Title: The Christmas Wager
Author: Jamie Fessenden
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 149 Pages
Category: Holiday Romance, Historical
At a Glance: All in all, The Christmas Wager is a sweet Christmas tale that many will enjoy year after year—worthy of a reread despite a few fantastical moments.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: To discharge a debt to his friend, Andrew Nash, Lord Thomas Barrington returns to the family estate he fled six years earlier after refusing to marry the woman his father had chosen. To Thomas’s dismay, Barrington Hall is no longer the joyful home he remembers from his childhood, and his young niece has no idea what Christmas is.
Determined to bring Christmas back to the gloomy estate, Thomas must confront his tyrannical father, salvage a brother lost in his own misery, and attempt to fight off his father’s machinations. As the holidays near, Thomas and Andrew begin to realize they are more than merely close friends… and those feelings are not only a threat to their social positions but, in Victorian England, to their lives as well.
Review: The Christmas Wager is an edited re-release by Jamie Fessenden, and I must say while it is obvious to those of us familiar with this wonderful author’s work that it is among his earlier work, it is also a very sweet and romantic Christmas story that I think many will enjoy. Set in the genre of historical fiction, the story traces the relationship between two friends. While not peers, exactly, as one is gentry and the other a lower class man who has made himself successful in business, the two nevertheless are fast companions. So, it is not unlikely that when Andrew asks Thomas to take him to his country estate to celebrate Christmas, Thomas acquiesces despite the fact that several years earlier his father had practically disowned him and has not spoken to him since. Thomas had, at that time, refused to marry the woman his father had chosen for him. While he doesn’t actually admit that women in general hold little interest for him, he most definitely does not wish to marry and give up his bachelor life.
So when the two visit Thomas’ home, it is still a rather frosty situation to say the least. Things only get more complicated when Thomas’ father gives his son an ultimatum in the form of a wager—either get the palatial home ready for Christmas, to include a ball of sorts, or be cut off financially for good. Thomas rises to the occasion, casting aside his normal helpless demeanor, and with the help of his mother and Andrew, as well as many faithful servants, manages to invite most of the local village to a Christmas dance. Along the way, his father, who is not done meddling in his life, brings back the very girl he was once meant to marry, and Andrew reveals his long held affections for Thomas. Both are a true shock, but as plans and feelings fall into place, there are more surprises to come.
There were many factors to this novel that worked so very well. The chemistry between Andrew and Thomas was apparent to all but Thomas, and, while a bit farfetched, Thomas’ realization that he could indeed have feelings for Andrew that were other than just friendship was definitely in the realm of believability. Also, the conniving aspect of Thomas’ father was rather spot on—cruel and devious, the ulterior motives that were revealed in the final chapters were definitely a real twist. I’m not sure I could buy into them fully, but it gave a most satisfying left turn to the story.
Perhaps what was most satisfying about this novel was the slow build to the discovered emotions that Andrew hid, and the responding yet tentative way in which Thomas came to realize the depth of his own feelings for his friend. This was so nicely done. The two were really lovely, and they worked so well together as both dear friends and more.
All in all, The Christmas Wager is a sweet Christmas tale that many will enjoy year after year—worthy of a reread despite a few fantastical moments, and definitely a well written historical romance for those who love the genre.
You can buy The Christmas Wager here: