8 Oct 2018

A Tale of Two Hearts, Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

Once Upon A Dickens Christmas #2 
192 Pages, 1st Sept 2018, Shiloh Run Press
Print, ebook and Audio 
Genre: Historical Romance 
Setting: Victorian London, Countryside 

London, 1853: Innkeeper’s daughter Mina Scott will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life, for there’s nothing more mundane than serving customers day after day. Every minute she can, she reads and dreams of someday becoming a real lady—and catch the eye of William Barlow, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming but penniless rogue. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his scheming cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost. 

My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐


Its October, but I've just finished this delightful Christmas story. Actually, it could be read any time of the year, and the theme is no obstacle.
There's romance, with a pretended marriage and intrigue, with a nefarious plot hatched by the leading man's relatives. The characters are wonderful and so well-drawn, including the deliciously nasty villains Alice and Percy. Alice is so venomous, grasping, sly and shrewish. You just want to slap her or shake her, but she and her husband just make the more perfect villains to pit the heroes against. The duo are in every way worthy of Dickens.

Mina is that perfect combination of strong yet vulnerable and so in a way is Will. He needs Mina, but is afraid to admit his growing love and admiration for her, because of a previous heartbreak. Both characters make mistakes. I think there some important messages about integrity and honesty, as well as not striving for the unattainable and taking people as they are.
That deceit and pretense, even its done with good intent to help or protect someone else, does cause hurt.

Uncle Barlow is just perfect. No other explanation is needed. He ties the story together, and he's wonderful. Everyone needs an Uncle Barlow in their life, a kindly if eccentric old man who sees good in everyone and tries to give everyone a chance. Even better you can sit down and discuss literature with him: no wonder Mina loved him so much. Not that he suffers fools gladly, or takes well to being duped.
There's a great inner strength behind the facade of an absent minded old man. In fact, I would hazard Uncle Barlow is almost a Christ figure in this book, showing unconditional love, but speaking the truth and not blind to the faults of the characters, He requires but does not compel obedience, and shows the blend of justice and mercy perfectly.

I did however deduct one star for the few Americanisms, and the fact that I could not get on the with American narrator of the audio-book. Sorry, but her accents weren't great.

So overall this a lovely story full of grace and imbued with Spirit of Christmas, snow, and festive cheer. With the perfect setting in Victorian London and a nearby country manor.
The passages from Dickens at the start of each chapter are a perfect accompaniment to this feelgood romance, perfect for the holiday season. I might give it a re-read again when Christmas comes around, hunkered down in my jumper with a cup of tea and a nice mince pie.

I requested this title from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

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