Book Review: Masters in This Hall

Masters in This Hall
K.J. Charles, 2022

After watching so many Hallmark movies this year, I was beginning to forget that humans feel any emotion stronger than the desire for a single chaste kiss. Happily, one of my favorite romance authors came to the rescue with a surprise new holiday novella!

This is technically part of her Lilywhite Boys series, but it easily stands alone. The series generally features criminals and detectives plotting schemes and romance in late-Victorian era London. In keeping with the theme, the main character in this novella is hotel detective John Garland, recently fired from his job due to a major robbery occurring on his watch. The man he suspects of the crime has been hired to run a grand week-long Christmas party at his wealthy uncle's estate, so John turns up to try to defeat any further skullduggery. 

Of course, he is also desperately attracted to the man, but that should be neither here nor there...

The story proceeds apace in Charles's best style, featuring plenty of sexual tension, suspicions, action, secrets, and reveals. I love her work because the romance always comes with an exciting mystery or caper or adventure alongside it. The romance, as usual, is quite passionate as well as loving.

The setting for the story is a grand Christmas party, and it's specifically a reconstruction of a medieval Christmas celebration as attempted by some history enthusiasts in 1899. That includes historical foods and lots of them, an attempt at a mummers play, and lots of old carols, described delightfully as those that "reeked of ancient madrigals, the ones that made you imagine snow and wolves out there in the darkness, kept off by fire and song." 

It's still a romance at heart, so you know John and his sweetheart Barnaby will make it out okay; the fun part is being along for the madcap ride. I think this is a charming holiday treat for romance fans.