Father Christmas

Barbara Metzger
2008 reissue of 1995 release, Regency Romance
Signet, $6.99, 251 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451227107

Grade: B
Sensuality: Kisses

There's nothing better for December reading than a traditional regency romance set during the Christmas season. Thank you Signet for re-printing several of the beloved old favorites including Father Christmas, by the wonderful mistress of regency humor, Barbara Metzger.

Leland Warrington, Duke of Ware has an heir and a spare as well, just not his own children. They are the twin sons of his late cousin Tony Warrington. Ware himself has been married - twice - but alas, no children from either marriage. One day while drinking with his friend, Crosby Fanshawe, they get foxed and Ware writes a letter to Tony's widow Graceanne proposing that he take one of the twins and raise him. Of course Ware didn't intend the letter to be mailed. Curse his efficient servants.

Graceanne and the boys are living with her family in the rectory at the Ware estate where her father has the living. Mr. Beckwith is a petty tyrant, Mrs. Beckwith is in a wheelchair and Graceanne's sister Prudence is silly as only a regency miss can be silly. Graceanne herself adores her boys, keeps herself busy and manages the household (she's the only sensible person there).

Ware comes to his estate intending to apologize to Graceanne only to be met with the business end of her knee in a very tender place. After mutual apologies, he meets the boys (who are human destruction machines) and is charmed with them. It doesn't take too long before Ware has straightened out Graceanne's finances, wrapped the boys around his finger, solved all the problems at the estate and given them all a very merry Christmas. Then he leaves for London, fully intending to get another wife, but thoughts of a very pretty widow cause him to slow down on that front.

While Ware is in London, Graceanne has her own problems with her sister Prudence who has fallen in love with Liam, the squire's groom. Liam is handsome and talented, but he is Irish Catholic and Mr. Beckwith thinks he's the devil's spawn. Mrs. Beckwith never bothered to give Prudence The Talk, and Prudence is soon in a delicate way. Complications ensue - lots and lots of complications, as well as misunderstandings galore until things are finally sorted out just in time for next Christmas.

Father Christmas has a long middle stretch where Graceanne and Ware are separated. I know that some readers hate that, but it didn't bother me in this book. Most of the time we are with Graceanne, and she is such a wonderful, sensible, practical and just plain nice person that I was happy to be her companion. Toward the end she acts very out of character in keeping a secret from Ware, but I did understand her reasons. They didn't make much sense to me, but I figure they did to her, and it was such a minor thing that it didn't bother me too much.

Ware himself wasn't quite as vivid a character, but he was still a very pleasant man. His interactions with the twins are heartwarming without getting sticky sweet and the antics of the twins made me laugh so hard that I had to stop and rest my aching sides.

I miss new regency romances during the Christmas season so much! I know that it was the Victorians who really celebrated the Christmas season as we know it, but the regency romance, with its descriptions of house parties, feasts, and general air of good cheer says Merry Christmas in a way no other genre can. If you love Christmas, and love to laugh, Father Christmas is the perfect book.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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