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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
A Magical Victorian Christmas by Michele Ashman Bell is a historical holiday romance novel about a young woman named Clara, and a Christmas that isn't turning out to be very merry at her North England home in York. As with most women in the Victorian era, Clara's sex dictates the narrow gender role she is meant to fill and her social position makes a proposal from a well-connected and wealthy Lord-Lieutenant impossible for her father to refuse. She is the breadwinner but he is still the head of household, and his own future comfort is only assured if he can hitch his wagon to Clara's shooting star. A handsome and talented German craftsman named Erik catches Clara's eye and a bond begins to form, but the situation is rattled by her obligations to her father and Erik's own obligations to his, even after a catastrophic event that initially appears to smooth a path in the aftermath of an entire community's heartbreak.
A Magical Victorian Christmas is a simple and relatively quick read with period details that Michele Ashman Bell has clearly researched. The setting is morally grounded and Bell zooms in on the birth of Christmas traditions that we recognize as normal today through the eyes of the Victorians, who are credited with transforming what was little more than a feast day into a fully-fledged season of revelry. The religious elements are heavy in the narrative but would not have been uncommon for the time, and I found the trinity of men who were really in control of Clara's life to be eerily similar to the Christian trinity that controlled all aspects of the era. Here though we have Clara's father, someone else's son, and a Lord who thought himself holier than all of thou. A massive plot twist halfway through the book softens some of the predictability of Clara's, Lord-Lieutenant Bradford's, and Erik‘s character arcs. That said, as far as cozy Christmas reads go, this is a rather nice one and very easy to recommend.