspect of their attraction. The connection is complicated by what she knows, by their different home countries, and the responsibilities that keep each where they are.

I’ve enjoyed this book as much as the others in the series. Julia London is talented, and capable both of telling a compelling story and seeding a mystery so I can make my guesses alongside the characters. Besides, I liked Hollis and Marek a lot. I’m glad they found their answers, though they might not be what you suppose.

Note: This book will be available for purchase on October 13th or can be pre-ordered now.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader’s Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

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