REVIEW: When Sparks Fly by Sabrina Jeffries
Those who love A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens will love the subtle similarities in this lovely historical novella by Sabrina Jeffries, as well as a cameo appearance by “Charlie” as a young lad.
Ellie Bancroft hopes to never endure another Season in London ever again in her life. As the wealthiest heiress in north England, she is convinced that no man is interested in her as a woman. She just wants to go home to her father’s estate, where she can read and live a quiet life without being pursued for her hand in marriage, or her money.
On her way to her father’s home for Christmas, with her aunt, her cousins and their young friend, there is a carriage accident and inclement weather forces them to seek shelter with the reclusive Black Baron, Martin Thorncliff. Martin rescues Ellie’s aunt, who broke her leg in the accident, but he is not happy at all about having two women and four children as his guests for the holidays. His butler, Hugget, is ecstatic, though, and a great accomplice to the Black Baron’s guests, much to Martin’s frustration.
Martin makes a poor first impression on Ellie with his rude attitude and threats to the children. Ellie, on the other hand, surprises Martin with her gumption, never backing down from his abrasive behavior and he wonders why this heiress doesn’t act like the spoiled woman he expects. Can this scrooge be swayed by some adorable children and two women who see right through his bad tempered affectation as being unresolved grief over his brother’s death?
I love a story that starts off with a chaotic bunch of children, namely mischief-making boys, who test their cousin’s ability to settle them down and their host’s patience. Add in a grumpy scrooge-like Martin who is in desperate need of some happiness, a little girl he intimidates to tears and a young woman who knows how to put him in his place, as well as ask for what she really wants, and you have the perfect mix for love to grow into passion. Including a young Charles “Charlie” Dickens as a friend of the boys in a story with humbug in the dialogue and a scrooge-like character is a very cute twist. This novella also has a beauty and the beast undertone but these are only subtle similarities because the novella is original enough so that it’s not predictable.
I was confused by the short letters at the top of each chapter between Charlotte and Michael because these characters weren’t in this novella. I realized after researching the author’s website that it’s a common thread in THE SCHOOL FOR HEIRESSES series, but as a new reader to this series it puzzled me. The second time through the first few chapters, I found a reference to the letters and it made a bit more sense. Something simple like that can drive me to distraction to find out more, or make me curious enough to re-read to discover what I overlooked. Overall, WHEN SPARKS FLY reads easily as a standalone novella except for that one small detail, which won’t alter your enjoyment.
WHEN SPARKS FLY is the kind of character-driven story I prefer. I easily visualized every part of it as if it were an old movie in my head. The snow, the house, the greenery—it all came alive. Its nostalgic distinction adds a comfortable feel to the setting which made me want to visit Thorncliff Hall and the grounds. I loved the butler, too. No regency romance is complete without the snarky, all-knowing butler in my opinion.
Featuring great characterization and a creative plot, WHEN SPARKS FLY is an entertaining holiday novella that you’ll want to read multiple times. I particularly loved the conclusion—it’s charming and perfect!
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies. EBOOK provided by NetGalley.
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What’s on your TBR Mountain Range? Do you enjoy books that feature something from a classic story you’ve read like A CHRISTMAS CAROL?