My rating: I’d go there again (4/5)
A Winter Wedding was a complete surprise for me, and exactly what I was looking for on a summer afternoon. This was a witty, lighthearted read, and I did not expect to have as much fun with it as I did. When I read the previous book in the series, A Midsummer Bride, I found myself more drawn to the characters of James and Penelope, who were secondary characters, rather than the primary couple who were the focus of the book, so I was quite happy to learn that they would be the hero and heroine in the next installment. Ultimately, I wasn’t overly engaged with A Midsummer Bride, so I didn’t really expect to like A Winter Wedding all that much – but this book was so a delightful read!
Penelope Rose is the middle sister of five, and has always considered herself the least beautiful. After arranging matches for her four sisters, Penelope was left on her own and ended up as a companion to the tyrannical Dowager Duchess Marchford. The two of them have set themselves up as “The Matchmaker” to the ton, Madame X. And as if matchmaking wasn’t enough, Penelope also assists the Dowager’s grandson, the Duke of Marchford, in ferreting out spies hidden amongst the ton. Napoleon’s set on creating strife within the British aristocracy, and Marchford is having none of that. Complications arise with both jobs when Marchford asks Penelope to find him a bride, since Penelope refuses to add “wife” to her resume (at least without some romance).
Marchford is tired of being hounded by debutants and their marriage minded mamas, so in desperation he asks Penelope to find him someone suitable after she refuses his joking/serious proposal. He’s rather shocked that she says “no” and is now rather taken with the idea of Penelope being his bride. She is a sensible girl, after all. Unfortunately, Penelope and Marchford have bigger fish to fry than bride hunting, a spy’s on the loose and they need to find the culprit before he can destroy parliament. It might just be simpler for Penelope to agree to the proposal…
What really shone in The Winter Wedding was the dialogue between Penelope and James, the Duke. I think it helped that they were already friends and co-conspirators; all they needed was a shove in the right direction. Penelope and James’ back and forth banter was adorable and I loved the sarcasm. These two had the chemistry that I didn’t feel in the previous book. And Penelope and James’ relationship had more going for it than basic attraction. Throughout the book you got the sense that they really knew each other and had a mutual respect for the other. So while this was a quieter relationship as opposed to the overt “lusty” romance, it was also very well done and believable.
I also loved the silly elements to this novel. If you’re looking for an angsty read, I don’t recommend this one, you will no like the antics the hero and heroine find themselves in. Don’t get me wrong, there were serious elements (ie. the spies), but they didn’t overshadow the overall lighthearted tone of the book. For example, there were serious reasons why James didn’t want to fall in love, and I do think those could have been examined more, but The Winter Wedding skewed more to the comical than a deep character study. James’ attempts at courtship were adorable and over the top; the lengths that he went to give Penelope her twelve days of Christmas was endearing. Only a duke could get away with that kind of exuberance. And Penelope’s ability to remain unflappable in the face of such persistence made them a great match.
This is the perfect pick if you like the silliness and sense of fun from Julia Quinn and Tessa Dare, although A Winter Wedding was on the tamer side in terms of romantic show and tell. Personally, I would have been fine with this being racier, but if you’re someone that blushes easily, this would be a good pick 😉
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
If you liked the friendship and working relationship between James and Penelope, give The Taming of a Scottish Princess a try. Like James and Penelope, Michael and Jane do not expect an attraction, and when they do, their working relationship is thrown into jeopardy. It’s a bit of an outrageous setup, but a fun read if you’re not looking for something too serious.
Another working relationship with In the Heart of the Highlander. Alec needs an undercover agent, and Mary Evensong is just the girl – unfortunately, their attraction makes putting Mary in harm’s way rather difficult. Again, a little silly but fun, and more explicit (if you were missing that from Winter Wedding).
For my final recommendation, I’m going to go a little more serious, but we still have spies! A Lady’s Secret Weapon is a lot more angsty than Winter Wedding, but the hero and heroine had great chemistry and made a good team like James and Penelope. Their road to romance was filled with a lot more baggage and a lot less lighthearted (no 12 days of Christmas here), but I thought it was a lovely story.