Two long novellas make up this duology, both set in the same Cornish fishing village in the winter of 1822. In Marguerite Kaye’s The Captain’s Christmas Proposal, Treeve Penhaligon returns to the village of Porth Kerrick to take up the inheritance he never wanted. The only person in the village who seems to welcome him is an outsider, Miss Emily Faulkner, new tenant in one of his cottages, and obviously a genteel lady fallen on harder times.
Treeve and Emily both have pasts they need to come to terms with, though Emily’s has the greater potential to affect her future due to a scandal she must hide. Emily’s looking for a place to belong, and wonders if she’ll ever find it in a village full of insular, suspicious Cornish types, and though Treeve was born in Porth Kerrick, joining the Royal Navy set him apart from those who considered smuggling a part of their heritage. Treeve and Emily are great together, slowly coming to a mutual trust and respect which is absolutely believable, and I absolutely LOVED that there wasn’t a ‘magical fixit’ for the issue which made Emily initially hesitant. Marguerite Kaye never fails to delight with her beautifully atmospheric writing, this time transporting me to the hardscrabble existence of a Cornish shipping village in the early 19th century and making me fall in love with two wonderful characters. Five stars.
In Unwrapping His Festive Temptation by Bronwyn Scott, we follow the story of two characters briefly introduced in the first book in the duology, local heiress Rosenwyn Treleven and composer Caden Kitto. Cade is a local boy made good, the son of a miner whose prodigious musical talent was recognised early and quite literally changed his life when he was sent to a London conservatory to study. He doesn’t want to be back in Porth Kerrick at all but a reversal of fortune has landed him there, with a Christmas cantata to write and no inspiration whatsoever to do so. At first glance Rose seems to have her life neatly in order, but it soon becomes clear she’s actually in hiding from London society after an unfortunate experience. She’s a strong character with an instinct to fix things, and Cade’s obvious brokenness attracts her attention quickly. They strike sparks off each other from the get-go, and the class disparity is interestingly reversed from the first story, with Rose being of more consequence and wealth this time. This does set up Cade for some unfortunate internal musings where he gets very misogynistic, determined that he shouldn’t be dependent on his wife’s money. It was also rather peculiar to see him emphasizing the importance of his family name, “A Kitto took care of his own” for example, when the name came from his father, who Cade knew very well was a despicable, abusive monster. Such a legacy is something one usually tries to escape rather than take pride in and it didn’t cast Cade in the best light. I winced quite a few times reading his self-justifying nonsense and the way he belittled Rosenwyn’s efforts to help him find himself and his place in Porth Kerrick. Although it’s well written, I can’t quite give this story a full five stars because Cade got on my nerves a bit too much.
Overall, this is a solid pair of stories with lots of detail about the unique ways in which the Cornish celebrate Christmas and some beautifully drawn characters, with two very believable romances. With an average rating of four and a half stars, I’d definitely recommend giving this pair a read this holiday season!
Invitation to a Cornish Christmas is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the authors’ representative.