His by Christmas
by Kaitlin O’Riley
(Zebra, $7.99, PG) ISBN 987-14201-1241-2
**
When a story opens with a friend asking a friend to watch over his sister (in this case, a sister-in-law) while he is away, one automatically knows that this friend is destined to fall in love with the one he is watching. This is especially true when we find out the hero and heroine have known each other for years and up to this point, the hero has seen the heroine as just one of the younger sisters.

In this case, Jeffrey Eddington is the hero, a man born on the wrong side of the blanket; one who has been acknowledged but cannot inherit. The heroine is the youngest Hamilton sister, Yvette. Her family was in trade, owning a bookstore, but they have risen in the world with one sister marrying a marquis and another an earl from Ireland.

There is further understanding of the plot when Jeffrey gets exasperated at his cousin who will inherit the duke’s title and he bets that he can romance Yvette away from another Duke, who seems to be courting her. One can immediately guess that this little tidbit will come out at the most inopportune time and threaten their relationship. And it did.

Beyond the predictability, Yvette and Jeffrey make an interesting couple. Neither will admit their attraction while at the same time, they sense their growing attachment and it is disturbing to them both. Yet this allows some friendship to develop even as their passion grows.

Even without the predictability, there were some things that lessened my enjoyment of this tale. First, Yvette’s mother, who is of French descent, speaks French all the time intermixed with her English. I could never understand why and it was very distracting when trying to read their conversation. There would be a sentence in English followed by several in French and another one in English, which helped you understand the gist of what she was saying…but again, why was that necessary?

The second thing was that Jeffrey and Yvette are left alone in the house, in fact, often for periods of time, including all night nursing or watching over her sick mother. In any other novel of the period, this would have created a scandal, even though many saw Jeffrey as a quasi-relation. The fact that no one raised an eyebrow over this didn’t gel with me. In this case a scandal was predictable and realistic and would have been welcomed.

His by Christmas centers on Yvette’s decision to marry by Christmas and she is determined to get someone who is high up in the rankings since she can’t marry for love. We meet her various family members and we even meet Jeffrey’s father and his actress mother, who seem to be having a romance of their own which may cause circumstances to change. Yvette just might fall in love with a man who could inherit the title of a Duke, and it won’t be the Duke she initially identifies. I can predict that and of course, I would be correct.

--Shirley Lyons


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