Lisa Kleypas is definitely one of the authors I turn to when I need a good historical romance. She’s actually one of the first romance authors I read, and she’s remained a firm favourite. I Will, however, was a bit of a disappointment. The hero was a jerk, there was a noticeable lack of consent, and it just didn’t fill me with the squee that a normal holiday historical does.
Andrew, aka Lord Drake, is about to be cut out of his father’s will so he needs to find a lady who can save his reputation by pretending to be his betrothed. Miss Caroline Hargreaves fits the bill perfectly—a noted spinster, her brother is also deeply in debt, and Andrew is willing to forgive those debts if Carolina agrees to help him. But of course, drama ensues, which tears the budding lovers apart before throwing them back together again, where they realize that they’re both pretty attractive and live HEA, much to my disappointment because they’re both not great humans.
First of all, I wouldn’t really class it as a Christmas romance, since more than half the book takes place in the spring/summer/fall. I actually got a bit confused part of the way through, thinking that maybe I’d downloaded the wrong book, when I read mentions of cool spring breezes and roses. Surely that can’t be just seasonal confusion? But no, Goodreads confirmed that this is a “Christmas novella.”
This book contains one of my favourite tropes: forced proximity. Give me two people who are forced to spend inordinate amounts of time together and, in the process, fall slowly in like/lust/love, and I’m a happy woman. However, what I thought was going to be a weekend holiday party replete with kissing in the corner and perhaps a sneaky session in the guest bedroom turned out to be completely bereft of any sexy times except for a stomach-churning nonconsensual scene. It isn’t even clear if the characters really like each other until about 75% of the way through the book, which means I didn’t fully believe the HEA.
The hero, Lord Drake, also seems like an irredeemable asshole for most of the book. He’s the main reason why Caroline’s brother, Cade, is in debt up to his eyeballs, because Drake keeps carting him to every gaming hell in town and, as he says, “I don’t give a damn who gets dragged down with me.” I’m all for a grumpy alpha male who ends up having feels, but no matter what, they have to treat their friends well. I can’t sympathize with a hero who doesn’t value his friendships.
My main issue with the novella, however, came during the rape scene (no way am I calling that nonconsensual bullshit a sex scene). Caroline makes it very clear that she plans to seduce Lord Drake no matter what. She says “I am going to make love to you, right now, on this bed, while you are helpless to prevent it.” This is not consensual! Sure, Drake gets into it and the sex becomes consensual, but Caroline’s intentions don’t start out that way. She plans to take advantage of him until he tells her what she wants to her, and that.is.not.okay. It’s 2018. Consent in romance is mandatory.
Other than that huge, glaring issue, the main problem with this book is that it’s just a bit boring. Not much happens until the very end, and that non-consensual drama puts a downer on any expectations readers might have that things might start getting juicy, romantic, and real. There are so many good Christmas romance novels out there, so save yourself the time and money, and go read one of them and give this one a miss.
To cheer myself up after this face-palm of a book, I made the Vegan Gingerbread People from BBCGoodFood, because gingerbread people are warm, comforting, and, I like to think, would never try to have non-consensual sex with each other for their own personal gains. Below is my adapted recipe. Bake them, decorate them, and have wonderful daydreams of happy historicals.
Vegan Gingerbread Shapes
adapted from BBCGoodFood
Makes 50 small shapes, 25 large ones
For the cookies:
1 flax egg
400g plain flour (1 and 2/3 cup) plus extra for dusting
200 g vegan butter (about 1 cup)
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200 g dark muscovado sugar (about 1 cup)
50 g agave nectar, honey (if not vegan) or maple syrup (about 1/3 cup)
100 ml soy milk (about 1/2 cup)
For the icing:
3 cups icing sugar
6 tablespoons water
food colouring as needed
1. Preheat oven to 180C/ 350F. In a large bowl, rub together the flour and butter until it resembles crumbs. Add the spices and whisk to combine.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, agave, milk and flax egg and pour over the flour mixture.
3. Using your hands, knead the dough until it comes together. It will be smooth and buttery.
4. Scatter some flour on a clean surface and roll the dough out. It will be very sticky, so dust flour on the rolling pin and on top of the dough to ease the rolling process. Cut out shapes and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes until just starting to brown around the edges.
5. Once the cookies have completely cooled, clean your work surface to prepare for the fun part: icing! Mix the icing and set aside a few bowls. Add a few tablespoons of icing into each, then add droplets of food colouring until you’ve achieved your desired colours. Using a piping bag or knife, spread the icing onto the cookies. They’ll be dry but still tacky in 10 minutes. Eat, and enjoy! These keep for about 4 days in a sealed cookie tin.