Title: What Happens at Christmas
Author: Victoria Alexander
Release Date: November 2012
Length: 396 pages
Series?: Millworth #1
Genre: Historical, Romance
December 18-25,1886. Camille Lady Lydingham wants a Prince, specifically Nikolai Pruzinsky of Greater Avalonia. To give him a traditional English Christmas, she hires actors to portray her family and also double as servants. Suddenly, Grayson Elliott returns after making his fortune in America. Eleven years ago, he declared his love the day before her marriage to another and then vanished. Now he wants her back and her Christmas ruse is the perfect farce to set his plans in motion.
***** Review *****
Nobody is who they appear to be in Millworth Manor.
Camille Lydingham has the craziest idea ever. While her family is away traveling for the holidays, she decides to hire actors to play her family, with the exception of her twin sister, Beryl, who is not 100% behind Camille’s Christmas ruse to endear herself to Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky.
A prince who refuses to be addressed by his full title, and instead prefers a lesser title. A prince who has traveled abroad for an entire year entirely by himself without even a valet. It is an oddity, but the Briston girls are more than used to housing displaced royalty for the holidays. It was a regular occurrence in their household growing up after their father died.
“There’s very little difference between Mother’s house and a circus, especially at Christmas, although a circus is probably less chaotic.”
Each Briston girl has married – and married well. They have all been widowed. Camille wants the fairy tale she’d always dreamed of as a young girl. In her grand scheme of things, all she wants is a prince. The love will follow…until Grayson Elliott shows up on her doorstep in the midst of all the pre-planning for the upcoming holidays. And insists on staying to “help.”
There are actors chosen to play Camille’s mother, younger sister and her father’s brother, Uncle Basil. Beryl and Grayson are somewhat sworn enemies after his debacle the day before Camille’s wedding eleven years prior, but they have come to a stodgy truce that Camille cannot marry the prince. Neither believe he is who he says he is, but they have nothing conclusive to support their feelings.
“Camille hired a group of actors to play the parts of her famiy, as well as all the other servants.”
Win gasped. “My God.”
“That was my –“
Things start getting quite out of hand after Grayson’s cousin Win steps into the picture to add more players into the household. With each passing day, it seems that more and more guests are appearing at Millworth Manor and Camille is having a hard time explaining them and their sudden appearances.
One very mysterious guest appears that changes quite a bit of the story, and it seems that each Briston girl knew a very secretive truth and kept it secret through the years.
You need to make her aware of the truth without making her feel like a fool. You were her friend once, you need to be her friend now.
I enjoyed the close relationships of the characters. Beryl, Camille and Grayson had been very close friends growing up, and after Grayson’s declaration he simply disappeared. Beryl and Camille naturally have a close relationship, holding tight to the common belief about twins. They have quite a few comical moments, as do Beryl and Grayson despite their slight stand-off.
“Eventually, if what he wants is to win you over, he will tell you everything.”
“Why would he do that?”
“I have no idea,” Beryl shurgged. “But men tend to do that sort of thing when they are trying to declare how much they love you. They confess all their sins. Pity they expect you to confess yours too.”
Camille and Grayson’s relationship, though, are the central focus of the novel. There were so many times I became frustrated with both of them because they more than beat around the bush and sometimes outright lied to one another. So frustrating!
“I was an idiot, I admit.”
“As long as you admit it.”
***** About the Author *****
New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander was an award winning television reporter until she discovered fiction was much more fun than real life. She turned to writing full time and is still shocked it worked out.
Since the publication of her first book in 1995, she has written thirty-one full length novels and six novellas. The Perfect Wife—originally published in 1996 and reissued in March 2008—hit #1 on the New York Times list. Sixteen of her books are bestsellers hitting the New York Times, USA Today and/or Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. With books translated into more than a dozen different languages she has readers around the world and has twice been nominated for Romance’s Writers of America prestigious RITA award. In 2009 she was given a Career Achievement Award from RT Bookclub and was named Historical Storyteller of the year in 2003. In 2008 she was the keynote speaker for the Romance Writers of American annual conference in San Francisco. Victoria credits much of her writing success to her experiences as a reporter.
Her years as a broadcast journalist were spent in two radically different areas of the country: Nebraska and West Virginia. In West Virginia, she covered both natural and manmade disasters. She was on the scene when a power plant construction accident in a small town left 52 men dead. She once spent the night on a mountain waiting to learn of the fate of coal miners trapped in a mine collapse. Victoria was producing a newscast when her husband (who worked at the same television station) and several other journalists were held hostage by a disturbed Vietnam veteran. In Nebraska, she reported on the farm crisis and watched people lose land that had been in their families for generations. She covered the story that was the basis of the movie BOYS DON’T CRY and once acted as the link between police and a gunman who had barricaded himself in his home. Her investigative work exposed the trucking of New York City garbage to a small town dump in rural Nebraska.
During her journalism career, Victoria covered every president from Ford to Clinton. She knows firsthand what it feels like to be surrounded by rising floodwaters and inside a burning building. She’s interviewed movie stars including Kevin Costner, ridden an elephant and flown in a governor’s helicopter. She’s covered a national political convention and Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Denver as well as small town festivals celebrating everything from walnuts to Glen Miller. Her work was honored by numerous organizations including the Associated Press who called a feature about a firefighter’s school “story telling genius”. It was the encouragement she needed to turn from news to fiction. She’s never looked back.
Victoria claims her love of romance and journalism is to due to the influence of her favorite comic book character: Lois Lane, a terrific reporter and a great heroine who pursued Superman with an unwavering determination. And why not? He was extremely well drawn.
Victoria grew up traveling the world as an Air Force brat. Today, she lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and her dogs. Victoria had two bearded collies, Sam and Louie (named from characters in one of her books). Sam (on the left), the best dog in the world for 13 ½ years, passed away in September 2010. Louie took on the position of loyal companion and did a fine job even though he doesn’t understand that kitchen counter surfing is not allowed!