Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: 'Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

Phew, I made it!! I really wanted to have this review up this week :) It's really been fun to review Christmas-themed novels, really put me in the mood for the holidays. However, there's one week left before Christmas, and I've run out of books to review... Does anyone has a suggestion for next week's review? :)

I've been quiet this week and I'm really sorry about that. Life has been really busy the past week and I realized I haven't been very chatty about what's been going on in my life lately and that some of you are wondering... so here's a quick update :) First, my health. So the dizziness has gotten a lot better in the sense that it's not constant anymore. I do still get spells from time to time, so it's not completely gone... but it's a lot more manageable and I can function a lot better. I think given enough time, it'll really go away. *knocking on wood* I bumped my knee pretty hard earlier on Monday and have a major bump on it. Sigh, since I started playing curling, I don't recognize my right knee anymore LOL. I've put a knee pad on my Christmas wishlist, hoping that it will solve this issue :) And ugh, my latest bother is my left heel. This time, it's not curling related... I've been getting twinges in my left heel if I stretch my foot a certain way or walk a certain way. It's not painful or anything, but it pulls... I have no idea why... It started on Tuesday and I think it was my boot or something. Sigh. Once again, I'm ready to move on to the new year, health-wise LOL.

Second, work. Work has been really busy. As you know, the lab is closing at the end of the year... but what me and my co-worker just found out is that my boss is going away on vacation next Wednesday. Yes, next Wednesday!! The good news is that I won't have to work between Christmas and New Year, but the bad one is... He's gone next Wednesday! There's some stuff to take care of and so we're trying to do that before next Wednesday. Ugh. And that's pretty much why I haven't had time to blog this week. By the way, for those wondering about my job prospects... There's a really big chance that I'll be working in another lab in the same department. There's two positions that just opened... so I'm just waiting for confirmation. I'm supposed to get news before Christmas, i.e. next week. As soon as I know, I'll share :) If I don't get anything here, then I'll start looking after New Year... but in either case, there's a high possibility I'm going back to school...

However, at the moment, my biggest issue is that I'm in a reading slump T_T I have not read a single book this week, sad :( So if you have any suggestions, they are really welcome!! Especially with lots of free time coming up. I've been meaning to get reacquaint with my TBR pile, but I've had no time ^_^; Seriously, I totally blame the publishers and their release schedule LOL.

Anyway, enough about me. Here's the review, enjoy it!

'Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries
published by Simon & Schuster in October 2012
Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged from his mother for most of his life. When his mother’s new companion, Mrs. Camilla Stuart, writes to tell him that his mother is seriously ill, he goes home. But when he learns that the lovely widow tricked him in order to effect a holiday reconciliation, he refuses to stay—unless she meets his “terms.” Somewhere between trying to seduce the beautiful Camilla and struggling with the cruel memories of his childhood Christmases, Pierce discovers that not only does forgiveness go two ways, but that love can blossom even in the coldest of winters.
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Hellions of Halstead Hall, Book #6

The Story: The blurb for the book is quite accurate, but here is my version :)

Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged with his parents for most of his life, but without Pierce knowing why. The only thing he knows for certain is that from the age of 8 years old, he never got to spend time with his parents when he was on break from school during the holidays or the summer. Instead, he was sent to his cousin's, Mr. Titus Waverly, home. When he reached his majority, Pierce returned to the family estate, wanting to learn how to manage his estates, and was kicked out by his father... And when his mother didn't offer any explanations for their abandonment after his father died, Pierce decided to continue on with the estrangement and cut her out of his life. Thus, he ignored all the letters she sent and whenever he returned home to Montcliff, he made sure to avoid the dowager house so their path wouldn't cross.

Mrs. Camilla Stuart is Lady Devonmont's new companion and is quite outraged at the Earl of Devonmont's attitude towards his mother. Seeing how Lady Devonmont dotes her son, Jasper, and how often she reminisces about Pierce, Camilla decides to give what her employer wants most for Christmas: her son's presence. Therefore she pens an express to Pierce telling him how seriously ill Lady Devonmont is. However, Camilla never expected the events her note has instigated...

My Opinion: When I first found out that Pierce Waverly was the hero of 'Twas the Night After Christmas, I wasn't very happy. Not because I had anything against the character from his brief appearances in To Wed a Wild Lord and A Lady Never Surrenders - a rake who doesn't commit; if I did, I would not have many historical romance books to read! LOL. It's simply that after A Lady Never Surrenders, I thought the Hellions of Halstead Hall series was over and was looking forward to Ms Jeffries' new release... Honestly, I felt the whole series had been a bit underwhelming and therefore, would have welcome a new premise. Instead, the series seemed to have been extended and with the main storyline wrapped up, I wasn't sure what to expect from 'Twas the Night After Christmas. I actually wasn't going to pick it up... but you know me and new releases, LOL, I'm just drawn to them. So in the end, I gave 'Twas the Night After Christmas a go and guess what? I ended up being pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the book a lot more than I expected!

While 'Twas the Night After Christmas is branded as the 6th book in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series, in reality, for all intends and purposes, the book is actually a stand-alone and I think that is why the story worked out so well. Yes, some of the previous characters showed up, but Ms Jeffries limited their appearances. As for Pierce, his link to the Sharpes was tenuous and he really had nothing to do with the overarching storyline. As such, Ms Jeffries didn't have to recap previous events or re-introduce characters. In fact, as a stand alone, she didn't even have to set the scene up for subsequent books nor worry about sequel baiting... Which means she had all the time of the world to focus on the characters, story and romance of 'Twas the Night After Christmas and she did. I truly believed this focus was key and made the difference, because frankly, the story of 'Twas the Night After Christmas wasn't ground-breaking, but Ms Jeffries was able to deliver something solid and enjoyable :)

Overall, I enjoyed the holiday themed of 'Twas the Night After Christmas. It worked for me. The story wasn't overly sweet, but there was just enough Christmas traditions incorporated to put you in the mood of the holidays. Also, I think in such books, it's always nice to have a kid, because they're the ones who believe in magic :) And in this case, Jasper was cute and acted like a 6 years old boy. LOL, I loved his first encounter with Pierce, it was so funny. By the way, I also liked the grown-up characters. My heart broke for Pierce in the prologue when his parents did not come to pick him up for the holidays... and he didn't understand why. I find his behavior towards his mother - the resentment, bitterness and anger - justifiable. There was a lot of misunderstandings and assumptions on Pierce's part, but what can you expect when you abandon a boy and he grows up with gossips? Plus, he gave his mother the opportunities to explain, to tell him the truth: when he reached 21 years old and when his father passed away, but she never did. So you can't expect that when she's finally ready to move on, he's going to listen. I also believed that all Pierce wanted was an explanation or the truth from his mother, even if it shattered his hopes... to live with the unknown, that's hard. In the end, it all worked out and the reason why I'm satisfied with the resolution in 'Twas the Night After Christmas, it that contrarily to A Fool's Gold Christmas, despite everything, Pierce still loved his mother, still cared for her. He cherished the memories he had from his early childhood. In addition, to a certain degree, what Pierce's mother did was for his well-being and future. So all in all, the circumstances were better. I do wish that his mother had explained the whole situation to Pierce earlier.  As for Camilla, I did like her as well. She did overstep a little bit when she wrote that letter to Pierce, not knowing the whole story... but it was done with good intentions. What I liked about Camilla is that she never lost sight of what mattered: her son, Jasper. She refused to become Pierce's mistress, even though she was attracted to him, because of Jasper. I think that deep down, that is something Pierce admired because his mother couldn't do the same.

As for the romance, this is where it becomes a bit trickier. I thought that Pierce and Camilla had good chemistry and they balanced each other well. I liked that they spent time together, got to know each other. What I did not like though is how the whole thing began. As soon as Pierce found out the letter was a lie, he intended to leave... but in the end, he stayed, but that was conditional to Camilla spending time with him. Part of it was because he was attracted to her, that I'm sure of... but another part, it was to strike back at his mother and well, I found that part a bit despicable on Pierce's part and it colors the romance a little bit ^_^; It's one thing if you don't want to marry, have no heir and therefore, your mother doesn't get grandchildren... That's your business, your decision... but it's another when you involve someone else.

My Grade: B. Life can be so ironic at times :) At first, I wasn't planning to read 'Twas the Night After Christmas because I thought it was the continuation of  the Hellions of Halstead Hall series which I felt had run its course... but in the end, it turned out to be the best book of the series in my opinion! :) It was a nice Christmas-themed book and I felt Ms Jeffries focused on what mattered the most: the characters and the romance. I'm really glad I picked up 'Twas the Night After Christmas because I had a good time reading it and I hope you do as well! :)