Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Genre: Historical Romance
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.
If you love historical romance, you may have heard of or read Jeffries’ Hellions of Halstead Hall. The series has featured books for each of five Sharpe siblings (three wicked brothers and two scandalous sisters) and if you’re among those who haven’t read them, you really have to. In the last couple of books, an artfully dissolute rake named Pierce Waverly has appeared, stirring up a little trouble. He’s not a Sharpe, but he gets the honor of having the final book in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series and it’s a wonderful one.
As much as the Earl of Devonmont despised his weak, asthmatic son Pierce, his mother doted on him and adored him. It was a shock to the boy when he was shipped off to military school when he was eight but nothing compared to the pain of being banished from home without a word. All of his holidays were spent with his uncle and cousins who were kind and tried to offer solace, but they couldn’t interfere with his parents’ decision not to see or communicate with him.
When the Earl dies and Pierce inherits the title and holdings, his mother tries to pick up their relationship again but he wants nothing to do with the woman who abandoned him when he needed her desperately. He shoves her into the dowager house, settles an allowance and a companion on her and goes about establishing a smashing reputation as a rake with a love of courtesans. Love? Marriage? Pierce has had years to harden his heart against any tender feelings because when you love, you open yourself up to the worst rejection.
So why on earth is he racing back to his mother’s side now? An urgent letter from Mrs. Stuart, her companion, warns that she’s terribly ill and if he doesn’t hurry this may be his last chance to see her. Except when he arrives, she’s not particularly ill, she’s confused (and cautiously elated) and Mrs. Stuart has a guilty look on her pretty face – her pretty young face. Somebody has some explaining to do because Pierce would never willingly share air with his mother again unless she was near death.
Camilla Stuart has been a companion to Lady Devonmont for six months and in that time, she’s heard how much her ladyship loves her son, despite his horrible treatment of her. She’s finally had enough and decides to meddle just a tiny bit, underestimating the level of contention between them. Unwilling to just let it go, she storms after Pierce and makes a bargain – if he stays for dinner, she’ll provide some entertainment for him later that night. So after a strained dinner, Camilla goes to Pierce and they have a charged, playful evening…talking. It means suffering through more dinners with his mother and more pressure from Camilla to unburden his soul to magically feel better about his childhood, but Pierce is reluctant to leave and end his time at night with her. So he stays and against the backdrop of some stolen happiness with Camilla, the ugly past finally starts to surface.
Now everyone who reads my reviews regularly knows I’m a marshmallow and I sniffle my way through emotional books. Horror of horrors, I couldn’t locate a box of tissues before I started reading, so I had to break into a package of mini purse packs. Number of tissues per pack: twelve. Number of packs used: two and a half. I knew I was in for it when I had to scramble to open a pack before the first chapter was even halfway done. Jeffries had me laughing, crying, scowling, crying some more, then smiling like an idiot.
I loved Camilla. She had a horrible start to life, not a particularly spectacular marriage and in widowhood, was left with an adorable obligation that she was forced to hide. While she was mostly respectful when she wasn’t meddling, she always had such a lively air about her that she seemed capable of breaking into a spontaneous hug or some other gesture of affection. She was funny with Pierce in their private talks, always teasing him and acting like she was more worldly than she was, just to provoke a reaction from him.
If Camilla had me laughing, Pierce broke my heart sometimes. He was such a lovely, confused man. Even when he was supposed to be acting like a jerk, he couldn’t quite pull it off very well. Once I knew what he’d gone through as a little boy, there was no chance I wouldn’t love him and champion him in the story no matter what he did. His chemistry with Camilla was wonderful and I loved that they immediately had the kind of relationship that they both could tell each other to go to hell and still be drawn to each other the next night without having to examine it. There were only two brief, semi-fulfilled sex scenes but they were sizzling even more so because of the way they were interrupted.
I’m not sure how I felt about the big reveal regarding why Pierce was abandoned. It made sense, yes. It wasn’t enough for me though. But it proved the point that there’s peace in forgiveness even if it’s not perfect, I think.
My Summary: I think if you’re a fan of the Hellions series you’re already going to pick this up, but even if you haven’t read them and you like historical romance, I suggest you give this a try. It can easily be read as a standalone and I hope it tempts you to go back and start from the beginning with the scandalous Sharpes. ‘Twas the Night After Christmas was so enchanting that I even had the urge to start planning my holiday decorations.