Gabriel Shepherd has never forgotten his humble origins. So when he discovers a war orphan at Christmastime, he resolves to find a home for her—even if that means asking help from the very family who found and raised him, only to cast him out for daring to love the wrong woman.
Lady Catherine Trevilian has spent five years poring over the British Army’s casualty list, dreading the day she sees Gabe’s name. She’s never forgotten him, and she’s never forgiven herself for not running away with him when she had the chance, though she’s agreed to a marriage of convenience with a more suitable man.
When Gabe returns home on Christmas leave just days before Cat’s wedding, a forbidden kiss confirms their feelings haven’t been dimmed by distance or time. But Cat is honor-bound to another, and Gabe believes she deserves better than a penniless soldier with an orphan in tow. How can Cat reconcile love and duty? She must convince Gabe she’d rather have him than the richest lord in all of England…
Cat always drifted into the breakfast room just after the post was delivered. Anthony wrote so faithfully now that they were engaged and it was proper for them to exchange letters. Such dear, amusing letters they were, too. When Aunt Edenwell had asked why she was marrying him, when she’d had richer and more handsome suitors, she’d explained that none of the others made her laugh so much. If she couldn’t be madly in love, at least she would go through her life as Lady Colville with a smile.
There was always the chance, too, of a letter from one of her Trevilian cousins or some of the friends she’d made in her London Seasons. And if she happened to glance at the newspaper to make sure there were no familiar names on any casualty lists that might be printed there and to see if the Sixty-First Regiment of Foot had been mentioned in the latest dispatches, what of it? Neither her parents nor Lord and Lady Edenwell had ever thought it unladylike for a woman to take an interest in the wider world.
So she couldn’t understand why Richard looked so startled and guilty as he stood when she walked in this morning. “Good morning, Cousin,” she said as she slipped past him to the sideboard to select a warm roll and pour herself a steaming cup of coffee.
He smiled and resumed his seat, though he still seemed edgy. “A good morning to you, too, Kitty.”
She’d given up hope her family would ever stop using that childish name. Anthony called her Catherine, which pleased her. If she sometimes missed a rich, teasing voice saying Lady Cat, she’d had five years to grow accustomed. They’d been so young then. It had been all mistletoe and infatuation, nothing more. Well, perhaps there had been a measure of rebellion, too—the plain defiance of bestowing her affections upon the forbidden baseborn foundling instead of the noble cousin her aunt and uncle had all but served up to her on a platter.
If she prayed for him every night and lived in terror of seeing him on those casualty lists, it was only because she couldn’t bear it if he…if he died, all because Uncle Edenwell had kicked up such a fuss over a kiss. Well, perhaps there had been kisses in the plural, and it had been late at night with neither of them quite fully clothed. Still, she wasn’t ruined, and Gabe wasn’t a seducer. There had been no need to send him out of the country in disgrace.
But it was impossible to change the past, so she made herself smile as she took a chair at Richard’s right. “Anything of interest in the post?” she asked.
He shuffled the stack of papers and took a sip of his coffee before replying. “There’s a letter from Gabriel.”
Good God. Gabe. She darted a glance at Richard’s letters, searching for Gabe’s firm, distinctive handwriting. No. She must be calm. Her heart must stop racing, immediately. With carefully steady hands, she took up her own cup and drank. She was calm. If she was blushing she couldn’t feel it. Why should she blush? She would be married in less than a fortnight. Gabe was…five years ago. “Oh?” she asked, pleased that the syllable came out tolerably composed.
Publisher and Release Date: Carina Press November 24th 2014
Time and Setting: Christmas 1810, England
Genre: Historical Romance Novella
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Natalie
A Christmas Reunion opens by introducing us to Gabe, an officer on leave who finds himself suddenly responsible for an orphaned stowaway. Gabe can’t find it in his heart to cast the ‘little mite’ to the winds. Instead, he decides to try and find a suitable home for the toddler girl – but that means contacting his adoptive family, a family he has barely been in contact with since they cast him out.
Lady Cat finds herself a week away from her New Year’s wedding, ready to commit to a union built on friendship but not romance. But when she finds out that Gabe, the man her uncle cast out from his family on account of her attraction to him, is home safe from war and nearby she fears that all of the emotions he stirred in her five years ago might still be there.
When these two meet their passions are re-ignited and they can’t keep their eyes off each other, which of course is of great interest to Sir Anthony, Cat’s intended. After a secret late night meeting, a heart to heart and a passionate kiss, Gabe and Cat resolve to stay away from each other but unfortunately before the festivities of the season begin Cat finds out that Sir Anthony witnessed their indiscretion. There seems to be no simple answer to the questions of this love triangle, but leave it to Fraser to figure out a way to find true love for all of her Christmas characters.
A Christmas Reunion is a lovely novella, perfect for a little relaxation from the rush of the holiday season. Gabe and Cat are childhood loves who were kept apart due to their rank and situations in life and find themselves face to face with the opportunity for that rare second chance. Susanna Fraser gives her characters wit and charm and makes you root for them, even though they find themselves in an impossible situation. This is one of the few romance stories where the answer to everyone’s troubles is actually more complicated than the troubles themselves!
There is a lot of interesting military history in the conversations between the characters as well as lovely dialogue and sweet scenes of love and family togetherness. It doesn’t hurt that the romance between Cat and Gabe sizzles off the page once they finally figure out what it is that they want. I was surprised and happy with this believable Christmas romance with a twist!
Most importantly A Christmas Reunion reminds us that happiness comes in all forms and sometimes you have to find a way to create your own second chance. Give this lovely little Christmas novella a try and remember Christmas is the time for goodwill towards all!
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About the Author
Susanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly and often unusually colored hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.
Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still gives her heroines great hair.
Susanna grew up in rural Alabama. After high school she left home for the University of Pennsylvania and has been a city girl ever since. She worked in England for a year after college, using her days off to explore history from ancient stone circles to Jane Austen’s Bath.
Susanna lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. When not writing or reading, she goes to baseball games, sings alto in a local choir and watches cooking competition shows.