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Christmas Belle (Signet Regency Romance) Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1997
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From Library Journal
Summoned from town life to his grandparents' estate for a family holiday gathering, elegant rake Jack Frazer suspects that his grandmother has decided that his single days are about to come to an end-and when the charming, innocent, and highly suitable Juliana Beckworth appears on the scene, he's sure of it. However, what he doesn't expect is the arrival of another holiday guest, the acclaimed actress Isabella Gellee, who was his mistress years ago and the one woman he could never forget or forgive. While the milieu is classic Regency, the level of sensuality and the heroine's occupation and background are not. A popular writer of Regencies that stretch the boundaries, Balogh also writes historicals (Tangled, Topaz, 1994) and short stories. Readers who enjoy her work (hardcover backlist titles of which are available through Severn House) might also find books by Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney of interest. (Balogh lives in Saskatch-ewan, Canada.)
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Isabella is anxious about accepting the invitation, aware that the Duke and Duchess's grandson, Jack Frazer, is also likely to be present. Years before, at the start of her career, they had been lovers, but they had parted bitterly. Now Isabella is both hoping - and dreading - that Jack will be there.
This is one of a series of novels and short stories set around Christmas in Regency England by Balogh, and, as always, the description of the festivities is wonderful. She handles a large cast of characters with ease: I particularly liked Isabella's young daughter, Jacqueline, whose passion for the violin Isabella tries to suppress, in a mistaken attempt to protect her daughter from the hurt she herself has suffered in pursuing her own gifts. Jacqueline finds an unexpected champion, and the relationship that develops between the two is touching.
Jack is under pressure from his grandmother to find himself a wife. He finds it enormously difficult to deal with Isabella's unexpected presence at his family's gathering. She is the only woman he has ever loved, and he was deeply hurt when she disappeared from his life.
Isabella and Jack's resolution of the bitterness of their past, while under the ever-watchful eyes of his vast family, is emotionally wrenching. In the end, secrets are revealed and family expectations are satisfied in unexpected ways.
What spoiled this book for me, a little, was Jack's intemperate language when talking to Isabella. It made him less likeable, and flawed an otherwise moving story.
[Note: some of the same characters appear in The First Snowdrop.]
I'm not really sure why; the story had plenty of potential to grip my emotions. Jack and Isabelle were lovers years earlier, but both misunderstood the nature of their relationship, each in love but believing that the other saw their relationship as only representing a transaction: sex in exchange for money. Isabelle, an actress with a passionate desire to succeed in her craft, knew that Jack hated what she did, and that he resented other men looking at her. In his response to that resentment, he emphasised that her role in his life was as his whore; she hated that description and the implication that he didn't care for her at all, and so she claimed to have other lovers, and then she walked out on him.
Now they meet again, eight years later; she's a widow with two children, and he's about to become betrothed at a house party to which they're both invited. Gradually, as they find they can't avoid one another's company, they work through the misunderstandings and realise that they were in love all along - and are still. But Jack's still committed to making an offer to Juliana, his chosen bride, and Isabelle still has a secret untold...
Some nice secondary characters, although the family gets very confusing if you haven't read the first book in this mini-series. Overall, though, Jack and Isabelle never made me love them sufficiently, and the book left me unsatisfied.
I love this author, but this wasn't one of her better novels. The main plot, second-chance love, got lost among the horde of the secondary characters, and their children and grandparents and their servants, and..... you get the idea. You really see very little story about the main couple.
If you've seen these people in the previous novels, it may interest you, but if you have not, like myself, you will find yourself being bored to tears. Sorry to say, I couldn't finish this.