Review of “Christmas at Thorncliff Manor” (Secrets at Thorncliff Manor #4) by Sophie Barnes

Barnes, Sophie. Christmas at Thorncliff Manor. [United States]: Sophie Barnes, 2017. ISBN-13: 9781974253029. $10.59 USD. 

4 stars

It was a massive disappointment that Avon had chosen to discontinue the Secrets at Thorncliff Manor due to poor sales, and as a result, we might never know if the stories of the four unmarried Heartly sisters could have led to a Bridgerton-length series, or perhaps just one more book to wrap up the mystery, as was the case here. And while, upon reading the blurb, I approached the concept of a 277-page novel covering four love stories with some skepticism, I felt it worked in this case, resolving at three of the more minor threads following Emily and Charles, Earl of Montsmouth, Laura and Milton, Duke of Lamont, and Rachel and Arthur, Viscount Belgrave, with just enough drama to be interesting, while focusing the story on the progress of the romance from friends to lovers between Fiona and the Edward, Earl of Chadwick.

As a result of all these pairings, this is not for a newcomer to the series, and I found that, even though I had read the prior books, I had to write it all down to keep track, as the four other sisters weren’t all that memorable. And in traditional Barnes style, this isn’t a steamy read either, with only one brief sex scene occurring almost at the end after Fiona and Edward are married. However, this means there is a greater focus on what I fell in love with historical romance for, like the old-fashioned concept of courtship.

Aside from the difficulty keeping track of the characters, the issue of age comes up constantly, way more than I felt it should have. It is something to consider in the case of Laura and Lamont, as they are almost twenty years apart in age, and within at least a decade, he could be facing health issues. But some of the other characters talking about the age difference between like twenty and thirty constantly got a little annoying, especially considering that it was common for men to marry a bit later in this time period, even if women were expected to marry a little younger, and most of the heroes within historical romance published today are at least pushing thirty.

Despite these flaws, if you are a lover of Sophie Barnes’ work, and the Thorncliff Manor series in particular, this is something I would still recommend.

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