I've always been a fan of Louise Allen and I picked this up when I had the urge to read something Christmassy. The story is about Hester Lattimer, who has arrived in a sleepy English village hoping to escape a scandal. She has a small inheritance, which she used to buy the beautiful if slightly decayed Moon House and sets about trying to establish herself as a respectable single woman, with the aid of a timid ex-governess as her companion, a rescued waif with ambitions to be a butler and her maid. This is slightly hampered by the deliciously dashing Earl of Buckland setting up house directly opposite, setting village tongues wagging.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, because as well as the historical romance, there is also a bit of a mystery, both about Hester's 'scandal', threatening to derail her friendship with the Earl, and Moon House itself, which has not been lived in for many years and might possibly be haunted. Is the Earl's interest in Hester only a sham, to hide his interest in buying the house for himself? And what of the mysterious dead roses, appearing throughout the house?
The story is firmly set in winter, leading up to Christmas, although not overly festive. I loved the light humour and the characters - Hester, determined to be independent and not rely on a handsome man to save her; Jethroe, saved from the slums with ambitions to become the best butler ever; even nervous Miss Prudhome, the companion, determined to do her job and 'save' Hester from the advances of the Earl, even though she doesn't particularly want saving!
This is a well-researched, very entertaining Mills & Boon historical romance with a bit of a mystery and the occasional sex scene, and would definitely appeal to fans of the genre. Recommended!