Alfie Hope’s life is perfect. Managing Darley Hall for an employer who hasn’t visited the house in five years. It’s more than a job, it’s his home. A safe haven for him and the staff he considers family. That is, until their master passes away and a new master inherits. A new master who wants to live in the house.
Jolyon Mortimer Devereaux was stunned when he inherited Darley Hall. It offered an escape from his life, his lover, and his awful family. He arrives to find an estate manager who is outrageously handsome in a gentle, yet rugged way, but someone who clearly has never been a servant in his life!
Alfie and Jo grow tentatively closer. That is until a shock Christmas arrival blows everything wide apart, leaving Alfie and Jo struggling to hold on to their love. It will take a Christmas miracle to hold them together.
Alfie was huddled by the fire, both hands around a mug, stockinged feet stretched out in front of him, trying to wake up. He wanted to close his eyes and go back to sleep but they had someone to see to now, and they needed to go back to proper servants’ hours. It was damned murder, particularly in the dead of winter when it was freezing cold and dark. Kate was pottering about the kitchen getting things ready, Robbie was dozing in the chair in the corner, Maisie was sat in the chair opposite in an attitude much like his own. Even the dogs had crept right up to the fire. The larger of the two, Horace, his beloved, elderly, shaggy hound of indeterminate parentage, and prone to the most abominable wind, snored softly so close to the fire it was a wonder he didn’t singe his fur. Potts, a much smaller terrier, tucked in close beside Horace, kept one eye on them all as he dozed, one paw on the hearth, ready to pounce at the slightest hint of food. They’d taken him in not that long ago, and he still behaved as though he was on the verge of starvation when food was in the offing.
“Inconvenient this, Alfie,” Maisie said, taking a long drink.
“Too right,” Alfie said on a huge yawn.
A clattering of footsteps announced Jess who came through the door like a whirlwind. “He’s awake and he’d like some coffee.”
Kate smiled. “Righto, I’ll get on with it now. Does he want anything to eat?”
“I don’t think he’s very well.”
That got everyone’s attention. “In what way?” Alfie asked.
“Well, he looks like death for a start, he’s so pale, and the light seemed to hurt his eyes. I moved the candles away a bit and he was awful grateful. He kept squinting and pinching between his eyes.” Jess demonstrated. “Like that.”
“Headache,” Alfie pronounced, his suspicions confirmed. He’d seen the man wince when he shook his head yesterday and had wondered.
Jess nodded sagely. “I reckon so. I asked if he wanted a powder, but he said no.”
Robbie stirred from his corner. “With a bit of luck, he might not last long,” he murmured around a yawn.
“Robbie!” Alfie gave him a glare.
“What? If he popped off, we could get back to normal.”
“If he popped off, as you so nicely put it, another one would come along to take his place. This one seems to be reasonable. He’s not high in the instep, not demanding, so we might need to make the best of it. The last thing we’d want is a stuffy, up his own arse lordship demanding things and bringing loads of servants with him. I thought we agreed this yesterday.”
Robbie nodded. “Fair point.”
“So, we need to look after him. See if we can get him to see things our way.”
“See things our way?” Maisie said on a laugh. “Do you honestly think that’s possible?”
“You never know.”
I didn’t read the first three books in this series, and that wasn’t an issue…although I will say, I definitely want to go back and read book 3, and book 2, possibly as well. Okay, maybe all of them. 🙂 The point is, this was definitely stand-alone, with just a few small appearances by characters from the previous books in the series.
What a beautiful story. Alfie built himself a little family, giving of himself so selflessly, so that their family could stay together…a gay couple, a lesbian couple, a trans young man. Along comes a new master, after an unexpected inheritance, and everyone is understandably on edge.
Jo, meanwhile, did not have the easiest life prior to coming to Winsford Green, yet it was important to him to treat everyone with respect and dignity, even down to the dogs living on the estate. (I loved that he bonded instantly with the dog that up until that point had been a challenge.) He was a man worth Alfie, without a doubt.
The Christmas miracle…came right at the right time…as I was wondering, in the back of my mind, how everything would work out for Jo and Alfie’s future. The parson didn’t even bat an eye, and found himself somewhat of a confidante.
This was exactly what you want in a holiday book. Lots of love, both romantic and familial, a future ahead of them that included even more love and joy. And dogs…there were dogs. 🙂
Definitely recommend. 4 pieces of eye candy
Ruby Moone lives in the wilds of Lancashire with her husband and writes historical and contemporary romance. At school, her teachers said that she lived with her head in the clouds and if she didn’t stop daydreaming she would never get anywhere. She never did stop daydreaming, and after years of happily living in the clouds, decided to write the stories down.
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