Review: 'Royal Holiday,' By JasJasmine Guillory's new novel follows 54-year-old Vivian on a vacation across the Atlantic with her daughter. When Vivian meets the man of her dreams in England, can she keep love alive at home?
New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory is back with a fourth novel, Royal Holiday — a sweet, sexy story about two people who are perfect for each other. (Even though perfection can sometimes get in the way when love is on the line.)
Royal Holiday's charming, incredibly likable main characters meet during a Christmas vacation and share an instant attraction — but they live 5000 miles apart. We already know they're perfect for each other, so the question becomes, can they make room in their lives for a happy ever after?
Guillory's characters begin the novel with their eyes seemingly wide open. Or so they think. Accomplished professionals, each is single by choice and has strong, loving — but not conflict-free — family relationships. They are also both over 50, and neither has deprived themselves of life's better things. No doubt each would claim to be satisfied with who they are and what they have — right up until the Christmas trip that changes everything.
Vivian Forest is a 54-year-old social worker who typically celebrates the holidays with her sister and her children in California. This year, however, her daughter, Maddie (the heroine of Guillory's The Wedding Party), convinces her mother to take a break from routine for an adventure on the other side of the Atlantic. Maddie is a stylist, and she's scored a dream gig: working for "the Duchess." So she brings her mother along.
I should note here that the Queen, the Duke, and the Duchess in Royal Holiday are identified by titles only — no proper names used! But between tours of Buckingham Palace, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and an introduction to the Queen herself, it doesn't take much imagination to fill in the blanks. I know I did.
Meanwhile, although she's thrilled to spend the holidays with her daughter in England, Vivian still feels out of place. She isn't accustomed to cottages that look like mansions, or servants waiting on her hand and foot. But the Duchess turns out to be down-to-earth, friendly, and a gracious host – which helps Vivian get over her worries about relaxing around royalty.
Left to fend for herself while Maddie works with the Duchess, Vivian finds a friend in head chef Julia and starts spending time in the kitchen, scarfing down tea and Julia's homemade scones with clotted cream and jam. Then, Mr. Malcolm Hudson walks in.
Now seriously — and I mean seriously — what could be more seductive than meeting a tall, handsome, British gentlemen (can you hear the accent?), who's your age, and a private secretary to the Queen? On your first day of vacation? And he appears to be as attracted to you as you are to him? Surprise!
Vivian doesn't like surprises, but I, on the other hand, was in love with Malcolm by the end of page 10. He's a handsome black man with a British accent — distinguished, well-respected, and admired by those who work with him and for him. (I kept envisioning a slightly older Idris Elba.) He also is visibly delighted when Vivian agrees to join him on the first of a series of perfect dates.
Guillory doesn't back away from giving us Vivian's full, complicated reaction to these outings: We feel her chills during a leisurely tour of the Sandringham estate, as well as her trepidation while visiting the Queen's stables (and Polly, the horse). Guillory's knack for details puts us firmly in Vivian's shoes (and her thoughts) so we can relate to the comfortable attraction and ease of communication she feels with Malcolm. As they grow closer, we believe every smile and grin shared between them — and there are quite a few smiles and grins to pass around.
Now, if this romance sounds too perfect, a warning: Guillory doesn't make the journey to love easy. Malcolm's nephew causes some problems, as does Vivian's habit of keeping her personal life a secret from her daughter. Still, Guillory keeps her story's focus on the fun, which makes for a breezy, relaxing read.
From delicious homemade scones to footmen delivering handwritten notes, Jasmine Guillory's Royal Holiday and its charming tale of love over 50 is a shining jewel worthy of a queen's crown.
Denny S. Bryce writes historical fiction and urban fantasy. Her first novel, Wild Women and the Blues, is set for release in 2021. You can follow her on Twitter: @dennysbryce.