Joan had danced with Dante Hartwell and found him lacking many of the attributes she associated with a proper gentleman. He neither gossiped nor flattered nor took surreptitious liberties in triple meter.
In short, despite his many detractors—some called him Hard-Hearted Hartwell—she’d liked him.
Mr. Hartwell was honest, friendly, and kind, which to Joan was a significant improvement over handsome and charming.
One of the lessons we learn as we mature is that the pretty, shiny, eye-catching wrapping paper may not hide the gift we’ll treasure the most. Joan Flynn, from my new romance WHAT A LADY NEEDS FOR CHRISTMAS, can’t afford to be choosy—she needs a husband immediately—but she has sense enough to see that Dante Hartwell has a lot to recommend him, despite his plebian upbringing.
Joan knows what it’s like to be judged for her appearance and found lacking. She’s not beautiful in the eyes of most, or in her own eyes, and she tries to compensate by fashioning clothes that make her feel pretty. Dante can see past that, to her kindness with his children and his sister, to her family loyalty, to her honesty.
And yet, Dante is called hard-hearted by the aristocrats who seek to turn a profit by investing in his mills. He’s shrewd, and can afford to be generous only rarely when the livelihoods of hundreds rest in his hands. He’s hard working, even if that means he appears to be less of a gentleman.
Dante is also devoted to his children—he’s building not an empire for himself, but a more prosperous future for them—and yet that means from the outside looking in, he might be judged a distant or indifferent father.
Joan sees though, the children love their father, are secure in his affections, and delight in his company. She sees that Dante’s sister relies on him for everything, and that in his first marriage, Dante made the best of a difficult bargain—one most of Polite Society knows little about.
In short, Dante and Joan set aside what they’re expected to think of each other, and exchange the gift of making up their own minds about each other. Each gives the other the benefit of the doubt, each extends to the other good faith and good will.
Dante is not hard-hearted, he’s determined. He’s not miserly, he’s careful as a man should be when he’s known great want. He’s not a husband of convenience, but rather, when Joan takes the time to see the truth of him, he’s the very best possible gift she might have found under the Christmas tree!
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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.