A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong (novella) by Cecilia Grant

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It should have been simple…

With one more errand to go—the purchase of a hunting falcon—Andrew Blackshear has Christmas completely under control. As his sister’s impending marriage signals the inevitable drifting-apart of the Blackshear family, it’s his last chance to give his siblings the sort of memorable, well-planned holiday their parents could never seem to provide.

He has no time to dawdle, no time for nonsense, and certainly no time to drive the falconer’s vexing, impulsive, lush-lipped, midnight-haired daughter to a house party before heading home. So why the devil did he agree to do just that?

It couldn’t be more deliciously mixed-up…

Lucy Sharp has been waiting all her too-quiet life for an adventure, and she means to make the most of this one. She’s going to enjoy the house party as no one has ever enjoyed a house party before, and in the meanwhile she’s going to enjoy every minute in the company of amusingly stern, formidably proper, outrageously handsome Mr. Blackshear. Let him disapprove of her all he likes—it’s not as though they’ll see each other again after today.

…or will they? When a carriage mishap and a snowstorm strand the pair miles short of their destination, threatening them with scandal and jeopardizing all their Christmas plans, they’ll have to work together to save the holiday from disaster. And along the way they just might learn that the best adventures are the ones you never would have thought to plan.

Rating: A-

It’s been some time since Ms Grant published her last full-length novel, so I was delighted when I read that she would be putting out a novella for Christmas.

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong is a prequel to her Blackshear family novels, and features the eldest brother, Andrew, who is also a kind of substitute father to his younger siblings (who include Martha, Will and Nick, who we have met in the novels.) He comes across as rather a stuffy young man – intent on maintaining propriety and doing the right thing all the time – even when perhaps what is “proper” may not be “right”, such as when he encounters a very bedraggled young woman traipsing along a muddy lane and propriety dictates she should ignore her because they don’t know each other.

The young woman turns out – of course – to be the daughter of the man he is going to visit. Feeling rather off balance, Andrew is rendered further so by the dinner conversation, which he finds completely unsuitable and far too unconventional in tone. Lucy Sharp is vivacious, and as free-thinking as her father, and Andrew can’t wait to be on his way home. With one of his sisters about to marry, this is the last Christmas they will spend together, and he is determined to make it their best Christmas ever. But one thing leads to another, and he finds himself escorting Lucy to a house-party which is not far out of his way. Their carriage is damaged in a snowstorm and they have no alternative but to pose as a married couple in order to protect Lucy’s reputation when they are rescued and offered shelter by an older couple who are spending their first Christmas without the company of their recently married daughter. Having to maintain the pretence causes some awkwardness (especially at night!) but leads also to some truly charming moments, such as when Andrew asks Lucy to dance at a party. So while their Christmases don’t turn out as planned, they nonetheless turn out to be better than either could ever have believed possible.

At its most basic, this story is one those in which an overly starchy hero is loosened up by a lively young woman – but this is Cecilia Grant, and it turns out to be so much more than that. Lucy has been brought up to believe that actually doing good is more important than the appearance of it, whereas Andrew is adamant on maintaining appearances as well as doing the right thing. But the thing is that while he seems like a stuffed shirt, he’s actually very considerate of others, which is where he and Lucy eventually find much common ground.

This is a beautifully written, beautifully observed story, featuring two well-rounded characters who aren’t always easy to like, but who are very engaging nonetheless. Yes, there were times I wanted to smack Andrew and tell him to loosen up a little, or yell at Lucy to stop and think about what she was doing or saying, but that’s one of the joys of Cecilia Grant’s writing – her characters feel like real people precisely because they’re not perfect.

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong is a terrific read and one I’d not hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for a well-written seasonal story.

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