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Elizabeth Camden’s Christmas at Whitefriars

Christmas at Whitefriars: A Novella by [Camden, Elizabeth]

Mary Beckwith lives in a magnificent English castle during the twilight years of the gilded age. With the help of an American millionaire, she has succeeded in renovating her beloved Whitefriars castle into a splendid estate just in time for Christmas.

From across the ocean, millionaire Everett Wooten has spent a fortune propping up Whitefriars to add modern conveniences and rebuild crumbling old walls. Even though he’s never met Mary, they have enjoyed a lively business correspondence over the nine years they have been working toward a renovation. Now he has finally come to see Mary and the castle in person, but nothing is as he was led to believe.

Mary and Everett try to find a way forward, but red-blooded American entrepreneurship doesn’t always mingle with blue-blooded English tradition. Can a Manhattan business tycoon and an English lady come to an accord, or will their joint venture in Whitefriars result in heartbreak for them both?

Review

I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Camden and I’ve read the other books in this series, of course I had to read the novella!

What I liked

Characters. This book may have been a novella, but at no point did I feel like I didn’t know the characters. Some of it is helped by the fact that half the cast in the novella are characters from previous books, but some of it is because Camden doesn’t write caricatures. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: Camden writes the most fascinating heroes. They’re never cookie cutter and I appreciate that she takes the time to really flesh out who they are, flaws and all. She managed to make me curious about Everett long before he appeared on the pages. Everett has one of those personalities that makes social interactions a bit difficult for him, but at the same time, he doesn’t let his personal hang-ups keep him from going after exactly what he wants. Like Everett, Mary too is very well described in the book and Camden always writes smart, knowledgeable heroines. While Mary may not be particularly relatable, you definitely walk away from the story knowing exactly who she is. Unlike Everett, Mary doesn’t have difficulties with interacting with different ones, but she does have a particular psychological issue that she too has to deal with. Except that Mary has let it run her life more than Everett. Watching two people who are the same sides of a flipped coin fall in love was lovely.

Location. Location is a big deal in this book. Through Whitefriars, you see the history of Mary’s family and her world, but also the limitations. There’s definitely a clash of old world/new world that Camden is exploring here and it really shows in the castle. Whitefriars itself almost becomes a character in the novella as the characters learn more about it, explore it, and what on earth to do with it.

Spiritually, the characters pray and have to trust God.

What I didn’t like

The only problem with this book—and  I’m not sure it’s a problem per se—but I feel like with a novella you either go after plot or you go after characterization. There is typically very little space to do both. Here, Camden seemed to go after characterization more so than plot. This is not a page turner. You’re not on the edge of your seat. But it is a lovely romance between two unusual individuals that will draw you in and make you want to read more.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, for a person like me who generally avoids novellas, I’m glad I read it!

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