Christmas at Belhaven Hall
by Karla Kratovil
Release Date: October 27, 2022
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Book #3 in The Maidens of Marbury series
Number of pages: 240
Source: ARC from the publisher
Ages 15 and up
CW: death of spouse
She wants nothing to do with him or the holiday frivolities…
Lady Olivia Rivenhall has always lived at Belhaven Hall. A year has passed since her husband’s unexpected death, and she’s been living in limbo wondering when she will have to vacate her home and finally decide what to do with the rest of her life. Just as she is beginning to believe that the new earl will never come to take possession of the manor, Maxwell Drake walks back into her life.
After almost dying in a gutter in Venice, Maxwell Drake vows to turn his life around. Learning that he’s inherited his estranged cousin’s title is exactly the fresh start he needs. Max is looking forward to enjoying Christmas in the English countryside at the estate he’s missed, but he’s dreading facing his cousin’s widow, the only woman he’s ever loved.
The attraction is stronger than ever, but so are the wounds. As Christmas magic steals through the ancient halls and secrets beckon to be shared, can these two lonely hearts find a second chance at love?
The setup at the beginning of this book makes it seem as though Max will be a real rogue who will be redeemed by his love for Olivia. It turns out that, although Max has done some not-so-great things, there’s no redemption needed. He’s a great guy who has always tried to do right by his family and those he loves.
From the previous stories in this series, it’s known how well Olivia got along with her late husband. If you haven’t read the other books you should still enjoy this story, but to me, it helps the whole scenario make a lot of sense. But, quite frankly, having read the other stories I felt Olivia had better chemistry with her late husband than with Max. Don’t get me wrong, they are really sweet together. There is a lot of baggage they have to work through from their past. A lot of miscommunication through no fault of their own has occurred through the years. I felt the chemistry got better as the story progressed so that’s always a good thing.
Oddly, I thought there would be a particular “twist” that never happened. On one hand, I’m glad for that, on the other hand, I feel something was lacking in getting true closure for Max’s personal arc. Yet the thread about the love letters found in old books that has run through this series got some answers. I’m sure, although the mystery is solved, there will be more to that in future books. It’s a fun little side story that always seems to help each of the ladies out as they make their way to their HEA.
I may not have connected to this book the same way I have with the others, but I still really enjoyed the read. This group of friends is always a joy.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**