Aubrey’s Ageless Romance Café
In this literary world, a handful of stories will stand the test of time. A modern classic novel holds the attention of every generation with a thoughtful plot, complex characters and a scene or two that lingers long after the final page.
These books will never be traded in at the paperback store or sold for a quarter at a garage sale. An ageless romance is passed on to your sister, then to her daughter who loans it to a friend. By the time it makes it back to your shelf, the pages are yellowed, earmarked and appreciated. And every so often, when you need to be reminded of the remarkable power of love, you dust off that old friend and peruse its pages again. These are the stories I want to share with you in Aubrey’s cafe.
By Johanna Lindsey
Published: 1998 Publisher: Avon Romance POV: Third person
Setting: England 1825 and a generation earlier
Johanna Lindsey fans will love this book. In fact, her dedication reads: to the many fans who love the Malorys as much as I do. This present is for you.
I will admit, I have not read many of Ms. Lindsey’s books. However, my sister and I have a tradition of buying a Christmas book each year in December. This story is a result of that tradition. This year, we pulled it out and read it again. That should tell you something about the quality of the story.
The Malorys, a title family and members of the ton, gather at Haverston, the ancestral estate, each year for Christmas. They are quite a crew. Handsome rakes now tamed by spirited women with beautiful children following in the footsteps of their parents. Except for the oldest brother of the family.
Jason fell in love with Molly thirty years earlier. Molly fell in love with Jason. Great, right? No. Jason is titled and Molly is a servant. She refuses to cross the social line and let him risk scandal. So he marries within his rank and is miserable. So the two continue their affair until the wife finds out. Ah, now the can be together. Nope.
The wife, also extremely unhappy, threatens scandal if she does NOT get a divorce. Jason happily signs the papers and assumes he will now sweep Molly off her feet. But Molly won’t budge. She insists the ton will never accept her so the marriage will not work. They continue their secret affair and even have a child who is accepted by the social realm.
Fast forward to the present. The son is grown, now knows about his parentage, yet Molly remains obstinate. As the family gathers for the holidays, a mysterious present appears on the mantle. It stirs curiosity. The family, bickering and experiencing underlying tensions, are distracted by the mystery. It turns out to be a journal written by the grandparents, second Marquis of Haverston and his wife.
Within the pages are the ruminations and confessions of Christopher Malory and his gypsy wife, Anastasia. The fact that the Marquis’ wife was not of proper birth remained a secret until the discovery of this journal. The love story that unfolds is unique, well told and very romantic. Their lives also run eerily parallel to Jason and Molly.
Johanna Lindsey writes a Christmas story of love, betrayal and family. As Anastasia says in her note to future generations, “To our children and their children and so forth… we leave this written record to you, to be read at your leisure, and with your own imagination lending it life… And I give you fair warning: If you have been led to believe that we are individuals that could do no wrong, then read no further. We are human after all, with all the faults, passions, and mistakes that humans are known for. Judge us not, but perhaps learn from our mistakes.”
While the story itself was outstanding, there were elements I did not care for. The dialogue occasionally threw me off with the improper grammar I did not expect from the upper crust. I am not used to the frequent use the word ain’t used. Some of the dialogue also seemed a little out of place. But these minor issues did not slow down my reading.
I have not read any of the previous books containing the Malory family. It did not hinder my understanding of the plot and the tale stood alone without previous background knowledge. Ms. Lindsey provided the reader with any information necessary to the plot.
The Present is a perfect read for the holidays. I loved the romance, strong but stubborn men and feisty, intelligent women. I loved the family dynamics and might pick up another book with these likeable characters. But the star of the novel is the couple from the journal. Anastasia, daring and desperate, is a perfect match for the obstinate yet passionate Christopher. I recommend this for all historical romance fans that believe the magic of Christmas.
I give The Present three and half mugs.