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A Christmas Baby Reviews

Romance Reader At Heart's THOUGHTS AND PONDERINGS:Top Pick AwardWow! 

A CHRISTMAS BABY is, quite simply, terrific...

With a sensational romantic couple, gobs of humor, some touching moments, and loads of sizzling sexual tension (I'll never forget the tree scene), A CHRISTMAS BABY sparkles with a warmth that's impossible to resist.

This story, the fourth in Ms. Blair's Rogue series, oozes charm with a romantic pair I quickly dubbed the "dynamic duo". Ashford Blackburne, the Earl of Blackburne, and Larkin McAdams, the daughter of a sleazy tavern owner, might be social worlds apart but this couple connects on all levels.

Ash and Larkin are the heart and soul of this fast-paced story. Boldly sketched, these two vivid characters are magnetic together. Ash is great hero material. His lazy, roguish charm combined with his patience and kindness toward Larkin packs quite a potent punch. Larkin, a marvelously complex character, is Ash's equal in the punch department. Despite her lowly origins, this former pickpocket is gentle, hopelessly innocent and decidedly feisty.

From the hilarious opening scenes to the touching conclusion, A CHRISTMAS BABY lures you in and never lets go. This story has a Cinderella quality that captivated me.

A fascinating couple. A delicious romance.

I look forward to Myles and Hunter's (the last two unattached rogues) stories.   Debbie Jett

HISTORICAL ROMANCE CLUB

Review rating:

December 2004 HRC Monthly Selection:
A Christmas Baby by Annette Blair
Published: October 2004
 

  
Ash, the fifth earl of Blackburne is desperate. If he does not take a bride soon and get her with child by Christmas, he could loose everything, including the estate which has been in his family for generations, which he has worked so hard to keep. But how can a handsome rogue like him even get his hands on a bride, when every lady of worth knows his predicament and will having nothing to do with him? And now he has been twice jilted at the alter, a sorry state for a man who has spent years seducing women and yet cannot seem to entice a one to marry him. 

Despondent, he and his friends take to the Pickled Barrel, a pub he has frequented for years, to become as drunk as a lord. When suddenly he finds himself marrying the owner's hoyden of daughter at gunpoint. Not that he can tell if she's male or female beneath all that filth, sailor talk, and the smell! Ash is now married to a gutter rat of a bride. But a woman is a woman, and all he has to do is close his eyes, hold his breath and do his duty. How hard can that be?

Larkin Rose McAdams has dreamt about the rogue ever since she was a little girl. In fact, she has been in love with him for her entire twenty-two years. Which explains why she is shocked when her father offers her as the consolation prize if Ash loses the game. He loses, and suddenly she finds herself marrying him against her will, though he will never know of the deception on her part to loose his hand. And though this is what she has always wanted, she is terrified her duty as a wife. After she saw what her sister went through, she is determined not to let any man touch her, including the man of her dreams, no matter what he says.

 

After a battle in the bath tub, Ash is shocked to discover that his termagant bride is actually beautiful beneath all that grim. So much so, he will have no problems getting her with child. But when he goes to her chamber on their wedding night, it is to find his hoyden of a wife holding him at gunpoint. Disbelieving that she would actually shoot her own husband, he tries to persuade her into giving herself to him, only to find himself shot in the arse. Ash suddenly realizes that his young wife may need a little wooing before he can finally plant his seed. But with time running out, he must get her with child or loose all he has worked so hard for.

 

Lark never dreamed she would find a husband of her own, let alone the man she has secretly wanted all these years. Soon she learns, that like herself, he is a wounded soul, with a kindness and generosity which touches her in ways she never thought possible. And then she discovers just what it is like to be loved by a rogue. Only to realize she is losing her heart to him. How can she possibly be the wife he needs when she was raised in the gutters? How can she even think she could be the mother of his children, or the countess of Blackburne when she doesn't even now how to read, or write or act a lady? And how can she ever hope for him to love her in return, when she has deceived him so terribly?

A Christmas Baby is a charming, witty story which will fill your heart with joy. From the moment I read Annette Blair's first novel, An Unmistakable Rogue, I knew she had talent. But this book proves she has the ability to make her star shine, rising high with those other very talented romance authors. A Christmas Baby is a brilliant piece of work, with characters who are real and enchanting, and heart warming ending that will make your smile through your tears. A keeper!

Huntress Reviews

A Christmas Baby, Annette Blair

  Ashford "Ash" Blackburne, Fifth Earl of Blackburne, wanted nothing more than to clear all his debts (and his late father's) and save Blackburne Chase, the family estate. To do so, he must bow to his grandfather's will. (Grandfather is alive in this story.) By Christmas, Ash must have married and his wife must be pregnant with his first child. Otherwise, Ash will lose everything. If Ash succeeds, his grandfather will go ahead and give a huge amount of cash up front, to pay all debts. The story begins in March, 1818. Ash has nine months. So disgusted with the situation, Ash cares not where he plants his seed. An innkeeper offers him a game of chance. If Ash wins, he gets to own the inn. If Ash loses, he must pay a cash price; however, as a consolation prize, Ash would get to wed his daughter. Either way, Ash wins.

Ash had no idea what he was getting himself into when he accepted the game. He lost the game and found himself marrying the innkeeper's daughter at gunpoint. She looked and smelled something AWFUL! Once he got her to the estate, cleaning her was a fight to the death - almost. He seceded at getting her clean, but when he tried to consummate the marriage with the she-cat, she shot him in the butt!  

Larkin "Lark" Rose McAdams was furious at her situation! Yet, decided it could work. After all, she had been fond of the earl for several years already and if she did what he wanted he might agree to let her bring Micah, her deceased sister's son, to live with them. But Micah was not the only surprise for the new couple. By Christmas, their house will swell with people and the newly married couple will teach each other the true meaning of Love.  

*****OMG! This story could not possibly have been any better! I could not stop myself from reading AT ALL. I read the entire thing in a single day. Yes, it is THAT good. This story is not one to be missed! BRAVA!*****  HUNTRESS REVIEWS, Detra Fitch

Rakehell

A Christmas Baby,  by Annette Blair, reviewed by Cybil Solyn

A Christmas Baby is just what I needed to put me in the mood for Christmas. Ashford "Ash" Edward Blackburne, Fifth Earl of Blackburne hasn't had much luck inheriting his grandfather's wealth. All he has to do is marry and conceive a child by Christmas, but after two, yes TWO, jilts he's at his wit's end. With only nine months left to find a bride and get her with child he's running out of time. He may not be a rich man, but he's titled, attractive, and caring (ask any of his tenants) so why can't he seem to land a wife?

Lark is the lowly daughter of the man who owns the local pub. She has had a crush on Blackburne since the moment he kissed her knee all better when she was a little girl. Now a grown woman posing as a boy she sees an opportunity to make all her dreams come true. Her wily old father has wagered with a VERY drunk Ash. If Ash wins their game of cards he can have the tavern and all the wealth that goes with it, but if he doesn't he will pay 2,000 pounds and marry his guttersnipe daughter. Lark with her skill as a pickpocket makes sure that Ash's destiny is to lose and marry her.

Although this book is part of a series of "Rogue" books it stands alone just fine. It may whet your appetite to go pick up the rest of the series, but you can easily love all the characters without reading the other novels. And love this book I did! A Christmas Baby had it all, a chick-in-pants, a loving family, incredibly sensual sex, and two characters who don't tamp down their fiery natures to have an "easy" marriage. Their relationship drives the book along and will keep you laughing.

A Christmas Baby is a novel about transformations. There is the obvious physical transformation of trying to get big with child, but most of the transformations are emotional. Lark needs to learn to not only become a lady, but to let go pf a traumatic event in her past that has made her afraid of men. Ash needs to learn to grow up and seek forgiveness for the mistakes he made in his youth. And Ash's family needs to learn to trust and love one another.

Blair integrated this overall theme seamlessly throughout this complex novel and into the secondary plot lines; from Ash explaining to Lark that women are supposed to bleed once a month, and with that knowledge shedding new light on Lark's past assumptions, to Lark taking in Ash's bastard daughter and treating her like her own. This book weaves a tale of making the best out of any situation, which is a common thread that all the characters in Blair's novel share.

What I liked most is that although the theme of transformation is prevalent throughout the book, it's never mired down by it. Blair keeps a story that deals with potentially dark themes light and fun, and then ties it all up with an inspiring Christmas house party and an early birth.

Bottom Line: A Christmas Baby will tug at all the right heart strings and leave you decorating the house early for Christmas. It might even have you adding her other Rogue books to your Christmas wishlist!

NEW & PREVIOUSLY OWNED BOOKS

Zebra
October 2004

Ashford Blackburne, Fifth Earl of Blackburne, needs a wife and baby before the year's end in order to come into his inheritance. Ash was jilted six years ago because he wasn’t rich enough for his intended. Since the time is running out on his grandfather’s ultimatum, Ash hires an actress to marry him, but she takes the money he gives her and leaves him standing at the altar. Ash and his drinking buddies, Miles Quartermaine and Hunter Wylder, the Marquess of Wyldborne, repair to the Pickled Barrel Inn to commiserate on this second wedding fiasco. They are all pretty much in their cups when Ash decides he wants to buy the pub from McAdams. The owner isn’t disposed to sell, but agrees to play cards for his establishment (with a marked deck, of course). If Ash wins, he gets the pub; if he loses he owes McAdams one thousand gold guineas, but McAdams will throw in his beautiful daughter for a wife as a consolation.

Lark McAdams thinks that Ash is the most wonderful, gallant man she has ever seen. Even though she wants to escape her father, she can’t stand the thought of him cheating her hero. However, when push comes to shove, and it looks like Ash might actually win the crooked card game, she accidentally knocks his cards on the floor and replaces his aces with lower cards. Lark is only doing this to save her seven-year-old nephew, Micah, who is in a foster home with nothing but one blanket and a few crusts of bread. Ash, of course, loses, and his “beautiful bride” is a filthy guttersnipe who stinks to high heaven. But with guns pointed at his head should he refuse to marry, and a priest standing by to wed the couple, he has no choice. He takes Lark to his country estate and cleans her up, and much to his surprise she really is a beauty. He only has to persuade her to consummate the marriage immediately so that by Christmas she will be pregnant.

A CHRISTMAS BABY, the fourth “Rogue” episode, is truly a delight. Ash only wants to keep the estate for his mother, whom the grandfather has threatened to kick out if Ash does not meet his demands for a marriage and heir. Lark is perfect for Ash, in all ways. Her respect for him changes Ash from an immature rogue into a man worthy of his title and her love. Their marriage might start out on the wrong foot, but develops into a beautiful story. 

Contrary to a review from a well-known magazine, there is no hint of rape, as Annette Blair has too much class and talent to introduce an inflammatory subject like that. My only disapproval of this story is the seasonal title. I highly recommend this clever, heartwarming, and most excellent story.  Betty Cox - Reader To Reader

ROMANCE REVIEWS TODAY

A CHRISTMAS BABY – Annette Blair
Zebra, ISBN: 0-8217-7769-6, October 2004
Historical Romance, London, England 1818

Ashford Blackburne, Fifth Earl of Blackburne must marry and sire a babe before Christmas if he’s to inherit from his grandfather. He will marry and do his best to beget a child to save the family estate Blackburne Chase, for his mother, and he doesn’t care who the bride is. He’s hired an actress to meet him at the altar, but for the second time he’s been jilted. He and two of his rogue friends are commiserating at The Pickled Pigsty, a seedy little pub, and they are all totally deep in their cups. Ash is so drunk, he willingly agrees to participate in a hand of cards, with a bet that will not be in his favor whether he wins or loses. If he wins, he gets the pub; however, if he loses, the owner of the pub gets a thousand gold guineas and Ash gets the owner’s daughter, Larkin for his wife.

Her father calls her Arky and she is a smelly, filthy little sprite in boy’s clothing who has worshiped Ash from afar for as long as she can remember. Larkin knows her father is a cheat and his cards are marked; even so, she is going to make sure Ash loses the game so she can marry him. Oh, boy! This is anything but a match made in heaven <grin>. But all three whiskey-soaked brains of the rogues believe it’s a win-win situation and proceed to play out the hand. Larkin might be a pickpocket and dirty as a guttersnipe, but she still has feelings. So, when the rogues begin ridiculing her, she literally fights back, giving Ash a black eye to remember her by. Their wedding night isn’t much better either as she shoots him right in the ‘arse’ when he tries to consummate their marriage. This is just the beginning of a novel filled with humor and compassion.

Annette Blair gives her characters warmth and personality, making  A CHRISTMAS BABY a true delight. It’s full of sensuality with some really steamy scenes, features strong men and women, and allows readers to understand the meaning of true love and the healing of forgiveness – and all with the special blend of humor only Ms. Blair can give. In fact, you’ll never look at a parsnip the same way again. The rogues from former novels return with their sassy brides, who are truly not much more than female rogues themselves and perfect matches for their mischievous mates. There are so many precocious children among the couples that you lose count, many of them enhancing the story.

Ash is the fourth rogue in Ms. Blair’s Rogues Club series*, and his tale is one you don’t want to miss reading.  Annette Blair’s conclusion to this novel is so full of emotion and compassion it will bring tears to readers. A CHRISTMAS BABY is sure to bring you a spirit of holiday joy and is the perfect way to jump-start your own Christmas Season. 

*Note: Books #1 (AN UNDENIABLE ROGUE) and #2 (AN UNFORGETTABLE ROGUE) are out of print and hard to find; Book #3 (AN UNMISTAKABLE ROGUE) is still available. It’s worth your while to find these three titles to get to know the first three rogues as they meet their matches. However, A CHRISTMAS BABY is a story that can be read and enjoyed greatly even if you haven’t read the prequels; it’s just that it’s even more rewarding when you know the old friends who visit A CHRISTMAS BABY. --Carol Carter, Senior Reviewer, Romance Reviews Today

MyShelf.com

A Christmas Baby
By Annette Blair

      Get ready to run the gamut of emotions!

    After being jilted for the second time, the future is looking bleak for Ashford Blackburne, Fifth Earl of Blackburne. Discouraged by his lack of prospects for a bride to impregnate before Christmas, as stipulated in his grandfather's will, Ash attempts to drink away his blues. When the tavern owner challenges him to a high stakes poker game - winner gets the tavern, loser gets the owner's daughter - Ash believes he only stands to gain. Until he meets his consolation prize.

     Larkin McAdams picks pockets out of need, not greed, dresses like a boy, and considers a monthly bath an evil necessity. She has often fantasized about meeting the handsome Lord Blackburne again, but marrying him, especially under false pretenses, was never part of her dreams. With pistols pointed at his head, she has no choice but to speak the vows.

    Changing a feisty guttersnipe into a lady becomes Ash's social responsibility; seducing away her mating misconceptions becomes his pleasurable challenge. Along the way, both learn the importance of family, the value of trust, and the glory of love.

    Annette Blair is a master artist in the world of romantic fiction. A strong plot provides the canvas for her compelling characters. Vivid settings and engaging minor characters beautifully augment the portrait. Fascinating subplots add depth. Spicy sexual encounters supply bold strokes, which are contrasted by one of the blackest dark moments ever painted with words.

     A Christmas Baby is a romantic masterpiece that's sure to make readers laugh and cry. Though old St. Nick adds a touch of Christmas magic, this fast-paced and enchanting novel warrants reading the whole year through. Don't miss the wedding night scene; it's almost to die for!  Lynda Lukow

Fallen Angel Reviews

Ashford Blackburne, the new Earl of Blackburne, must marry and sire an heir to save his family estates. His grandfather’s will requires him to accomplish both tasks before the end of the year if he is to inherit the fortune he needs to clear his debts. However, getting married has become a trial for him; he has been jilted twice already. Larkin McAdams has worked at her father’s inn all her life. She knows of Ashford and his reputation but she has no idea that a bet between Ash and her father will lead her to the marriage altar. The idea of marriage to Ash is not totally disagreeable but the idea of the marriage bed is.

Ash is a charming rogue with a heart of gold. His previous attempts at matrimony were a failure on all levels and those women did not touch his heart. He finds himself caring and falling for Lark. Lark is a strong and intelligent woman. She has seen the rougher side of life but still retains her innocence. Her fear of the physical intimacy stems from lack of knowledge and her perception of her sister’s experience. Ash is extremely patient and understanding. He takes the role of the teacher as he explains the birds and the bees as well as preparing her to be a “Countess.” Ash is extremely tender and loving toward Lark as they slowly progress toward a physical relationship. These two are well matched in their personalities. There are quite a few erotic scenes and they are smoothly incorporated within the storyline.

A Christmas Baby is a well written book with fully developed characters. Ash and Lark are believable and the reader can empathize with them. The story provides a plethora of secondary characters from the children, Briana and Micah to the “Rogues.” This book is part of the “Rogues” series and they make an appearance with their spouses. Having read the previous books in this series, it was a welcome treat to see how they were faring. A Christmas Baby moves at a steady pace and never falters. This reader finished it in one sitting. For those who enjoy a sensual and tender historical love story, this one fits the bill.  Reviewed by: Susan T

The Romance Readers Connection

A CHRISTMAS BABY
Annette Blair
Zebra, ISBN 0-8217-7769-6
October  2004, Historical Romance

The Earl of Blackburne has until Christmas Day to marry and get his wife with child if he wishes to fulfill the terms of his grandfather's  will. One of the Company of Rogues, Ashford Blackburne has spent his  time drinking, gambling, and cavorting with women. Then the bride, an actress he's paid to marry him, doesn't show up at the church. What's a jilted bridegroom to do but retreat to the Pickle Pigsty and console  himself with drink and the company of his two Rogues groomsmen. Many  bottles later,

Ash finds himself a loser at cards with the consolation prize being  the innkeeper's dirty, smelly daughter--and being forced at gunpoint to marry her and get her off her rascally father's hands. Larkin Rose McAdams  has loved Ash forever and when she's able to fix his hand so that he loses--and wins her--she does so, telling herself it's really for  her nephew's sake, to make a good home for him. After cleaning up Larkin,  Ash is amazed to find that he has a beautiful, spirited bride willing to shoot him on their wedding night to stop the consummation of their marriage. For Larkin Rose knows nothing about what goes on between a man and a  woman except that it brings blood and pain. The usually impatient Ash  must slowly woo his wife to earn her trust before he can father the babe that will win him his inheritance. But what Ash doesn't expect to find on  his way to parenthood, is his heart and soul and his very reason for living.

A CHRISTMAS BABY gets my vote for one of the most different, highly sensual and entertaining Regency historicals of the season. Be sure to  put this one on your Christmas list and make your season bright. Larkin  has never experienced Christmas, so A CHRISTMAS BABY has one of the biggest and best Christmas house parties this reviewer has ever  encountered! Between them, the Rogues have more than twenty children that  they've acquired, and whom Father Christmas must visit. The love scenes are wonderful and plentiful because Ash and Larkin try very hard to  fulfill the terms of the will. The greatest pleasure of A CHRISTMAS BABY is Annette Blair's unique, wonderful voice that makes each sentence  an absolute delight. Be prepared to laugh out loud often--and you'll never ever think of a parsnip again in the same way! A CHRISTMAS BABY  stands alone and introduces and explains all of the Rogues and their wives and children featured in past books, but if you can find the previous  three books, do so, and you'll quadruple your pleasure. Very highly  recommended!  Debora Hosey

Roundtable Reviews

Ashford Blackburne, the Earl of Blackburne, needs his inheritance to pay off his debts.  However, his grandfather is determined to see his grandson settle down first; he feels the only way that will happen is if Ash becomes a family man.  So the terms of the inheritance are set, Ash has until Christmas to find a spouse and sire an heir. 

Unfortunately, Ash is well known for being a rogue.  His luck with potential brides is falling flat.  So when he wins the hand of Larkin McAdams in a poker game, he has no idea what he is getting himself in to.  Larkin is determined to be a major hellion. 

Larkin’s only experience with men comes from her father’s tavern.  She knows men to be rough, drunken louts.  So she fears the same from Ash, but she also hopes she might have a better life for both herself and her orphaned nephew. 

When Ash gets Larkin cleaned up, he realizes with a little education, she will turn out to be a gem.  The challenge comes in convincing her that she needs a little polish. 

A CHRISTMAS BABY had me laughing out loud.  Larkin is much like Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady.  She is bold, feisty, and longs to be educated, but her lack of knowledge also is a major hindrance.  Her mother died when she was born, so she never had a female to teach her.  She knows nothing of sex other than it is bloody, painful, and produces unwanted babies; she has no idea why she bleeds once a month other than the belief that some day she will end up bleeding to death; and she learned long ago that dressing and acting like a boy keeps her safe from her father’s patrons.

Once he gets past her first, unkempt appearance, Ash realizes that Larkin has potential.  Teaching her is the bigger challenge.  She fights him every step of the way, and I mean she fights.  She breaks feet and knees “ballocks” like a pro.  She is a wildcat and watching her transformation is delightful.

I have heard raves over Annette Blair’s writing, but this is my first experience.  I am thrilled to have found her and definitely have a search for her backlist ahead of me.  Tracy

 

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