Not even the warm, forgiving Christmas spirit can stop the Marquess of Denbigh from settling his score with Judith Easton: The beautiful young widow injured Denbigh’s pride years ago by jilting him for another man. Now that Judith is free from a nightmare marriage, the handsome marquess has her in his sights—and wants her in his arms. But to trust the tender words on his lips, Judith must not only see past the hardness of his heart, but learn once again to trust her own heart’s desire.Originally published in 1991, Christmas Beau is the second half of the recently released A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau by Mary Balogh.
As the above blurb states in Christmas Beau the main trope is revenge. Years ago Judith Easton jilted Max, the Marquess of Denbigh, to marry a man she found to be more accessible and less frightening, a good looking, charming, and rakish man. Now that she's a widow, Max returns to London with revenge on his mind. The plan? Make her fall for him and then leave her high and dry, just like she left him all those years back. He's willing to do anything to achieve this, including gaining and manipulating the affection of her two small children and her spinster sister-in-law to get to Judith. Eventually he gets her to go to his country estate for Christmas, but as his plans begin to take shape Max struggles between the darkness within and the happiness that could be his for the taking.
Where I disagree with the above blurb is in that it says that Judith "injured Denbigh's pride," that is not really accurate. Judith injured Max's heart . . . she broke his heart and almost broke the man when she so blithely jilted him without wondering if her actions wrought emotional damage. This heartbreak is apparent and known from the beginning of the story, just as Judith's fear of Max and lack of concern for his feelings are readily apparent.
This is an interesting story with revenge central to the plot. But there is more involved as Balogh brings to the equation heartbreak, thoughtlessness and lack of judgment, trust and forgiveness. Balogh also uses role reversal in this angsty Christmas novella by making the hero the suffering heartbroken protagonist. Max is the one full of emotions, yearning, unfulfilled desires, not just physical, but actually more like longing for a family and the heroine's love. I liked that, and as a result fell in love with Max.
Balogh gives Max a conscience so that he is not at all comfortable with his actions. So that this man of conscience combined with the giving man he became after almost breaking due to Judith’s betrayal make him a memorable hero. Additionally, his love for Judith and the way he falls for her children make him lovable. Max is a man whose capacity for love, giving, and kindness struggle with the pain and darkness that drive his plans for revenge until the very end. There are human flaws, but nothing cruel about this man.
Judith plays the role of the clueless person who is unwittingly thoughtless and seemingly unconcerned about her past actions and the consequences. Her youth, lack of experience, fears and assumptions are to blame. However her lack of concern for Max's feelings -- whether pride or otherwise -- was puzzling to me. Particularly after she gets to know him as a giving, loving, and sensitive person beneath the serious, intense surface. Judith is a somewhat frustrating character and although her growth comes at a slower pace, by the end the reader believes the happy ever after.
Christmas Beau is an emotional Christmas novella by Balogh. I know that I found the situation between the two main characters emotional and angsty enough to make me cry! And passion? Yes, there are a few descriptive passionate scenes, as well as enough subtle passion in the novella to satisfy this reader. There's a secondary romance involving Judith's spinster sister-in-law that did not touch me for some reason, and a story about orphans incorporated into the main romance that did. The Christmas theme is vintage Balogh and as always I enjoyed it along with its message of love, giving, and forgiveness.
Category: Historical Romance/Holiday
Publisher/Release Date: Dell/November 27, 2012
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A Christmas Bride
Summary Comment: Of the two stories, overall I enjoyed A Christmas Bride more than Christmas Beau. However, it's interesting that Christmas Beau is the story that really touched me emotionally. These two novellas are a great pairing, not only because of the obvious titles, but also because Balogh uses role reversal on both stories and they share unusual and/or unique central characters: A Christmas Bride with its villain(ess) heroine and Christmas Beau with its angsty, heartbroken hero.