ONCE YOU’VE HAD A TASTE OF SCANDAL…
As the Duke of Huntford’s sister, Lady Rose Sherbourne follows the rules of well-bred society. Always chaperoned. Never engaging in unseemly behavior. Well, except for that one summer, years ago. And yet she’s never been able to forget that handsome stable master or the stolen moments they shared. She’s always wondered what might have happened if he hadn’t disappeared without a word… Now she’s about to find out.
YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK
Charles Holland never expected to see Lady Rose again. And yet the years haven’t lessened his devotion—or his desire—in any way. Despite their differences in class, Charles cannot stop himself from wanting to possess her. But as they uncover one intimate secret after another about her family, they realize that, this time, their love may come at a very dear price…
One Wild Winter’s Eve, the fourth in Anne Barton’s Honeycote series, is a pleasant enough way to pass a few hours, but is ultimately nothing special. The two protagonists are nice enough, but rather bland, and because they are in love from pretty much the start of the book, the story is about how they overcome the obstacles that lie in their path because of their difference in station; the hero is a land steward and was formerly the stable-master in the household of the Duke of Huntford, and the heroine is the duke’s sister.
I haven’t read the earlier books, but there is enough information given here to enable the new reader to figure out what has gone before. Lady Rose Sherbourne is the youngest of three siblings and has been most strongly affected by the abandonment of their mother some six years earlier. In fact, it was the sight of her mother in bed with her two lovers that traumatised her so much that she refused to speak for years. During that time, only Charles Holland, the gentle stable-master, took the time to truly understand her, and only when she was with him was Rose able to forget her sorrow and feel normal.
Three years later, Charles has moved on, dismissed when the duke discovered the innocent friendship between him and his sister, and Rose – who has now recovered her speech – is acting as a companion to Lady Bonneville, who is one of those intimidating-but-hiding-a-heart-of-gold types of dowagers so often found in historical romances. Lady Bonneville is travelling to Bath to visit Lady Yardley, who happens to be an old friend of Rose’s mother’s, and Rose hopes that perhaps she will be able to obtain some clue as to her mother’s current whereabouts. Even though she behaved atrociously and then abandoned her family, Rose is determined to find her so that she can put the past behind her and move forward with her life.
It emerges that Lady Yardley is still in touch with the dowager duchess of Huntford and has only recently received a letter from her. Rose is desperate to know what it says, but her hostess is not at all forthcoming so later that night, Rose sneaks into the study to see if she can find the letter and read it. Her search is interrupted, however, by Lady Yardley’s steward – who is none other than Charles Holland.
This unexpected meeting shakes both of them, and neither is sure exactly how to treat the other, especially as the forbidden attraction that had always been present between them roars back to life even stronger than before. When Rose is eventually able to explain her purpose to Charles, he agrees to help her to find the letter from her mother –which has since disappeared – and to see if he can find out anything else which might help her. Unfortunately, however, in helping Rose, Charles suddenly finds himself in a very tricky situation – one from which he is unlikely to emerge unscathed and which threatens to destroy the future he and Rose had been hoping to build for themselves.
The romance between the two principals is tender and sweet, although their being in love at the beginning of the book means that it doesn’t really develop – it just is. The conflict in the novel really comes from the fact that for years, Charles has dreamed of owning land of his own and knowing this was unlikely to happen in England has been planning to travel to America as soon as he could afford to buy his passage – but now Rose is back in his life, how can he bear to leave her? Yet how can he ask her, a gently bred young woman with a close-knit, loving family, to leave them to undertake a hazardous journey and settle in a rough, dangerous land?
One Wild Winter’s Eve is a well-written book, the storyline moves swiftly and all reaches a satisfying conclusion. Ultimately, though, it’s one of those middling books that is neither good nor bad – it’s enjoyable enough but not particularly memorable and isn’t a book I’m likely to re-read.