Rating: 3.75 stars
Thomas Derrik is about to have the worst Christmas of his life. Three days before the holiday, he finds out the father he doesn’t get along with is arriving on Christmas Eve, his ex-lover and new brother-in-law will be staying at his estate until the New Year, and his beloved brother, Edmund, has died.
Luckily, Edmund’s last holiday scheme may well save Thomas’s Christmas: Henry Appleby, a young lord fresh from the Continent, has arranged to court Thomas. But the family tragedy and jealous exes may put an end to the romance before it begins.
I really liked the tone and characters of this book from the beginning. J. Roman gives us a credible character in the grieving Thomas Derrick. Thomas is facing so many major losses only 3 days from Christmas. His beloved younger brother has been killed in battle, the man he has loved since childhood has married his sister, supposedly to remain close to him but a more bitter betrayal Thomas has never felt. And finally, his father who disapproves of his heir, is returning to the family home, just in time to pressure Thomas to marry and make his life even more miserable than it already is.
I have not read anything by J. Roman before, but the author has a wonderful way with characters. Thomas’ grief is palpable. The author manages to make the reader feel both Thomas’ stress and pain as well as the fact that losing his brother has left Thomas unable to deal with Darrow, the man he has been having an affair with since they were young. Darrow has married Thomas’ sister but continues his pursuit of Thomas. There are so many complications in Thomas’ life that it almost renders him unable to react. J. Roman captures the time and period beautifully and kept me engaged right up to the time this story ran completely off the rails and into fantasyland.
A Gentleman’s Agreement had me enthralled and all the historic elements were detailed and precise, then Roman asks the reader to suspend their belief to accept the fact that Edmund, Thomas’ brother, had planned to send a male suitor to his brother as well as the man’s sister with the intent that Thomas marries the sister but in turn really takes on the brother as his mate. And do you know? I could accept that. Edmund is supposedly a master planner and manipulator, so I could see that happening. But then, it turns out His Lordship, Thomas’ father accepts that as well. Part of the agreement is that the sister may take whomever as a lover and that Thomas would raise the children as his own. Acceptable except that it would mean the title would be passed down to someone not of their linage and I could never see that ever being acceptable to Thomas’ father. And from there it gets increasingly strange and unbelievable. True, all the events that pass are unbelievable in a lovely Christmas miracle kind of way but still not plausible outside of a fairy tale.
So you have a wonderful historic Christmas tale that quickly devolves into a fantasy that takes place in the past. It is still kind of lovely, but only in that novelty sort of way. But there is so much promise in this tale that I am off to discover what else J. Roman has written. So if you want your history and fantasy too, you will enjoy this.
Catt Ford was the artist for this amazing cover.