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Widow's Brew #2

The Merry Viscount

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The “fallen” ladies of Puddledon Manor’s Benevolent Home are determined to rise above scandal—and forge a sparkling new future operating their own brewery and alehouse...

With Christmas around the corner, Miss Caroline Anderson hoped to persuade a London tavern owner to carry the Home’s Widow’s Brew—only to discover the dastard was more interested in her ankles than her ale! To her further annoyance, her stagecoach back to Little Puddledon is waylaid by louts and a snow-covered ditch. Amid a nasty storm, Caro seeks shelter at a nearby estate—only to be greeted by Viscount Oakland, aka Nick, her brother’s childhood friend—and her schoolgirl crush. Now he’s the half-dressed host of what is clearly a holiday bacchanal. Still, his house is irresistibly warm.

Ever the free spirit, Nick has invited the wilder gentleman of the ton, and an assortment of London’s lightskirts, to celebrate Christmas in a more traditional, pagan fashion. So he’s surprised to find Caro at his door. Now, with a blizzard raging, he must take her in—despite his fear she won’t take to his guests, and worse, upend his party. But she may surprise him—and upend his life.

292 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 24, 2019

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About the author

Sally MacKenzie

56 books620 followers
Sally MacKenzie decided to become a writer in grade school when she read one of her stories to the class. Her classmates laughed and she was hooked. She sat down immediately to pen her first novel.

Well, not exactly.

The hooked part is right--cursed might be a better description--but the sitting down and writing part came later. Much later.

Sally eventually went on to college, majoring in English, and, upon graduation, did what many English majors do--she went to law school. But she still couldn’t shake her dream of writing fiction. Midway through law school, she faced the fact that she really did not want to be a lawyer. She took a permanent leave of absence, came home to the Washington, D.C. area, and sat down to type her first novel.

Well, not exactly.

She did come home and write, but mostly she wrote regulations for the United States government’s school nutrition programs. (Ketchup as a vegetable, anyone?) When her law school sweetheart graduated, he moved to D.C. and they got married. A couple years later, the first of their four sons was born, and Sally “retired” to manage their family. She wrote a story or two and some picture book texts, all now stored away in a filing cabinet, but she spent most of her energies on baby tending which rapidly evolved into carpool driving. She became an extremely skilled scheduler, getting all four boys to soccer, basketball, baseball, track, swimming, piano, scouts, and birthday parties without ever losing one. (Okay, she did lose the youngest for a few minutes, but she found him before he’d toddled into the parking lot.) And she did more writing--school newsletters, auction programs, class plays, swim league guidance, and the acclaimed annual MacKenzie family newsletter--but no fiction.

Finally, the boys started driving (Eek!) and leaving for college. The nest was emptying and she wasn't getting any younger. The time had come to chase the dream or let it go for good, so she sat down at the computer and wrote. And rewrote. And rewrote again until she had a polished manuscript. She joined the Romance Writers of America, and when the plea went out for Regency manuscripts for the 2004 Golden Heart contest, she sent in The Naked Duke. The stars aligned. She made the final round, and one of the judging editors liked the manuscript and offered to buy it.

Yee haw!!

When not writing or obsessing over the various mysteries of book promotion, Sally can be found at the gym working hard to age gracefully, at the pool on the SLOW side of the Masters swim practice, or at one meeting or another volunteering at the helm of the summer swim league.

Here's Sally with her family--she's 5 ft. 8 in. tall, but she's short in this crowd.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 110 reviews
Profile Image for Elodie’s Reading Corner.
2,446 reviews110 followers
August 20, 2019
When two lonely souls whom have been childhood friends, rekindles after years apart, will they be able to let the ghosts of the past go?

I discovered Mrs Sally MacKenzie with her Naked Nobility series, I loved the humor she infused it her stories.
So when I saw this book pop up on my amazon suggestions list, I preordered it without a thought, it was back in February, plus it was second in a series of a book I loved the blurb but forgot the tittle, so now it shelved in my kindle.

This story reminded me in some way of A Christmas Carol, with for a change the late hero’s uncle as Scrooge.
Plus here, there are two ghosts haunting the hero and the heroine.
Caroline or for short Caro had to rebuilt herself after a sad event when she was only a woman bud. She refused to let it define her. Even if unknowingly it shaped her, she became stronger but also wary of everything male.
Nick after being estranged from his childhood place and maternal family, let hate and fury fill his heart, the little boy in him having never really mourn his loss. So to spite his uncle cold demeanor he plunged without a thought to the consequences in every sins the London society has to offer.
Both similarly were betrayed by those whom should have protected them.
So when a broken wheel carriage accident brings Caro at his front door with a bunch of very disparate travelers, their past pains are reawakened and they question their own attitudes towards them.
When unboxing their shame, grievance and hurt, Caro will needs a healing hand to let go of her fears and accept her past guilt is not of her own doing but someone having abused of his position and her innocence, Nick will have a lot of growing up ahead of him to cut loose his toxic relationship with his uncle and realize he still rules his life from beyond his grave.
The action takes place on a very short span of time, but during those two days, slowly the healing process is undertaken and truth and faith are being part of it.
The Christmas forced retreat becomes a dance of seduction, she making him imagine a far different future he had expected for him and he revealing her to the bedroom pleasures.

Mrs MacKenzie has crafted a lively lovely Christmas tale, where the various protagonists redeem themselves, from the prostitutes looking for a second chance to the profligate settling down and then all helping the hero and heroine to see what was right in front of them.

A 4.5 stars for this charming and sweet story.
My only complain is the lack of epilogue, I would have loved to learn more about how little Edward and baby Grace will fare with a new father, or about the newly appointed girls for the Home or to see Nick and Caro in their married life.

I was granted an advance copy through Netgalley by the publisher Kensington/Zebra. I also had my own copy preordered.
Here is my true and unbiased opinion.

Profile Image for Luana ☆.
504 reviews76 followers
December 7, 2020
A fallen women, a rake and a Christmas miracle. That basically resumes the book. It was a fast read, a bit repetitive but enjoyable enough.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,292 reviews263 followers
November 12, 2021
3.5 Stars

The Merry Viscount was a delightful holiday read featuring a romance between childhood friends.

After a failed attempt to persuade a London tavern owner to carry Widow's Brew, the ale brewed at Puddledon Manor’s Benevolent Home, Miss Caroline Anderson sets out for home just in time for Christmas. But when the stagecoach breaks down during a snowstorm, Caro is forced to seek shelter at a nearby estate owned by her old childhood friend Nick, the Viscount Oakland. After her feelings for the man resurface, much stronger than her childhood crush, Caro will have to figure out how to make it through the holiday without falling head over heels for the man.

Caro was an interesting character, she is a brewer at the Home which was interesting as I don't think I've come across a female brewer before in anything I've read. Caro's backstory was heartbreaking and I hated how she blamed herself for what happened to her when she was seventeen. I liked that Nick helped Caro see what happened wasn't her fault and that she worked on not blaming herself for it anymore. Nick is an absolute charmer and I really enjoyed his character. Nick lost both of his parents to illness as a child and was sent to live with his uncle who was quite severe. Nick has a lot of resentment around what happened to him as a child and he definitely avoids commitment as a result.

Caro and Nick knew each other as children as Nick spent a lot of time with one of Caro's brothers. The pair didn't immediately recognize each other as it had been nearly twenty years since they last saw each other. They rekindle their friendship after Caro is stranded there and agree to pretend to be lovers for the duration of Caro's stay to help each of them with a problem they have with some of the other guests. I really enjoy fake dating romances, so I enjoyed that aspect of their romance. The pair's relationship turns physical fairly quickly although not quite in the way you expect. I mostly liked the steamier scenes although the pair made wagers during them which isn't something I really enjoy. Both Caro and Nick have some hang-ups when it comes to relationships and I liked seeing them overcome those issues to be together. I do think the acceptance of their relationship becoming more took a bit longer than I would have liked, particularly on Caro's side, but I did mostly enjoy their romance.

Overall The Merry Viscount was a fun read and I will definitely be checking out the other books in the series.

**I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.**
Profile Image for Niki (mustreadalltheromance).
1,126 reviews78 followers
October 24, 2019
On her way home from a less than fruitful trip to London in the hope of securing another tavern to carry her ale, Miss Caroline Anderson finds herself stranded when the stagecoach to her home slides off the snowy road into a ditch. Caro and the other passengers seek shelter at a nearby estate, only to find that it is owned by her childhood friend Nick, now Viscount Oakland. He's clearly in the midst of some rather unsavory holiday entertaining, but his house is warm and Caro is out of options at present.

Nick has invited some less than respectable characters to his home for Christmas, always hoping to thumb his nose at the overly pious uncle who made his childhood a misery. He's surprised to recognize Caro at his door and even more shocked at the thoughts she soon has him entertaining, ideas that threaten to turn his whole life upside down.

I enjoyed the festive redemption vibe of this story. Nick and Caro both had some serious emotional issues and it was nice to see them face and work through them. Nick got a chance to rethink his choices and turn his life around for the better. He and Caro were both extremely lonely and when they realized that they were better off together, this was really sweet. However, this didn't actually happen until right at the end of the book. The majority of the story felt like both of them, mostly Caro listing all the reasons they couldn't or shouldn't be together and this got a little repetitive for me. Other than that, the story had some cute analogies that made me laugh and most of the characters were charming, though I found Caro to be rather tiresome. I also never understood how Caro, as the only daughter of a member of the gentry, wound up in service; that just didn't make sense to me. I would've liked a bit more closure between Nick and Caro just because they didn't really get it together until the very end and we didn't get to see them much as a couple without Caro sniping and scowling at Nick.

Overall this was a sweet story and I'd like to check out the rest of the series.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,368 reviews44 followers
September 24, 2019

So what happens when it's nearing Christmas Eve, you've caught the last coach out of town and then, some drunken youthful peers take the reins? You get Trouble, with a capital T!
For Miss Caroline Anderson it was Double Trouble. Caro is "the brewster at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows, and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children in Little Puddledon.” Quite a mouthful ! The coach has floundered outside the country residence of Nicholas St. John, Viscount Oakland, or, as some called him, Lord Devil, a onetime childhood friend of Caro's.
For Nick it's also double trouble. Firstly he's rebelliously planned a Christmas orgy to rid the house of the memory of his late Uncle Leon's censorious voice, thumbing "his nose at everyone...by celebrating the Roman Saturnalia in place of Christmas" and secondly, he's having considerable trouble orgy-ing, and now a houseful of dubious travellers have landed on his doorstep including Caro!
I loved the feistiness of Caro, I was saddened by her victim mentality, something that Nick talks to her about. A high point for the novel and for these two people! I was confused as to why Caro had to go into service. I was amazed at the coincidences that kept cropping up but then if truth is stranger than fiction, then fiction is allowed to be a bit strange.
A lighthearted Christmas story, with serious undertones. Nick's childhood past and him being not quite the thing due to having an Italian mother is one of them. Caro's story is another.
I have my favourite Sally MacKenzie books, and although Nick and Caro's story is different and brought a smile to my face, it hasn't joined that list.

A Kensington Books ARC via NetGalley
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)
Profile Image for Marianne.
1,228 reviews28 followers
November 14, 2019
Fun plane read. I do love a steamy snowed-in-over-Christmas historical romance, and this is very good at being that.
Profile Image for Emily.
218 reviews
December 7, 2021
This story only need to be a novella. This was pretty much the definition of insta-love, which is my least favorite trope.
Profile Image for Tracy Emro.
1,756 reviews44 followers
September 19, 2019
Caroline “Caro” Anderson is the brewer of the Widow’s Ale at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children. She is returning from a disappointing trip to London when the mail coach she is riding in becomes disabled, stranding her and several other passengers, including a small boy and his infant sister in the snow. Knowing the children will not survive the cold, she takes the baby and goes for help at a nearby estate. The estate is owned by a man she knows well, or at least knew well, Nicholas St. John, Viscount Oakland. Nick was friends with her older brother and was a frequent visitor to her home. She has not seen him in 17 years, but hopes he will offer shelter to them.

Nick is at the estate and is hosting an orgy, he however can’t seem to find the enthusiasm to join in, he blames it on being back at the estate. Nick was born in Italy, his father was the younger son of the Viscount and a painter, he fell in love with an Italian woman while on his grand tour and never returned to England. But when they died, his uncle, the new Viscount demanded that Nick come to live with him in England – his uncle was a dour, bitter man who Nick blames for all his unhappiness. Being at the estate, especially at Christmas, brings back all his memories and has him feeling out of sorts. When Caro comes banging on the door, Nick has no idea how much his life is about to change.

This was a sweet story with characters who have some very potent emotional issues. I loved seeing Nick grow as a person and begin to start taking responsibility for his own life and to stop blaming his uncle. I also enjoyed seeing Caro begin to let go of the pain in her past, she was hurt badly by a man and then to add insult to injury, disowned by her family. Watching them help each other to see the truth of their pasts and move on was very well done. I like the story, but there were just some things that didn’t really work for me, I never understood why Caro went into “service”, her family wasn’t poor and she was 17 and the only daughter, why didn’t her father try to find her a husband? It just didn’t make sense. I also felt like the book ended too abruptly, it really needed another chapter or at least an epilogue to show the reader their HEA as well as letting us know what happened with the secondary characters that were also stranded at the estate. This is the second book in the series, but it can easily be read as a standalone title.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher.*
Profile Image for Janet.
3,583 reviews29 followers
September 24, 2019
Miss Caroline Anderson the brewer for the Home’s Widow’s Brew has travelled to London trying to find new customers for the brew. On the return journey the stagecoach ends up in a snow-covered ditch. Amid a nasty storm, Caro seeks shelter for herself & two young children at a nearby estate, only to be greeted by Nick Viscount Oakland, her brother’s childhood friend and her schoolgirl crush. He’s holding an orgy but at least the house is warm. Nick wishes he hadn’t invited his friends for an orgy & almost welcomes the passengers of the damaged stagecoach.
This is the second book in the series & could easily be read on its own. I loved the humour that ran throughout the book & it often had me laughing out loud. There were also more serious issues as both Nick & Caroline needed to let go of the past, I liked that this was a gradual process, which made it far more believable. The characters were well portrayed & had depth. I read the book in two sittings as it was highly entertaining. My one quibble was that it the ending left me wondering, how Felix settled in his new roll, did Archie pursue his love of music, how did the ladies settle in Little Puddleton, so I would have liked an epilogue
My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read
Profile Image for Lorka .
782 reviews
January 2, 2020
Ok, one star for making me laugh at how ridiculous the storyline was. I think I made it only to about 13%... but in that time:
On a stagecoach ride thru a snowstorm, two drunks sitting on top of the carriage somehow managed to get the reins away from the carriage driver and started to race down the road, lost control and break an axel... so in the end get stranded. Seriously how do two drunks climb down to the drivers seat and steal the reins? Come on #1.
Inside the carriage, a newborn baby starts to cry, so the heroine offers to hold the baby for the young mother. After the carriage mishap, the heroine sees that there is a mansion close by and offers to walk with the baby thru the snow to go ask for help from the residents of the mansion. The mother is gonna just let a complete stranger go walking off thru the snow carrying her baby, when there was no reason why the mother couldn't hold the baby herself? Come on #2.
As the heroine is walking up to the mansion, we are introduced to the hero. Opening scene is of the hero's BFF yelling out "faster!" while getting a blow job on the couch from his favorite prostitute, another BFF kissing his prostitute on the other side of the room.... with the hero standing there watching it all wondering why he wasn't rising to the occasion with his lady love. A Christmas Orgy, really? That just screamed of over-the-top tacky shock value. Come on #3.
So the heroine knocks on the door, the hero answered the door and the heroine assumed he was the butler. She stood there dictating orders of telling them all to go rescue everyone that was stranded outside. She wasn't begging for help or even asking kindly. Definitely a shrew. Once the guys finally took off to rescue the stranded people, one of the prostitutes approaches the heroine and once she learned that the heroine was travelling alone without a chaperone (gasp!) she offers her a job in London as a prostitute. Come on#4.
Maybe someone will think this is cute, but it was just tacky and seemed like the author was trying way too hard...
Profile Image for Debra Guyette.
1,154 reviews47 followers
August 29, 2019
With the Christmas season coming, Miss Caroline Anderson travels to London to try and convince a bartender to sell the Home's Widow's Brew. Her trip was not a success when she finds the man more interested in her and not the product. Traveling back to the Home is proving difficult when a snow storm and some drunken louts cause the stage coach to wind up in a ditch. Seeking shelter at a nearby estate, Caroline is surprised to be greeted by Viscount Oakland, her brother's childhood friend, Nick. Nick is only at the estate due to unfortunate circumstances at his home in London. He has invited some of his wilder friends as well as some lightskirts to celebrate Christmas with a rousing orgy. Now with the blizzard raging and the occupants of the stage coach joining them, plans change rapidly and surprisingly.

Nick lost his parents when young and was only now coming to grips with his lost childhood. He had felt a grudge against his uncle for the circumstances surrounding his childhood. He, therefore, spent a lot of time with his freind's family during the school years. Caro lived there as well and would not be left behind when Nick and her brother went out. Now confronted with her on his doorstep, he is surprised and not sure how she will respond to his guests. But Caro is amazingly resilient and able to take things in stride. In fact, Caro is an admirable woman. Dealt a blow in life, she rose above her circumstances and learned how to brew beer.

This was a delightful story showing how a series of events can lead to a crossroads for more than one couple. Nick was not supposed to be at the estate and neither was Caroline. However, circumstances brought them together. With the magic of Christmas and a serandipitous snow storm, love has a chance to heal these two broken individuals as well as set others on different paths. Sally MacKenzie has penned an amazing romance with a ending designed to leave us with a smile. If you love romances you do not wnat to miss The Merry Viscount.
Profile Image for Welzen.
825 reviews12 followers
January 7, 2021
Novela con contenido navideño. No es la primera vez que leo algo de Sally MacKenzie así que no es una autora desconocida.
Esta novela es un poco peculiar todo está excesivamente bien unido pero de una forma muy irreal. Me explico. Tenemos una protagonista que es productora de cerveza que va a Londres a hacer negocios y termina siendo asaltada por el posible tabernero. En su vuelta a su casa -un lugar para mujeres descarriadas- en el carruaje de postas, se produce un accidente por culpa de dos viajeros borrachos. Como hay un bebé deciden acudir a la casa del señor del lugar que está cerca. Que resulta que es la casa del niño, ahora hombre, del que estuvo enamorada cuando era una niña. Uno de los amigos del protagonista también está relacionado con uno de los pasajeros. Y uno de los pasajeros está relacionado con la protagonista. Aquí tenemos casualidad por cada esquina.

Lo que más me ha gustado del libro es que explica algunas tradiciones antiguas navideñas, lo malo es que no me he creído la histoira de amor. Una cosa es que un día estés en plena orgía -aunque la cosa no se alza como debería-y al día siguiente literalmente lo dejes todo porque estás completamente enamorado de la niña con la que compartiste un par de veranos veinte años después y que acaba de aparecer en tu casa. No hay nada en su romance que te lleve a pensar en una gran historia de amor, no hay base, o algo que lo justifique. Entiendo que todo tiene que quedar en la época navideña pero eso no implica crear una historia irreal.
Además en cierto momento llegó a ser un poco irritante que el flujo de la historia se viera interrumpido por los constantes pensamientos de los protagonistas. Sin ellos la novela sería más corta y más fluida. Quizá esa era la intención, crear un cuento corto navideño que se extendió a novela larga al introducir los irritantes y repetitivos pensamientos de ambos protagonistas.

No es de las mejores novelas navideñas que he leído estas fiestas pero se deja leer.
Profile Image for Norah Gibbons.
834 reviews8 followers
September 24, 2019
I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. The Merry Viscount by Sally MacKenzie is the second book in her charming Widow’s Brew series.
It can be read as a standalone but I enjoyed the first book so recommend reading both. This book is a delightful Christmas story full of warmth and humour and all the joys of the season.
Caroline Anderson is returning home after a visit to London when the coach she is travelling in crashes just outside the estate of her childhood crush Nicholas (Nick) St. John, Viscount Oakland aka Lord Devil. The passengers from the coach are reluctant to seek shelter from the winter storm because of Nick’s reputation and indeed when Caroline arrives she interrupts his plans for a Christmas Orgy although the idea doesn’t seem to appeal as much now that he is sober. With a houseful of uninvited guests to care fore Nick and Caroline set out to have a true Christmas something they both have not had for many years. I enjoyed reading this book immensely. Medium Steam. Publishing Date Sept 24, 2019
#NetGalley #TheMerryViscount #SallyMacKenzie #Bookstagram #KensingtonBooks #ZebraRomanceNovels #ChristmasRomanceNovel #HistoricalRomanceNovel
Profile Image for Laura.
937 reviews6 followers
December 30, 2019
Caroline Anderson is returning home by stagecoach after a disastrous trip to London to sell Widow's Ale to another tavern. The coach is packed and when two young bucks land the coach in a snow-covered ditch, Caro seeks shelter at a nearby estate. She discovers that the owner is her brother's childhood friend Viscount Nick Oakland.

Nick hates his country estate due to the memories from his childhood and Christmas makes things worse. He brings an assortment of London's lightskirts to entertain his friends. During a blizzard, he hears pounding on his door only to discover Caro Anderson needing his assistance. Caroline invades his home and his heart once he lets her in.

I liked this second chance at love romance. The characters are older and have made mistakes. I would have liked to know what happens next. Do Nick and Caro go to Italy and visit his mother's family? Do they go visit her parents and her father apologizes?

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher. Thank you.
Profile Image for Melody.
187 reviews2 followers
December 12, 2022
3.5 stars

An easy listen. I enjoyed the first in the series more than this. I didn’t dislike The Merry Viscount. It was good, just not great.

It didn’t have as much of a Christmas vibe as I expected it to and hoped it would. I had purposely delayed reading this until December, with the intention of it getting me in the Christmas spirit. I don’t feel like this was achieved though. The plot could have easily worked outside of the Christmas aspect.

Definitely has the instalove trope. I don’t know if I am a fan of that trope outside of this book. I rather enjoyed it in this though. The story takes place over two-ish days, but it doesn’t feel like it does. I guess it helps that the main characters knew each other from childhood.

I think the one thing that held it from being a 4 star book was the repetition of certain facts, words, and phrases. It was overdone.

Overall, an enjoyable read, just not rave worthy.
Profile Image for Sissy's Romance Book Review .
7,643 reviews16 followers
September 25, 2019
The Merry Viscount by Sally MacKenzie is book 2 in the Widow's Brew Series. This is the story of Caroline 'Caro' Anderson and Nicholas St. John, Viscount Oakland.
Nick is trying to make it through the holidays and being back in a house that he doesn't have great memories of. This leads him to have a party where its to be a orgy theme. Caro is a brewer of the Widow’s Ale at the Benevolent Home. This home helps supports Spinsters, Widowers, and Abandoned women and their children. Caro was coming back on the mail wagon from a trip to London to see if a Pub was interested in her brew but the person seem to be only interested in her. So she leaves and while on the wagon her and some other passengers are caught in a blizzard and there only hope may be the house they see. This leads Caro to meet Nick again who was her brother's friend and her crush.
Enjoyed their story.
Profile Image for Mary Hart.
776 reviews14 followers
August 22, 2019
4 stars

Interesting book. The Heroine works as an Alemaster and met the Hero as a childhood friend of her brother. I'm not that fond of the childhood friend becomes lovers trope but this was a nice story. We learn more about each character as the romance continues. I would have liked the hero to have honeymooned in Venice and met up with his italian family but it wasn't to be. This book is the second in a series and I didn't have to have read the first one to enjoy this edition. I'm not that invested in the story to look out for the third one. A good afternoon read.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Carole Burant.
1,129 reviews26 followers
August 23, 2019
Now that's what I call a very different Christmas story! I loved the humor throughout, as well as the Christmas traditions and oh yes, the steamy scenes:)

Caro and Nick knew each other slightly as children but hadn't seen each other since and now, many years later, she's in his home with an assortment of characters who had been in the broken down stagecoach with her....interrupting the Christmas "orgy" that Nick was hosting!!! Caro and Nick each have their own stories to reveal and my heart truly ached for them. They decide to help each other, although falling in love was not supposed to be part of the plan!

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

Profile Image for Suzette.
2,388 reviews10 followers
September 26, 2019
Caro values her independence and thinks men are just a nuisance. Nick is living a life of debauchery. A stagecoach accident finds the two Alana with a houseful of others stranded together. It is a strange mix of people who gets to create a true Christmas miracle. The story is funny with an inner monologue carried out by the two main characters that will make you laugh. As the story unfolds each person find happiness in their situation and Caro and Nick find a lifetime together.
Profile Image for Jenna.
1,726 reviews18 followers
October 10, 2019
I didn’t like the previous book in this series.
Because it was a while ago, I didn’t remember & all I saw was a new book by a writer I like on the shelf, so I got it.
This book was ok. Good characters & story. A quick skimread for me.
I liked the little boy character Edward (I’m a sucker for acute kid) so that’s really why I kept reading.

Overall, I like this writer but not this particular series.
I would recommend her “The Naked…..” books instead.
1,202 reviews9 followers
September 21, 2019
Enjoyed the love story of Nick and Caro and how it came about. They met due to a stagecoach accident during a snowstorm, after having known each other as children, they come to realize they might care more than they first though. The story is well written and entertaining. I would recommend it for someone who wants a sweet romance.
Profile Image for Sandy.
493 reviews7 followers
December 18, 2019
This book was ok. Two people who had rough lives find love after a stage coach accident strands Caro with Lord devil, Nick. I would have enjoyed the book more with fewer references to Nick's equipment. The man should seek medical attention as he spends more time excited than not.
Profile Image for Susan.
4,273 reviews92 followers
September 25, 2019
This was a fun and fast-paced story about two people haunted by their pasts. I loved how the healing process was wrapped in humor and romance. Caro is the brewmaster for the Benevolent Home where she lives. She took that post after an event that caused a rift with her family and has affected her life ever since. After an unsuccessful trip to London searching for new markets for her ale, Caro is stuck on a coach with some unpleasant passengers and increasingly bad weather. When the coach ends up in a ditch, she recognizes their location and tramps off to seek help at the estate of Viscount Oakland, aka "Lord Devil," her brother's old school friend and Caro's girlhood crush.

Nick recently became the Viscount after the death of the uncle he loathed. Orphaned at a young age, he was wrenched from his mother's family in Italy and forced to live with his cold and bitter uncle. He usually avoids Oakland, but due to unforeseen (and hilarious) circumstances, he had to vacate his townhouse. To thumb his nose at his uncle's memory, Nick invited a couple of his wilder friends and some lightskirts to celebrate with a Christmas orgy. Only, now that he's there he finds himself less than enthusiastic about the festivities.

I loved the opening meeting between Caro and Nick. It has been almost twenty years since they last saw each other and neither immediately recognized the other. Caro mistakes Nick for his butler an is pretty brash in her zeal to procure help for her fellow passengers. She's shocked when she realizes her mistake, but no less determined. Nick didn't recognize Caro at first either, though he did think she looked familiar. He was immediately attracted to her, something that surprised him in light of his earlier disinterest in the available "ladies."

I enjoyed seeing the relationship develop between Nick and Caro. In a hilarious conversation, Caro offers a trade with Nick. She will pretend to be his lover, thereby negating rumors of his "problem" in exchange for his protection from any of the men who get the wrong idea about her. Thanks to their pasts, neither one has any interest in settling down, but their hearts don't get the message. As Nick learns about Caro's past his protective instincts are aroused along with other parts of him. I loved the way that he helped her let go of the pain of that past event and see that it wasn't her fault. Though her heart wants to believe that there is hope for more between them, her head still believes that a "fallen woman" is no match for a viscount.

Meanwhile, Nick begins to realize that he has let his feelings about his uncle control his life for too long. Caro's presence reminds him of happier times when he felt a part of her family. I loved seeing his metamorphosis from rake to responsible. His protectiveness toward Mrs. Dixon and her children, and his kindness toward young Edward was only the beginning. Learning more about Caro's new life made him take a fresh look at his and realize that he was ready for a change.

The interactions between Caro and Nick were great. The attraction between them was incendiary but tempered by Caro's fears. I loved Nick's patience as he helped her move past them. Their conversations were frank and frequently funny, and their inner monologues added to the hilarity. Nick's were especially amusing as he dealt with the feelings that Caro aroused. As he came to accept and embrace his newfound feelings for Caro, Nick struggled with finding a way to convince her of his love and to believe that they can have a future. I felt for him with his rambling attempts to tell her how much he needed her. I liked seeing Caro's thought processes as she worked through her feelings and fears to the realization of the dreams she thought she had given up. The ending was sweet and sexy and perfect for the two of them.

The mixture of people thrown together could have been awkward and uncomfortable, but the Christmas spirit seemed to take hold of everyone. I enjoyed seeing different sides emerge of the people who didn't make the greatest first impressions. The baker and his wife left their quarreling behind to prepare a special dish for the group. The "Weasel" turned out to be less of a threat than expected, and the judgmental preacher showed he had a heart after all. The two young peers learned a bit of humility, with one of them also experiencing an eye-opening revelation. The lightskirts found a new direction for their lives, and their boss played a big part in bringing Nick and Caro together. I loved Nick's servants and how the relationship between them and Nick changed as he did.

I did have a few questions at the end. Why was Caro in service as a nanny at seventeen? She is the daughter of the gentry, with parents and seven brothers. Shouldn't they have been helping her find a husband rather than sending her out alone into the world? Nick's realization of his feelings about his Italian family at the end left me wondering if he was going to do anything about it. I would have liked another chapter or an epilogue, maybe showing him and Caro honeymooning in Italy and visiting his family. I'd like to see what happens with the new residents of the Home and hope that maybe they will appear in the next book.
Profile Image for Annette.
1,543 reviews7 followers
August 18, 2019
I am a fan of Sally MacKenzie and I recommend her often to readers who want a sweet and funny story.

This story was not one of my favorites by Ms MacKenzie. I did not find the usual sense of charm and fun.

Caroline is in a stagecoach on the way back to her position at the Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children in Little Puddledon. She brews Widows Brew ale and was hoping to find a pub in London which would buy her ale.

It is a few days before Christmas, very cold and now it is snowing heavily. Everyone in the coach is concerned that the weather will prevent them from completing their journey.

When an axle breaks and the coach ends up in a ditch, Caro is evidently the only passenger who is willing to try to find a safe and warm place for all of them. So, carrying an infant who belongs to one of the passengers, she marches through the snow toward lights at a nearby manor house.

The door is opened by Viscount Oakland. Viscount Oakland happens to be Nick, an old friend of one of her brothers. He spent holidays at Caro's home when they were both children. She had a school girl crush on Nick.

Now, she finds he is hosting a Christmas orgy which includes professional ladies of the evening and some of his friends from London.

When the dust settles, all the passengers are brought into the house, including a new mother, her infant as well as her 9 year old boy. The orgy is apparently called because of too many people in the house.

And then Christmas takes over the entire group of people.

Caro is a very strong minded young woman who has a history which has colored her past as well as her relationship with her family. She considers herself to be a business woman and no longer someone who will have a personal life. I admired most of her finer qualities. But, at times I got tired of her being so very sure she knew the inner thoughts of everyone around her.

Nick is a man who has had his life shredded by an uncle who resented Nick's very existence. He has allowed that dead uncle to continue to control the way he lives his life. Caro is a reminder of joy he felt as a child. She is also a reminder of the happiness a family could offer.

The fact that Caro is beautiful, intelligent and a reminder of former happiness helps Nick look at his life in a new light.

Both of these characters can see the possibilities. That is always a good thing if one is looking for a happily ever after.

There are interesting secondary characters. After all a story which includes a Weasel and a minister who has no shred of Christian charity must be entertaining. And all stories benefit from prostitutes who have hearts of gold.

I enjoyed this book. I had hoped for more laugh out loud moments but I did learn to appreciate the more subtle humor available here.

Ms MacKenzie is a very talented author.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I am voluntarily writing this review and all opinions are completely my own.

Profile Image for Amelia.
772 reviews17 followers
July 30, 2019
Emotional circumstances and diverse characters make the second book in the Widow’s Brew series constantly engaging. Sally MacKenzie expertly entangles the lives of two individuals who are definitely not thinking about falling in love. Yet while the mindset of Caro and Nick may not be in favor of pursuing any romantic impulses, their hearts continuously bring up some disagreeing arguments. With the main couple being so spirited during the many unforeseen happenings that occur, I remained totally fascinated and wanted to discover everything I could about them.

Since the special manor where Caroline Anderson lives is always in the need of funds because it gives unfortunate women a place to stay, she and several other residents came up with the idea of making and then selling ale. Unfortunately, her latest quest to peddle Widow’s Brew in London did not work out. On the return trip, nothing seems to go smoothly from the start, and events only get worse when snow causes the stagecoach to have an accident. The cold weather gives Caro little choice, and she makes her way to the nearest estate which belongs to Nick St. John. She and the new Viscount Oakland knew each other when they were much younger, and although she was once infatuated with Nick, both are two vastly different people now.

THE MERRY VISCOUNT captivates with colorful details and lots of creativity. There were many instances where I just had to laugh at a comical situation, especially when it concerned an ongoing personal matter related to Nick. Whether it was just a thought he or Caro had or was a remark they actually spoke, Ms. MacKenzie certainly make the episode funny enough to produce quite a few chuckles. Other events were very somber because of the earnest feelings being conveyed, and I wished a hug could be given to the person expressing a private fact. Much sensuality can be found all throughout the story, as several discussions between Nick and Caro are very candid while their actions turn sexy, too.

What takes place once the large group of stagecoach travelers show up at Nick’s estate is realistically portrayed with emotional issues and frequently plenty of delight. As everyone interacts from time to time, I got to see genuine responses and enjoyed many interesting conversations. With Christmas fast approaching, customs from the time period gave the story a heartwarming feel. The Widow’s Brew series has an imaginative premise, and I am looking forward to the next book.

I voluntarily read the book, and all comments are my honest opinion
657 reviews2 followers
October 21, 2019
This was a pleasant read. Caro has been rejected by her family, after losing her job as a nanny because she was seduced by the master of the house. She lives in the a benevolent home for women and children, and is the brewmaster for the ale they brew to support the home. Disappointed and furious when her attempt to sell her ale in London is unsuccessful and her potential buyer propositioned her, she is travelling back to the home on the stage.

The coach is commandeered by a couple of young aristocrats and driven into a ditch, and Caro decides to march through the snow to the nearest Manor House to ask for assistance for the passengers, especially a young mother with a newborn and a young boy. When she arrives, she soon realises that the lord of the house is her brother’s friend, Nick, who she used to play with when she was little.

Nick is half Italian, brought up in Italy, after his parents died, he was forced to live in England, with his distant, demanding and damaged uncle. He is still bitter about his destroyed childhood and avoids his seat at Oaklands as much as possible in favour of his house in London, he’s had to vacate his London house due to a - very funny- mishap. He decides to thumb his nose at his uncle’s memory by inviting a couple of his rakish friends and some courtesans to his house for a Christmas orgy.

When Caro and the rest of the passengers descend on his house, Nick isn’t sure how he is going to manage, but soon everyone settles in, except that Caro confounds him by proposing that she should masquerade as his lover, in order to avoid unwanted propositions from the other men resident.

The growing awareness of Nick in this story was a pleasure. He was genuinely caring of Caro and protective of her, as he heard of her ruination at the hands of an aristocrat, and helped her to believe that it wasn’t her fault, including her family’s desertion. Nick starts to realise that he is being controlled by his resentments and that he needs to let go and change.

There were some amusing interludes with the secondary characters including the servants that made me smile.

I struggled with some of the mechanics of the plot as other reviewers have pointed out, it didn’t make sense that someone of Caro’s Station would be employed as a Nanny so young.

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book and all opinions are my own.
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