Book Reviews, Historical Romance, Holiday Reading

The Mistletoe Countess, by Pepper Basham — A Review  

From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

‘Tis the season. This is the time of year that especially prompts me to curl up with my cat in a window seat, sipping tea, and breaking into my TBR pile.

Just in time for a Thanksgiving Day read, let me introduce you to a new Edwardian romance, The Mistletoe Countess, by Pepper Basham. Combining electric romance with mysterious adventures, this novel is sure to kick off this winter season with a bang. 

Gracelynn Ferguson – In the wealthy Ferguson household, rank and value follows birth order. Lillias, the firstborn, is silver tongued, secretive, and trained to marry a lord. Grace, the second born, is a wildling in love with books, adventure, and truth-telling.

“I believe you underestimate me a great deal. Loving fiction, having an overactive imagination, and skirting along the edge of propriety at times does not make me weak. In fact, I may be prepared for many things no one else is.” (1008)

Frederick Percy – Also the second child, Frederick Percy recently gained an unwanted title after his father’s and brother’s tragic deaths. With a crumbling estate and generations of pressure now on his shoulders, he has little choice but to enter into marriage as a business transaction.

Despite being second-born, the love for his land forked into his very nature, braiding through his bloodline. He lived for country air and open vistas, dirtying his hands alongside the gardeners at times to feel the earth of Havensbrooke beneath his fingers. (195)

With only days until Frederick’s marriage to the elegant but cold Lillias, it seems that everything is going according to plan…everything, that is, except his and his bride-to-be’s hearts. A mistaken moonlight kiss transforms Grace, in Frederick’s eyes, from a humorous new friend into a bewitching attraction. When Lillias elopes with her lover, it is (to Frederick’s shock and secret relief) Grace who volunteers to stand in her place. Can a marriage of newfound friends become something more than convenience? And can it withstand the shadowy assassin who threatens Frederick and Grace’s lives?

She looked up at his profile, attempting to make out his approach. Was he trying to dismiss her gently? Reject her in a kind way on a lanterned terrace surrounded by mountains and starlight at Christmas? That was too cruel. Clearly, he’d been reading all the wrong books. (1121) 

The above quote says everything about Grace. Her love of books and ability to turn any situation into a literary allusion was a heartwarming sight for this fellow book addict. Grace is a true descendant of L.M. Montgomery’s classic heroine, Anne of Green Gables. For both, the world is filled with inviting mysteries and enchanting discoveries. Grace brought a breath of fresh air to every room (and page) she entered into. Her nature combined with Frederick’s, staider exterior, (but hidden adventurous side) made this a story as unpredictable and sweet as their first kiss.

The reason I took a star away from a five-star rating is that, as endearing as Grace was, there were times her naivete made me lift a satirical brow. Grace’s complete lack of knowledge or even imagination that marriage relations went beyond kissing made for some awkward scenes. Frederick expected her to be sexually/physically aware as an adult and/or married woman would be, and his need to teach her these things led to an odd power dynamic. Grace in these moments seemed underage and unready for romance; however, the awkwardness faded by the 75% mark.

In the words of one astute young heroine (and her wise creator): “Truth and goodness gave a great deal of hope to the world” (810). This lovely theme was woven throughout The Mistletoe Countess, showing in sweet, stirring fiction that this goodness might truly be in reach in our everyday realities. May it be so, this holiday season!

4 out of 5 Stars

  • The Mistletoe Countess, by Pepper Basham
  • Barbour Fiction (September 1, 2021)
  • Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (320) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1643529868 

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase.

Cover image courtesy of Barbour Fiction © 2021; text Katie Patchell © 2021, Austenprose.com

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