A war of wills ensues in this enjoyable romantic tale that is highly recommend for anyone who wants to get into the holiday spirit.

A chance meeting at Berry’s wine shop, a misunderstanding and Christmastide all come together to allow the most handsome Scot in London to give Lady Emily Picton the best Christmas gift ever: a marriage not of convenience, but of love.

The Holly and the Thistle is another charming seasonal romance by Regan Walker, this is a part of the Agents of the Crown series, but can be read as a standalone. I have actually read these out-of-order but that really doesn’t matter because, as always with Walker’s stories you’re more focused on the couple taking centre stage and their happily ever after.

William Stephan is in London for the Christmas season as directed by his father, if it was up to William he would still be in Scotland at his ship builders yard but while his father is still head of their clan, William must do as he is told. At least while in London he can see his old school friend Lord Ormand and his lovely wife, through his friend he is invited to a Christmas house party at the legendary Dowager Countess of Claremont – who is known for her match-making. On his way to the party he stops off at Berry’s Wine Shop to pick up one of the owners famous Brandy’s and while there he meets the most interesting woman he has ever known, mouth like a fish wife and a temper to match and yet she has the most alluring heather eyes, that instantly captures him. I love how he always associates this woman and her beautiful yes with his home.

It was her pale purple eyes that convinced him to head for the shelf where he’d seen the Portuguese wine. She might be a charwoman who hadn’t bathed in weeks, but those eyes were remarkable, the color of thistle blooming in the Highlands.

Emily is a widow and while on her way to the Christmas party hosted by her good friend, Muriel; the Dowager Countess of Claremont – who is by far one of the best character’s that have come out of Ms. Walker’s imagination – Emily stops of at Berry’s Wine Shop to buy Muriel a gift of her favourite tipple. Once there, she is soddened to the skin due to the down pour she has been caught in, she is cold, wet and her temper is on the fringes of exploding, which it does to the man she presumes is the shop assistant in Berry’s. She is not just disgruntled by the appalling weather but knowing that his house party is just another chance for Muriel to put her well known match-making skills to the test, and yet again try to find Emily another husband – which really is the last thing that she wants at this present time. Or maybe any time!

As much as she loves her good friend she rather wishes that the old Dowager would cease in her obsession with finding Emily a partner, but she will do as she always does and erect her icy wall and shoot down any man who decides to come near – That is until she meets a charming Scotsman.

As all the guests arrive at Lady Claremont’s, Emily and William are introduced – or like shoved together by Muriel and Emily is so embarrassed to find that this handsome Scot is the very man she thought was the sales assistant at Berry’s, the one she had behaved like a common fish wife to and this is the man who her friend is pushing her towards. At first Emily is appalled that her friend would want to pack her off to a Scotsman and off to the inhabitable highlands, but she soon realises that her best friend may be on to something where this handsome man is concerned.

“I enjoyed that—all the more for sharing it with you, leannan.” Emily was alarmed at this continued and increasing intimacy, and she rose to stand by the fire.
“What is that name you keep calling me?”
“Sweetheart.”
“Sweetheart? Really?” Emily nearly choked on the word. That was something a man called his wife.
“It’s the way I think of you, Emily.”

William knew that there was something about that heather-eyed woman and here she is shooting flaming arrows at him from those eyes as she finds out who he really is, as much as William as always thought that work comes first and that he isn’t ready for anything more than a quick dalliance, it is a case of love at first sight when he meet’s Emily. He knows that this is the woman that he wants to marry she is everything that he has been looking for, even though he didn’t realise he was looking for something – but here she is.

I really like how quickly he falls in love with her, despite knowing that his father wouldn’t approve of her due to her being English, William knows that Emily is the one for him and he doesn’t hold anything back while charming her. Emily amazes me that she holds him at bay for so long, how on earth can she resist him, like she does is a wonder to me, but his resilience and determination proves too much for our reluctant ice queen, eventually her barrier’s slowly lower and she begins to let him in to heart closely guarded heart. those moment when her defences are down, and his charm is at full throttle there are some really beautiful and tender moments between them. I especially like when they are watching the Mummers; a group of actors and other performers that put on a mini show for each household they visit in exchange for something to eat or maybe a few coins – those moments while William and Emily are watching them is so tender, she takes great pleasure in showing him their traditions and he takes pleasure in being with her.

Muriel yet again knows exactly what she is doing, she see’s that William and Emily are very good for each other and she ever so gently gives them the push that is needed. I love the Dowager Countess, she is the highlight of the Agent’s of the Crown Series, I particularly like when Emily talks to Muriel about this and the Countess reply’s that she just wants to see her happy, and this man can do that. I think that is a really lovely scene and shows just how much Muriel cares for Emily and for those around her and it’s yet another reason why I think this woman is such a prominent character in this series.

“I’m not in the market for a husband, Muriel, and well you know it.”
“Perhaps you should be. Men like William Stephen don’t arrive in London every day.”
“You would see me in Scotland?”
“I would see you happy, my dear,” said the countess, reaching out to pat Emily’s hand. “That man”—the countess’s gaze traveled to where William stood singing—“can make you happy.”

This is another highly romantic story, it’s tender and charming and full of Christmas cheer and as ever with Walker we are transported to another time because of her brilliant way with words and flawless historic detailing.

Yet again another winner in my eyes from Regain Walker, I cannot recommend this highly enough it is just perfect to read at Christmas. There is romance, lots of laughs sprinkled with some lovely festive traditions.

Definitely a must read!

You can purchased The Holly and the Thistle on Amazon.

2 thoughts on “Review – The Holly and the Thistle by Regan Walker

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