Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
I was so excited when I received my ARC of What Happens At Christmas from Kensington Books via NetGalley. Victoria Alexander has long been one of my favorite romance authors. Her book, Her Highness, My Wife is my #1 favorite romance. Alexander writes about princes and princesses, far off places and wealthy artistocratic families with a penchant for twins and trouble. I love them. So you can imagine the fan-girl screaming that occurred when I got the ARC. This newest book did not disappoint.
Carmille, Lady Lyndingham, widow of two years, has her sights set on a new man: Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky of the Kingdom of Greater Avalonia. She invites him to a traditional English Christmas with her family at her mother's house, but the problem is her family is not traditional and, aside from her twin sister and her husband, her family will not be there. But that doesn't stop Camille - she simply hires a troupe of actors to act as her mother, younger sister and uncle.
She is convinced that she can get Prince Nikolai to propose and that she will fall in love with him - he's perfect, so how could she not? But her plans to show him a traditional Christmas get a wrench thrown in them when Grayson Elliot, Camille's neighbor and former best friend, walks back into her life. He's been gone for 11 years, after professing his love for her on the eve of her wedding and then running away to America when he didn't get the answer he wanted, but he's back and he knows what he wants and he's ready and willing to fight for it.
Camille must figure out how to juggle an increasingly bad acting troupe, family members who keep showing up, a sarcastic twin and her long-lost love. And she must decide if Prince Charming is really who she wants, or if she wants the one who got away.
Victoria Alexander writes in such a way that you are instantly sucked into her characters' world. You can feel the tension between Camille and Grayson. Grayson is contrite yet strong and Camille is headstrong and stubborn, but she's funny and insecure too. I loved their romance. There were many times which I wanted to put my hand to my heart and swoon in full Southern Belle style.
The secondary characters were a hoot: the overly scornful and sarcastic twin, all the actors, with their inabilities to keep their characters straight, Grayson's cousin and Camille's mother and younger sister. They all added levity to the story and made it so amusing and lighthearted. Perfect for the holidays.
The only thing I was a bit unhappy with was that while Alexander has set up a love triangle with Nikolai, Camille and Grayson, there really isn't all that much time spent with Nikolai. His character actually confused me for a while because I had read, and loved, books about Avalonia and couldn't figure out what time this took place. Eventually we learned that it was 70 years after the previous Avalonian books, but I wish I'd known that sooner. And we just didn't get to know him so his side of the triangle just wasn't all that plausible. I didn't understand why, aside from stubbornness, Camille wanted him.
However, all-in-all, I really liked the book and I was so happy to read more about Avalonia, and really to read anything Victoria Alexander writes. Highly recommended to anyone who likes historical romances and to anyone who has read her previous Effington/Avalonia books.