Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions—especially when a couple seems as well matched as Randolph Pierce, Earl of Falloden, and his bride-to-be, Eleanor Transome. Ellie brings to the marriage a vast dowry, while Falloden, though distant, is handsome, tremendously desirable, and possessed of a title most young ladies can only dream of sharing.A Christmas Promise is a re-release of one of Mary Balogh's beloved Christmas Signet stories. This book was originally released in 1992, and I can't tell you how happy I am that it's finally available again. This is the first time I had the pleasure of reading it.
Yet Ellie is not most young ladies. She knows that she must honor her dear father’s dying wish for her to wed the proud earl, but she dreads a lifetime in a union without love—and how can Falloden claim to love her when he married her only for her fortune? As Christmas descends upon the Falloden manor, the warmth of the season may yet melt away the trappings of duty and wealth, leaving behind only a man and a woman destined for each other’s arms.
Raldolph Pierce, Earl Falloden inherited the earldom from a cousin who left him deep in debt. He is in love with Miss Dorothea Lovestone and cannot offer for her due to his dire financial situation. Joseph Talloden, a successful coal merchant and one of the Earl's debtors, purchased all of Falloden's debts and proposes that as an exchange for cancelling those debts, Randolph marry his daughter Eleanor, consummates the marriage and that they live together for the first year of their marriage. Talloden is dying and the wedding must take place immediately as he wants to leave his beloved daughter settled with the man he chose for her. Randolph is left with no choice but to marry Eleanor, a 'cit', or go to debtor's prison. He accepts his fate, but is contemptuous of Eleanor for marrying a man for his title and position.
Ms. Eleanor Transome was educated as a lady, but as the daughter of a merchant -- a 'cit' -- has suffered plenty of humiliations from the aristocracy because of her background. Her only wish is to marry for love. Eleanor loved her second cousin Wilfred, but after receiving a letter from him dashing all hopes gives up her dream of marrying for love and accepts her fate. Eleanor will honor her father's last wishes and marry the Earl of Falloden. She, however, is contemptuous of a man marrying for money after having misspent his fortune on gambling and other pleasures.
An eventful wedding night surprises Randolph and Eleanor both as pleasurable and more than either expected. By next morning Mr. Transome is dying and Eleanor, numb with grief, is unwilling to seek solace or react in front of her aristocratic and unwanted husband. Her seemingly cold demeanor gives Randolph the wrong impression. Before he dies, Mr. Transome extracts a promise from Eleanor not to mourn for him and to celebrate Christmas with all its warmth and joys. But how can she? Her adored father is dead and she's married to a man who's in love with someone else, has a mistress, and married her for her money. Eleanor invites twenty of her Transome family members to their country estate Grenfell Park, prepares for rejection from her aristocratic husband and a less-than joyful Christmas.
Balogh begins A Christmas Promise with enmity between our protagonists and slowly develops the romance and a joyful and warm family story. There are quite a few conflicts to resolve in this novel: the marriage of convenience, the misunderstandings between the couple, grief, and the class differences. Mary Balogh weaves those conflicts into a magical family Christmas story.
Eleanor is defensive for much of the story and lashes out at Randolph. She always seems to expect the worst from him. This comes not only from her mistaken view of him as a spendthrift, but also from her previous experiences with the aristocracy. Her suppressed grief doesn't help. Randolph initially makes mistakes with Eleanor. However, he knows how to apologize and rectifies those mistakes quickly. He's initially snobbish about her background too, but slowly recognizes Eleanor as the lady she is and comes to appreciate her family's warmth and love. Surprisingly, Randolph is open to love and making their marriage work faster than Eleanor. I really liked him and yes, I loved the way they finally found their happily ever after.
This story is full of wonderful secondary characters. Both the Transome family and Randolph's aristocratic friends add much to this story. The ending to some secondary characters' story lines were a bit too perfect for me, but then again this is a holiday story. The atmosphere is joyful and warm and if you want the feeling of a family Christmas story, this is it. I couldn't help but be swept along with Randolph, Eleanor and the Transome family.
A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh is a magical, sweet Christmas story. I enjoyed it and will read it again. Lovely.
Genre: Historical Romance/Holiday
Released: October 26, 2010
Visit Mary Balogh here.