by Barbara Metzger
The Duke of Ware needs an heir. At thirty-two, Leland Warrington, Duke of Ware is already twice a widower and he still has no heir. Lamenting his fate with a friend one evening, while drinking enough liquid courage to beard Almacks, Ware mentions that his cousin Tony left behind a widow and twin boys. His friend suggest that Leland write the widow and offer to take one of the boys off of her hands. Leland doesn't take the suggestion seriously, but after returning from Almacks he pens a note to the widow while in a drunken haze. Unfortunately for Ware, his ever efficient staff posts the letter before he can rethink his actions.
In the light of day and a sober frame of mind, Leland had never meant to send the letter, but, since the damage is done, his first order of business is to apologize to Graceanne. He barely has a chance to settle in before he is confronted by a virago who is more dangerous to his person than a mother bear protecting her offspring.
Leland does make his apology and is reluctantly allowed to meet the twins who immediately destroy the tassels on his best pair of boots, break his grandfather's watch, and get jam prints all over his pristine shirt. Leland takes it all in stride. Everyone in the village, along with Graceanne's family, are terrified of the mischievous twins – everyone that is except for the Duke of Ware. He is enchanted by them as well as by their mother, and the days fly by. All too soon though, Christmas is over and Graceanne and Leland part company. When the two meet again misunderstandings abound and it will take all of the magic of the Christmas season to bring them together again.
Barbara Metzger's sense of humor is the reason Father Christmas is one of my favorite holiday Regencies. The twins are very lively, very precocious boys who have a knack for mischief. Ms. Metzger could have described all of the boys' antics, instead she brilliantly throws out fabulous one liners from Leland's butler like, ”I believe Monsieur Henri has just tendered his resignation, Your Grace. Will that be all?” referring to the loud crash that has just occurred somewhere in the house, and lets the reader use her imagination as to what the twins have done, making the story that much funnier.
While the story spans a year, and not all of it occurs at Christmas, the best parts do. The secondary storyline that occurs between Christmas seasons shows us how Leland and Graceanne spent their time apart, and provides the catalyst for their second meeting, which is just as estranged as their first one was. Luckily Father Christmas was reissued in a two-volume edition in 2004 (along with Christmas Wishes) so it should be easy to find in a used bookstore.
“He needed an heir and she had one to spare, but he will have to give her his heart first.”
November 1995, 215 pages
A war hero's widow had few pleasures, especially when she was living under the miserly auspices of a stern father. But Graceanne had her beautiful three-year-old twin boys and that was joy enough. Therefore she was shocked by the audacity of the Duke of Ware, who decided he could help himself to one of her babies. He needed an heir and she had a boy to spare. It was appalling! And she told him so with a swift kick to his manly pride. But it was Christmas, after all, and 'tis the season of forgiveness. The gentleman was a charming rake to be sure, but there was no chance of his claiming her child – or her heart, though she was certain he was conspiring for both ….