The Christmas Wager by Jamie Fessenden
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on December 22, 2010
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
When Lord Thomas Barrington left his family home six years ago, he expected he might never return. His father, the duke, made it very clear that if Thomas was unwilling to follow his duty to the family, he was unwelcome in their home. Of course, duty to his family being marriage to a woman he didn’t love meant that Thomas could never oblige.
But Thomas has lost a bet to his best friend, Andrew Nash. And it’s a bet that Thomas can’t pay. Andrew is willing to accept something else in return: a Christmas at Barrington Hall. A Barrington Hall Christmas has always been a spectacular affair. So Thomas can understand why Andrew wants to witness it. But he’s still very unhappy about the prospect of once again coming face-to-face with his father.
The big surprise when they arrive, however, is not the duke’s attitude. It’s that Christmas is no longer celebrated at Barrington Hall. And Thomas could let that go, except that he’s disappointed that his niece, Susan, doesn’t get to celebrate one of the best holidays of the year. So he sets out on a mission to bring Christmas back to his family home.
Brewing alongside all of this, though, is Andrew’s unspoken attraction to Thomas. And then there’s the feelings Thomas has when he looks at Andrew that he can’t explain. Exploring and giving in to those feelings isn’t part of Thomas’s plan. And then there’s the fact that doing so would be a crime. But can someone deny their passion even if they strive to bury it in the deepest recesses of their being?
What a fun historical! Yes, there is the m/m romance element, but this is about so much more than that. It’s about family, expectations, grief and loss, discovering yourself, forgiveness…the list goes on and on. The fact that Thomas is already on uneasy footing with his father is also an interesting element. (So often, it’s the whole dating a man thing that leads to estrangement in a historical novel.) That really brings the family issues to the forefront of this story. And they are handled wonderfully.
Solid recommendation from me!