REVIEW: Sarah M. Anderson’s A BEAUMONT CHRISTMAS WEDDING, Or Flirting and Forgiveness

Beaumont_Christmas_WeddingSarah M. Anderson wrote two wonderful category romances, the first two in the series “Lawyers In Love,” A Man Of Distinction and A Man of Privilege. Miss Bates is not a lawyer as heroine, or hero fan, not even Julie James charms her. Anderson, however, did not exactly charm, but convince her with terrific characterization and believable conflict. Anderson didn’t pander to Native American or cowboy stereotypes, nor glamorize the lawyer-corporate world. She centred her characters in issues of identity and confronted them with ethical dilemmas about self-interest and “doing the right thing.” With so much goodness preceding Miss B’s reading of Sarah M. Anderson’s latest category romance, A Beaumont Christmas Wedding, Miss B. was surprised at how … well … flummoxed some of the novel left her. 

It had a few points against it going in: third in a Denver-set wealthy-family saga, truth be told, Miss Bates is no fan of the “rich-family saga,” too much Dynasty in her youth. The hero, Matthew Beaumont, is chief marketing officer for Percheron Drafts Beer, the family business of a family that already has too much money and expends most of its energy on outlandish shenanigans. Just the word “marketing” is enough to put Miss B. off: but Matthew is also the “good son” who puts out fires of notoriety and scandal. He’s squeaky-clean and successful, nothing goes wrong on his watch; he’s in PR charge of his brother’s, Phillip’s, wedding to Jo Spears. Into Matthew’s well-orchestrated Christmas Eve wedding fairy tale walks heroine, Whitney Maddox, aka Whitney Wildz, former child star and disorderly teen of the scandal sheets, and Jo’s maid of honour. The chip on Matthew’s shoulder grows into a log …

Matthew is strait-laced and in rigid control of every aspect of the family reputation. He’s on constant alert because he’s spent his life convincing his now-deceased father and siblings that he’s a real “Beaumont.” Why? Because he was illegitimate: when his womanizing father finally married and then later divorced his mother, Matthew fell into the role of saving the family reputation as a way of proving his worth and belonging. The wedding is one more opportunity for him to do so … and no wild child maid of honour will get in his way. Except Whitney now-Maddox is anything but: she’s a soft-spoken, vulnerable, shy, and klutzy beauty, who’s spent years in hiding from her previous rowdy youth breeding and training horses in the California. When she arrives, and promptly trips on the stairs, Matthew immediately thinks the worst of her, that she’s drunk, or high … and will prove the worst of his PR nightmares.

Whitney is a wonderful heroine and Miss Bates liked her immediately … Matthew not so much, as attractive and groomed and charming as he is. Or, as attractive as Whitney finds Matthew, she rightly says he’s, and Miss Bates did a little fist pump when she read the phrase, “an ass.” Despite his arrogance and need to control everything and everyone around him, Whitney sees in him the possibility that a fling with the best man will revive her moribund love life, will finally let her relax and enjoy herself after years of self-imposed exile. Despite her ability to bring out the worst of the paparazzi, who remember her youthful escapades, Matthew too is attracted to Whitney. His thoughts about her are possessive and “rawr-raunchy.” Their attraction is woven into the myriad family members that Anderson has to introduce and it’s definitely an instance of insta-lust. Not Miss Bates’ favourite. Here are two serious, thoughtful people, concerned with how others see them, considering an affair in the midst of the wedding of brother and best friend. It was all kinds of sordid when there was nothing sordid about either character. Miss Bates had flummox #1.

Flummox #2 arrived with an early, earthy, quirky love scene, two actually. There’s a tie, there’s tying … and there are interactions of dominance and submission of the mildest variety. Really, your grandma could read this. Nevertheless, there was also an awkwardness, humour, and vulnerabilty to the scenes that Miss Bates thought was cool, or not. She wasn’t sure quite WHAT to make of all this. Two cautious, socially conscious people letting loose … and yet, their inexperience, or hesitation came through as well. It didn’t make sense, not until the novel’s last third. She remained ambivalent about it till then … when, frankly, she LOVED it.

We learn about Matthew and Whitney’s childhood, as they grow closer and talk to each about each other. Miss Bates’ sympathy for them grew. It didn’t have far to go for Whitney, but Matthew started to grow on her, especially when he machinates making sure that the paparazzi don’t hurt Whitney with excessive bulb flashes and indiscreet questions. He recognizes her vulnerability and begins to value what she’s accomplished with her life outside of the limelight. Matthew changes and this improves him and the novel simultaneously. Matthew’s problem has always been his notion that identity is fixed: what a Beaumont does and who he is and how he should conduct himself to erase his birth-taint (which is pretty silly in this day and age anyway), but it’s what Anderson does with him that recalled to Miss Bates her early novels. As with the Lawyers in Love series, Anderson shows how a character, in order to love and live a full life, must understand that identity is fluid: that who you were and are is always in the process of becoming. Part of Matthew’s realization must recognize that he loves Whitney. He must acknowledge and cement that love publicly to embrace and fulfil who he can be: better with her than without her. Cheers for redeemed Matthew (it was easy to cheer for Whitney from the get-go) and for a novel that was uneven, but interesting and enjoyable. Sarah M. Anderson’s A Beaumont Christmas Wedding, Miss Bates would say, is “almost pretty,” Northanger Abbey.

Anderson’s A Beaumont Christmas Wedding, published by Harlequin (Desire), has been available since November 4th in the usual formats at the usual vendors.

Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Sarah M. Anderson’s A BEAUMONT CHRISTMAS WEDDING, Or Flirting and Forgiveness

  1. So I haven’t read this post – or your last several – because I’m beginning to suspect that Miss Bates has hacked into the Bat Cave’s Kindle! We both obviously spend too much time trolling for category romances over at Netgalley 🙂

    Anyway – I never read reviews for books that are in the immediate TBR pile, so I’ve bookmarked them all and will hopefully, sometime soon, come back to read your reviews in full.

    I’ve, literally, just started this one. Have read the first chapter. I still need to read book 1, but book 2? Phillip and Jo’s story? Really, really good. Amazing that the author was able to tackle such meaty conflict (alcoholism) in the very short Desire word count. But I think she did an agreeable job of it. I First Look’ed it over at Heroes & Heartbreakers, and on the Wendy Scale rated it a B+, but it’s stuck with me so really I should probably consider bumping it up to an A-…..

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    • I had quite the belly-laugh over your comment because I think I have a few in the “immediate TBR” that you’ve reviewed and I’ve bookmarked at the Bat Cave. I think you’re my category-reading twin!! Yay, sistah! I can give up Netgalley in all kinds of ways, but there something about the category romance, the cover, the promise of it, that I just can’t resist.

      I read this very quickly and wrote about it very quickly … so I think my review is “reactive”, which is a type of review has its place. I call it the “regret review” because I may regret what I wrote, but I like to let it stand anyway. I may, in retrospect, really hate this, or I may go the other way and decide I judged it way too harshly. Time will tell, or as Hegel wrote, the “owl of Minerva flies at dusk.” The nature of the review beast is that we don’t have much time to incubate.

      We see quite a bit of Phillip and Jo and alcoholism comes up several times in interesting ways in this third book, so I’d be curious to read book 2. Matthew makes an “ass” of himself many many not-amusing ways and one of them is how he insults Phillip’s hard-won sobriety. I’ll be so interested to hear what you make of this category!

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      • So I’ve finished this! I had a mixed reaction to it. I liked the concept on paper – but I wanted less of Whitney’s klutziness and more baggage from her past (namely her substance abuse issues). Also I didn’t find the ending really….believable. Even if she was a disgraced teen idol who dropped out of sight, I can’t imagine her causing a stir like that, at that precise moment, at a wedding that by all accounts was chock full of rich famous celebrities. It would be like making a fuss over Debbie Gibson (or Tiffany or David Cassidy) when Beyonce (or Oprah or Mariah Carey) is in attendance – which I just couldn’t see happening.

        But I genuinely liked parts of it and actually laughed out loud a couple of times. Plus I liked that the author put some different spins on the conflict (the hero is uptight and wedding obsessed for a change instead of a high-strung heroine). But not “the best” of this author’s work IMHO. I agree with you – the first two Lawyers in Love books were fabulous, and also Phillip and Jo’s romance, which was great. I’ve read this series completely out of order, and still have the first book, Chadwick’s, in the Kindle TBR Pile of Doom.

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        • I think I liked the ending better than you did because I was so confused, not intrigued, confused, by the first half or so. I actually made a note that she turned the ubiquitous and annoying wedding planner heroine in contemporary romance on its head and that WAS kind of cool. His obsession with executing this perfect, fairytale wedding was hilarious in places. On the other hand, he was also so dominant and manly-man that it did make for “flummoxed” moments for me.

          I think we both thought uneven book, “mixed reaction” yes, most definitely!

          But the biggest laugh I got was from your mentioning of poor-whatever-happened-to David Cassidy, skinny-crush of my youth. Yes, you’re right: he might elicit some mild curiosity, maybe a vague nostalgic smile, but not much else. On the other hand, sometimes, with celebrities that implode (remember Winona Ryder? I thought of Lindsay Lohan for Whitney), the interest may spark, just not to the extent that it does at the end here. And I did enjoy the hero’s grovel, sentimental as it was. Whitney deserved it, she was a good egg.

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  2. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in avoiding lawyer protagonists, and in not being charmed by Julie James. My Spinster Hackles (and I come by them honestly, also being a Cat Lady), went up when I read your two points of bewilderment, so I won’t be reading this one. But I did enjoy your thoughtful review. Merry Christmas!

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    • And a merry merry Christmas to you too!!

      My two plot points … boy … did I wear all manner of forehead lines when I was reading them. I still have head-shaking moments over this romance. As for lawyer protagonists: there’s always something smarmy about them I can’t stand. Also, the suits … not a fan of the suit. 😉

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