Lord Thomas Pendleton, second son of the Duke of Branmoor, needs to discharge a debt to his friend Andrew Nash. In doing so, he must return to the family estate he fled six years earlier after refusing to marry the woman his father had chosen. To Thomas’s dismay, Branmoor Hall is no longer the joyful home he remembers from his childhood, and his four-year-old niece has no idea what Christmas is.
Determined to bring some seasonal cheer 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 Christmas Day draws near, Thomas and his friend 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.
First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2010.
After losing a wager, Lord Thomas Pendleton agrees to take his closest friend, Andrew Nash, to his family’s country house for Christmas. Thomas isn’t looking forward to it, given his estrangement from his father. When they reach Branmoor Hall, they find a household devoid of the Christmas cheer that Thomas remembers from his childhood.
Thomas sets out to bring Christmas festivity back to Branmoor with the help of Andrew. As Christmas draws near, Thomas discovers that Andrew has loved him for years, and slowly Thomas realizes that his own feelings for Andrew run much deeper than friendship.
This is the kind of book you’d want to curl up in a blanket to read while it’s snowing outside.
I really enjoyed the setting of Branmoor Hall. The large rambling house, the surrounding countryside, the village and villagers, and the residents and staff of Branmoor all made for a very cozy country Christmas.
Plus, Susan, Thomas’ four-year-old niece who has never had a joyful Christmas, stole my heart. She’s a cute kid, and plays a part in bringing Thomas and Andrew together.
Andrew and Thomas had me grinning from the first page. Their emotional connection was undeniable. It was pretty obvious that there was more than just friendship there, and not just from Andrew’s end. I’m not sure how many friends, not matter how close, help each other undress and take baths.
Thomas’ slow realization that he was gay and in love with Andrew was believable. Thomas grew up in a society where homosexuality was strictly criminalized and taboo, so it didn’t occur to him that what he felt for Andrew could be anything other than friendship.
But once Thomas realizes the truth, the romance was sweet and funny. His attempts to seduce Andrew were hilarious. I’d say the two were already a couple in many ways, and all that changed was adding a sexual relationship to the mix.
The HEA was incredibly sweet, and tied up everything nicely. I liked that the author acknowledged reality of Thomas and Andrew’s situation as gay men in Victorian England, but without becoming despondent.
If you’re looking for a fluffy friends-to-lovers MM historical read with lots of holiday feels, give ‘The Christmas Wager’ a try!
Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!