ALL SHE WANTS IS PEACE AND ANONYMITY…
Lady Sophie Windham has maneuvered a few days to herself at the ducal mansion in London before she must join her family for Christmas in Kent. Suddenly trapped by a London snowstorm, she finds herself with an abandoned baby and only the assistance of a kind, handsome stranger standing between her and complete disaster.
BUT SOPHIE’S HOLIDAY IS ABOUT TO HEAT UP…
With his estate in ruins, Vim Charpentier sees little to feel festive about this Christmas. His growing attraction for Sophie Windham is the only thing that warms his spirits–but when Sophie’s brothers whisk her away, Vim’s most painful holiday memories are reawakened.
It seems Sophie’s been keeping secrets, and now it will take much more than a mistletoe kiss to make her deepest wishes come true…
This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
The further I get along in this series, the more I love it and the Windham family. It is vastly becoming one of my favorite series by far.
“Vim?” “Sweetheart?” The whispered endearment spoken with sleepy sensuality had Sophie’s insides fluttering. Was this what married people did? Cuddled and talked in shadowed rooms, gave each other bodily warmth as they exchanged confidences? “What troubles you about going home?” He was quiet for a long moment, his breath fanning across her neck. Sophie felt him considering his words, weighing what to tell her, if anything. “I’m not sure exactly what’s amiss, and that’s part of the problem, but my associations with the place are not at all pleasant, either.” Was that…? His lips? The glancing caress to her nape made Sophie shiver despite the cocoon of blankets. “What do you think is wrong there?” Another kiss, more definite this time. “My aunt and uncle are quite elderly, though Uncle Bert and Aunt Essie seem the type to live forever. I’ve counted on them living forever. You even taste like flowers.” Ah, God, his tongue… a slow, warm, wet swipe of his tongue below her ear, like a cat, but smoother than a cat, more deliberate. “Nobody lives forever.” The nuzzling stopped. “This is lamentably so. My aunt writes to me that a number of family heirlooms have gone missing, some valuable in terms of coin, some in terms of sentiment.” His teeth closed gently on the curve of her ear. What was this? He wasn’t kissing her, exactly, nor fondling the parts other men had tried to grope in dark corners—though Sophie wished he might try some fondling. “Do you think you might have a thief among the servants?” He slipped her earlobe into his mouth and drew on it briefly. “Perhaps, though the staff generally dates back to before the Flood. We pay excellent wages; we pension those who seek retirement, those few who seek retirement.” “Is some sneak thief in the neighborhood preying on your relations, then?” It was becoming nearly impossible to remain passively lying on her side. She wanted to be on her back, kissing him, touching his hair, his face, his chest… “Or has some doughty old retainer merely misplaced some of the silver?” Vim muttered right next to her ear. “You’ll sort it out.”
I immensely enjoyed Sophie and Vim’s story.. In the previous books, none of the Windham girls were talked about, we knew there was several Windham girls, but they were never in the forefront of any scenes, they were always off at the country estates, so it was refreshing to finally hear about them. Sophie is the goody goody of the Windham siblings, she is reliable, dependable one, no one has to worry about her as they know she is sensible and does the right thing. But behind that perfect wholesome facade, Sophie is lonely, she longs for a husband and a family of her own, plus for once she doesn’t want to be that good girl she’s known to be. One night during a snow storm, she meets Vim Charpentier , Baron Sidler, whom he offers assistance with Kit, a young boy left in Sophie’s care. As the storm progresses and Vim realizes Sophie is completely clueless about children, he decides to stay until the snow lets up. He keeps telling himself, he’ll only stay for a day or two then be on his way, but that day or two turns into a week. Even though they just met and are practically strangers, they seem to fall for each other while bonding with little Kit.
“Sophie Windham, put that child down and come here.” “You are forever telling me to come here,” she replied, but she put the baby on the floor amid his blankets. “And now I am going away, so humor me.” He held out his arms, and she went into his embrace. “I will not forget you, Sophie. These few days with you and Kit have been my true Christmas.” “I will worry about you.” She held on to him, though not as tightly as she wanted to. “I will keep you in my prayers, as well, but, Sophie, I’ve traveled the world for years and come to no harm. A London snowstorm will not be the end of me.” Still, she did not step back. A lump was trying to form in her throat, much like the lumps that formed when she’d seen Devlin or Bart off after a winter leave. She felt his chin resting on her crown, felt her heart threatening to break in her chest. “I must go to Kent,” he said, his hands moving over her back. “I truly do not want to go—Kent holds nothing but difficult memories for me—but I must. This interlude with you…” She hardly paid attention to his words, focusing instead on his touch, on the sound of his voice, on the clean bergamot scent of him, the warmth he exuded that seeped into her bones like no hearth fire ever had. “…Now let me say good-bye to My Lord Baby.” He did not step back but rather waited until Sophie located the resolve to move away from him. This took a few moments, and yet he did not hurry her. “Say good-bye to Mr. Charpentier, Kit.” She passed him the baby, who gurgled happily in Vim’s arms. “You, sir, will be a good baby for Miss Sophie. None of that naughty baby business—you will remain healthy, you will begin to speak with the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ you will take every bath Miss Sophie directs you to take, you will not curse in front of ladies, nor will you go romping where you’re not safe. Do you understand me?” “Bah!” “Miss Sophie, you’re going to be raising a hellion.”
“I wanted to be alone.” “I see.” Except she didn’t, exactly. When had this child become a mystery to her own mother? “Why?” Sophie glanced at herself in the mirror, and Esther could only hope her daughter saw the truth: a lovely, poised woman—intelligent, caring, well dowered, and deserving of more than a stolen interlude with a convenient stranger and an inconvenient baby—Sophie’s brothers’ assurances notwithstanding. “I am lonely, that’s why.” Sophie’s posture relaxed with this pronouncement, but Esther’s consternation only increased. “How can you be lonely when you’re surrounded by loving family, for pity’s sake? Your father and I, your sisters, your brothers, even Uncle Tony and your cousins—we’re your family, Sophia.” She nodded, a sad smile playing around her lips that to Esther’s eyes made her daughter look positively beautiful. “You’re the family I was born with, and I love you too, but I’m still lonely, Your Grace. I’ve wished and wished for my own family, for children of my own, for a husband, not just a marital partner…” “You had many offers.” Esther spoke gently, because in Sophie’s words, in her calm, in her use of the present tense—“I am lonely”—there was an insight to be had. “Those offers weren’t from the right man.” “Was Baron Sindal the right man?” It was a chance arrow, but a woman who had raised ten children owned a store of maternal instinct. Sophie’s chin dropped, and she sighed. “I thought he was the right man, but it wasn’t the right offer, or perhaps it was, but I couldn’t hear it as such. And then there was the baby… It wouldn’t be the right marriage.” Esther took her courage in both hands and advanced on her daughter—her sensible daughter—and slipped an arm around Sophie’s waist. “Tell me about this baby. I’ve heard all manner of rumors about him, but you’ve said not one word.” She meant to walk Sophie over to the vanity, so she might drape Oma’s pearls around Sophie’s neck, but Sophie closed her eyes and stiffened. “He’s a good baby. He’s a wonderful baby, and I sent him away. Oh, Mama, I sent my baby away…” And then, for the first time in years, sensible Lady Sophia Windham cried on her mother’s shoulder as if she herself were once again a little, inconsolable baby.
As their feelings progress into more heated things, Vim offers Sophie marriage, but she declines as she doesn’t want him to marry her out of duty – his proposal was in honest as he truly cares about her. But with the help of very protective brothers, Vim’s uncle and aunt, and Sophie’s meddling parents, they all bring Vim and Sophie together at last, and for good.
“Let me up.” She pushed at his shoulder, which was about as effective as pushing at Goliath’s shoulder when he was at his oats. “Vim, Kit’s awake.” “He might go back to sleep.” The little thread of hope in his voice was almost comical. “He never goes back to sleep.” “I’ll get him.” Vim kissed her nose and lifted away, taking with him warmth and a world of unfulfilled wishes. Sophie was just getting up her nerve to toss the covers aside when Vim came back to the bed, the baby snuffling quietly against his shoulder. “Make room. My Lord Baby is coming aboard for a progress on his royal barge.” “Is he dry?” “The royal wardrobe is quite in order, for now.” Vim climbed on the bed and arranged himself on his side, the baby propped against the pillows between the two adults. “He’ll be hungry soon enough,” Sophie said, taking a little foot and shaking it gently. Kit grinned at her and kicked out gleefully, so she did it again. “He likes a change of scene.” Vim was smiling at the baby as he tickled the child’s belly. Sophie would not have thought to bring the baby to bed with them; she would not have thought to kiss Vim’s nose before she left the bed. She would not have thought she could fall in love with a man because he put aside his lovemaking to tend to a baby, but as she watched Vim smiling at the child, enjoying the child, she realized she’d gotten one stubborn, long-despaired-of wish to come true: she’d fallen in love. She tarried for a few moments, listening to Vim speak nonsense to the child about navigating the treacherous waters of pillows and blankets; then she climbed out of the bed and went to build up the fire.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I loved Vim and Sophie together, they were just perfect. I love how they bonded over Kit and how Grace wrote the interactions and scenes with Kit. They were just magnificent and believable, I actually felt that I was reading about a real baby and their characteristics, from his gummy smile, chewing on his fists, crawling, grabbing Vim’s nose, it was just very believable on how she wrote this little tykes part.
When Vim got to the back gate, he turned amid all that sunshine, and his gaze sought out the parlor window. Sophie waved, and emulating the idiot gesture of mothers everywhere, raised Kit’s hand in a little wave too. Vim blew them a kiss, slipped through the gate, and disappeared.
Another thing that tickled my fancy and had me in a giggling fit is when Vim came busting through the door, not knowing Westhaven, Val, or Dev was there, hollering for Sophie, telling her he’s back, that he wants to kiss her senseless. It was very awkward for Sophie, her brothers, and Vim, but on so funny at the same time.
“You look a bit fatigued, Sophie.” St. Just studied her with a brooding frown, all hint of teasing gone. His brows knit further as his gaze went to the hearth. “Is that a pair of my favorite socks set out to dry? They’re a bit large for you, aren’t they?” Westhaven emerged from the back hallway, a small box in his hand. “Somebody has decimated my stash of marzipan. If His Grace has given up crème cakes for German chocolate, I’ll be naming my seconds.” Valentine returned from the corridor. “Somebody left my favorite mug in the linen closet. I thought you favored more delicate crockery, Sophie.” In the ensuing moment of silence, Sophie was casting around desperately for plausible reasons why all this evidence of Vim’s presence in the house was yet on hand, when the back door opened and slammed shut. “Sophie, love! I’m back. Come here and let me kiss you senseless, and then, by God, we’re going to talk.” Oh dear. Oh, good heavens. Vim emerged from the darkness looking weary, handsome, and very pleased—until his gaze traveled to each of the three men glowering at him. “Who the hell are you?” Westhaven’s voice was soft, but he did not sound sensible in the least. “And what makes you think you’re going to be kissing my sister?” St. Just added, hands on his hips. “And what on earth could you have to speak with Lady Sophia about?” Valentine asked, crossing his arms.
After I finished Vim and Sophie’s story, I think it might be one of my favorites so far out of this series and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for the other Windham girls.