It's frosty December and six Cynster families come together at snowbound Casphairn Manor with members of their households to celebrate the season in true Cynster fashion -- and where Cynsters gather, love is never far behind.
The festive occasion brings together Daniel Crosbie, tutor to Alasdair (Lucifer) Cynster's sons, and Claire Meadows, widow and governess to Rupert (Gabriel) Cynster's daughter. Daniel and Claire have met before and the embers of an unexpected passion smolder between them.
However, Claire -- once bitten, twice shy -- believes a second marriage is not in her stars. Yet Daniel is determined. He's seen the kind of love the Cynsters share, and Claire is the lady with whom he dreams of sharing his life. Assisted by a bevy of Cynsters -- innate matchmakers every one -- Daniel strives to persuade Claire that trusting him with her hand and her heart is her right path to happiness.
Claire is increasingly drawn to Daniel and despite her misgivings, their relationship deepens. But then catastrophe strikes, and by winter's light, she learns that love -- true love -- is worth any risk, any price.
Excellent addition to the Cynster series, even though the main romance isn't between Cynsters, but two of their staff members. Daniel has long been drawn to Claire, but as a tutor whose charges are about to age out of his care, he hasn't felt in a position to support a wife. Just before Christmas, his employer asked him to stay on as his assistant in the antiquities business. This gives Daniel the impetus he needs to make his case to Claire. He's nervous because, while he believes his feelings are returned, he isn't positive.
Claire has sensed his feelings, and is not sure what to do. Her marriage was not the best, and left her not trusting men and what they say they want, nor her own feelings around them. Her mind tells her to say no to furthering their relationship, but her heart isn't listening.
I loved seeing the relationship develop between them. They had been friends before, as all the governesses and tutors are. Their exposure to the Cynsters, and seeing the obvious love among all the couples is a great example, and Daniel especially sees it as the model for what he wants. His first attempt to speak to Claire doesn't go that well, as she is spooked by her feelings. Her uncertainty leaves the door open for Daniel to do his best to persuade her. I loved the fact that he didn't just bulldoze over her fears, but addressed them, making her look at things in a different way. I loved seeing how his love helped her overcome them and see that happiness is possible for her after all.
One of the really fun things about the book was seeing the help that Daniel had along the way. He thought that he had hidden his feelings from others very well, but Cynsters are a remarkably observant family. I loved seeing the way that the group of teen girls, led by Louisa, made sure that both Daniel and Claire went on the green cutting expedition, and how the girls made it their mission to sneak some mistletoe into the mix. I loved seeing how they were helped along by the Dowager Duchess, and her interest in helping the couple. It was fun seeing how nervous Daniel and Claire were about telling their employers of their plans, and how stunned they were by what happened. The scene in the library was perfectly Cynster-like and I loved how it turned out.
Another main part of the book was the chance to get to know the next generation of Cynsters. The older kids, just reaching adulthood, were given the chance to show what they were made of during their Christmas Eve explorations. With it being their home turf, Lucilla and Marcus had the biggest roles to play. I especially enjoyed seeing Lucilla's actions during the crisis, and how her training as Lady-in-waiting was so critical. As with her parents' story, Scandal's Bride, the importance of the land around her is an integral part of who she is. The arrival of a neighbor to help foreshadows what looks to be in her future. I'm really looking forward to the next books in the series.