What a Lady Needs for Christmas

Written by Grace Burrowes
Review by Liz Allenby

What a Lady Needs for Christmas is set in late 19th-century Scotland. The Yuletide holidays provide a challenge for Lady Joan Flynn, who has a talent for designing elegant clothes. On her train ride from Edinburgh to Ballater to join her brother and other family for Christmas, Joan encounters mill owner Dante Hartwell and his children. She is recovering from an ill-advised encounter the evening previous with another designer named Edward Valmonte, an elite member of Edinburgh society. Finding Dante Hartwell pleasant company, she divulges her shameful error, and he tells her about his wife’s death and his business running the mills. She also shares her fears she may have gotten pregnant by her encounter with Valmonte, news that Dante understands. Upon their arrival at the country house, their fondness becomes desire. Yet she realizes she has left her design sketches with Valmonte. A conflict ensues when Edward Valmonte contacts Lady Flynn and threatens to ruin her reputation should she not provide him with even more sketches, threatening to ruin her love for Dante and her position in society.

The reader will savor this novel among the candles and mistletoe of the holidays, a crackling fire nearby. Grace Burrowes sets an elegant stage set with descriptions of clothing, textiles, and the social graces of the late Victorian age. She also shows the reader the situation a highbred spinster could find herself in during the age when women were subject to the restrictions of class structure. Burrowes begins with a love story, but her well-defined setting and period details broaden and deepen her tale. The reader comes away with a better understanding of the challenges a single woman faced in the late 1800s.