Advice columnist Patience Friendly's relationship with her publisher, Dougal MacHugh, is decidedly not friendly. The two almost always seem to be at odds over one thing or another, but that pales in comparison to her rivalry with a fellow columnist who she only knows as Professor Pennypacker. The two nearly always dole out opposite advice on virtually every topic. Now Dougal has challenged Patience to a holiday advice contest with Pennypacker that would require her to write daily instead of weekly columns. Although reluctant at first, Patience is a smart woman who sees the value in the extra money and exposure, so she agrees. Working almost day and night beside her handsome employer, polishing her responses to the letters they've received also has the effect of making her see new depths in Dougal that she'd missed before. Now the fiercely independent spinster just might find herself falling for him unless a big secret he's been harboring ruins their burgeoning relationship.
Patience for Christmas is a holiday-themed novella about a bluestocking advice columnist and her publisher. The two have historically been at odds with one another, but not nearly as much as she's been at odds with a competing advice columnist. Her publisher believes that he can exploit their rivalry to sell more newspapers if they publish daily columns, doling out wise counsel on all things Christmas for the two weeks leading up to the holiday. Together they work hard to complete the endeavor, while falling in love. But what will happen when she discovers his big secret?
Patience was born a well-bred lady, but her father was a profligate spender. Just as she was about to make a good match with a viscount with whom she thought she was in love, her suitor discovered that she had no inheritance and dropped her cold, leaving her reputation ruined. If not for the kindness of her grandmother, she would have had nothing, but luckily the old woman left Patience everything she owned, including a small townhouse. Patience didn't start out as a bluestocking, but the hardships she endured taught her that she couldn't rely on the men in her life for anything. So she vowed to do whatever it took to remain independent. The fiery spinster earns her living by writing an advice column as a character named Mrs. Horner, and Mrs. Horner's Corner has thus far been extremely well-received by the citizens of London. But three months earlier, a competing columnist named Professor Pennypacker emerged and has been her nemesis ever since. Now her publisher, Dougal MacHugh, with whom she's also usually at odds, wants her to answer letters daily throughout the holiday season in something of a back-and-forth exchange with Pennypacker. Knowing the extra funds will help greatly, she agrees, and as she works with Dougal almost day and night for two weeks, she finds that the man is a lot more likable than she originally thought and soon falls for him. I admired Patience's spunkiness and her willingness to stand up for herself. She isn't afraid to speak her mind and gives Dougal a run for his money, but at the same time she's kind and compassionate toward others and has the heart of an activist.
Scotsman Dougal is a former school teacher who used his inheritance to start a publishing house with dreams of someday printing educational books and materials at a low cost so that they can be accessible to everyone. Things didn't exactly go as planned, though. As it turns out, Mrs. Horner's Corner took off and is now the thing that makes him the most money, so he comes up with his scheme to sell even more papers over the holiday season. He genuinely admires Patience and seems to enjoy locking horns with her. I think he was starting to have deeper feelings for her before the story begins, but it's working closely with her on a daily basis that really solidifies those emotions. By the time Christmas comes, he's more than ready to propose, but there's a little matter of a big secret he's been keeping from her. Dougal is a man I admired for his ability to see and appreciate the value in a woman's mind. He views Patience as his equal, and when she finally confides her past to him, he's incensed on her behalf that the viscount would leave her like he did. I also thought that his dream was an admirable one, and I felt that with Patience by his side, he just might achieve it in the future.
Overall, Patience for Christmas was a fun, enjoyable novella. The supporting cast was very likable and Dougal's cat, George, was cute. I was amused by the advice columnist rivalry that had people buying broadsheets like gangbusters. I also enjoyed the meeting of the minds that occurs between Dougal and Patience, and how they gain a new respect for one another. Where I thought the story faltered a bit was in the romance itself. These two characters have an intellectual connection in spades, and I do love seeing that in a hero and heroine's relationship. However, it didn't fully translate into an emotional one. They're very matter-of-fact with each other about nearly everything to do with their romantic connection, including the decision to share a bed. Even the one love scene is IMHO rather bland and lacking genuine passion. Otherwise, though, I felt that the story was well-written. It was my first read by Grace Burrowes, and it was good enough to leave me open to trying more of her work in the future, but I do hope that she steps up the romance a bit more in her other stories. I read Patience for Christmas as a bonus novella in the back of Elizabeth Hoyt's latest release, Not the Duke's Darling, but it appears to have been originally published in the anthology, The Virtues of Christmas, and has also been released as a stand-alone ebook.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook