I’m going to admit that I reread Jane Eyre about twice a year (and usually disdain any media adaptation of Charlotte Bronte‘s novel – no Mr. Rochester can equal the one in my mind), so any romance involving a potential mesalliance between a governess and a highborn man has my immediate attention.
Alexander Hunt, the eighth Duke of Beresford, is trying to remain cold and distant while he informs his beautiful governess that she is about to be fired a few days before Christmas. He’s followed her and discovered that she is a novelist whose work clearly indicates she comes from humble beginnings,. In fact, Miss Adriana Grey is actually Miss Adriana Flint, a granddaughter of an earl whose mother ran away with the man she loved only to fall into ruin in the East End of London. Alexander is no stranger to scandal – the men in his family have a reputation for doing exactly what they feel like, Victorian society be damned. Just the fact that the beautiful Adriana is the governess to his ward, Georgiana (in fact, his illegitimate daughter) right in his home says this is a man who writes his own rules.
Adriana knows that she doesn’t yet make enough money as a novelist to support herself and not turn to the petticoat trade, a direction her life almost took. That she was discovered by her handsome employer is not only disastrous but it also reveals that he has been as fascinated with her as she has been with him, and both of them have attempted to ignore it. Boldly addressing that fact, Adriana challenges Alexander to take the twelve days of Christmas to seduce her – if he can – and see if he would like to keep her as his mistress. While she admits that her background makes her the worst possible person for little Georgiana, the fact remains she loves the little girl and feels a strong attraction to the man. while she’s had only one other intimate relationship, she’s just desperate (and curious) enough to take a chance.
Claremont is brilliant for gently framing this story with the understanding that Alexander is the head of his family (and therefore answers to no one) and already has indulged in some unconventional behavior, like keeping his by-blow in his own home as his ward. While Adriana is legitimate and descended from aristocracy, her father not being of that class clearly would render her unacceptable to the vast majority of Victorian nobility. There’s definite heat between the hero and heroine but only a few spicy interactions with Alexander being, for the most part, very respectful of Adriana as he wants to get to know her better. I was so impressed at how much backstory on both of them Maire Claremont managed to pack into a mere 76 pages while moving the plot along.
While this story on its own is only $.99, I should also point out that this story is also available in the duology, All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke, also only $.99 and with that purchase you get the additional novella, Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle, an extremely well-regarded romance author. Two stories sound even better than one as long as you get Maire Claremont’s as well.