An Improper Holiday by K. A. Mitchell
He followed all the rules…until one man showed him a dozen ways to break them.
As second son to an earl, Ian Stanton has always done the proper thing. Obeyed his elders, studied diligently, and dutifully accepted the commission his father purchased for him in the Fifty-Second Infantry Division. The one glaring, shameful, marvelous exception: Nicholas Chatham, heir to the Marquess of Carleigh.
Before Ian took his position in His Majesty’s army, he and Nicky consummated two years of physical and emotional discovery. Their inexperience created painful consequences that led Ian to the conviction that their unnatural desires were never meant to be indulged.
Five years later, wounded in body and plagued by memories of what happened between them, Ian is sent to carry out his older brother’s plans for a political alliance with Nicky’s father. Their sister Charlotte is the bargaining piece.
Nicky never believed that what he and Ian felt for each other was wrong and he has a plan to make things right. Getting Ian to Carleigh is but the first step. Now Nicky has only twelve nights to convince Ian that happiness is not the price of honor and duty, but its reward.
[More naked chests. Not that great of a cover.]
I am a fan of KA Mitchell, so naturally picked up this holiday story. The scenic depiction of a snowy historical is fun and very fitting to the theme while the characters are interesting. Unfortunately the ending is slightly contrived and strained, mostly due to the importance of staying historically accurate. While this won’t bother most fans it does decrease my overall enjoyment of the book and ultimately this offering is not one of my favorites of the author. It’s not bad but here the historical constraints hurt the story rather than lend more depth and richness to the narrative.
The story is about old lovers, Ian and Nicky, as they rekindle their passionate romance. Nicky wants Ian back and schemes with Ian’s sister, Charlotte, and Charlotte’s good friend Emily to get Ian to finally give in to his desires. However before everyone can live happily ever after a few near death experiences as well as more scheming must be survived so Ian will eventually agree to the final plan.
No doubt historical romance fans will enjoy this particular offering. The setting is rich with color and detail, drawing a snowy holiday party with romantic flair. The crisp winter air mixes with the warmth of the house and occupants to deliver a rich atmosphere, ripe for passion. The characterization is solid and well drawn from the stuffy, angst driven Ian to the flirty, wild child in Nicky. Even the bratty yet mischief filled Charlotte is given interest and depth as the various planning and scheming between various members of the party slowly are explained. The romance between the two men is not the only affair and the novella manages to show enduring love through small touches, looks, and sacrifices.
For the most part, this is well crafted and well written with a deft touch to the characters while remaining historically accurate. The story itself focuses on the characters and notably Nicky and Ian as they renew their acquaintance and catch up on lost time. There is a lack of external conflict which is nice and allows the characters’ own turmoil to direct and progress the story. For those readers that enjoy a hefty dose of internal angst and issues, this story delivers a lot of that. There are a few problems with the characterization in that Ian’s often back and forth hemming is at odds with repeated statements that he never waivers from a decision. He in fact spends most of the book agonizing over his decisions and the near death experience is a big catalyst to finally forcing him to make decisions. This is a frustrating plot device and although it’s one the author uses frequently, I’m getting tired of seeing it in her stories to be honest. But other readers may not have the same problem.
Another issue I have is with the ending, which is perhaps a sticking point that others may or may not have a problem. Being as historically accurate as this particular story is, the end resolution is strained and somewhat predictable. The final solution is telegraphed early on if readers know what to look for. Clearly this is as good of a solution that can be created due to the constraints of the time period. There are other solutions offered in the story but none are really serious – even if they suit the romantic element more. So while the ending is as good as it can be, the historical accuracy really hurt this particular ending.
While certain parts of the plot are contrived, the details of the time period and setting come alive with colorful descriptions and textured scenes. The author has no doubt done her research and historical fans will delight in the small details that make up a great holiday love story. There is a small bit of angst that is easily overcome and a few daring, uncomfortable scenes for the intrepid heroes but the ending is as good as the historical period can allow. Overall this is a fun historical from a good author offering some hot, sexy men for the holiday season. Their romance definitely turns up the heat more than a few degrees and the story’s ending remains as accurate as possible. This will appeal to m/m historical romance fans most and fans of the author. Although some may be slightly disappointed in the ending as I was, I highly doubt any will dislike the story.
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