‘A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau’ by Mary Balogh

STORY: ‘A Christmas Bride’

The very wealthy Edgar Downes has promised his aging father to finally take a bride—specifically, to wed a titled lady by Christmas. London is full of pretty, proper, and eligible misses, but it’s the widow Helena, Lady Stapleton, in a shocking red dress, who captures Edgar’s attention. Helena is intrigued by the seductive stranger—but he’s simply not in her class. Marriage, of course, would never do. But in a season of miracles, something wondrous is about to happen.

‘Christmas Beau’

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.

REVIEW: The above book blurbs are adequate in summarizing both stories, so I’ll just give you my thoughts on them.

‘A Christmas Bride’

This is how good the first story is. Before I finished it, I had gone to Mary Balogh’s website and searched all her books to make sure that one of the secondary characters had his own book. Can you imagine my surprise to find out that he indeed had his own story AND that I owned the book? ‘Christmas Beau’ needless to say, had to wait until I read the said book.

From time to time I’d encounter a hero, or in this case a heroine, whose actions I questioned and desperately wanted them explained to me in such a way that I could come to understand, excuse and accept, before I come to love them. This was the case with Helena. I give credit to Ms. Balogh for giving me such a character and putting me through a gambit of emotions.

Helena was such a complex woman who you needed, and I truly wanted, to know and to do that you had to finish the book and not give in to the urge of abandoning her and the story. At the start of it I just could not like her. There was not much to like. She was overbearing, snotty and just all around bitch!

However, in the hands of Mary Balogh, Helena grows as a human being and becomes someone our hero accepted even before he knew the whole story. I, on the other hand, had to read the story to the end in order to understand her reasons behind her atrocious behavior.

To some, this story might be off-putting because of the main character’s behavior, but I do ask of you to have patience and give this story your attention. It truly is a wonderfully touching story of real, true and unconditional love on the part of the hero, Edgar Downes, who is a true gentleman through and through, regardless of his birth and upbringing.

Everything in this story was well told and executed by the master herself, Mary Balogh. Highly recommend it!

*Side note: Mary Balogh’s A Precious Jewel is the book I was referring to earlier and it’s worth noting that Helena was the step mama of the hero of that book. I fell in love with Sir Gerald Stapleton and his precious jewel. Another MUST read especially if you’re craving a Beta hero.

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‘Christmas Beau’

In this story, we have the hero that we’re not supposed to like because of the revenge he’s implementing upon the heroine, yet I had a devil of a time not liking him. Max, to his friends and family and to the ton known as the Marquess of Denbigh, was a recluse. After many years in seclusion and self-exile in the country after he was jilted by his fiancée, Max finally gets a chance to get even with Judith who jilted him a month before they were to be married. The woman is now a devoted mother of two and a widow who, in Max’s mind, is deserving of his hatred and wreath. He meticulously plans and executes his plan of revenge which after all makes him realize that there can indeed be a very thin line separating hate from love.

Judith was only seventeen years old when she decided that Max would be wrong for her and she falls for a man who was attentive, loving and charming, in other words a total opposite of Max, who at twenty-three was serious, nerves and too intense. She was too immature to realize that her feelings were not those of revulsion, but of passion and fear of it. For a very long time, she regretted not being strong enough, grown up enough to face him and tell him the truth, but now she feels that past should be left in the past, and as much as she still fears the man, she has made up her mind to at least give him the benefit of the doubt.

Some of you may find fault with both hero and heroine, as both at the start of the story are not much likable, but I found it very realistic and poignant. Max’s love for the heroine was portrayed so very deep and very touching even though it later turned into hatred. The battle between the love and hate within him raged on and it was such a joy to watch love win over! I admired Judith’s ability to forgive and understand Max’s motives while clearly seeing the love he had for her, allowed both of them to reconcile the past with the present.

*I bought the book