For Sharda Holkar, having fairy tale life meant waiting for Prince Charming. Well, it turns out there’s no prince coming to climb her tower and slay her dragons, so it’s time to roll up her sleeves and start figuring out how to save herself. And while she’s at it, maybe she’ll find herself a damsel in need of a rescue, one worthy of her heart. One whose passion and heart match her own.
Sharda’s life has always seemed to revolve around money. How much she has and how little everyone else has. How much she’s given this month (while a trustee pockets the rest); how much she’s allowed to spend and on what. She’s a bit of an oddity among English nobility; her mother was an heiress and her father an Indian raja, giving her a different appearance and a mysterious, “exotic” background — even though she’s never been to India in her life — both of which leave people prone to judgement and gossip behind their fans. On her mother’s death, her father returned to India and his duties to his family, leaving her all but orphaned, with a succession of guardians and a generous trust that, combined with her mother’s money, leaves her very wealthy, indeed. Now that she’s of age and in control of her life, Sharda has no idea what to do with it. She knows what she doesn’t want, though, and that’s marriage. Especially not to Edward, no matter what plans he and his family have in mind. .
Finella Forbes, a Scottish spinster, has come to England not for the sumptuous Christmas party, but to hunt down Lord David, the useless lump who owns Balintore castle. Her castle. A castle in need of repairs, with people in need of food and other supplies, all of which David promises soon, or later, or next time. Well, this time is next time, and Fin isn’t going to leave without what she came for. And if Lord David won’t step up and do what’s right for the castle and its people, maybe it’s time to find a new owner. What she leaves with, instead, is a beautiful heiress whose bright eyes and smiles catch Fin’s breath.
I had never heard of the Hogmanay holiday before this — it’s more of a new year’s holiday than a yuletide one — but now that I have, I can see why it inspired this story. Sharda, for all that she’s been surrounded by society, has always had to keep a delicate balance. Of all the people who wanted to be friends, which ones wanted her money, which ones wanted her reputation, and which ones wanted her? When a companion joined her for travel and complained about the lack of a new dress, was it meant to inspire Sharda to give them a new one? With so much calculation around her, and strained relations with her mother’s side of the family, it’s been lonely. So what better holiday than a Hogmanay in Scotland where friends, new and old, and family are celebrated?
And what better person to share the holiday with than Fin? In her 30s and unmarried, she’s far from being an old maid. Instead, she’s full of life and energy, devoted to her castle and her people. Bright and friendly, a caring and warm spirit, she wants nothing more than to seduce Sharda … but only so she’ll invest money in the castle! Maybe buy it and give Fin the chance to make necessary repairs. Somehow, despite all her plans, Fin ends up being the one seduced by Sharda’s humor, her sincerity, and to seeing the shine in her eyes when she’s happy and the way the people of Balintore take to her.
Their romance is a bit of a medium burn; they become friends almost instantly, and the flirting is gentle — and the author takes pains to keep it fitting in with the period, while still keeping it fun and joyous. Overall, this is a lovely and heartwarming historical romance with great dialogue, a wonderful cast of side characters, and a loving and supportive pair of main leads. Please do yourself a favor and spend a Hogmanay with this book.