Published by Sophie Barnes on December 5th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
More than love is in the air …Join the Heartly family as they return to Thorncliff Manor for the holiday season where four sisters and four very handsome, very eligible bachelors, are about to enjoy a lively Christmastime filled with laughter and love. But aside from the covert matchmaking undertaken by the eccentric hostess, Lady Duncaster, the thrill of adventure is sweeping through the estate. Soon, all the guests will be entangled in a treasure hunt for a lost heirloom and secrets hidden for decades will rise to the surface as matters of the heart are finally revealed.
Will Fiona ever see the Earl of Chadwick as more than a friend? Will Emily find an unlikely love in the Marquess of Montsmouth? Can Laura recognize the man of her dreams in the Duke of Lamont? And is Viscount Belgrave able to open Rachel’s eyes to romance? The magic of Thorncliff is about to offer the last unmarried Heartly sisters a chance at their own happily-ever-afters. So sit back with a warm mug of cocoa and lose yourself in a Regency Christmas Romance…
Comfortably seated at a dining room table that seemed to stretch toward infinity, Fiona Heartly considered the people who’d been invited to visit Thorncliff Manor during the holidays. Due to the group’s intimate size, only a fraction of the table had been set for the evening, while most of the chairs remained eerily empty. Pleasantly, however, five large oranges pricked with cloves and strategically placed in the center of the table infused the air with a seasonal fragrance of citrus and spice. The lady of the manor, the Dowager Countess of Duncaster, looked as formidable as ever. Placed at the head of the table, she wore an elaborate wig that had long since gone out of fashion. But she was known to have several eccentric bones in her body, so nobody ever minded. Rather, Fiona suspected she was considered all the more interesting on account of her peculiarities.
To Lady Duncaster’s right sat the Duke of Lamont, a middle-aged gentleman whose demeanor was always perfectly somber. Fiona had yet to see him smile, but then again, she had also to spend more than one minute in conversation with him. A long-time friend of Lady Duncaster’s, the pair had apparently been spending the holidays together for almost six years now. Ever since the duke inherited his title with the sudden passing of both his father and brother.
Leaning forward, Fiona glanced toward the seat at Lady Duncaster’s left. Lamont’s cousin Viscount Belgrave sat there, amicable as usual. He’d always struck her as being exceptionally kind and good-natured, though not the sort of man who would ever stir an amorous interest in her. She needed someone more challenging – a scoundrel with a good heart. Not that she had any intention of marrying any time soon. As the youngest of her siblings, she knew she still had a year or two ahead of her before seeking a husband became a necessity. In the meantime, she meant to enjoy what remained of her independence – the final moments of her youth.
That particular thought had her looking directly across the table at one of her favorite people, the Earl of Chadwick. He’d always humored her hoydenish streak, and he never failed to enjoy a bit of mischief as much as she did. He’d been a part of her family for as long as she could remember – ever since her brother Christopher, Viscount Spencer, or Kip as his family called him, had brought the earl home with him for a visit one year during the school holidays. They were all exceedingly fond of Chadwick. His positive outlook on life was so infectious it was impossible to be grumpy while keeping his company.
Meeting Fiona’s gaze, he smiled warmly. A couple of seconds elapsed, and then he suddenly snatched up his napkin and started dressing his fork as if it were a lady putting on an extravagant ball gown. Fiona’s lips quirked, more so when the fork began dancing along the edge of the table.
“Oh,” Lady Duncaster said, “How utterly delightful!”
Had they been anywhere else, his behavior would have been considered incredibly improper. But here nobody minded. Rather, they all appeared quite entranced by Chadwick’s little performance, which now included a softly hummed tune as his knife swept in to partner with the fork in a waltz.
“I suppose it’s no wonder you are so good at charades and other parlor games,” Rachel observed. “Playing pretend comes so naturally to you, I almost envy your ability.” Exceptionally fond of mathematics and science, she rarely found anything amusing since all jokes were usually ruined for her on account of their nonsensical facts. But with Chadwick, she often made an exception. It seemed he had a style that appealed to pretty much everyone.
Continue reading the first chapter here
~~Reviewed by Lisa~~
A treasure- four unmarried sister, 4 bachelors, manipulative parents and Christmas- what could be better?
Returning to Thorncliff Manor for the holidays was more than a simple Christmas celebration for Ladies Fiona, Emily, Laura and Rachel. I adored this story and the adventure. Each of the sisters brought a different perspective and texture to the story. The way Ms Barnes brought out their vulnerabilities and insecurities with heroes that also had their own was wonderfully played. The couples complimented each other giving and receiving strength to address and overcome the uncertainties with humor, grace, patience and love.
The underlying search for treasure added the needed drama to the story. It allowed for some wonderful unchaperoned private moments that lead to the HEA we all want to see. This story answered some questions from the Secrets at Thorncliff Manor series, but brought up many more leaving room for Ms. Barnes to continue to share the Secrets at Thorncliff Manor with us. Thank you for a lovely read.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.