Goodreads: Carols and Chaos
Series: None (but characters from other novels make cameos)
Published: October 9, 2018
A lady’s maid and a valet become entangled in a yuletide counterfeiting scheme in this romantic Christmas YA adventure.
1817. The happy chaos of the Yuletide season has descended upon the country estate of Shackleford Park in full force, but lady’s maid Kate Darby barely has the time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her ailing mother, and saving up money to someday own a dress shop, her hands are quite full. Matt Harlow is also rather busy. He’s performing double-duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, two of the estate’s holiday guests.
Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But staving off their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when a devious counterfeiting scheme reaches the gates of Shackleford Park, and Kate and Matt are unwittingly swept up in the intrigue. Full of sweetness, charm, and holiday shenanigans, Carols and Chaos is perfect for fans of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.
I’ve read all four of Anstey’s novels so far, and though I’ve enjoyed them, I’m starting to think I don’t have much to say about them beyond that. Anstey has tried to make Carols and Chaos a bit different from the others (Suitors and Sabotage, Duels and Deception, and Love, Lies and Spies) by moving away from the upper classes and focused on a romance between a lady’s maid and a valet, but…the books really are all kind of the same thing.
That’s alright because they’re light and fluffy and fun, but I’m also starting to feel as if I’m writing the same review for all of them. If you like Regency romances spiced up with banter and a bit of modern sensibilities, then Cindy Anstey has the perfect books for you. Carols and Chaos is nice because it’s set around Christmas, so it has a bit of that cozy holiday mystery/romance feel. Readers will also get a sense of how Christmas was celebrated in the Regency era, which is fun.
The one other thing I really liked about this novel is that the protagonist has a kind of needy mother who makes up fake emergencies to get her daughter to visit her and pouts about her children doing “nothing” for her even when it’s not true. I’m not sure I’ve seen a mother portrayed like this in YA, where the character has to kind of “manage” her and is also stuck in the trap of knowing her mother is unreasonable and kind of manipulative while also feeling as if she does owe her kindness and patience. I’ve seen lovely mothers in literature, absent mothers, and some outright abusive mothers (or mother figures), but I’ve never seen one nuanced like this. I was a little bummed that this ended up serving a plot point instead of just being a complicated relationship that the protagonist has, but I still like that it was represented in the book.
So, bottom line: If you like Regency romances and the other stuff Anstey has written, you’ll like this. Anstey is a solid writer, and what she does, she does well.