So, I recently read the second book in Theresa Romain’s Holiday Pleasure series, which at the moment contains three titles: Season for Temptation, Season for Surrender, and Season for Scandal
So these romances form a loosely-linked series, with the protagonists of each continuing as secondary characters in the next. I read them out of order – #3, then #1, and as I said, I just finished #2 last night – which was fine, because each story stands well alone.
The challenge for Book #2 was to get Xavier from being a total rat (in Book #1) to a good guy (in Book #3). Theresa Romain handled this very believably, and here I would like to just mention that I like the psychologically believable ways in which her protagonists screw up their lives. I started to say particularly the guys, but Frances from It Takes Two to Tangle is certainly carrying her own baggage. It’s Frances’ issues which drive that plot, mainly.
Back to the Holiday series, though. I hereby like the first the best, which is interesting, because I think what especially appeals to me about this one is the lack of psychological issues for the protagonists to work through. Nor are there any bad guys, really, unless you count Xavier (that rat!), who just appears at the end. All the charm and almost no tension. Or at least no tension related to horrible villains. That really appealed to me – it was just what I was in the mood for – and actually perhaps the lack of horrible villains is particularly suitable for a Christmas-themed story?
So, Book #1, Season for Temptation. I loved Julia so much! Julia and her ginger biscuits. She is such a cheerful extrovert, she babbles so charmingly, she is so bubbly and enthusiastic about nearly everything – especially about breakfast! I have always enjoyed cheerful, bubbly people, in the real world as well as in books, no doubt because I’m not much like that myself. And James was an excellent foil for Julia. One could see why he’d gone and gotten himself engaged to Louisa by accident, that was basically because he is the noble sort right from the beginning, but it did rather put him in a fix, of course, or there wouldn’t have been much of a plot. But basically I just enjoyed Julia so much I wouldn’t really have cared if there hadn’t been a plot at all. Also – and this is different for me – I really liked how Romain handled the major sex scene in this particular book. It didn’t seem at all contrived or unrealistic or dropped in just to meet the reader’s expectations, and it didn’t feel voyeuristic, either. It actually made me laugh instead of skimming lightly over it. That’s quite an achievement.
Okay, moving on, in Book #2, Season for Surrender, we get to focus on Julia’s sister Louisa. Louisa is not just bookish and quiet; she also possesses natural aplomb, which is certainly an excellent quality in a protagonist. We do have a protagonist with issues in this story, though (Xavier, of course), and a quite horrible villain. I found the part where Xavier is floundering, unable to think how to handle his horrible cousin Lockwood, rather difficult to read. Though at least Louisa continued to handle everything with composure, and eventually Xavier pulls himself together, of course, and starts quoting Machiavelli, and at the end Lockwood doesn’t know what hit him, which is satisfying.
I am not a hundred percent sure I would have bought Louisa’s transition from the first book to this one – from utterly miserable when forced into a social situation, to able to handle anything Lockwood throws at her – but what made this work for me was that she found out about the bet between Xavier and Lockwood very early on. This was a great way to handle things, because as soon as she found out about that bet, her determination not to let Lockwood win gave Louisa a plausible reason to want to handle even very uncomfortable social situations. And even one situation that went well beyond uncomfortable. But she handled it. And of course everything worked out in the end.
Then in Season for Scandal, as you may recall, we switch our focus to Xavier’s cousin Jane, and straighten out her life. I will say, the brown paper packaging was a particularly nice touch in that one.
So that was three Christmas-themed Regency romances this year: a good excuse for making real hot chocolate and curling up cozily on the couch with half a dozen spaniels and a cat. I expect Theresa Romain will most likely have another one out for next Christmas – and I expect I will enjoy that one, too.