Tracy’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: 12 Dukes of Christmas, #8
Release Date: December 24, 2019
Margaret “Meg” Church is happy with her life, she lives with her cousin Jemima and her husband Allan (who own the local dairy farm), she has friends and spends most of her time at the castle surrounded by people. She is visiting her newly married friend Eve when she learns that Lucien le Duc is planning on returning to France. Meg is disappointed, she can’t imagine anyone wanting to leave Cressmouth and she has long harbored a tendre for Lucien. And even though the le Ducs have been saying they are leaving forever, she never actually thought he would go, especially now that his sister and brother have married and are staying in England.
For Lucien, the twelfth day of Christmas cannot come soon enough, he has been dreaming of returning to France and reclaiming his birthright since the day he and his siblings had at to flee 18 years ago. Lucien was raised as an aristocrat, he and his family lived in luxury, owned a fine home, vineyard and were distantly related to the King, but all that disappeared the day his parents were killed by an angry mob. Lucien, Sebastien and Desiree would have suffered the same fate if not for Jasper, an Englishman who saved them and brought them to Cressmouth. Lucien helped Jasper in the smithy and eventually took over, now that they have sold the smithy, there is nothing holding him back. Lucien has long resisted acclimating to England, even though he understands the language he refuses to speak English, but now that his sister has married and has stepchildren, Lucien agrees to try harder with his lessons. But his sister’s efforts to teach him have left him irritated and he needs a better teacher.
He is returning books to the castle library when he runs into Meg, literally. She flirts shamelessly with him and offers to help him learn to read, he is offended and leaves. Meg returns home and is dealt another blow, Jemima tells her that she is pregnant and needs the room that Meg uses for the baby. Meg is stunned, when she came to live with her cousin 8 years ago, it was a Godsend, Meg’s life had been filled with loss and heartache and she longed for a home, which she thought she had found, but now she doesn’t know what to do, she has nowhere to go, save a small plot of land in France and for her returning to France is not an option. She tells Jemima that she will be fine and starts planning her next move.
While in the park with Jemima, Meg learns that Lucien can read and realizes she insulted him, she tries to make amends and when he asks for her help in learning English, she readily agrees. They spend a lot of time together and the attraction between them grows, but with so many things potentially keeping them apart – most notably, his desire to return to France and her distain for the aristocracy, it seems like their relationship is doomed to end in heartbreak.
This installment was not as lighthearted as the previous books in the series, and while it is a well written, paced nicely, interesting and entertaining read, it is not my favorite in the series. I personally had a hard time with Meg’s very casual and frankly 21st century, cavalier attitude about intimate relations – I know that the author was trying to portray her as a woman who didn’t have to conform to “society” and therefore didn’t have to adhere to the rigid set of rules and restrictions that a debutant would have – but it just made her seem promiscuous and I can’t believe that she wouldn’t be shunned as loose woman, especially in such a small community. That said, I did enjoy the cameos with the other le Duc siblings and loved the epilogue. This is the eighth book in the series and it can easily be read as a standalone title – but you might want to read at least the two previous books – The Duke’s Bride and The Duke’s Embrace to get a bit more background on the le Duc family.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher.*