I read this book with a smile on my face from beginning to end. Playful and sweet with undertones of maturity and seriousness, this is a lovely romance to bring alive the magic of Christmas. Unlike some Christmas romances, Royal Holiday doesn’t descend into schmaltziness with mawkish grand gestures. It retains the integrity of story with the genuine emotions of two adults in their fifties finding a second chance at friendship and love.
Vivian Forest is a dedicated social worker in Oakland, CA. She loves working with patients and enabling the people she comes in contact with find solutions to better lives for themselves. On a whim, her daughter pushes Vivian to take a break from all her hard work to travel with her to England, where she’s doing to be a dresser for the holidays for one of the royal duchesses at Sandringham, the home of the Queen of England. Never one for impulsiveness, she delights herself in throwing caution to the winds and traveling to England.
Malcom Hudson is the first black private secretary to the Queen, a position he is proud of and has worked hard to achieve and maintain. But lately, he has found himself feeling slightly bored and restless despite the unceasing work, which he enjoys. His sister and nephew fill his need for family, but there is still a void in him that he is unsure how to fill.
And then he lays eyes on Vivian at Sandringham and he finds himself instantly charmed. She carries herself with a refreshing forthrightness, a strong joyful sense of self, and an easy acceptance of those around her. She, in turn, is fascinated with this man with kind eyes and instant smiles, who goes out of his way to be considerate to everyone he meets and is so solicitous of her.
Vivian and Malcom spend many hours together over the next few days discovering common ground and each other’s personalities. Attraction simmers between them and their enchantment with each other deepens even as they ride horses and exchange quaintly formal notes by footmen.
And through it all, they laugh a lot. Laughter has a way of binding people together like nothing else. Attraction most definitely, but deep friendship, a meeting of souls, makes for a lasting connection, which they discover much to their surprise. That it happens so quickly to people of their age is cause for a lot of bemusement, but I liked that they give their affair their all, willing to live day by day. Guillory has them seize a chance at happiness, no matter how short, with both hands and hold on in trust and enjoyment. That this is a departure from their otherwise socially cautious selves is another indication as to the seriousness of their involvement.
I enjoyed reading how their respective careers come to play in bringing joy and understanding to each other. Their jobs are not window-dressing but essential to who they are and their worldview. At the end, like I said at the top, there are no grand gestures where one person sacrifices all for mutual harmony. Like two adults who have built successful lives with which they are happy, they discover ways to be together that are satisfying. That they are together isn’t in doubt, but their life together is unique and complex just like themselves, and they make it work lovingly and respectfully.
Whether you like Christmas stories or not, this is one book you will want to pick up and enjoy.