by Shelley Bradley

October 2001
ISBN: 0-8217-7186-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

This is a nice romantic story that is built around the idea of trust and being able to allow yourself to love again.

Five years ago, Lady Juliana Archer, eloped with a young Army colonel, against the wishes of her father and longtime childhood friend, Ian Pierce, Viscount Axton. Juliana's father and Ian had tried to stop her, going so far as to send Ian's mistress to seduce her beloved colonel, and trying to convince Juliana, that Geoffrey, was nothing but a common scoundrel, out only for her dowry. Well, of course, Juliana would have none of it, and married Geoffrey Archer anyway, and moved with him and his regiment to India to become the wife of a military man.

Now, Juliana finds herself a widow in a strange land, with no friends and no money. If only she had listened to Ian and her father, all those years ago, she wouldn't be in this mess now. She would be married to Ian, have a family, and be loved and secure for the rest of her life. Drat them, for being right. But, she can never go home now, not after everything that they did, and her stubborn pride forbids her to go home with her tail between her legs.

Ian, Viscount Axton, has just learned that Geoffrey Archer, that rogue who stole Juliana from him five years ago, has been killed in India. That means that Juliana is alone in that wild country with no one to protect her. But how to convince her to come home. She would never trust him to come home just because he asked her to. No, he must come up with a plan, one that she would never suspect to be suspicious. He visits her father, Lord Brownleigh, and tells him of Archer's death. Between the two of them, they come up with a scheme to convince Juliana to come home, with all due haste. But if Juliana ever finds out that Ian is scheming to gain her love again, she will never forgive him.

So, Ian sets out on a journey that will decide the rest of his life. If he can convince Juliana to come back to England with him, he can use the time they have together on the voyage, to make her see that he loves her, that he has always loved her, and ask her again to marry him. Ian arrives in India, to a stunned Juliana, tells her that her father is dying and she should return to England with him. Of course, she is skeptical of this. She wouldn't put it past Ian and her father to cook something up to get her to come home. But Ian finally persuades Juliana to come home and along the way he asks her to marry him. She of course refuses, stating that he is a lier and a schemer, and she could never trust him again. He asks that she give him until Christmas to regain her trust, to let her come to know him again, and realize that he does truly love her. She agrees, but she knows deep in her heart, that a leopard doesn't change his spots, or could he. Time will tell, and she has till Christmas Eve to make her decision.

This is a wonderful love story. The characters are fully developed and very believable. The story line does have some weak spots, but for the most part, flows smoothly. Ian is a typical male, who doesn't have the faintest idea how to express his true feelings, without trying to 'come up with a plan.' And Juliana is the type of woman, who doesn't appreciate a man's 'plan's', and isn't afraid to let him know.

I think you will enjoy this Christmas story. It's a season of forgiving and miracles, and this story has all of that.

Happy Holidays!!

Reviewed in November 2001 by Debbie.

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